The windows are down and the breeze is causing havoc, hats are being blown around and papers are flapping in the warm breeze, we’re on-board the stopping all stations, Hua Hin to Bangkok special, and it’s taking us north through some stunning scenery along the coastal route.
The locals have the right idea, many curl up and fall asleep, however we don’t want to miss a thing and stay glued to the window. Rice paddies and little towns drift by, stopping now and then at tiny little stations where the touch of a loving station master is on show, with lots of potted flowers and plants decorating each of their platforms.
We’d clambered aboard the rickety old train at the wonderful old Hua Hin railway station, one of Thailand’s many old stations lovingly maintained and still retaining a sense of those long ago days when Bangkok locals would head south for their romantic weekends away.
The trip is a five hour dawdle, a no bookings taken train, just three or four carriages long, and the princely sum of 40BHT per ticket. We amble along, pulling now and then into little sidings along the way to allow the speedier express trains to rocket past or a south bound train to share the tracks.
It’s easy to see why these old services have gotten less and less popular over the years, with speedy coach services plying the route along the freeways between Bangkok and Hua Hin in half the time, it may not be much longer before they’re phased out altogether, a shame, it’s a delightful way to travel. Especially as a tourist, it’s not often you get to hang out with the locals and do as they do.
Not being up to speed with the finer details of Thai rail travel, we’d stocked up on some pretty ordinary food to help tide us over the journey, food that we wouldn’t care to remember, food in plastic from a local convenience store, lots of e-numbers and sugar. If only we’d known at each stop the train quickly fills with local vendors selling their specials, home-made rice dishes, coconut drinks, fried chicken, cold drinks in a bucket, fried fish and some really tasty coconut cakes wrapped up and steamed in bamboo baskets.
The views continue to leave us speechless as we slowly, but surely edge out of the rural countryside and into the more urban Bangkok suburbs. The green of the rice paddies seem almost obscene, they are so bright with young shoots.
One of the many great sights along the way while we’re paused in a little siding, a couple of dozen fitness fanatics from a little village come out and start their Zumba fitness class to the delight of all on board, we crowd around the train windows and whistle encouragement.
Before too long we start to come across more and more of the industrial outskirts of Bangkok, the sun is setting, the locals are stirring and all too quickly we pull into Bangkok station and a magical afternoon is over.
All photos copyright Ross Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org