Beer for breakfast?

Thailand Train

A journey on the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

“Singha Beer? Singha Beer!”

Irritatingly cheerful chanting drifted along the train corridor, gradually increasing in volume as it reached our sleeper cabin. A rosy cheeked male attendant opened our door, asking the inaugural question. Stomachs still churning after some dubious curry the night before we declined, thus receiving our first black mark of the journey.

Thailand Sleeper Train (Source: Man in Seat 61)

Thailand Sleeper Train (Source: Man in Seat 61)

Not too worried, we sat back to enjoy the ride, which saw us hurtling through the countryside, watching villagers at work in the paddy fields and children on bicycles wobbling their way to school. Ok, perhaps it was more of a chug than a hurtle, and after a couple of hours every minute seemed to pass by with ever-increasing lethargy. It had seemed sensible to save a few pennies by spending a couple of days on a train rather than a couple of hours on a plane, but as usual hindsight had us questioning whether cheaper was always the best option. Sure we had a ‘first class’ compartment to ourselves, with seats that turned into beds, and even our own little sink. But what the website didn’t tell us was that it also came with soiled sheets (in the most disgusting sense), a single shared toilet which was a health hazard to even look at, and the assumption that all tourists drink beer. Every minute of the day. Still, all part of the adventure, right?

Thailand Sleeper Train (Source: Man in Seat 61)

Thailand Sleeper Train (Source: Man in Seat 61)

With the sun beating down and clothes clinging like glue, we were joined by some rather unwelcome travelling companions. Cockroaches began to venture from their crevices. We ignored them as we’ve already had far worse experiences with the mini beasties…I once had one up my shorts in Las Vegas, and hubbie managed to get tangled up with one in bed inside a mosquito net in Guatemala, a situation from which he couldn’t easily escape due to his earlier thoroughness making sure every inch was well and truly tucked in. We decided to open our rather crushed tube of pringles, a feast on which our survival for the next 15 hours would depend, and carefully ushered the cockroaches under the door of the adjoining cabin.

The onset of boredom led to investigating anything that could be pulled, pushed, or poked. Of particular curiosity was a red button by the door.

“Singha Beer? Singha Beer!”

Turns out it was the call button for the carriage attendant, who still had just one thing on his mind. Clearly disgusted that we were still refusing his revered beverage, he instead decided it was time we went to bed and proceeded to man-handle us out of the cabin so he could make up the beds. There was little else to so so we just went with it.

“Singha Beer? Singha Beer!”

1st Class cabin, train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

1st Class cabin, train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Resolving to leave buttons alone in future, we finally sent him away, muttering under his breath at these ignorant Brits. He soon continued on his merry, swaying way however, to visit the other tourists who had succumbed to his charms and were indulging in about their 5th bottle.

The train rocked ever onwards, and with glimpses of palms silhouetted against darkening bloodshot skies, we eventually drifted off to sleep, shivering as we couldn’t turn off the air conditioning, and hadn’t even brought jumpers with us not thinking we’d need them in 38 degree Celsius heat. There was no way we were using the bedding provided, it had clealy been mistaken for loo roll in the not too distant past!

Disturbed by shrieking sometime later, we realised the Aussies in the next compartment had finally discovered the cockroaches. No more sleep for them tonight. Smug, we slept on, lulled by the dulcet tones in the corridor, as Singha beer crept uninvited into our dreams.

“Singha Beer? Singha Beer!”

Awakening next morning with renewed optimism, and the cockroaches apparently still next door, we threw caution to the wind, pressed the button, and asked the attendant to announce the airport stop as we pulled closer to Bangkok. We were really looking forward to going home and being back in our own beds.

Half an hour later as we stood on the platform watching the train depart, the attendent leaned from the window, grinning smugly from ear to ear, taunting us one last time with his Singha beer melody. Waving, thankful to be off that damn train we looked around for the airport. It was nowhere to be seen.

We were on the wrong side of the city, miles from the airport, and after an expensive taxi ride which brought our total travel cost to equal that of a short flight, we realised our error:

We really should have bought that beer!

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