Sometime not long after the turn of this century, I travelled, again to Thailand to see my cousin and his wife and toddler daughter. Andy was working heavily on a film, so Pasalee, Mamiao and I travelled to her home town of Trat, near the Cambodian border for a few relentlessly rainy, impenetrable days, and then Pasalee and I caught the very wet, unsheltered ferry to Koh Chang.

We stayed at a resort at Lonely Beach in tiny individual wooden huts with straw roofs, and a sandy mattress and requisite mosquito net plus little oil lamp and towel as blanket. The windows were one tiny, un-paned square. If you needed to go to the toilet, you visited a roofless little stone grotto to squat, and poured pots of water over, in a time old way. Bathing consisted of cold well baths, such a sensual experience that made me think of the Micheal Ondaatje poem Wells;

‘Like diving a hundred times from a moving train into the harbour

Like diving a hundred times from a moving train into the harbour’

It rained, grey and breathless, except for the one afternoon when it stopped, for the briefest interlude, and all of the farang, me included,dashed down to the beach to swim in those pale waters.

I gained the worst sun burn of my life.

The final couple of days everything was a torture to my blistering skin,the sandy mattress, my cousin’s borrowed Krumpler slung over my shoulder, the very clothes upon my skin. The Thais found it amusing and I felt grumpily sore and sorry for myself.

We returned to Trat via bumpy songthaew across the island, then ferry, and stayed some more days at Pasalee’s parents house, before catching the interminably slow bus to Bangkok, and from there the night train back to Chiangmai.

We sat in our carriage, with all of the other farang (with the exception of Pasalee and Mamiao), until the evening meal time approached. The tables and menus appeared as though by magic, but we -with the benefit of the local know- retired to the dining carriage at the very back of the train, populated by only Thai people. There was a little bar, and tables laden with crockery and white vases displaying red roses within.

The lighting was dim. There was a disco ball, and Billy Joel was blaring very loudly.
I’m not an especial fan of Billy Joel, but I am a child of the 80’s and it happens that I know the words to most of his songs from that period. Give me the moistly fragrant Thai night rushing by the wide open windows, bottles of singha beer, and a disco ball, and I will sing them all (quietly, that is, I was after all without company, after 18 month old Anise had shown a propensity toward flinging the dinner china out the window, her mother had retired her back to the sleeping carriage).

I sat in that dining car alone for the longest time, chain smoking and getting slowly,beautifully intoxicated, and for a few hours, my life was so perfect. I swooned with the love of it, and at one late night station stop at an ancient town, a tall young Thai mouthed “You’re beautiful” to me from the platform, far enough away not to be anything but a siren call from my dreams, and so I believed him.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

Night Train