NIGHT TRAIN TO PARADISE
TRAIN 85 BANGKOK – CHUMPHON
NIGHT TRAIN TO PARADISE. A ride on track from Bangkok to Chumphon. There are many options to reach the Southern islands of Thailand from Bangkok (and even from Chiang Mai or other cities), most of them cheap, fast and no frills.
But we are a family, we are adventurers and simple things tend to be boring for us. So why board a plane and get to Koh Samui in an hour if we can ride a train all night long?
To be completely fair, direct flights from Bangkok to Samui are not as cheap as flights to Surat Thani (which is a bit uncomfortable; it’s a city a couple of hours away from the island, you need to take bus + ferry to get to the airport), and probably end up spending the same when adding up all the tickets. That is fine when you are a party of two or if you travel solo. For a family, landing in Samui still remains inconvenient. What do you do? You simply turn an odd situation up side down and take advantage out of a disadvantage, that meaning… Let’s ride a night train! Let’s pretend we’re on the Darjeeling Express traveling in the wilderness of some magic lands (in fact, we are!). Why don’t we just play some Agatha Christie’s roles. Let’s have fun.
I started gathering information about train travel in Asia a good while before our trip was due, I checked a site with all – and I mean ALL – the data you need to face railway travel anywhere in the world (check it for the sake of fun, even if you don’t plan to travel, it’s so well done!): He’s The man in seat 61… and this man knows his thing.
Through his page I got in touch with an agency from Bangkok, 12GoAsia. They answered back in the twinkle of an eye, and Guido, our travel angel, took care of getting us four seats on a first class compartment, communicating through a door, so that we traveled all together (compartments are normally for two people, but if you buy your tickets well in advance you can get what you need).
Communication through e-mails was regular and clear, our tickets were ready on the departure day. The staff at the office were nice and attentive, we even got a nice couple of T-shirts and a refund since my youngest was shorter than expected (height is important!). Everything was as perfect as one could only imagine.
Looking back, comparing my smooth night train ride to Chumphon with my return trip to Bangkok (on a delayed airplane and under the pouring rain), I wish I had returned by train too! I though it might have been too exhausting. How wrong I was! It was not tiring at all. I spent the night reading for my exams in complete silence while all the family slept perfectly well. They made our beds at about 9 pm with fresh clean sheets and covers. Afterwards, the restaurant service brought us a full menu to choose from. Everything was cheap and super delicious.
After a night sleeping lulled by the sound of the train on the tracks, fifteen minutes before arriving, we were waken up with time enough to get dressed and ready for our arrival. It was dark and hot in Chumphon, but the station shop was open and getting ready to serve passengers. We had breakfast at the station with a bunch of enthusiastic travelers all going the same way.
And it was then, at five in the morning, in the middle of the Thai nowhere, under the stars, when I realized:
I’m forty-one, I carry a backpack, and I am finally doing what I want: I’m backpacking the World with the people I love. Is there anything better in life? I love my family and they are here with me. My job allows me to travel. I am happy. And I never want to stop.
Ours was a simple breakfast; however, bananas and coffee were never so sweet.
The kids draw and played cards, we talked and had more coffee until a double-decker drove us to the pier; there, a ferry-boat was waiting for us. Heavenly Koh Tao was our next destination.