Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Worst Journey: Overnight Train

Long journeys can be uncomfortable at the best of times but can you pick your worst? I can. Mine has to be the overnight train in Thailand from Bangkok to Surat Thani. I’m not sure what I was expecting from an overnight train. I knew it wouldn’t be luxury and it wasn’t, but I didn’t get a wink of sleep.

The journey lasted from 8pm until 6am the following day so it was a solid 10 hours travelling. The train never really picked up much speed so the frustration of this got to me more than anything else. I am sure in the UK the same distance could have been covered in half the time.

We started out in pairs with two seats facing each other and then at meal time a table was slotted into the floor and side of the train. Food was optional and I chose the hot option but this was a mistake because it was “red hot” and I couldn’t eat it. Instead, I stuffed a half stale tube of Pringles which unsettled my already fragile stomach. When it came to sleeping, the chairs folded out into bunk beds which I thought was a pretty efficient system. I foolishly took the top bunk and ended up with the only light in the carriage right in my face and the loud fan blowing only on my feet every 20 seconds. The biggest issue however was the humidity. All the trapped heat in the carriage was rising to my level and the face mask I was using was saturated with my own sweat. As we trundled along at close to walking pace the coaches would bump together and jerk you suddenly in your bunk making it impossible for you to drift off to sleep. I found myself lying awake trying to anticipate the next banging together of the carriages. I bathed in my own sweat for the entire 10 hour journey and felt extremely grimy by the time came to disembark at Surat Thani. A grin came across my face when we were directed to the café for a breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast and a cool glass of orange juice.

Experiences like this one do build character and make for interesting talking points when you get home. I would not be in any hurry to choose another overnight train unless absolutely necessary. Leave a comment about your worst journeys.



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