Hot, crowded, sweaty, uncomfortable. That’s how our journey to Ayutthaya started.
We left Bangkok at around 11am to catch the train from Hualamphong Station, Bangkok’s main station for intercountry travel. We’d decided since we were doing this backpacker thing we’d commit to the experience and get the 3rd class train for a grand total of 15 baht each* rationalising that it was only a 1.5 hour trip so how bad could it be?
*for those of you at home that’s not even $1 AUD.
The train was an experience to say the least. The 3rd class train is old and rickety, the seats are hard plastic and because there’s no air conditioning all the windows are thrown wide open. What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be any concept of the train being sold out, as we stop at each station more and more people cram on, standing where ever they can find space.
Ladies walk up and down the train carrying picnic baskets, shrieking loudly their offerings of bottled water, sandwiches and snacks. There is no space for anyone to move but these ladies persevere, pushing their way through the crowded aisle, intent on selling their wares.
My favourite part of a journey is always the people watching and being trapped in a hot and sweaty train carriage offers plenty of opportunity. It reiterates that even though you don’t speak the same language and come from vastly different backgrounds, fundamentally everyone is the same. The old man dozing against the window, the lady trying to wrangle the 3 small boys, the teenager exasperatingly rolling their eyes at something their mother has said and the young girl who catches my eye as we both laugh at the snoring erupting from that old man at the window.
The train journey itself takes you through Bangkok offering a diverse look at the city. Travelling past high rise buildings, along the canals and behind houses ingeniously built out of whatever people can find. Tin, wood, old canvas’ advertising pizza and cardboard- if you can imagine it people here are using it to build their homes.
Once you get past the city you see the countryside. From what we seen it was very flat, very green and very wet with people out working in the fields, tending their crops and animals.
There are a number of stops along the way, most stations only have the name of the station written in Thai, but for the main ones and the ones that attract a lot of tourists the name will also be in English, local people are more than happy to help you if you need it though. Several people warned us when the Ayutthaya station was coming up, but honestly you can’t miss it. It’s pretty big compared to the other stations and pretty much every foreigner on the train gets off there.
There are a number of other ways you can get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, including first and second class trains, buses or mini vans but if you really want to experience a country you should travel like the locals do, so whilst admittedly it wasn’t the most comfortable journey, it was an experience one I don’t think I’ll forget in a hurry.