Thai Trains and Lao
I am on a train bound for Nong Kai as I write this. Nong Khai is the Thai town that borders Lao. It is early morning but I am awake. I am awake because the very loud man who’s job it is to annoy and wake people was on fine form this morning. He is of course quiet now, he always is once he feels he has done his job and everyone is awake and feeling quite annoyed. Where does he come from and why does he do it? Does he wake up and think ‘I know what I will do, I will do a little shouting, that should make me popular with the eighty people asleep in this carriage’. Or does it not cross his mind that if he shouts a lot at 5:30 in the sleeper carriage of a train he will wake every one? Or is his desire to stretch and exercise his vocal cords so great that he simply does not care? What ever it may be I am fascinated by the proces that happens in his mind.
Thai sleeper trains are fine things, I like them very much. For ten to twelve pounds one gets a birth in an A/C carrage for a twelve hour train ride. If one desires to see the countryside of a land that one travels through then a night train is not recommended. For that reason it is something of a surprise that so many back-packers travel this way, but if your desire is to get somewhere quickly and comfortably then it is ideal. You climb on board and find your seat and quite likely there will be someone sitting oposit you. If you are fortunate as I was last night it will be a beautiful Thai girl with her cute 2 year old daughter. If you are unfortunate it will be the annoying shouting man. I have not, to date, been unfortunate in this respect. One can then while away an hour or so with a glass of wine, a book, watching a dark world pass by whilst listening to music, or attempting to chat up the pretty Thai girl sitting opposite and in the process apparently distressing her two year old daughter. After an hour or two has been merrily whiled away in one of these manners a young smartly dressed lad will come along and by a series of clever and imaginative slides, hinges, and levers create bunk beds that are then made up with sheets blankets and pillows and partitioned from the rest of the train with a curtain. One can now retire for the night.
Lao is a quite charming land, I always like visiting Lao. It is a similar sort of size as the UK with a population of just six million, this makes it rather an empty land. There are many many children, but interestingly so far as I have observed there are no pregnant women. This is surprising and during the course of this journey I intend to keep an curious eye peeled for ladies in the family way, an informal survey one may say.
The Laotian people are lovely, they really are quite wonderful and this is the only place on earth that can bring out a fondness for children in me. The kids here are fantastic. They are beautiful and benign, as are their parents.
The pace of life is relaxed to say the least and far removed from the hustle and bustle of Western society. Yes, I like Lao and am happy to be here leading a group of adventurous cyclists through the country for the next two weeks.