This is a part of my travelogue on my solo overland backpacking trip to Thailand & Laos in 2013.
Previously: Part 8 – Wat Arun, Bangkok
Still Day 4: Thursday, 29 August 2013
It never occurred to me that I would be visiting another new ASEAN country i.e. Laos. It was a part of a spontaneous plan by me after staying for a night in Bangkok. I was at a crossroad; should I visit Chiang Mai or should I go to Laos instead? Chiang Mai offers great views and landscape. On the other hand, Laos is a country which not many of my friends have been to. Plus, going to Laos means collecting a new stamp for my passport. So, I decided, Laos it is.
Aku tak pernah terfikir nak ke Laos. Walaupun memang dah pasang niat dah jelajah semua negara ASEAN, tapi tak pernah terfikir akan sampai secepat ni. Sepanjang di Bangkok, aku terfikir, mana nak teruskan perjalanan aku ni. Nak pergi Chiang Mai ke Laos? Chiang Mai pemandangan cantik. Tapi, Laos dapat cop passport. Ah, pergi Laos lah!
With that in mind, after I reached the hostel from Wat Arun, I picked up my backpacks, bid farewell to Florian (and Stefan and Daniel too, since their train to Padang Besar, Malaysia was cancelled and they had to stay for another night and take a bus) and took the MRT back to Hua Lamphong station. I went to the counter and bought a 2nd class train ticket to Nong Khai, the last station on the northeastern line of Thailand’s railway network system. The train will depart at 6.35 pm and gladly, it was not cancelled.
Lepas je balik dari Wat Arun, aku ambil backpack aku, cakap bye-bye kat Florian (dan Stefan juga Daniel sebab tren diorang ke Padang Besar kena cancel. Diorang kena naik bas, jadi diorang stay satu malam lagi kat Bangkok) dan naik MRT ke stesen Hua Lamphong. Aku pergi ke kaunter dan beli tiket kelas kedua ke Nong Khai, stesen terakhir untuk line northeastern tren Thailand. Tren akan bertolak pukul 6.35 petang nanti.
Whilst waiting for my train, I walked around the Hua Lamphong station, looking at the uniqueness of the station. This station was opened in 1916 and was built in Italian neo-Renaissance style including glass windows and other attributes. I have always loved old train stations which are maintained to be the main train stations of a particular city, this station included. Not like our very own Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, which has now seems forgotten.
Sementara tunggu tren sampai, aku pusing-pusing dulu kat stesen keretapi ni. Cantik, unik! Sebab design dia ada unsur-unsur Eropah walhal Thailand tak pernah dijajah. Aku macam ada satu perasaan suka pada stesen keretapi lama yang dijadikan stesen keretapi utama sesebuah bandar. Macam Hua Lamphong ni. Sayang, stesen KL semakin dilupakan.
(Click here for my piece on the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station)
Suddenly, whilst walking, I heard noises and in unison, everybody stood up. I looked at the watch, it was 6.00 pm. I remembered my trip to Bangkok back in 2011. The same thing happened again, sharp at 6.00 pm. Watch the video below.
Tiba-tiba, tengah elok aku jalan-jalan, aku dengar bunyi bising-bising. Beberapa saat lepas tu, semua orang berdiri. Aku tengok jam, pukul 6.00 petang. Ah patutlah. Teringat aku apa yang jadi masa aku ke Bangkok tahun 2011 dulu. Tengok video kat bawah untuk tengok apa yang jadi dalam stesen keretapi ni.
Yes, Thai people are very patriotic when it comes to singing their National Anthem. Not like some of Malaysians who ridiculed the National Anthem and did not even bother to stop or stand when it is being played. Something for Malaysians to learn from our neighbour, I supposed.
Ya, orang-orang Thailand memang patriotik bila waktu kena nyanyi lagu kebangsaan diorang. Bukan macam sesetengah orang Malaysia yang mempermainkan lagu Negaraku dan tak berdiri pun bila muzik dimainkan. Mungkin, sifat jiran kita ni harus kita contohi.
A few minutes before 6.30 pm, I went to the platform. I had to ask other people at the station which one is the train to Nong Khai since I was all alone. I went to one of the train officers and asked him “Nong Khai?”. He showed me the train, thank God.
Beberapa minit sebelum jam 6.30 petang, aku siap-siap ke platform. Sebab aku sorang, agak blur nak ke mana. Jadi, aku tanya sorang pakcik pegawai keretapi ni “Excuse me, Nong Khai?”. Dia pun tunjuk. Nasib baik.
It was a very comfortable train. As compared to my last train journey in Thailand, where I took the third class coach, second class coach is a lot more better. The seats were comfortable, the air-conditioning were working well, and it was a nice experience, as the interior is different from what I experienced in Malaysia. The seats were not fully occupied when I entered the coach.
Memang selesa keretapi kelas kedua ni. Saja pilih kelas kedua sebab nak air-cond. Lol. Kerusi empuk dan selesa, air-cond berfungsi. Memang bestlah. Dalam dia tak sama macam di Malaysia. Seat pun banyak kosong masa aku masuk.
As expected, the train did not leave on time. At around 6.50 pm, the train started to move. Being a night train in an air-conditioned coach, I couldn’t see much of the view, as it was already pitch dark at around 7.00 pm. Soon, the ‘stewardess’ came and passed me the blanket. The air-conditioner was quite chilling and I was surprised that the price ticket included a blanket.
Seperti dijangka, tren memang akan lambat punya. Pukul 6.50 baru gerak! Masa tu pun dah gelap, takdelah nampak apa-apa sangat kat luar tu. Tak lama lepas tu, datang ‘peramugari’ bagi selimut. Wow, tak sangka ada selimut sekali!
Once in awhile, the train would stopped to fetch more passengers from the other stations along the way. I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. The feeling of going to a new place which I have only read a few days ago in the Lonely Planet book overwhelmed me. I looked around, and everyone was sleeping soundly.
Dekat beberapa stesen, tren akan berhenti sama ada nak ambil atau turunkan penumpang. Sepanjang perjalanan aku cuba tidur tapi tak dapat. Perasaan nak ke tempat baru yang tak pernah sampai, yang aku cuma pernah baca beberapa hari lepas dalam buku Lonely Planet, buat aku berdebar sikit. Aku tengok keliling, orang lain selamat tidur dah.
Time flew and my mind wandered off. Finally, I fall asleep.
Masa berlalu dan aku mengelamun. Last-last, tertidur jugak aku.
To be continued – Part 10
Nong Khai is a town 625 km northeastern of Bangkok. It is the last stop for the State Railway of Thailand northeastern line and the starting point for the shuttle train to Thanaleng, Laos. The journey from Bangkok to Nong Khai for the 6.35 pm train took around 10 hours. The ticket price for a 2nd class air-conditioned seater train is THB 498/RM 49.80 [as of August 2013].