In a cafe in Hua Lapong train station, Bangkok, waiting for a train down to Surat Thani, then catching the boat over to Ko Pangnan. I’m drinking the first real coffee I’ve had since I’ve been in Thailand. An espresso. (Although yesterday I did have a cappucino, but they seemed to make it without putting any coffee in, so it was just frothy milk with chocolate sprinkled on top. Apart from that the coffee has always been instant. This one was 50 Bahts though, pretty expensive by Thai standards, but I’m trying to convince myself that money doesn’t matter because I lost 650 Bahts this morning. Only £10, but it felt like a lot more. I have to keep telling myself it’s just a tenner. I was paying the hotel to store my bags while I’m away, and I paid with a 1000 Baht bill but don’t remember being given the change. When I realized, about 10 minutes later as I was walking down the street I went back but the woman insisted she had given me the change. But I didn’t have it.
I then spent several hours trying to find a secure locker where I could store my video camera and the tapes of the trip across Canada. They had lockers at the hotel but only for guests staying there, and even though I had been staying there and was planning on staying there when I return, they wouldn’t let me use them. I asked twice. It’s impossible, she said.
I got a taxi to the station (60 Bahts) assuming they would have left baggage lockers, but they don’t. They have left baggage, but not individual lockers. They just label the bags and put them all in a room, which is then locked at night, but it doesn’t feel very secure. A sign says you shouldn’t leave valuable or fragile items in your baggage, and that you should lock it. That they accept no liability for the loss of valuable items.
I’m more worried about the tapes than the camera, which could be replaced. They’re all packed into a box I got from the post office (another place I tried for storage), along with the camera. I don’t think anyone would deliberately steal the tapes, but if they accidentally stole them they’d probably just dump them and that would be the end of them. I’m only half way through backing them up. I wish I’d finished the backing up in Canada. I had plenty of time there. Don’t know where it all went. Some of it was spent doing work on the internet, some of it going out drinking or doing other things. Being lazy. But staying in the hostel it was awkward to set up the camera and laptop since I didn’t have my own room and didn’t like showing off that kind of equipment in the canteen. I could’ve done more while I was staying in the YMCA. There I had my own room, but at the time I was doing a lot of work on the internet.
Maybe the malaria pills I’ve just started taking are making me feel drowsy. I remember someone here saying they made him feel spaced out. Normally when I hand over money I’m very careful to check the change. Especially when it’s a 1000 Bahts I’m handing over.
No point thinking about it any more. There’s nothing I can do about it, and it’s only £10. That’s about my daily budget though, which I’ve been going over these last few days. Spending too much on beer. And last night I treated myself to some expensive food. 200 Bahts for red snapper in a hot chilli sauce. It was very hot, but good. Whilst in the restaurant I watched a couple of French guys complain about their bill. One of them went off to fetch the Tourist Police. They were saying they’d been charged for one too many beers. They were being charged for four, and while two police stood and watched the waitress insisted that they had had four beers. A beer there is 45 Bahts (about 70p). I think they gave in in the end and paid it.
On the upper wall of the station are a mosaic of square images of Thailand painted in an impressionistic style. Like Monet. Thai music is playing. Above the information desk is a large flat screen TV. It’s showing what appears to be a Thai pop video.
I’ve not passed a solid for over a week now, ever since I arrived in Thailand. Not a true solid at least. I’m not sure if it’s the food here, or just the heat. There was a stomach bug going around the hostel during my last two weeks in Vancouver, which made me ill for a day. I think most likely it’s the food. Almost everything is hot. Usually I quite like hot food. Usually it doesn’t bother me. I’ve been drinking bottled water, not tap water, except on a few occasions I have brushed my teeth using tap water, but not much.
I hadn’t intended to spend the whole afternoon waiting for the train. It’s a night train and I have a sleeper car. Bottom bunk. 12 hours to Surat Thani, arriving at about 5:30 tomorrow morning. Then about an hour’s bus ride to the ferry port, arriving on the island around midday.
On the TV school children sing and dance. The sound now seems to be more or less in sync with the images. There are Thai subtitles. A Farang guy takes photos of his girlfriend sitting opposite him. The camera flashes. They’re both wearing headscarves.
Half an hour to the train. Maybe I’ll go and see if I can get on.
Eight o’clock and in bed on the train. The bottom bunk. we just went over a bridge. Might have been the one over the River Kwai, which I know we go over. It sounds like we’re going pretty slowly. They stopped the train for about half an hour a while back in order to convert the seats in the sleeper carriages into beds, The vlue curtain on my left waves about in the draft from the open windows and the fans. This isnlt and air conditioned carriage.
Every so often vendors walk through the carriage calling out blah blah blah ka (*if they’re a woman) or blah blah blah kap (if they’re a man). Some of them were pretty persistent earlier when the seats were up. I was sitting opposite another farang, a Norwegian guy, and so on seeing the two of us they really made an effort to sell, knowing that as tourists we’re both loaded. Last night walking back from Khao San Road after the pub had closed a guy tried to sell me am embroidered picture, which he said was hand made but to me it looked mass-produced, and I’d seen someone selling the exact same things the night before, At first he said just look, you don’t have to buy anything, just tell me which one you like. I pointed out one that was monochrome with clear simple shapes that I liked. two figures and two arrows. That’s good and evil, he said. It would make a nice present for someone. Tell me what you think it’s worth. I bet you think it’s very expensive but it’s not as expensive as you think. I refused to name a price so he went on: Normally I would sell that for 300 but I’ll give it to you for 250. No thanks. 200 then. I decided to try some reverse haggling to see what would happen.
No, you shouldn’t sell it to me for a reduced price. I’d feel like I was ripping you off if I bought it at such a low price. It’s a really good picture and I’m sure you could sell it for a lot more than that. You should be asking 500 for it. I’m sure there are people who would buy it for 500.
For a while he seemed a bit confused and I started to walk away, but he came after me. I’ll give it to you as a gift, a gift from Thailand for 100 Bahts. Look, it’s the last one I have.
Thanks, but really I couldn’t. It wouldn’t feel right.
For 100 I did consider it, but remembered the guy I was talking to the night before had bought 3 for 100.