The trip took just one hour, and then we were in Thailand where we filled out our Immigration cards, walked by Customs, and went to find our transportation. The tour company led us to a small pickup with very narrow seats in the rear. We piled in, along with 14 other people (three of whom were standing on the back bumper), and headed in to Satun. In Satun we transferred to an air-conditioned van and left for Hat Yai. I nicknamed our driver Parnelli Jones because he was driving between 80 to 85 miles per hour and weaving in and out of traffic. I closed my eyes so that I wouldn’t see the end coming; however, Steve was very interested in the situation.
After a delay because of traffic, we arrived in Hat Yai an hour later and had the driver drop us off at the train station, happy to still be in one piece. We found the Advanced Ticket Sales office and purchased our tickets to Bangkok and also Chiang Mai from a very friendly ticket agent. We were able to get first-class tickets for the train to Bangkok, but we had to buy second-class tickets for Chiang Mai.
After the train station we walked to the New Season Hotel and checked in. We needed to relax for a short time, and then we decided to go for a walk. We walked quite a ways because we were fascinated by all the shops and stalls along the streets. The most interesting thing was that a block would have large buildings on it, but then every so many feet a walkway through the building would go clear through from that street to the next parallel street. On either side of the walkway were stalls selling everything imaginable, and every walkway seemed to be selling the same stuff. It was amazing.
We found a good local restaurant where we enjoyed dinner and a cold beer. Afterward we walked a little more in order to work off the meal, and then we returned to our hotel and called it a night.
We checked out at noon the next day and walked back to the train station where we stored our bags. We needed to find an Internet store where we could print out our hotel voucher for Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We also wanted to look for a new backpack, a hair brush, and some food for the train. We took care of the first two items and then stopped to have some lunch at the Sizzler, but unfortunately, the food was not that good. After lunch we found some good local food and fruit for our trip.
At 4:30 we went back to the station to wait for our 6:05 train. I was pretty tired and was grateful for a place to sit. This afternoon I decided that my cold had gone into a sinus infection because I had not been feeling any better for several days and had other symptoms so I decided to start an antibiotic.
Our 6:05 train ended up being late, which created some stress for us because the announcements over the speaker were mainly in Thai so we were not sure when our train would arrive. Steve asked a local lady sitting close by about our train and after that she listened to the announcements for us and told us when ours was arriving.
We boarded the train and found our berth, which was fine, but I am not sure I would classify it as “first class.” Our train did not leave the station until after seven o’clock so now we would not arrive in Bangkok until noon on the ninth.
The train left the station, and we spent the last of daylight looking at the scenery going by. At nine o’clock we asked the porter to make up our bunks and, and we went to sleep. Sleep was difficult because of the movement of the train and the noise, but we did manage to sleep a bit.
On February 9 we woke up fairly early and had the porter take down the bunks. It was a lovely day, and the scenery was interesting so we just sat an enjoyed the morning. We arrived in Bangkok after noon and were able to exit the train station without being accosted by too many taxi drivers. I wanted a picture of the station, but we decided to skip it for the time being.
We found that the MRT or subway was very close and clearly marked, so we bought our tickets and headed for the River View Resort--resort is another loosely used term. We had to transfer from the MRT to the sky train, but again we found everything clearly marked and very easy. We got off a few blocks from our hotel, exited the platform, and then stopped in a mall where we had a very nice lunch and a beer for $3 each.
After lunch we walked to our hotel and checked in. A few hours later we left to just walk around the neighborhood. We found a beautiful park where many locals were relaxing, and some were eating a meal. The main street was very busy with traffic and people so we could hardly walk along the sidewalk.
We found the Victory Monument that commemorates a Thai victory over the French in 1941. It stands in the middle of a roundabout, and the six lanes of traffic were so busy that we decided not to try to cross the street but to just take a picture from the opposite curb. All along these sidewalks there were stalls selling merchandise or food and some were giving manicures. We just cannot get over the huge number of people in this country.