Train Sailing To Udon

Bangkok Railway station


second classIt’s inevitable that in times of war prisoners will be taken. Some if their fate can be called kind will return home, their minds and bodies scarred forever by the rigours of torture.

I had thought the first four days of my holiday had been enjoyable but all along I had been setting myself up to make Day five one of arduous torture. For the previous four days I had consumed large quantities of Tiger Beer and smoked over 200 cigarettes. Today I was going to be locked inside a giant tin can for 10 hours and possibly be deprived of both. An asthmatic thousands of miles from home.

The train left Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong railway station at 06:20 in the morning and pulled into Udon Thani at 18:20. Inbetween was 600 minutes of sheer torture.

Our original plan had been to travel up to Udon during the day in style. First class was only available on the overnight sleeper so we downgraded and took the day train home, second class would be good enough for a couple of village hands like us.

Food vendorBangkok, Autthaya, Saraburi…..The train was packed solid and the sun had woken early and was burning bright. I’m not sure if the vents in the carriage ceiling were part of a broken air con system or purely to let the hot air out or possibly in.

The carriage was already starting to cook and the swivel fan above us seemed to miss me out on many of its 180 degree arcs. Wonderful Wi was suffering similar hot flushes.

Chatturat, Ban Luam, Bulayai…..The countryside rolled past our window. Crop plantations, manicured farmland and rice fields bathed in recent rainwater with sunrays dancing and glistening on top.

Palm trees, banana and heaven knows what else kind of tree, all standing vibrant green against the clear blue skies. Klongs, ponds and a bridge over a river that snaked round a bend and then it was gone, the train stopped for no painted landscape or nature’s beauty. Beautiful gardens wrapped around modern houses and wooden shacks all in a row.

By mid afternoon the carriage was stifling hot with little spare air. Being Thailand a lot of people said very little. Mai phen rai krap.

SmokingKhon Kaen, Namphong, Udon Thani…..The train stopped more times than I care to remember. At most stations food vendors would board or place their basket up onto the carriage floor and make their sales pitch. Chicken, pork, fruit and some things that resembled what your cat had just thrown up and your dog wouldn’t have the audacity too drag in. There were others selling newspapers and magazines, on and on, all the way to Udon. There was also a railway bucket boy who regularly came round selling drinks. Water, orange, coke and milk, all packed into a bucket filled with ice and not a Tiger in sight. 

I knew from previous train journeys that I wouldn’t be able to smoke in the carriage but I knew where I could. Between carriages there is a small adjoining platform (see photo right)  with railing on either side. You stand there with the ground hurtling along beneath you, smoking and riding every twist, turn and bump. A Thailand train trip is far more effective than any nicotine patch.

Then she came into sight, I’d missed her but by the near end of our 10 hour journey I was missing her more. A first class train trek on a second class ticket and there she was Udon Thani. A most welcome sight.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

15 Responses

  1. Catherine Wentworth says:

    ‘Chicken, pork, fruit and some things that resembled what your cat had just thrown up and your dog wouldn’t have the audacity too drag in’

    And here I am, eating my lunch. Blech!

    Wonderful description though. And with you being so brave as to sign up for a train ride in pleb, I just have to think kudos in your direction.

    I’ll eventually do the train, but before I book my tickets I’ll come back to read your post again just to be sure of what I’m getting into. First class, preferably 😉

    Catherine Wentworth’s last blog post..Happy Birthday Celebrations in August: Thai Temple Style

  2. Adullamite says:

    Smoking kills!
    There again, so does falling off the train I suppose…..

    Adullamite’s last blog post..English Democrats

  3. Mike says:

    Martyn I once travelled 3rd class from BKK to Pachuap.Everything else was booked! Eight hours of misery and to top it all I had to fight for a spot near the door every time I wanted a fag!

    I nearly offered a guy 20 Baht to keep my place and even considered sitting on the roof at one time.

    Normally I love train travel especially the sleepers in Thailand. Glad you made it OK anyway.

    I look forward to reading about the MIL and the games club.

    Mike’s last blog post..Soapy Thai Massage from Lily Thai

  4. malcolm says:

    Wow ,Martyn , I bet it does feel good to be home , I know when we went on vacation , that the best part was the trip home . I have taken a few trips ,maybe more than a few , on the Thai train system , the daily and the over nighters , I prefered the night sleepers as I could at least relax some and they were air-cond.
    I gave up the cigs 6 years ago , not that I didn’t love everyone of them , but because I got tierd of Ciejay crying all the time that I was going to die and leave her all alone , so to give her peace of mind and to stop the constant crying every time see saw me smoke , I quit and I have to say that now I feel a lot better and don’t miss them at all .
    We will for sure make a time to get together in Sept amn have a dinner and good visit and chat. Malcolm

    malcolm’s last blog post..A LITTLE KNOWN FACT

  5. Martin In Bulgaria says:

    Hi Martyn,
    Secretly I think you love these experiences, it certainly inpires you to write about it. It’s good for your health as well, People pay lots of money for a sauna.

    The beauty is going through a journey like that turn ordinary things inot somoething special, i.e. not being on a train! How many other’s other than Thais get this under their belt? Not many, maybe for good reason.

  6. Talen says:

    You are a better man than I …I have traveled by bus but it was a nice bus that left at night so I could sleep. But I bet the views were beautiful.

    Talen’s last blog post..Bangkok’s Floating Market

  7. frogblogger says:

    Wow, 200 ciggies in 4 days? That’s going some. And unless you’re still suffering from jet-lag, the Tiger consumption is supposed to start after the sun has disappeared behind the yard-arm, not before! Or have you got one of those multi time zone watches, where you can pick whatever yard-arm that suits from anywhere around the world 😉

    How do you cope with the rice burn-off? Or do your lungs greedily suck up the haze as some kind of herbal alternative? Or maybe it’s not so bad in Udon Thani. In Chiang Mai it’s terrible, and combined with the general pollution, has made me think seriously about other options when the time comes to settle down permanently in one place.

    Would miss CM though. Like the combination of good prices, culture and fun, and I’m not sure where else in Thailand I can find a bit of atmosphere, and not too many farangs. Don’t suppose Udon Tani fits the bill?

    frogblogger’s last blog post..Thai sense of humour?

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine – Smoking on the train was a little heart in the mouth stuff. Sorry if I put you off your food.

    Adullamite – I tried timing my smoking for when we stopped but more often than not it would pull away, pick up speed and then change tracks. Dodgy.

    Malcolm – I quite enjoyed the trip and apart from the heat everything else was spot on. I will look forward to September.

    Mike – A great story and I am glad mine brought the memories back to you. I smoked about 10 fags all trip. It was really cooling stood between carriages.

    Martin – I do like to travel Thai style because like you I think if it’s good enough for them then it’s good enough for me.

    Talen – Great views and the train was not that bad just a little hot. Try an overnight sleeper next time.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    Pete – Udon Thani city fits the bill to a certain degree, Chiang Mai would be much more culture rich. Normally after a week in Thailand I am on the full strength 500mg Amoxycylline antibiotics but thus far I’m not feeling to bad. Must have been all that fresh air between carriages. I’m not normally too bad jet lag wise, quite lucky that way, I think I always feel tired so 12 hours relaxing on a flight makes me feel better.

  10. frogblogger says:

    I used to smoke, still feel the effects now. The long-haul flights are a bad start to any trip for me – freezing air blasting out for hours on end, passengers shivering under blankets, I’ve no idea why the airlines feel we need temperatures approaching absolute zero when we fly. Get those Amoxylin tabs ready, I’ll be landing soon…

    frogblogger’s last blog post..The most beautiful women in Thailand…

  11. Jade says:

    I love train rides but never really been on a very long journey.

    over 200 cigarettes….OH.MY.GOSH.

    Smoking is bad for your health but I guess you already know that eh? 🙂

    Jade’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Street Artist in Barcelona, Spain

  12. Jon says:

    Christ, what a journey.

    Feeling your pain. I’ve been from Saraburi to Ayuthaya before and found it incredibly hot and long, so god only knows how you survived.

    Personal highlights.

    Chicken (with claw still attached) being offered to all and sundry despite looking like it was cooked last year. People buying ice-cream cups at stations and eating with with a straw – amusing to watch.

    Jon’s last blog post..Red Shirt newspaper launching end of May

  13. Catherine says:

    Martyn, it wasn’t the cigs (I’m a former smoker myself… hmm… yes, reformed and all).

    I was reacting to this…

    ‘Chicken, pork, fruit and some things that resembled what your cat had just thrown up and your dog wouldn’t have the audacity too drag in’

    And no, it did not put me off my lunch 😀

    Catherine’s last blog post..Chris Pirazzi at

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Pete – I’m looking forward to reading your live Thailand stories.

    Jon – Saraburi to Ayutthaya is a short trip but one I feel I could now endure and probably with just one smoke.

    Jade and everybody, sorry I’m late getting back to your comments but my internet time is restricted whilst in Thailand. I’ve now cut down to about 40 cigs a day.

    Catherine – A lot of you lucky expats seem to have given up the smokes and yet they are so cheap in Thailand. Glad your lunch went down okay.

  15. No smokes for me either, shame as they are so cheap over their. I blame the tax here for the high prices. I love the look of that train ride, it looks like a real experience.

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