When passing between cities in Thailand, our family prefers to travel the way the locals do—trains and buses. Trains are cheap. In some parts of the country, vendors hop on and off at the stops, selling their fruits, drinks, and homemade snacks.
Both food and stories are shared freely among the passengers, creating hours of entertainment for all. As a rule of thumb, the cheaper the ticket, the friendlier the passengers.
|One morning we woke up to find this gift left by another passenger. Since then we exchanged letters and home visits with this kind friend. |
Unfortunately the cheaper the ticker the more likely you are to find yourself stranded along the side of the tracks. We’ve learned to book plenty of “lead time” into our schedule.
|Waiting to switch trains after an engine failure...another chance to make friends.|
Overnight buses are perhaps even more intriguing. The first time I purchased one of these tickets, I was thrilled to learn that our $20 cross-country fare included entrance to an “all-you-can-eat buffet.” I was slightly less excited to hear that our entire bus would have just 20 minutes to unload, use the bathroom, and eat. My enthusiasm dropped further upon learning that the festivities would take place at 2:00 in the morning.
As promised, the bus pulled into a truck stop at 1:58. We sleepily filed into a large cafeteria, where a very generous cook handed each of us a large bowl of bland rice soup decorated with chunks of congealed blood. Under the circumstances, the meal was truly “all-we-could-eat.”
|Attempting to eat a middle-of-the-night meal on our first overnight bus trip. On our most recent trip, we learned we can trade our meal tickets for little bottles of boxed milk. |
Traveling by train and bus is not perfect. But in a world where we’re taught to distrust our neighbors and pre-plan every minute of our day, the Thai transportation is a breath of fresh air. (Just not literally if you’re seated near the bathrooms.) Yes, there’s been a few…character-building experiences, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the friends and memories we've made along the way.