Trains and buses

December 19 – 21, 2012

We woke up at 5am to make sure we didn’t miss the early bus which supposedly leaves at 6am. When we got to the bus station it was such a relief to see the driver and the baggage boy look at the bikes with a “no problem” expression. They helped us pull the bikes on board through the back door of the bus and tie them off to the window frame. They told us to sit in the back next to the bikes, but right after we did a very young monk and a very old monk got on board and we were obliged to give up the back seats of the bus to them as is customary here. It was a great relief as we really didn’t want to bike over those huge hills again. When we got to the first hill on the bus Chandler and I exchanged grins as the bus barely crept up in first gear, motor hammering the whole way.

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Bikes on a bus

After that, the ride got really boring really quickly. It was nice to cover so much ground but it just wasn’t fun like biking. We stopped about forty times in 3 hours, as our bus also served as a sort of school bus. We asked to be dropped off at Hellfire Pass and after we were pretty much tossed overboard onto the grassy shoulder we headed off to a nearby museum.

The museum is actually a memorial dedicated to the allied prisoners of war and indentured asian workers who died during the construction of the “Death Railroad” during WWII. The railway was intended to create a supply line to the Japanese/Allied front in Myanmar. Due to a lack of machinery and a sense of urgency, most construction activities including rock excavation were done by hand. Hellfire Pass was the deepest rock cut done on the route. It took 20 months for 415km railroad to be built with more than 100,000 men dying of disease, starvation and torture (10,000+ POWs and 90,000 Asian workers/slaves). The museum displays indicated that most of the allied POW were British, Australian and Dutch troops captured during the surrender of Singapore. There were also a few hundred American POWs who were captured in Java.

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Hellfire Pass

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Hand tool

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We spent some time walking through the actual pass trying to comprehend how unbearable the conditions and the work must have been for those forced to be there.

After the museum, we rode our bikes 15 miles to the train station in Nam Tok. Again we were lucky that the bikes weren’t too much of a problem. The train was exciting at first, but it also lost its appeal after an hour or two.

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We finally made it to Nakam Pathom where we needed to transfer to get to the main Bamgkok train station. Our train had already gone, so we had to take the morning train. We found a Chinese hotel which was kind of scary, but it was cheap and right next the station. We also got to see the largest pagota in Thailand which is apparently a “must see”.

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Pagota

We got up early again to catch the 6:20 train to Bangkok. Everything went smoothly until we got to Bangkok. The train to Rayong province had already left and we would have to spend the night in town. That was not ideal but we had some errands to do anyways. I decided to hang out and get a few of the blog posts done because we are about a week behind while Chandler did our chores.

Our wonderful host at the Hidden Holiday House had warned us that biking to Rayong is a little miserable because we would be on busy highways almost the entire time. He suggested to just take the train. All of his suggestions and warnings have been correct so far, we were going to follow his advice again.

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Train at the station

The next morning we got up to the train station early. Chandler purchased our tickets and the agent told us to go to platform 10. Chandler then went to talk to the guys at the scales to make sure our bikes could go on the train. The officer said our train had already left from platform 6. What?

We went to talk to the ticket agent and sure enough it had already left. They also refused to refund the ticket or reissue it for the next day. We were both getting super frustrated at this point. We decided to first go check out a buses, otherwise we would just deal with biking to Rayong.

Luckily, there was a bus that could take us and our bikes to Rayong no problem. We had to hang out for a few hours and wait. We did have a lovely chat with an American visiting his son. The bus ride was a little uncomfortable for me because I got carsick. But, we were so relieved to finally make it to Rayong with our bikes.

That night we had an amusing dinner. I tried to explain that I was vegetarian, and the waitress started pointing at things on the menu that had meat in them. I kept saying “no meat” but it turns out this was misinterpreted and we ended up getting all the things she pointed to with no meat. It was a big dinner and Chandler was nice enough to eat the whole bowl of bean curd soup we nicknamed “Velveeta marshmallow soup” if you can imagine the texture.

We are excited to start biking again tomorrow.

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