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November 15th, 2000 · No Comments

Hat Yai to Yala

Day 320

My first day back on the bike in awhile and it felt good, except it was raining. I headed for the train station in search of a new adventure in a new country. I had yet to ride a train inThai Stop sign Southeast Asia and it was time. I asked at the front desk where the train station was located. The person didn’t understand what I needed, but did end up giving me a map. I quickly located the train station on the map and asked “which way?” They pointed and off I went. Within a few minutes I was at the ticket window.

Misty morning at the train stationThais have a script of their own. English is not normally understood so when I showed my DRG for a ticket to the next town, I was met with a blank stare. I didn’t read their language, nor they mine. Instead I took out a map of the country and pointed to where I wanted to go. The train didn’t go there, but it came within 25 kilometers. That was good enough for me.

My ticket cost a whopping 73 bath (less than $1.75) and included my bike. Within 90 minutes I was on my way to Yala.

The train was definitely a “no frills” train, the seats were wooden with wooden backs as well, comfort was not a factor. The windows opened to let a breeze come in and to help clear away the cigarette smoke from the passengers. I was happy it was not another steaming hot day.

The train was full of passengers, mostly families with young children. It was a local train, stopping frequently at each little town or village. It seemed as many people boarded as got off, so there were never any extra seats. I just sat watching the scenery go by and studied the faces of the people around me.

We are getting deeper into Muslim territory. More and more women are dressed with scarves covering their hair and either pants or long dresses with long sleeves. Their bodies were totally covered, it made me hot to just look at them.

Initially I felt “under-dressed,” but after awhile my ill at ease feeling subsided. The frowns on the faces I was looking at would turn to a delightful smile, when I smiled first. Once again, I discovered a smile was the easiest thing to give away and the most pleasant to receive. What I felt was a judgmental stare was merely a curiosity of me. As I relaxed, so did those around me. A foreign woman traveling alone on a bicycle no less, dressed in lycra was most unusual, (if not scary!).

My fellow train passengers were also very helpful. After a few stops, it occurred to me that I may not be able to recognize where I needed to get off. My ticket was printed both in English and in Thai, but the station signs weren’t always printed in both languages. (Thai script looks like shorthand, it is very hard for the untrained eye to make a match.) I showed my ticket to the gentleman seated across from me. As luck would have it, he spoke English, he told me that my stop was coming up in two more stops. I was relieved to have found an English speaking helper.

Grass hutFrom the train I watched as rice paddies and rubber plantations passed by the window. Stilted jungle houses jutted out of a very wet terrain. I wondered how families managed to get in and out of their homes when the water was all around them. Some had access by make shift wooden planks, others just walked through the knee deep water to enter the door. It must be a house keeping night mare, not to mention a breeding ground for disease.

I jumped off the train and the baggage claim man handed me my bike. Now I just needed to find the road to the Narathiwat, which I knew was to the southwest.

Tags: Malaysia · SE Asia