Phitsanulok

Remember in Lopburi you left us waiting in the train station for the Phitsanulok train?

We do, we remember.

We were there for a while.

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The Journey

A few days ago we had poured over booking.com finding accommodation for the next leg of our journey as we travel further north towards Chang Mai and the Laos border crossing.

Yes, thought we, this is the time. This is the time we indulge in our accommodation and finally have a break from backpacker accommodation and get an actual swimming pool!

We’ve had the balcony overlooking the crocodile filled canal which smelt of fish, we’ve had monkeys noisily running over the roof at 6am, we’ve stayed in a jungle hut with freezing cold showers, we’ve huddled under mosquito nets and woken up covered in bites anyway.

Now is the time to drop some cash and live in the world of luxury!

We get to the train station early, ready for a long trip that should bring us in before the sun goes down and we can wait for check-in by the beautiful pool and maybe grab a swim after 30+ degree heat.

And here are the lessons we learnt:

  1. The whole backpacker ‘just rock up and by a train ticket on the day’ thing doesn’t work if you want to get on a specific train, Thai trains can totally be full you goddamn hippies.
  2. The ‘express’ trains are really expensive.
  3. The trains only run on time out of Bangkok.

And so, we rock up to Lopburi station, dreams of swimming in the sun filling our eager minds, to be told there is only one seat available om that train. Once the anger fades Jo gives me a funny look, I think she’s actually considering leaving me there for the pool.

After a long, broken English conversation with the ticket guy, who radiates ‘I can’t understand you, let me get back to relaxing you idiot westerners’ we find that the next train to go takes 7 hours and leaves at midday, that’ll get us in so late in the day we will get no pool time and we are only there 2 nights, dammit that’s a third of our pool time!

Queue even more broken conversation (Jo has descended into despair at this point so I’m fighting solo) and some time sitting on the Internet trying to brute force a solution (can the drag racer truck driver take us there without using our whole holiday budget or killing us on the way?)

I finally find a train, there is an express train leaving in an hour that should get us there is 4 hours – that gets our pool time back!

So I trudge up to the ticket window, as the guy tries to duck under his desk to avoid having to deal with me again and point at my phone “What about this train?!” I say in my best English ‘talk louder and slower’ so he understands.

Ah! This train now exists! It just goes way more. I can’t even remember how much more, but something like ‘ten times more’ doesn’t even come close, the cheap train is pennies, this one is pounds.

I go brave the conversation with Jo.

Yes, this train is too expensive. Another night at the hotel is much more. It’s cost efficient. No, I don’t like it. No, it’s not me just wasting our money.

She finally gives in and I jog over to the ticket guy, wallet in hand. He’s much happier to see me this time….for some reason.

We buy our overpriced tickets and go to the platform, a grim bittersweet taste in our throats.

And we wait.

And wait.

I can see the frustration starts to reappear in Jo. I go find the ticket guy, who looks strangely sheepish.

“Train delay, one hour”

“one hour from now, or when it supposed to go?”

Loop the last two lines a couple of times, getting louder and slower as we try to understand each other.

“Ah! One hour delay, 30 minutes wait from now”

Awesome!

An hour later the cheap, 7 hour train comes and goes.

A short while later the station manager asks to see our tickets.

“Ohh, so sorry, train delay 4 hours, so sorry”

Jo is suggesting we go throw a chair through the ticket counter and drag the guy across the street for a beating.

And so we sit, we play chess, Jo beats me, she’s a bit happier.

Finally, after 4 hours, we get on our train and it powers through to Phitsanulok, arriving just after the much cheaper slow train.

*Le Sigh*

We fall through the doors of the nice hotel, dirty, tired and loaded down with our rucksacks.

A couple in the restaurant turn and look at us, staring as if we were in danger of infecting their posh dinner with our grubby little backpacker germs. This hotel is not the Savoy darlings. There is no need for that.

Fighting the urge to give them a rinsing in my best Surrey accent we check in with the staff (who are lovely I should add, it was just the guests who, allegedly, were better than us) and slouch off to our room for a shower.

It’s dusk, we are tired, but you know what, we want swimming pool!

We grab our stuff and excitedly shoot down in the lift and burst out into the outside bar to find our pool – yes, yes, yes! It’s 28 degrees in the evening, it’s going to be…..

Freezing cold and covered in mosquitos and the bar is playing some awful thrumming dance music at full volume.

I face-palm so hard the guy standing behind me falls over.

But you know what, we got in our goddamn pool and had a goddamn swim.

Then we went to expensive hotel room, did some washing in the sink and tied string all over our balcony to hang it up to dry.

Phitsanulok

Most of the next day we spent in the hotel, having a break from the last few weeks. I write some blog posts, Jo sorts some photos.

Jo ends up chatting to one of the staff for a while and she offers to take us into the city when her shift ends at 5pm. Awesome! The staff here are great at least 🙂

She drops us at the temple and we have a look around, it’s a good one and well worth a visit. We walk around a bit, it’s a small, but much nicer city than Lopburi and we end up in one of the best night marks we found so far, a tightly packed crazy mess of great food. We set up on a little curb out of the way then take turns fighting into the crowd to find something to eat and bringing it back to share, the sounds and smells of the market overpowering.

We finish the day with a Tuk Tuk tour. They seem quite confused at the concept of a city tour (Phitsanulok isn’t huge on the backpacker trail – undeservedly we feel, it’s a great place to spend the evening.)

Jo starts by haggling with the Tuk Tuk drivers, we have one old guy sitting on a bin showing us how crazy we are wanting to go around (big circles with his arm) then to our hotel (a huge gesture off into the sky) for such a cheap price.

He’s joined by a much calmer guy, who seems to be in charge but also agrees we pay too little.

Then there is a lady, she’s about a hundred and six and totally up for the job. She’s also as blind as a bat and needs the calm guy to explain the trip to her as she can’t see the map.

Her driving reflects this, she’s a total badass of a driver, at one point cutting through a closed market, zapping between stalls narrowly avoiding tearing the whole thing down.

I’m glad we are big westerners, some of the corners we took I’m sure would have been on two wheels had we not been weighting it down.

Phitsanulok is lovely though, and has some great sights.

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