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2017 SEPTEMBER THAILAND RAIL JOURNEY part one

TRAIN CHIANG MAI TO LAMPANG TO PHITSANULOK

semi-overcast 30 °C

DAY 236 FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2017

It rained last night, and it was still raining when we woke up this morning. Lyn did our last load of washing early and hung them on a clothes airer in front of a fan inside so we would have all clean clothes to depart with. Keeraya had gone out early with her mother, but left us a note she would be back at 12 noon to take us to the train station. We left the house at 1pm, which was still early enough to stop and have lunch before driving us to the train station.

Time has come for us to move on again, start our journey back to Bangkok. We have decided to take the train, but instead of doing the overnight sleeper, like we have done several times in the past, we are taking the day train and doing a few stops along the way. Our Thai visa is good until the 14th of October, so we still have a couple of weeks.

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Today we left Chiang Mai on the #52 3.30pm train heading south approx. 100kms to Lampang.

Lampang, also called Nakhon Lampang to differentiate from Lampang Province, is the third largest town in northern Thailand and capital of Lampang Province and the Lampang district. Traditional names for Lampang include Wiang Lakon and Khelang Nakhon. The city is a trading and transportation center. Lampang lies 601 km north of Bangkok and 101 km southeast of Chiang Mai.

2nd class, padded seats with open windows and overhead fan 53 baht = aud$2.04 each. Train departed 10 minutes late, but arrived 30 minutes early, arriving at 5.30pm, so made pretty good time.
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Lots of green countryside, rice paddies and jungle along the way. The train stopped at just 3 little stations before it was our turn to get off.

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I bargained a good price for a taxi 50 baht = aud$1.91, from the train station to our riverside guest house which I had pre booked. Not very intrepid, but it's much easier and nicer to have a place to come to rather than having to search once we have arrived. The Riverside Guest House 900 baht = aud $34.45 including breakfast, air con & hot shower. After dropping our bags in our room we returned to the reception restaurant area for a cold Leo beer (which costs the same as the taxi at 50 baht = aud$1.91 each) overlooking the Wang River.

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By the time we drunk our beer and caught up on a bit of internet it was dark. Our receptionist had given me a map of the town and the Friday night walking market was marked on it so we decided to take the short walk and have a look around. It was a pleasant 15minute walk to the market, mostly along the river. It's still pretty warm even after dark, but at least there is no rain here.

The Ratsadapisek Bridge across the river was all lit up with lights changing colours.

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The walking street market was not much, although we did manage to buy some more house slippers and a couple of colourful rag mats. We seem to be a bit of a novelty as there are not many tourists around.

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Not feeling very hungry after the huge lunch we had before leaving Chiang Mai, we settled for a toasted sandwich from the 7-11 store. Always a good standby for a quick bite to eat. Unfortunately there was nowhere for us to sit and eat so we had to pick a bit of sidewalk that had a step where we could eat. Ended up looking like we were sitting the gutter at a crossroads with traffic lights, so we really gave the locals something to stare at.
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DAY 237 SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2017

Had a bit of a restless nights sleep, but woke up feeling ok. Breakfast is included at the guesthouse but we had no idea what it might be. Really anything is a bonus if we don't have to go out searching for food first up. So there was a choice of 3 western type meals and Thai style meals so pretty good really. Lyn & I both chose the French toast with bacon which turned out to be quite a large, filling serving - with tea and coffee.

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We decided to hire a motor bike from the guesthouse today so that we could have a bit of an explore around the town. Bike was only 200 baht = aud $7.60, so a cheap way for us to get around without having to walk everywhere. We had a map from the guesthouse, but really just drove around a little randomly. There are lots of teak houses here in Lampang - some restored to their former glory and now used as hotels or guesthouses (like ours). However there was also a lot of houses that just seemed to be occupied by regular Thai families. Some of these were not so well maintained, but they were still obviously liveable. This used to be a logging town years ago so I guess that is why there were so many timber houses built.

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And of course there are a lot of Wats - there are a lot of Wats in every town / city / village of Thailand. Wats in Thailand are a bit like Churches in Europe or Castles in England - once you have seen 100 you have seen them all.

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We went in search of the ceramics market as this area is supposed to be famous for its clay, but unfortunately could not find the location and were advised later back at the guesthouse that the market on the map was no longer there. Anyway while out on the super highway looking for the ceramics market we could see the sky was starting to come over very black. Once we started spotting lightening and hearing thunder we decided it would be a good time to stop at a shopping centre and take cover. Our timing was impeccable, as soon as we had parked the bike in the undercover car park the sky seemed to open up and drenching rain fell. We spent an hour or more wandering around the shops and it's always interesting to take a look at the foods available in the supermarket in a foreign country. And man there were some foreign foodstuffs in this one. Some of the meats are similar to what we would purchase in Australia, just some of the cuts differ a little. Like we have pork, but would not see pork spleen for sale in the super market, and we have chicken, but would be able to purchase fresh chicken feet in our meat department. And then the frozen stuff was just as interesting, with bugs, grubs, frogs and duck heads all ready for purchase. lol, it's interesting and helped to kill some time while we sheltered from the rain.

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Before returning to the bike, we had lunch in the food court. Crispy noodle with pork gravy for 50 baht = aud $1.90 was very tasty.
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We managed to find our way back to the guesthouse, but had to go back out on the bike to fill it up with fuel. The nearest petrol station was a few km's away and I think we used more fuel going there and back than we had used all day. To fill up cost just 30 baht = aud $1.14, and we paid the guy who pumped the fuel 10 baht tip cause he helped us put air in the tyres after pointing out it was flat.

It was dark again by the time we walked down our laneway to the Saturday night walking street. A bit bigger and more crowded than last nights market, but we as tourists still seemed to be in the minority, which was kinda nice. Only purchase tonight was Lyn bought a plastic basket. It was warm again tonight, but not as hot as last night I think. Still pretty steamy though and we are thankful for air con in our room.

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We stopped for a snack of what looked like a cheesy toasted sandwich, but turned out to be a greasy, cheezy, sweet (cause it was painted with sticky condensed milk) toasted sandwich @ 45 baht = aud $1.71. And an ice coffee, one of the best we've had except for the shaving cream consistency of the cream on top @ 35 baht = aud $1.33 each.

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After walking around the market it was time to find somewhere to eat. A short walk up the street along the river to the riverside restaurants, but they did not really entice us to eat there. A little further was a roadside food shack, that was crowded with customers and was offering more at the price we wanted to pay. Lyn had stir fry mixed vegetables with crispy pork and I have stir fry bean sprouts with crispy pork, both served with steamed rice at a total cost of 65 baht = aud$2.47 and we shared a largie of Leo beer at 70 baht = aud $2.66, to total meal & drink for the both of us was aud $5.13 - unreal.

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We had a long walk home as we took the long way looking for a 7-11 to get some milk to have a cuppa back in the room. The 7-11's are a bit thin on the ground here compared to them being every 2nd shop in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

So we are moving on again tomorrow, continuing south by train again, in the general direction of Bangkok.

DAY 238 SUNDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2017

Up early for our guesthouse breakfast, which again was very good.

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A taxi was called to take us to the train station and as it turned out to be an air conditioned private car we agreed to pay the 100 baht = aud $3.82 the driver asked for. The train we wanted to catch was departing at 10.41am and we were there in plenty of time arriving at the station before 10am. I went up to the ticket counter to purchase our tickets and when the guy showed me the price of 421 baht = aud $16.10 each I told him there was a mistake as I had seen them online for just 111 baht = aud $4.24. Apparently it turns out the mistake was on my part as this was a #8 Special Express Train that was fully air con with limited stops. This was not the price we wanted to pay so I asked when the next train was and how much and he advised #408 Ordinary Train will depart at 12.02pm and 3rd class tickets were 48baht = aud $1.84 each. This sounded more like our style so I purchased these tickets and we just had an extra 2 hours to wait at the station for our 'ordinary' train to arrive.
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The #408 pulled in on time and we scrambled with a load of other people trying to get on the 3 carriages and find unallocated seats. We had our luggage to drag on as well so it was just luck that we actually managed to get seats, although I had to ride the entire journey travelling backwards.
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Third class is not so bad, the seats were padded and the windows were open to let in the fresh and sometime fragrant (sometimes not so nice a fragrance) air of the countryside in. Open window is sometimes better than freezing to death in stale air con compartments.

The countryside was not much different to what we saw the other day. Lots of green. Where it was hilly it was jungle and where it was flat there was rice paddies.
It took about 5 1/2 hours for us to travel approximately 250km, stopping a mere 36 times at tiny village train stations along the way. These stations of varying sizes were spotlessly clean with manicured shrubs and decorative flowering plants. All had on average 12 resident dogs, sitting, lying or standing at the station or running to greet the train and or persons who may be disembarking the train. Station masters, at every station, wearing their very tight fitting beige uniforms waved the red and green flats to officiate the coming and going of the train. These many sights made the hours fly by. An no worries about if you get hungry or thirsty on the train as there is a constant procession of ladies selling just about anything you might want to eat or drink. Lucky for us Lyn had done a toasted sandwich run to the nearby 711 before we boarded the train.

Arriving at our destination, Phitsanulok, dead on time at 5.22pm we decided to purchase our next train ticket for 2 days time so that we would not make the mistake of arriving at the station for the incorrect train again.

We stepped outside the station onto the street and we met with the usual 'you want tuk tuk?' Having pre booked our accommodation for the next 2 nights our answer was 'yes we do want tuk tuk.' After advising the name of our hotel the driver said she (yes our first women tuk tuk or any kind of taxi driver) wanted 60 baht = aud $2.29 to take us both to the hotel. I only wanted to pay 50 baht = aud $1.91, but after a long train ride am I really going to insist and argue over 10 baht = aud 38c?? No! We loaded our bags in the back and were driven the 10 minutes to our hotel.

P1 House Hotel, I booked online for 650 baht = aud $24.86 per night including breakfast. Our room was a surprise - much bigger and better than what we expected after seeing the foyer. 2 large single beds - always a bonus when we don't have to share a bed. Air con is a must now, TV (which turned out not having any English channels) and a fridge! All good, ah and hot shower. Win, win all round.

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After dropping off our bags we returned downstairs for a nice cold beer. Largie of Leo was a little overpriced at 100 baht = aud $3.82, but it had been a long day so we had 2!
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After dark we walked 100m up the street to find the Sunday night market was on. Similar to the market in Lampang it was not at all targeted to the tourist trade, unlike the markets in Chiang Mai. In fact there were no tourists at all to be seen besides us, and we seemed to be a bit of a novelty.

Lots of roadside stalls that sold real Thai food, the kind that we don't really want to eat, you know the ones that have that unidentifiable meat on a stick. And lots of hot soupy dishes with god only knows floating around in it. We did not feel like going native for dinner tonight so we safely bought some crispy chicken wings which we took back to our room to eat in the air con, with a cup of instant noodles.

I surfed the TV channels for a little while, but it seemed no matter how many times I did the loop of all the channels, everyone was still in Thai!

DAY 239 MONDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2017

Quiet day today. Breakfast was a bit of a let down after the last place, but hey it was something that we didn't have to go out looking for. Deep fried egg with a teaspoon of pork mince!

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Not much to do here in Phitsanulok and we did not want to hire a bike as it looked like it would rain most of the day - turned out it didn't.

In the afternoon we went for a walk down by the Nan River, which had that same lovely brown colour as all the rivers we have seen here in Northern Thailand. The current was running quite quickly here too, not sure if that is due to it being the wet and a lot of water is rushing through the rivers or if they are always running this fast. I think that may have something to do with the colour as well, not that I think they would usually be crystal clear as my own Brisbane River back home is never clear either.

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I guess the main attractions around this area are Wats, and as I mentioned earlier we are Watted out so did not go out exploring much today.

Dinner was a repeat of last night with some more crispy chicken as the same street vendors were out selling their mystery bowls of food.

Tomorrow we are back on the train tracks continuing our journey south towards Bangkok.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged train mai guesthouse lampang riverside chaing Comments (0)

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