We left Vientiane by Tuk Tuk, and took the train to Bangkok. The carriages on the train we took were not air conditioned, and we traveled for 12 hours with the windows open. We were able to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste this county. It was an amazing transition, from flat parched farmland, to beautiful hills, to rice crops along a reservoir, to the hot sticky crowded streets of Bangkok. When we embarked on this trip, the nature of Nick's journeys on the train became clear to me. Nick, in my opinion, is an incurable Romantic - born 75 years too late.
This train is alive. Regular Thai's use these trains. The railway employs many people. There is at least a uniformed policeman and a station attendant at each station, and multiple ones on the train. Food vendors do very well serving the passengers.
The food on this train is better than I have had on any other - fresh, tasty, and ethnic. I thought that we would end up stopping for more than a few minutes to get food at some places, but we never did. We enjoyed a continuous cavalcade of food from vendors that joined the train for small segments. There were multiple types of barbecued chicken, sticky rice, steamed rice with meat and eggs, and may other dishes, especially around meal times. No dry hamburgers, stale coffee, or overpriced pre-made sandwiches on this trip!
We also had the opportunity to taste the land - all we needed to do was open our mouth at the time the train threw up some dust, when our coach passed through a grassfire next to the tracks, or after a person flushed the toilet onto the tracks two cars ahead.
The stations are very well cared for, and there are flower pots and trees that adorn the side of the tracks approaching each station. Although the tracks, in some parts seem a little overgrown, it is not from a lack of train traffic. We saw a number of passenger trains along the way.
This was a unique trip for us, in many ways - the carriages are only a monument to history in our country, and they are used every day in Thailand. The trains are much more entertaining and comfortable than the bus. On the bus, people consistently pull the curtains over the windows to sleep or to block out the sun. On the train, watching the water buffalo, the rice farms, the vendors, and the stations through a panorama of the entire side of the train - was spectacular.
This trip was wearing, and we both felt were covered in dust when we arrived in Bangkok. Frequently, our eyes were smarting, from the grass burning next to the tracks, but it did not last. The memories we will have forever.