>Rail Odyssey to Thailand

>Looks like our Great Rail Odyssey to Thailand is on!

I am now planning our trip up to Bangkok by train, visiting Krabi en route. When I tell people we want to do this, the inevitable reaction is one of sceptism mixed with distaste and horror:

  • Are you out of your minds?
  • Why take the train? Just fly!
  • Are you sure the kids can take the train ride?
  • With 5 kids????

My reasons for taking the train are:

1) Novelty. We’ve never done this sort of long haul trip by train that requires an overnight stay on a train, so we thought it would be fun to try. At least, even if it proved to be the travel experience from hell, it would be memorable!

2) Malaysia fatigue. We have not covered every inch of the Malayan Peninsula, but enough of the main drag to have some fatigue setting in. It would be nice to go beyond the KL, Malacca, Ipoh, Penang circuit for once.

3) Slow travel is in! It is easier to get on a plane and be at the destination you choose within a few hours instead of days. But while flying gets you from point A to point B in a blink, you do miss a great deal of the landscape below. Sometimes the slowness of the travel gives you space to think. When the palm oil plantations all start to merge into one green blur, maybe thats the time to read a book, write a good travel journal etc. Though how I am going to do that with 5 restless kids, I don’t know!

4) Save the earth! Travelling by train leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

5) Meet people. Somehow trains make it easier to talk and break the ice. KH once yakked non-stop to a new-found Dutch friend when we were on the overnight from Amsterdam to Paris. Poor guy never knew what hit him.

6) Loads cheaper. When you have a large family but still want to see the world, fuel surcharges can really be a spanner in the works. For all of us travelling, even on budget flights, the fuel surcharges and taxes and other extras that pad up an airline’s bottom line really end up costing us many times more than just the airfare alone. And these days, even budget airlines are not really that ‘budget’ anymore – when you consider the extra like ‘extra luggage allowance’ or ‘pay x amount and be the first to board’, or paying for that packet of cold nasi lemak in the sky, all this does not make it as value-added as it may have seemed.

7) More leg space. At least on a train, one can walk up and down a carriage, or up and down the whole length of the train! One can also visit the restaurant car etc. But on a plane, particularly budget flights, you’re really crammed knee to chin in a narrow seats made for size 00 women!

Having said all this, I am prepared to take this trip with an open mind. I will be prepared for kids who get cranky after 2 hours into an 18-hour journey, I will be prepared to do loo gym (ie the acrobatic feats I usually perform when confronted with wet, slimy and smelly toilets!), I will be prepared for suspect train food (though how this can compete with bad airline food I don’t know!).

Just bring it on!

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