Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yom Kippur in Bangkok - Part Three - September 23rd, 2010

Getting Out

Kao San Road travel agents emphatically told me that getting the express bus to Vientiane was cheaper and more comfortable than going by train. The bus picks you up at your hotel, no need for messy and expensive taxi rides to the train station. And yes, it was much cheaper. In fact, they were so emphatic that I decided to take the train.

The usual. Comfort, clean linen. The occasional cockroach scampering across the floor. Dinner was served with a bottle of Singha beer.

At early morning I was looking out at the world through the double layers of glass protecting our air-conditioned world from rural Thailand. The train passed fields and flooded rice paddies. The rainy season had broken for the day and the skies were a brilliant blue with tints of clouds, heavenly fluffiness, on the horizon.

On a whim, without any forethought, I decided to jump train at Udon Thani (also spelt Urdon Thani) to check out one of the hospitals there.

Hospitals are a major priority in the Hyman household these days. In February we are going to have another baby and Vientiane may not be the best place for this to happen. She may be beautiful and have unpaved roads and be a little village, but we still want First World health care. While in Bangkok I decided that I did not want that name on my child’s birth certificate or passport or destiny.

Jumping that train was really the best part of the trip

It was a short walk from the station to the hospital and I was given a tour and presented with price options. It was clean and air-conditioned; spotless. Everybody spoke precise and balanced English.

I walked back to the station for the 11:44. Walking to the station was like walking through a valium haze, so thick was the heat and humidity. The train, when it did come, was only one hour late.

It was the most beautiful train I had ever seen.

I would not have liked being on it overnight, but for the hour ride to the Lao border it was perfect. It was old, with pull-down shades on the windows and ceiling fans and I was the only farang on board.

People were happy I was there, taking their pictures and I was happy to be with them, to be with the simple rural folk of Thailand, those who didn’t ride out of Bangkok.

I especially have to thank Rolling Stone magazine since they published on-line the 500 best rock ‘n roll songs ever written that I was able to download and put on my I-pod. This was a day for American music. I skipped over the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Sting and The Police, because only Americans know how to capture that open road, the endless title they have to opportunity and their love of trains.

I only use my I-pod very rarely and this time it was gold. So many thanks to Bruce Springsteen (Baby, we were born to run…), of course Gladys Knight and the Pips (Midnight Train to Georgia…), Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone…), the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Neil Young.

The whole thing smelt of freedom.

There was a little girl on the train who took great pleasure in sticking her head out the window and opening her arms to capture the open wind.

In her I was able to feel all the joy of youth, the endless possibilities that come with that boundless energy. The world and the heat and the poverty had not yet crushed her. Maybe they never would!

In the mean while she was free and full of wind. She incarnated the ecstasy of being alive and standing on the edge of life.

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