Day 159: Bangkok & Pak Chong, Thailand. We were up and about early today to finish packing, and leave Bangkok again.
We caught a couple of trains from Bangkok station when we were here in June, so are already familiar with the station and the ticket buying process, which was just as time consuming and frustrating as our last visit. And the station was just as busy, with hoards of people sitting on the ground chatting and eating picnics.
The train to Pak Chong left pretty much on time and was a lot less packed and chaotic than our Indian train experiences. Only a couple of minutes after we set off, a stream of vendors starting walking up and down selling all kinds of foods and drinks, and we happily bought two green papaya with sugar dip, which is one of our favourite snacks.
The train journey was fairly uneventful, apart from a slightly irritating twitchy guy sitting opposite us who kept springing up without warning and sticking his head out of the train like a dog. He also pointed out that Jim’s bag was under his seat (which Jim knew, as he’d put it there), and when we stood up to get off the train he checked carefully under our seats to make sure we’d left nothing behind. For a skinny chap he also had a voracious appetite, chomping his way through two full meals and an ongoing selection of snacks.
We arrived in Pak Chong mid-afternoon, and walked to our guesthouse about a kilometre away. It’s an interesting town, about 200km to the north east of Bangkok, and with a population of around 200,000. The main street is packed with little restaurants and cafes, along with a rather bizarre ‘cowboy shop’ selling a wide range of ‘cowboys and indians’ outfits.
We also spotted various cowboy-themed signs around the town, and when we checked online discovered that the town is part of the Khao Yai Cowboy Festival, which was started in 2006 by a local man. Every year in late December, hundreds of ‘Thai cowboys’ visit from across the country visit the local area to enjoy country and western music, cow contests, whip cracking and dairy farming exhibits. Sounds like quite a spectacle.
After we’d settled into our guesthouse (and Lil, out of sheer frustration at the weight of her backpack, gave away a bunch of stuff to the owner), we wandered back into town to take a look around. We climbed up some steps to the Khao Noi public park, had a look at an interesting shrine surrounded by statues of animals, then headed back down through an open air fitness area where dozens of people were jogging and using outdoor fitness machines – pretty impressive for a Sunday evening.
We also visited the town’s night market which is fabulous – it’s not huge but has a great range of fresh and cooked produce.
We were very happy to find so much fresh fruit, having only had apples and bananas for most of our two months in India, and bought a large tray of jack fruit, which is one of our favourites. Jim bought some small fried whole fish with chilli sauce, which he wolfed as we walked. Thankfully there were no rats on offer.
We had dinner in a small outdoor cafe – chicken noodle soup and stir fried duck with vegetables and rice – both excellent. Afterwards we went to one of the local bars for a quick cold beer, then wandered back to our guesthouse for a good long night’s sleep.
Tomorrow we’re up at crazy o’clock to visit Khao Yai National Park. Our guide is collecting us at 6.50am and then we’ll spend the day trekking in the park, and doing some wildlife spotting. Jim is particularly excited at the prospect of seeing more snakes – Lil not so much.