Day 161: Pak Chong & Phitsanulok, Thailand. We packed up again this morning and headed to Pak Chong train station, for our onward trip to Phitsanulok, via Ban Phachi Junction.
We were a little sad to say goodbye to Pak Chong – it was a short stay but we really loved the place. It’s a very tidy town with lots of friendly people, good restaurants and bars, and of course the intriguing cowboy shop for all your dress-up needs.
Our only disappointment was that we didn’t get to try out the open air laundry, which comes complete with a pool table that looks like it’s seen a fair bit of action over the years.
We sat in the shade at Pak Chong station, which was pretty quiet apart from a few people, and the odd sleepy dog.
The train journey to Ban Phachi was short – just over an hour and a half – however it was a stuffy, packed and uncomfortable journey. We didn’t manage to get two seats together, though on a positive note, at least we managed to get two seats. Jim perched on a bench outside a very strong smelling toilet, with the guy opposite him eating a huge bag of bugs like they were candy (and yes, Jim may have been just a bit envious). Lil was squished onto a bench further along the carriage, between two people who took up way more than their third of a bench allocation.
We were very relieved to get off the train at Ban Phachi Junction, where we had a three hour wait before our train to Phitsanulock. We found a rustic little eatery in the village-sized town, with battered plastic tables and chairs and vinyl tablecloths that had mostly disintegrated. No one in the restaurant spoke English (and our Thai is still non-existent), however we managed to order two plates of chicken and rice with the help of a man who jumped out of a mini van. And the food was really good.
There was a small market in the main street (which was pretty much the only street), and we bought a huge dragon fruit which we scoffed while sitting on the train platform – without doubt the best tasting dragon fruit we have ever had.
Thankfully we got seats together on the next train, opposite a lovely friendly guy who Lil labelled Mr Nice Man. He pointed out various sights along the way, and called out the names of train stations whenever we stopped (which to be honest was a little pointless, given every station has a name board in English).
The only thing about sitting opposite people in a four seat arrangement, is the need to avoid each other’s legs – a conundrum that ends up with passengers looking like they’re doing lively jigs. We adopted various poses, some worthy of a contortionist, but no amount of twisting and turning made us comfortable. Jim ended up sitting in a free seat behind, and after a couple of hours, a family in the four person section next to us left the train, so we grabbed their seats.
Our seat switch turned out to be perfect timing, as Mr Nice Man decided it was time to start moisturising his feet. Followed by a good dig under his toe nails with a tooth pick, to clear out any bits of dirt.
The food choices on the train were extensive (not that we had much of an appetite after Mr Nice Man’s feet treatment). Vendors walked up and down for the entire journey offering everything from pad thai to fried crickets, pork buns and whole fried fish (which seemed like an odd thing to nibble on during a train trip – thankfully no one nearby us bought one).
The five hour journey went past pretty quickly – helped by lots of reading and watching the fabulous scenery whizz past through the open windows. We also got to see the sun setting over the mountains, though as we’ve discovered before, night time journeys on open windowed trains mean swarms of mossies swing into the brightly lit carriages. Thankfully we had lots of insect repellent in our bags.
We arrived in Phitsanulok just before 9pm, and walked the short distance to our hotel. As it was getting late, we dumped our bags in our room and headed straight out for dinner at an eatery just around the corner.
Once again, google translator turned out to be our new best friend. The menu was in Thai, so we scanned the list with our phones to see what our choices were. Which turned out to be a very good thing, as the selection included dog curry, fried horse, roughly chopped spleen, and granny cartilege. We’ve no idea what that last one comprises, nor are we keen to find out.
We ordered grilled pork and grilled beef, with a spicy vegetable curry and sticky rice. It was all really good though Lil was a little rattled by the meat choices on the menu, whispering to Jim “you don’t reckon they would substitute dog for beef, do you?” Hopefully not. And interestingly, Jim says he won’t eat dog meat – the first thing he has ever refused to try.
When we arrived at our hotel room earlier, we spotted there was no toilet paper in the bathroom. On the way back, we visited the reception desk where the friendly girl told us the hotel had run out of toilet paper. As she couldn’t leave reception, she suggested we could walk down the street to the 7-Eleven to buy some. We suggested that we probably weren’t about to do the hotel’s shopping for them, so she rummaged around in a dark back room and eventually reappeared bearing a pack of tissues.
When we got back to our room, Jim quipped that we could have used the in-room phone to call reception – a splendid push-button phone that looks like a forgotten relic from the 70’s.
Tomorrow we’ll have a quick walk around Phitsanulok and take a look at Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat – a tongue twisting name but a very significant Buddhist temple. Then in the afternoon we’ll catch a bus to Sukhothai, a historical town an hour east of Phitsanulok. And hopefully there won’t be any passengers moisturing their toes on the bus.