The local bus took a bit longer than scheduled, but still within my expected time frame. However, as I was tired, I followed Lonely Planet (LP)’s suggestion for a hotel-guesthouse and went to the Riverside guest house. It is beautifully located at the river with patios overlooking the water. I must have looked tired, dirty and cheap as they immediately offered me a fan room (instead of air con). It was OK with a window, but no balcony, so I asked for a room with balcony, but they were sold out. It was relatively clean and obviously run by a foreigner.
A bit further down the road, the Riverside restaurant has an even nicer patio over the river and friendly, eager staff. The food was excellent and plenty. I was the only customer around. They advertised French wines, but the wine rack sits in the open-air restaurant, so I am not sure I would order any of that.
LP said that the train station is too far to walk, but from the map I got at the hotel, it was not too bad. …It was really far, but me being stubborn, I didn’t flag down a TukTuk-songthew, but kept on going. It gave me a chance to visit several temples on the way, a leisure park and an outdoor fitness, a few schools, and English tutor centers. There must be some foreigners around. I only saw about six Westerners while I was walking. Half of them on rented bicycles – smarter than me, definitely, but also liked to play with their lives venturing into the Thai traffic.
I made it to the historic train station that dates from 1916. Train stations in Thailand are always neat places where you feel like you step back in time and into another era. I got the train schedule and intended to visit the railroad bridge from the Second World War, but I was just too tired to continue on. Anyway, as the Allied Forces did not blow it up, it is not famous and therefore probably not a must-see on the tourist checklist.
Unintentionally I started the next day at the temple. I was hoping to find another place for breakfast than my guesthouse because I thought THB100 for coffee and toast was a bit steep for not so friendly service. However, all the great places I saw the night before and that advertised that they would open at 8.00 were still closed at 8.30. So I figured, I should contemplate this at the nearby temple.
After my visit, the restaurants and cafes were still closed and I went back to the guesthouse. I guess that gives them a definite advantage over the competition.
For my next leg of the journey, I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted to fly, take the bus or the train. I was going back on forth on my options, but finally trains in Thailand are just amazing, so this mode of transportation won.
With the TukTuk for THB 20 – ok, I am an idiot for walking the previous day – I got to the train station quite quickly. The express train that was not my favorite choice due to the usually cold air-conditioned cars – but the only option- was leaving within the hour. Perfect! For the ticket price of THB 421 I had a comfortable seat, a coffee and snack and microwaved lunch. Thailand is amazing!
The train ride was very comfortable -and not cold at all- and I debated whether I wanted to continue to Bangkok, but then I also wanted to see a new city – Phitsanulok. When my stop came up, I grabbed my stuff and got off. I walked down the road to the river. None of the hotels in the guidebook looked really appealing, but I wanted to see for myself whether there are other options.
During the midday the town was pretty sleepy. At the river I saw some sagging pontoons in the water and other pulled up on the other shore. Not very inviting. Across the river, I could see the hotel that was the highest priced in LP. It was more or less a concrete block and didn’t look very exciting. And given the fact that I would have to spend USD40 for a night wasn’t really uplifting. Happy to do so for nice place.
I went back at the train station where I realized that the next train would only leave at 9.30 p.m., so I got on a TukTuk to the bus station and hopped on the next big bus to Bangkok (THB270) including a meal and a bottle of water.
Other than the local buses, this one was air con, but not too cold and the music was very moderate and the video system didn’t seem to work, so we were spared to watch horror movies. Also the bus only stopped once for a bathroom break. That was a definite step up from my old backpacker days’ bus trips. It was almost pleasant.
On time we pulled into Mo Chit bus station in the northern part of Bangkok. The taxi company advertised “only metered” taxi which suited me just fine. However, the touts found me (only foreigner on the bus – I wonder how…) and tried to lure me away. As soon as they realized that I speak a little Thai, they lost interest.
Home sweet home.