Don’t Take Hats From Strangers!

The train crept forward and then stopped, and again crept forward and then stopped. This had been going on for the past 45 minutes. We were already in Bangkok, why couldn’t we just get off the train?

Apparently this is normal when travelling by train to Bangkok; everything can be running smoothly and on time, until you actually reach Bangkok itself – right when you think you are there, you are thrown into a false sense of security and then the delay starts!

We had been travelling in the air-conditioned-to-freezing-point sleeper train overnight all the way from Suratthani to Bangkok and it was about 7am and the train was just pulling into the station. Or so we thought.

Bangkok Sleeper Train

The four of us had had a surprisingly good night’s sleep in what, to us, was a luxurious sleeper train. It was actually just the standard A/C sleeper but we were well impressed. My three Indian travel companions were used to roughing it in the down-and-dirty over-crowded trains of their country and me, well, the only sleeper trains I had been on had been in Vietnam and so my expectations were far from high.

As the train shunted forward a few centimetres with a jolt and then stopped yet again, the conductor fell into the seat beside us and stayed there.

He looked at us curiously as everyone tended to do on that trip – most people trying to hide the fact that they were wondering what one white girl was doing with three Indian guys, and some people blatantly asking – we came up with a few crazy answers during the fortnight!

“What are you doing with these three?” he asked me, eyeing them accusingly not even trying to hide his suspicion.

“We found her asleep on the platform in Suratthani and thought it would be fun to drag her aboard with us, and see what she’d say when she woke up,” said Shreyas, before I had chance to speak. The others nodded trying not to giggle.

The conductor looked shocked for a moment and then let out a loud belly-laugh when he saw our smirks and realised it was a joke.

From that moment on he was our best friend. He wanted to know everything: where we were from, where we were travelling, what we were doing in Bangkok.

He took a special liking to Paramveer and kept asking him how he could manage to wear that cowboy hat over his turban! He demanded demonstrations to which Paramveer happily obliged.

After a while he disappeared and came back with a conical Vietnamese hat, which he proudly placed on Paramveer’s head on top of the turban. “It fits! You can have it,” he exclaimed. Great, more head gear – just what our group needed!

Apparently the conductor had chatted to an Australian tourist who had been to Vietnam, and, the novelty of the conical hat having worn off, the tourist had gifted this hat to the conductor. And now it was ours.

The train shunted forward again and we looked hopeful. The look on the conductor’s face told us to forget it though. It would be ages yet, he told us. “Why don’t you just get off here?” he said. We looked at each other, baffled. How…?

“Yes, yes, he said. “Just get off.” He chattered excitedly and got up, waving for us to follow. We got our things together and headed uncertainly for the door, which the conductor opened. He hustled us off and gave us a shove. We landed on the tracks and watched as the train continued to move away from us at a snail’s pace, the smiling conductor standing at the door waving. “Khao San Road is that way,” he shouted, gesturing vaguely. “Ten minutes walk.”

Paramveer the backpacker

We got ourselves together and trekked across the tracks toward the city of Bangkok in the direction the conductor had vaguely waved. The two of us with backpacks led the way while the other two followed, dragging their luggage.

We walked for about ten minutes and still did not see anything that looked remotely familiar from previous visits to Bangkok.

We stopped at one of the police kiosks and asked. The policeman pointed us in another direction and said it would be about six minutes. We were surprised but took his advice and set off again.

We walked for ten minutes, Paramveer complaining about the heat and his heavy bag and the other two traipsing along behind. My three Indian friends were great travel companions and they always made looking after me their number one priority but they were not seasoned travellers and they were not used to trekking across a city at dawn carrying all their possessions.

Paramveer’s Vietnamese hat was getting uncomfortable and he kept trying to adjust it. He screamed: “OUCH!” making me jump “Damn hat just bit me!” Blood was running down his finger. He wrenched the hat off and placed it on my head. Great, now I had a Vietnamese hat! Funny, I had never got one while I was actually in Vietnam, it had taken a trip to Thailand and a meeting with a train conductor who himself had never set foot in the country.

We stopped at the next police kiosk and the policeman advised us that we needed to take a right and that we were about half an hour away.

“Whaaaat?!” my travel companions were nearly dying on their feet. There was talk of tuk tuks and taxis.

“Come on, we’ll just walk,” I suggested. I played the if I can do it, you can do it card and we set off, Shreyas and Aftab dragging their “city-traveller” suitcases and Paramveer sullenly sucking his bloody finger.

Democracy Monument, Bangkok

We walked for about 20 minutes and found ourselves at the Democracy Monument. This rang a bell, surely we couldn’t be far now. We asked at another police kiosk – they were handy, these, or at least they would be if they would all stop sending us in different directions.

“Ah yes, you just cross over the road here, walk for ten minutes and then turn right and walk for ten more minutes…” explained the policeman, helpfully.

Paramveer sat on a bench. “I’m not walking any further,” he announced. “I need water and I need a tuk tuk.”

Damn, I thought. I needed a shower and I needed breakfast. And I knew that if we really were that close then a tuk tuk would take us for a ride halfway around Bangkok before dropping us off at our destination, in order to get a decent fare.

I tried my if I can do it you can do it card again. Paramveer glared at me. “You’re a backpacker,” he said.

Funny, when we were in Koh Tao he had told me that things seemed too easy and he wanted to feel like a real backpacker.

“You’re a real backpacker now,” I coaxed. He just sucked his finger. Damn, wrong approach. That only left the sportsman approach.

“Aren’t you are a fighter?” I started. “Call yourself a sportsman? Is this what Hyderabad’s best cricket players do? Just give up when the going gets tough?” I said scornfully. He took his finger out of his mouth like he was about to say something. The cut really did look nasty. He changed his mind about speaking and struggled to his feet, the backpack hindering him. Without a word he stomped off in the direction that the latest “helpful” policeman had sent us.

When we eventually found Khao San Road and our accommodation, we felt like we had trekked around the whole of Bangkok. We had stopped at a grand total of six police kiosks! And guess what: our rooms were not going to be ready for another two hours.

Moral of the story: don’t take hats from strangers.

Read more about my Bangkok adventures here.

Filed Under: asiabangkokfeaturedthailand

About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. Paramveer Singh says:

    Hahaha awesome. You took me straight through the torturous journey, the back pain, the heat, the dehydration and then the two hours wait.

    • Lisa says:

      Oh no, I made you re-live the journey! Sorry to put you through that and glad to see you agree with my version of events.

      Thanks for reading :*

  2. susan sykes says:

    And I never thought that Paramveer was one to give in, just shows you these sportsmen, no stamina

    • Paramveer Singh says:

      Hello mam, I had a back injury which stopped me from doing any kind of fitness since 4 months prior to this trip.
      Backpacking is a different kind of fitness, u need to be like Lisa who is a pro backpacker to walk so much. You cannot give a backpack to for example Usain bolt and tell him to walk continuously for an hour n a half. That’s a different kind of stamina.

      • susan sykes says:

        Ok point taken, Lisa is a better backpacker than a seasoned sportsman.

        • Lisa says:

          Ah it’s true, Paramveer was injured, which is the reason he was able to go on the trip in the first place. It took some coaxing and it was hard going, but he got there in the end – and without a tuktuk!

  3. We were in Bangkok for 3 days, and stayed with a friend in Sukhumvit.

    Got drunk for 3 nights straight, did not see any thing there was to see, and then headed North to Chiang Mai.

    It is one of the places we will go back to.

    The endless walks with the backpack are always memorable. somehow with a rucksack on my walk, my strength doubles, Maximum we have walked with a rucksack is about 2hrs after a 14hr journey.

    • Lisa says:

      Oh no, what a shame! You can get drunk anywhere! You can only visit Bangkok in Bangkok! Though I have to say, getting drunk in Bangkok is easily done.
      That sounds like quite a trek with a huge bag after such a long journey – I bet it felt never ending, just like this trek through Bangkok felt never-ending for my unfortunate friend!

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