Monday, August 25, 2008

Train Wreck? Really?

I haven't posted in almost two weeks and there's a lot to write about. Unfortunately I've come down with some sort of wicked cold/cough/sore throat, so I'm not sure how long I'll last at this computer before I need to go have a coughing fit somewhere private.

The day after I got back from Vietnam I met Owen at the Bangkok airport. The next day we walked around Bangkok, exploring Chinatown and taking the boat up the river to see Wat Pho and the backpacker ghetto, eating lots of good snacks along the way. We went to sleep early to prepare for our train ride to Chumphon the next day, and what a train ride it was.

Our train left Hua Lumphong station at around 8:00 am. It was pretty much on time, which, as I found out on our way back to Bangkok, isn't always normal. Also, it was a small train. I had been prepared for a long train with dining car, sinks, etc., but this train had only two identical cars. Owen and I were in seats 9 and 10 in the first car.

The train rattled through central Thailand for awhile. The sights were nice--rice paddies, water buffalo, banana trees--and eventually the entire train filled up with people. There was a baby who kept crying in the back. I played peek-a-boo with a little boy two seats in front of me. The French couple to my left bundled on their clothing because the combination of air-conditioning and fans made the climate inside the train brisk, to say the least. The little boy I played peek-a-boo with left the train with his mother and his little sister. The train continued on.

I like to brag about my neck pillow to people, because it was overpriced and I want to get every cent out of it, and because it's a really great neck pillow and has helped me sleep in all sorts of situations. I loaned Owen this neck pillow while I sat day-dreaming in my seat. Everything was quiet. Calm. Peaceful. The train moved along on the tracks. The world passed by us in streaks of green out the window.

Suddenly there was a loud bang, almost a boom, from the front of the train. The train began swaying side to side and everyone around me started looking panicked. For some reason I have a vivid memory of seeing the train conductor's face looking at me in fear, but there's no reason to have that memory. He was up front in his driver's seat. I was in my own seat. At least, until the train fell off the tracks. After swaying from side to side the train fell all the way over, onto the other side from where we were sitting. I couldn't hold myself up so I fell with the train, hitting the ground under the seats of the people on the other side of the train, who were now below me. Boxes and bags began falling and, as I wondered if this was possibly the end of my life, I thought enough to cover my head so that anything that fell on me at least wouldn't crack my skull.

After dragging through the dirt on its side for quite some time. The train stopped. And it was suddenly hot. The lack of air-con made the train, surrounded by the soil it dragged with it, stuffier, almost dusty seeming. Everyone sat for several moments, not knowing what to do. I began to get up, telling Owen we should get out of the train, trying to find my shoes, shaking. And, because my bladder was full, I had peed a little. Yep. Get in a train wreck and you just might pee your pants. I'm just glad I wasn't in the bathroom when the train derailed.

The conductor came into the train looked at us, and motioned for us all to get up and get out of there. He was urgent. I don't remember if he was yelling at us in English or Thai, but as everyone sat there dazed, I knew that we needed to get out. Owen saw his bag across the way. I couldn't find mine and was struggling to walk in the sideways train, barefoot, looking for my shoes. I grabbed my purse. I found my shoes and strapped them onto my feet. Owen spotted my bag at the front of the train, behind a man and a woman who were just sitting there on the side, stunned. I asked in Thai, which was suddenly very clear to me, for the people to hand me my backpack. Kaw grapow mai ka? Breathing felt strange. The air felt strange. Everything seemed so quiet. And dusty. I carried my backpack and my purse to the front of the train and shoved the door as hard as I could. Because the train was sideways, gravity was working against me with the door. But I pushed it open and walked out of the train. People from the other train car, which hadn't slid, but just fell over after our car crashed, were leaving their car.

There's a lot more to this story, but I have to go back to my hotel and check out. I'll try to post more later.

1 comment:

Cokie said...

those pictures are CRAZY!!! how in the world did you crawl out of there?? you are amazing.