We shoulda checked the train schedule last night. Thai trains, unlike their Japanese counterparts—well, let’s just say you cannot set your watch by them. Maybe not even the date. When we got to the station about twenty-five minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time, Colin went into the office to find out if the train was on time. When he returned to the outdoor bench where I was waiting, he grinned and said “Only fifty minutes late,” as though this were a good thing.

“Fifteen, one-five?” I asked hopefully.

“Fifty, five-oh,” he responded.

(1st shoulda: shoulda phoned ahead and checked whether the train was on time.)

Oh well. In the event, the train was only about a half hour late (thus actually early in its lateness, timely in its untimeliness), so goodbyes were somewhat truncated, ameliorated slightly by the fact that I will likely see Colin once more this trip, sometime in February.

I had secured a sleeping berth, thereby eliminating what might well have become the second shoulda, thus consigning my tired bottom to some
plastic-covered seat whose springs were in the rusty autumn of their useful lives. I got an air-conditioned upper berth, which, wonder of wonders, was sufficiently long for my non-Asian reclining length, and wide enough for my seriously non-Asian girth. The aircon was about what I have come to expect in Southeast Asia, not unlike walking into a SubZero stainless fridge in a loincloth (note: in that example, it would be me in the loincloth, not the fridge, despite the misplacement of the adjectival phrase). Thoughtfully, the railway company provided a blanket, thus eliminating what would have been my third shoulda.

It was the fourth shoulda that was the killer, though. I shoulda planned just a wee bit ahead and gotten a berth for the fourteen-hour train ride to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. Failing that, I shoulda at least booked a cloth seat in an air-conditioned train car, as the outside temperature hovers at about 30 degrees Celsius (somewhere north of 90 degrees Fahrenheit). So, remember that apocryphal plastic-covered from a couple of paragraphs back? Well, that is where I am sitting just now, squirming from time to time to adjust my bottom just so, avoiding the one spring that lies in waiting just below the surface of the vinyl cover. Shoulda…

We left Bangkok about two hours ago, and as near as I can tell, we are in (wait for it…) Bangkok. The city has not given way to countryside yet. My seatmate is a woman in the, um, matronly Polynesian mold, giving me a further reason to squirm in my seat, at least the half of it that is not occupied by her left thigh. This is not by way of complaint, I hasten to add. Give me a few more hours until I get to that stage. For now, I will enjoy the hot breeze, a cold drink (Birely’s Orange: think Fanta Orange, minus the fizz, and add about two tablespoons of sugar; but hey, it’s cold!), and the healing powers of travel writing.


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