Let me start by saying I love Thailand. My husband is Thai and my children are both Thai and American. Over the years we have invited many friends to Thailand and proudly introduced them to this wonderful country and culture.
On December 8 this introduction included the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Thirteen of us boarded at Bang Sue Station but only eight arrived in Chiang Mai. The other five fled the train in the middle of the night at Lop Buri, a place they had never been before, at a station without a taxi in sight, to go to a hotel they only hoped would be safe and clean.
The reason? Cockroaches. And I don’t mean an unavoidable roach here and there. I mean roaches on the walls, roaches on the ceiling, roaches on the floor, colonies of roaches on and underneath the tables as they were pulled out from under the luggage racks and set up (the ones that weren’t broken) for us to “enjoy” our dinner of sticky rice, roast chicken and dried pork.
Not only were we stuck with an extraordinary population of unwanted travel companions, we were stuck with them for about five hours beyond the scheduled trip. The train was late leaving Bangkok. Twice in the north we waited, once for two hours, because the engine was too weak to pull the train up the hill.
We finally arrived in Chiang Mai hungry (we weren’t about to order a roach-infested breakfast) and exhausted after lying in narrow beds trying not to touch the walls.
We were embarrassed that we took people on the train after bragging how much fun it would be. We were humiliated when our friends couldn’t even bring themselves to sit down, then worried when they fled the train in a strange city, speaking little Thai. We dumped the food in the garbage, paid for a hotel we should not have needed and lost half the money we had paid for 13 return train tickets when we turned them in at the station in Chiang Mai. Then we paid for another 13 tickets to take a tour bus back to Bangkok.
Thailand, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You want tourists. You need tourists. You are chasing tourists away. As for us, we will never take anyone on the train. We will never recommend the train to anyone again. We ourselves will never ride your trains again. Instead we will sit comfortably on private buses thinking about your late, broken down, filthy, infested trains and wondering into what pockets all the ticket money is going.