That Time We Missed Our Train to Kanchanburi

They’ve started calling me “Mom.”

“Mom, can we get dinner?”

“Mom, can I have 20 baht for water?”

“Mom, can I have a cookie?”

“Mom, what’s our hotel’s address?”

In fact, I’ve come to learn that saying ma, ma, ma, ma, ma with the slightest of inflections means an entirely different word in Thai, so I don’t know if they’re calling me mother, horse or refrigerator.

Because of my penchant for itemized lists and check-box priorities, on this trip, I’ve been gifted the awesome responsibility of managing our itinerary and budget. And so, Mom was born.

Falling into roles when you’re wandering aimlessly around the planet is one thing, but the bare travel necessities become infinitely more complex when you’re filming a travel web series. You worry and fret, and do your best not to miss a key itinerary detail that will result in a lost day of filming.

Ahem.

“‘Ah, yes. Hua Lamphong station.’ The concierge smiled with the confidence of an elementary school math teacher teaching basic arithmetic”

It was our first real travel day. We were slated to take the slow, sluggish, scenic train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. It’s the kind of train that inches along like a caterpillar on hot cement.

The train was set to leave at 7:30 a.m. The night before, sitting round the dining room tables over juice boxes and pad Thai, we reviewed our so-called Thaitinerary. We were told it would take 15 minutes to get to the train station, and so gave ourselves a nice long buffer to grab obligatory Thai coffees and purchase tickets in the morning, planning our departure from the hotel for 6:30 a.m.

As my still-jet-lagged eyes willed themselves closed, I was confident my baby bugs and I would have more than enough time to buzz through the slumbering Bangkok streets before the rest of the hive awoke.

The alarm clock chimed and we moved slowly in the dawn haze.

“Oh, guys,” I said, as we handed over our hotel keys. “I need to check the name of the train station.” I fished for my laptop in the shallows of my pack, using Sue’s back as a desk as I fired it up.

“Which train station?” The concierge asked, overhearing us.

“We’re taking the train to Kanchanaburi.”

“Ah, yes. Hua Lamphong station.” The concierge smiled with the confidence of an elementary school math teacher teaching basic arithmetic.

“You’re sure? Train to Kanchanaburi?”

“Yes, yes!”

A collective nod wove between us like a current rippling through soft corals. Despite a slight nagging in the back of my left ear, I shut my laptop and went along with the group’s consent to save a those few extra minutes.

kanchanaburi train thailand

The rickety wooden train that runs between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi takes roughly three hours. (Outpost/John Price)

Thirty minutes of Bangkok’s buzzing traffic later, we arrived at the train station. Hopping out of our taxi like clowns stepping out of a Volkswagen Beetle, we stumbled and bumbled into the mezzanine to be greeted by a staff lady who may as well have been wielding a sword.

“No Kanchanaburi train here,” she said, bluntly.

“Pardon?”

“Wrong station. Train to Kanchanaburi from Thonburi Station. Bangkok traffic. Not ‘nough time. It take 30 minute to get there.”

And poof, just like that, Team Outpost deflated into balloon skins, only to be swept up and thrown into an overflowing garbage along with empty Thai-tea cups and banana leaf plates.

Or that’s what happened in my mind, anyway. In reality, the opposite happened.

“Eventually, like a Thai lantern floating down a river, we let our grievances fall ashore, and let the current take us any which way, as it always does when one travels”

Our photographer immediately strong-manned his way into a pit of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, taking bids for the cheapest offer—our designated bargainer.

Like the diligent researcher she is, Sue scanned her phone for alternate train times.

Ever our calm river, our videographer cooed, “It’s okay, guys,” and calmly weighed our options.

Then there was me: spastically fumbling receipts and my folder on the never-ending search for my cell phone, I tried to gauge how much time and money each prospective transportation alternative would take and exactly how much time and money we could afford to lose—all while sputtering out “I’m so sorry” on repeat.

Eventually, like a Thai lantern floating down a river, we let our grievances fall ashore, and let the current take us any which way, as it always does when one travels.

The thing is, trip hiccups—triccups, as we’ve been calling them—they’re inevitable. They cannot be avoided by plugging your ear with your pinky finger and drinking water sideways, a good fright or swallowing upside down. They are only cured by bold, creative, spontaneous problem solving.

This would not be our first triccup—turns out there are almost always multiple hotels by the same name and even calling a taxi in advance is unreliable—but we’ll get where we’re going eventually.

Anyways, after travelling with this team, I’m pretty sure I still want kids.