A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 6Kevin (เควิน) Khaosan
Salaya to Bangkok by train (10/11/11)
When I checked the water level at my doorstep, it had receded another centimeter. I packed my bag for a trip to Bangkok by train. As I splashed up the soi, one of my neighbour’s, Yui, informed me that she and a couple of other residents were also going to Bangkok by train and that a train was due to leave Salaya station at 2pm. I thanked her for the information and said I would see her on the platform.
The 20-baht boat ride from the bridge over khlong Maha Sawat was paddled by an out-of-work office worker. As we made our way slowly past flooded houses and store-fronts and through trees to the station, she told me that a large crocodile had been spotted further down the flooded railway track. When I arrived at the station, only the two platforms were above the floodwater. The right hand side platform was a bustling community with the flooded market as a backdrop. There were food sellers, the odd pick-up, tents and tarpaulins accommodating families and dogs as well as a few would-be passengers all sheltering from the afternoon sun. I was greeted by my neighbours from the soi and was offered a place in the shade. I was informed that the train was not due to arrive until about 4pm so I had plenty of time to wander up and down the platforms. I bought some food and drink though there was no drinking water to be found. I was generously offered whisky as well as a ‘boxing’ by some of the men.
The train finally arrived making its way slowly through the water covering the track. People loaded their bags and there was plenty of available space on the wooden bench seats. I found a spot next to a window facing the front of the train. We pulled out of the station and were on our way to Bangkok, normally an hour’s journey.
The spray from the wheels of the train gave the impression of being on a boat. The train made its way gingerly along the submerged tracks. Birds with striking white V’s swooped down low over the water. The train slowed to go through slightly deeper water. A man, chest deep, was coaxing some hens out of a tree. Some washing was strung on a pole, but the bottoms of the garments were dangling in the water. Two telephone boxes stood three-quarters full. At the next station, a couple of dozen cars were lined up on the platform, two or three of them having been converted into not-so-temporary homes. On the opposite platform there was a row of motorbikes. Some small boats were waiting for passengers from the train. We passed a big walled estate with nobody home. At a raised level-crossing, there were stacks of garbage accumulating. Two majestic herons flapped low against the setting sun, inspecting the damage done. A shouted salutation from the train startled a man in the water. Over a dozen people were perched on a stack of girders and scaffolding eating dinner. Two men on an ice-berg of foam were doing the same as the sun sank lower. A shouted “Su su” from the train directed at no one in particular was followed by the creepy sound of rattling corrugated iron walls protesting against each other as the wave from the train swept through long-abandoned workers’ hovels. On an unused siding, a community of tents and wigwams had developed. A little further, a family was cooking dinner under a canvas awning outside a big house.
Some people were gathered on the steps of an empty up-market condo. The doors were locked and there was washing hanging from the ground floor window bars. A small bamboo raft loaded with two big bottles of water and some other provisions was being pushed along. A woman, being rowed in a small boat, filmed the passing nine-carriage train. An ‘Everglades’ boat manned by the army was waiting for the train to pass, the officer in charge sitting contentedly up high. A teenager belly-flopped into the green water as the train floated past a dead-end bridge loaded with bull-dozers and other heavy works vehicles. We passed a a solitary sentinel spirit house standing defiantly atop its shortened pole. The full moon low in the east watched malignantly as a man almost up to his neck made his way trying to keep a small plastic bag and bottle of M150 valiantly above water. The train slowed down as we approached Taling Chan junction, which was under renovation and home to many. The floodwaters were pink and black in the sunset as we passed homes of blue and white plastic tarpaulin.
The glow of a charcoal burner under a canvas roof silhouetted a group of children with their sparklers. There was a startling bang from the train as someone let off a firework, joining in the Loy Kratong celebrations. Suddenly there was a new sound; the clack clack of the train as it found dry tracks. Crickets joined in as we approached the overflowed Chao Phraya. There was a welcoming fire-works display, red and yellow, above some buildings not too far away. The train swayed as it passed a dry level-crossing and dry roads. The mosquitoes were out in force as we arrived at Bang Sue, where an hour and a half after leaving Salaya I alighted the train.
Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul’s Top Man Tone Facebook Page…