Trains are so fascinating! Instead of taking a 40 min flight to Chiang Mai, I opted to take (what was supposed to be) the 13-hour overnight train. Since I was already in Ayutthaya, I just picked it up there instead of going back to Bangkok.
Trains stations in Thailand seem to be like stations in the U.S, great for commuters, vagrants, and random folks doing random things. Sitting in the Ayutthaya station the other night was starting to get pretty nerve-wrecking. It is a small station not short on character and a few very animated Thai homeless. Trading cigarettes and drinks and scouting out a bench to catch a nap all seemed normal and uneventful, especially with me being from Boston. But, as the night went on, things got strange.
One woman insisted on talking to everyone; most people on the platform didnt speak Thai and she didnt speak English. So, combined with her yelling at everyone, the conditions for conversation were perfect. Oh, and then there was her lifting her shirt up when people tried to ignore her, let’s not forget that. When people didnt want to look at her back tattoo, she just flashed them, laughed and moved on to the next person. The thrill was finally gone for her and perhaps flashing grew tiresome and she soon retired to a bench. Two Germans were chatting behind where she was lying and I guess they were too loud. She kept tossing and sighing and then eventually just yelled at them motioning that she was trying to sleep. Ma’am, you are on a train platform full of people waiting on an hour late train and you want people to be quiet so you can sleep. Uh, ok.
As if she wasn’t entertainment enough, two men on the end of platform starting arguing over whether or not to feed the stray dog hanging around. Sidenote: Sooo many stray sad looking animals :(. Sara McLachlan could film all types of commercials here. Anyway, back to the platform drama.
I was starting to get a little nervous with everything popping off in different spots and I was really tired and agitated that the train was, in classic thai fashion, pretty late. After a day temple hopping in the scorching sun, I just wanted to sleep.
And then the main event. I hear a woman scream and look over to see that just a few feet away from me, this man is pulling at her purse and bags. Everyone stops and looks. No one does anything. Was this man really trying to rob her with a platform full of people? It became clear very quickly that robbery was not the motive. The woman kicked at the man, who appeared to be drunk and he lunged at her and grabbed her by the throat. At this point, our little pack of foreigners made eye contact with each other trying to figure out what to do.
The odd thing was that none of the Thai people seemed bothered, including the police officer on the platform who was watching it all and shaking his head. The altercation escalated and he continued to taunt her, pulling her off the bench, hitting her, all with her fighting back. It was very reminiscent of the limo scene from What’s Love Got to Do With It. He was obviously drunk and she was obviously used to fighting back. Nonetheless it was hard to watch, including when he pulled her down the platform onto the train…which everyone again seemed to ignore. Afterwards, the Germans and I chatted about how it was hard to intervene when the Thai and the police did nothing. We all felt a bit conflicted and helpless.
With the train now an hour and a half late, a scream comes from across the track in the little neighborhood near the train station. Oh gosh….here we go again. Five minutes later, there were about ten cops on bikes are on the platform single file going across the tracks in the direction of the screen. It was like Cops, Little House on the Prairie edition. And, the platform wasnt bike friendly so they all had to go really slowly across and then they waited on all of them to get over before heading to the scream scene. I dont know what was happening, but was SO glad when the train arrived 15 minutes later.