CityNews Article Archive:
Throwing Babies from Trains
It is over a hundred years since the last boats polled their way through the rapids of the river Ping on their way to Chiang Mai or cut their way through the sand banks of the river Wang on their way to Lampang. So it was by train that I first came to Chiang Mai in 1965. The railway to Chiang Mai was officially opened in 1921 after the completion of the Kun Tan tunnel three years before. It was rumoured that sometimes the passengers were asked to alight and push the train up the last few steep yards to the mouth of the tunnel. The roads were still impassable in places for much of the year for a long time to come.
So it was that I, our salesman and 200,000 strips of Tensoplast (why so many is another story), steamed out of Bangkok on a hot July day. For some reason that I do not remember, we spent the first night at Tapan Hin, a noisy junction. A great festival was held that evening for the cremation of a venerable monk. The ceremony culminated with the lighting of the funeral pyre by a rocket which was shot along a cable from a neighbouring building.
Next day we trundled north in a crowded third class compartment. One baby bawled without ceasing, the noise doubled after its mother threatened to throw it out of the window if it did not stop. Then she had an inspiration: ‘If you do not stop crying I will give you to that farang.’ Instant, terrified silence that lasted until they disembarked at Pitsanaloke.
Finally we reached Chiang Mai station, the end of the line. I crossed the road and sank into the luxury of the Railway Hotel.