SRT – Thailand’s State Railway – 2nd class seater

Written by Frank on November 29th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind

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The 2nd class seating arrangements are available on selected trains only. Older coaches with wooden planking, a linoleum flooring and “barbershop” chairs, which appear to be at least of 60’s vintage and hence celebrated their half century jubilee already in silence. The chairs are stationary and mounted on oversized heavy steel consoles. SRT carries usually only one of these waggons in trains without 1st class. These antique railcars hold a maximum of 48 passengers. They are chronically overbooked, even in half empty trains, but just recently have been tested by our reporting team in November 2009 from Hat Yai back to Bangkok (sleeper 2nd class was fully booked for days ahead!).

They have a reclining feature (if functioning) and some thick vinyl (sweaty!) as a cover for a rather thin upholstery. Ashtrays in the armrests are covered shut with a stupid piece of metal, sharp edges on this oversized piece and the usage of non-flush mounted screws will care for some roughing up of your wrist areas and the delicate skin of your lower arms.

Footrests on each seat are solid pieces of steel, welded stiff on the seat pedestal in front of you. These are dimensioned strictly for Asian sized people, so if you can pass without ducking under a bar in 1,60 m height – these are for you 🙂

If, on the other hand your bodylength has western dimensions (the author hits the male average for westerners with just over 1,80 m), I will feel with you and hope the pain ceases within a couple of days. It took me 2 full days to be backpainfree again.

The setup is easy and uniform in this class, two seats each are numbered side by side throughout the waggon. The seatwidth reminds of the sardine-can-setup, cheap airlines do offer in their low budget coachclasses. This seat, however, is yours for a full 18 hours, not just a one or two hour flight somewhere! 🙂 All windows are open and care for a good wind throughout the journey. Except for the plenty of stops, where mosquitoes and other flying attractions of the appropriate area in the jungles or agricultural zones will swarm the brightly illuminated cart. It’s a welcomed “sitting ducks” situation for the bloodsuckers with wings. Those who believe in protection by just a T-shirt for example, will be tought an itching lesson! 🙂

Exposed skin should be treated with a good insect repellent in any environment with mosquitoes present in Thailand anywhere at any time. The waggon itself is merciless brightly lit at nighttime, strong overhead fluorescent lamps will make you crave for an eyeshade if you really want to nap.

Overhead luggage storage space seems to be proportioned well for the relative small group of travellers in here, space for roomier or bulky items is behind the seats 1 through 4 (suitcases etc.)

Just in case you wear shorts on your non-aircon trips, be advised that there are plenty of sharp metal screws and rusty spots in each legroom, make sure your tetanus vaccination is still valid!

The overaged linoleum flooring material appears to have been laid maybe on the current kings 40th or 50th birthday, but has not seen any replacement since. Large cracks and worn out walkways show this clearly. The material there has not only given up it’s top green layer, but also the complete grey zone. The black on display is the color of the hard rubber baselayer, this wear and tear must have accumulated over decades as Thai passengers weigh not too much in average and hardly change their soft flip-flops for abraisive boots or heavy shoes.

Each seat has a “shadow area” of dirt underneath, thats where the cleaning gear doesn’t reach in a quick wipe. The floor in it’s accessible areas will be mopped several times during the trip, That probably is supposed to put a curb to the insects activity. The 8-legged roamers do outsmart the mop by retreating to their hiding places then and reappear from all cracks and holes (especially in those pedestals). Everything else appears rather clean, but wait for the hours after midnight when activity in the railcar dies down and everybody tries to grab a nap. I have relocated all of our small luggage items and Melona’s famous snack-bag to the overhead area to keep them out of the critter’s reach.


Earplugs may help to reduce the noiselevel throughout the ride, the cost for these luxurious seats equals about the double of the base price (3rd class seat). The sheer age of these waggons prohibits any tachnical upgrades, I guess. Jammed windows aren’t uncommon and the louvred sun-blinds can reduce the wind drag a bit if pulled or pushed into position. Hordes of salespeople with all kinds of foods flock the train at every bigger station, most carry their wares in wire baskets through the aisle, loudly presenting their specialities. Be assured to secure your arm and shoulder, when you end up in an aisle-seat. The vendors bang into people constantly, their metal baskets command most of the room in the aisles.

This type of railcar features a room clad in stainless, where a sorry looking showerhead protrudes from the ceiling. It is supposedly used for anybody wishing to clean up or refresh, but besides the showerhead there is a miniature sink for public use. Be careful with your feet when using this feature, as the waste water from there drains through a vertical piece of pipe onto your footwear, before gravity lets it exit through a hole in the floor onto the visible gravel below the train. A 2nd class seat will never again be booked by myself, but I wanted that experience myself in order to be able to cover realistically all classes and types of service in our reports. Melona slept well on our trip back to Bangkok in this type of seat, but as an Asian girl she is also not within western or Caucasian brackets in terms of her body’s sizes . Much more desirable at a slightly higher price is the 2nd class sleeper, which will be featured here as well later.


 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. People in every country take the train, because it's simple and comfortable.

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