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I’ve certainly got my exercise in today! I was up very early as I had some UK work to do that I wanted to complete before I headed out. Having finished this by 07:30 I was wandering before the day warmed up and when many locals were still at home or on their way to wok. The streets around Banglumphu were quiet but my travels took me through the old town and Chinatown, which was anything but. It was a bit ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ as I was walking to Hualamphong station which is nearly 3 miles and an hours walk away from my hotel. Most sensible folk would get a taxi or tuk-tuk but the beauty of walking is that you get to see so much stuff you’d normally miss. OK, ignore the fact the air pollution there and back’s probably the equivalent to smoking a pack of fags. I can understand why Thais still wear masks all the time – and it’s nothing to do with Covid!

My route took me through several districts which were especially interesting. Bangkok is similar to India in that trade guilds tended to congregate. The first place I passed was where you’d go to buy all your royal accoutrements. Need a large framed picture of the current king (or his late father) or any of the royal wives and princesses? Flags even? No problem. Here’s where you’d go -and there’s lots of shops to choose from.

The next area I passed through was the woodworkers district, full of businesses selling handmade doors, architrave and beading and all manner of decorations. As most shops don’t have fronts you get too look in (and take crafty pictures).

I’m sure he has a system and knows where everything is…

Another part of the street was full of engineering workshops, crammed with lathes, milling machines, drills and cutters. It’s a world we just don’t see in the UK anymore and it really took me back in time to my father’s workshop in the outbuildings at the bottom of my parents garden. He was an engineer, as was his brother, who had a little foundry in the backstreets of Southport. I’ll add more about that later…

This street was lined with small engineering firms like this. No job is too small. These are the skills the UKs lost as few young people want to make things, they want to be a millionaire and ‘social influencer’. SE Asia doesn’t buy into these fantasies and gets on with making things – and making money. There’s a reason China has become the workshop of the world.

Oh, there was another little artisan group I passed near journey’s end. The coffin suppliers. I suspect they’ve had a good couple of years..

Dead wood…

Eventually – after lots of detours to take pictures – I ended up at Hualamphong station where I booked my ticket back to Malaysia and then spent a couple of hours taking pictures. The loss of most long-distance trains has meant the station’s far quieter than it was, but there’s still a lot of activity out on the platforms and in the adjacent loco depot. Thai trains have always been serviced at Hualamphong, which can mean anything from a wash and clean to changing brake-blocks, fans and other minor repairs. It really is very much ‘old railway’ .

Still plenty of life at the loco depot at the station, including the derivative of a train that will be very familiar to UK viewers. The engines known as ‘shovelnoses’ were built by General Electric whilst the twin windowed engine is from Hitachi.
3rd Class coaches getting a wash and brush-up. The Chevrons on the steps are new. These are fold down steps to allow level (ish) boarding at the modernised stations where platform heights have been increased.

Being a glutton for punishment and wanting to get more pictures I decided to walk back the way I’d come – and discovered this delightful craft beer establishment (and hotel) en-route. Bed and brews. It was like an oasis after the hustle and bustle of Chinatwon, so I couldn’t resist popping in to have a small beer Lao IPA and rest my weary bones and swill the pollution out of my throat before walking the rest of the way home. As much as I enjoy Bangkok, the air quality is shit. Wandering the streets as I did I soon noticed it.

Now, 31,000 steps and a shower later I’m writing this blog before packing as tomorrow I leave the smog of Bangkok behind for a few days to catch the train to Kanchanaburi and take a break by the River Kwai. Yes, that river and that bridge – made famous by the David Lean film starring Alec Guinness. It really does exist.

Expect some more relaxed blogs (and lots of pictures) soon…

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