Market Friday: coffe break at the railway station.

Slowly the tourists and passengers started to appear at the railway station in Bangkok. I still could remember the time when there were less than twenty people in the big hall of the station. That was such a gloomy and spooky time which I thought would lasted forever. The sudden change from previously forlorn and quiet atmosphere to more lively and crowded environment had caught me by surprise. I had no idea that people were ready to venture out as soon as the authority started talking about the end of the COVID plandemics. So, I had to book my train tickets much sooner to ensure I got the best seat with plenty of storage space.

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One afternoon I was about ten minutes late at the ticket office for my reserved tickets. The computerised booking system wouldn’t allow me to collect those tickets, as I missed the deadline. So, I had to wait for one whole hour for the computer system to unlock those seats to become available on the ticket system again. I wondered why they programmed one hour’s lag time for uncollected tickets; fifteen minutes would surely be more than enough. So, I decided to check out the coffee shop at Hualamphong station.

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Two coffee shops have started to serve food and drink recently. I did ask one railway staff which one served better coffee. He told me honestly that he wouldn’t know as he couldn’t afford this fanciful coffee. I rarely go to western style coffee shop as the price of a cup of coffee could pay for my fast food lunch. So, it’s a treat when I went out to nice coffee shop with delicious cakes for a meeting with some old friends. I went to the coffee shop on the upper level of the foyer at the station where I would have nice views of the whole place.

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The two staff were friendly and looked rather bored as there were three customers at the coffee shop. This coffee break gave me some leisure time to take it easy without having to rush around as usual. This was the first time I could slow down my pace, to sit quietly while observing life around me. It was like having a brief quality time with the old railway station and to notice things I haven’t seen before. I took photos of the old station for my own souvenirs as this station would be closed to the public one day. The new railway station has been built some five mikes away but it has not been officially opened yet. Some minor adjustments and political hurdles have obstructed the transfer of all trains to the new station, which worked out well for the most people. Corruptions only big construction project meant that new buildings frequently do not answer people’s needs. So, the future would be quite chaotic by passengers when the new railway station starts to function fully.

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The coffee turned out to be quite good and the price was cheaper than other famous brands. Looking around the old station brought back memories of many train journeys during the last few years. I had no idea that I would be spending a large portion of my life traveling on trains. This reminded me of similar lifestyle in one of my past life; I had to travel through forests and strange territories on horsebacks and elephants as a soldier in those old kingdoms. It’s funny that in a new lifetime some old habits or astrological aspect seemed to transcend time. I had discussed this topic with a learned monk and he told me that previous traits and habits would follow some people like karmic influences.

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This Hualamphong station was built over hundred and thirty years ago with the help of British and German engineers. During the reign of King Rama V, many foreigners came to trade and work in Siam. These were pioneer and adventurers for the exotic Far Eastern countries which was quite different from India which was then a British colony. The Dutch conquered Indonesia while the Portugese and Spanish’s power seemed to recede after the failure of Spanish Armadas against Elizabeth I. The French and British became rivals in carving out territories in South East Asia.

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Yet, King Rama V was a very skillful diplomat and negotiator who could play the British against the French powers without giving an excuse to either side to take violent actions against Siam. These days, Thailand seemed to face the same dilemma of having to choose between two camps: USA and China. Politicians were divided along their political connections and flows of benefits. More politicians have openly sided with American foreign policies. The Chinese influence seemed more subtle and worked quietly among old ties. King Rama V would certainly take the non-alliance approach with strict neutrality or non-interference in other countries’ foreign policies. I just hoped that new generations of politicians would learn some good lessons from our history.

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On the whole the old railway was looking respectable despite her old age and poor maintenance from top management. The railway has always been a place where grade B technocrats came to foster their private retirement fund during their last few years of authority. The ‘nice’ thing about corruptions in the country was that they were rather simplistic and blatantly obvious.

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So, hidden enemies could easily score some points and hit the karmic wheel turning! Unintended consequences seemed to have worked against these corrupt officials. Most superstitious people would say that the guardian spirits and land spirits became angry and decided to punish the culprits. There were definitely lots of white voodoos or magic during the fight to keep the old railway from being shut down!

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I do hope these guardian would continue to look after Hualamphong station and keep it operating for twenty more years. By that time we would probably be flying around in flying cars, riding on taxi drones, and high speed trains. Meanwhile I ought to remind myself to enjoy the quaint atmosphere of the old railway where time seemed to have warped for me. I did travel back to the past in my mind; reminiscing about my past lives as a soldier on horseback trekking through forest and mountains.

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The old black and white photos of the railway brought me lots of joy and excitement. I just had to take these photos as they reminded me of a dream I had many years ago. I was probably one of the foreign diplomat waiting for the arrival of the first train at the platform. Big crowds of foreign diplomats and royalties gathered at the special area for the inauguration ceremony by the King and Queen of Siam.

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I had no idea that my dream was related to these photos until they jolted my memories. I could recall feeling very hot under the thick and heavy clothing for the formal occasion. The diplomats and their wives were competing for attention with their extravagant and colorful western costumes. I could also hear an official band playing music to welcome the arrival of the train. The foreigners were quite excited to be in close vicinity with the King and Queen; they were competing for best spots on the front row! I was feeling stressed because of the formal uniforms and loud noises. Otherwise, the atmosphere was rather jolly and party like as the Royalties were very easy going and cool about the ceremony. It was nice to finally put some jigsaw puzzles of my dreams into past context.

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I could imagine the commotion among the builders when they were trying to put the colourful glass panels in the facade of the station. These people would have to be very good at climbing up bamboo poles which were used as scaffolding in the old days. There was so much smoke when the steam engine train came to stop at the platform. The whistling noise was loud and familiar to my ears. I thought I was probably a frequent train passenger in those data too. I liked the train so much that it led me to have a life of a traveler in this life time. While I was a student abroad, I did travel by trains almost every month as a routine too. These old photos have put my traveling life into a proper context with several past lives. So, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of transport would play an important role in my futuristic life time.

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Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.

Stay strong and cheerful.

#marketfriday by @dswigle

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