Bangkok on rails

‘A tribute to the station’

In dreams I just have arrived at the newly build temple of transportation; the Hua Lamphong station. It is a classic colonial design midst the freedom of people who escaped the fate of being obedient. A clever king saved the nation for a total disaster though a certain prize had to be paid.
My dreams are not shattered by today’s appearance and book a room in the famous Railway Hotel on the first floor. In front there’s a partly open galley and I am leaning on the parapet and inhale the scent of a divine enterprise.
A few locomotives are idle on the end of the track. Thin stripes of steam swirling through the air. A soft hissing of tamed iron horses fires the temptation to travel again. The shrill echo of the steam-whistle and a train slowly leaves the overall span of the station. The yet unknown world at her feet ready to be discovered on the rhythm and sound of steel on steel. Hair blowing in the wind behind the open window and no complaints about the soot and black smoke whirling around.



Hua Lamphong, in front of the entrance there’s a small garden with a fountain and a sculpture symbolizing kilometre zero, the mother of all measurements.
A leap in time but for sure not disappointing although the counter and waiting area is fully ‘aircon’ now, by all means the platforms are not and here the real rails appear. It doesn’t matter, the symbol is there and what would life be without symbols? An empty vessel and things for granted.
It’s so nice to linger for a while in what’s still warm but above all old, the untouched nostalgia hanging under the magnificent roof. People’s habits are not changed and many are sitting here hours before their train will depart. Travel in Thailand has another dimension than make a trip in Europe. Here it takes time; there time is too precious to waste. It’s only in our minds that we are not able any longer to enjoy the things in their own pace. Any impatient Caucasian should sit here for a while or stroll down the platform isles and wait till the twain shall meet.
The German railway engineer Karl Döhring and the Italian architect Mario Tamango designed the building and where China Town ended and the busy Rama IV Road begins it puts one’s stamp on time.
A lot of ‘Bangkokians’ should have raised their eyebrows at the beginning of the railway constructing and thought that the end of times was near. The conservative human nature is always against suddenly changes. That proofed to be wrong and since then the nation is blessed with a good system for transportation, goods and persons alike. There’s one minor point and that’s one has forgotten to bring the system through the years to an updated standard. No remorse, it is what it is.
The station where it once begun and hopefully not will end. It would be a pity for such an attractive environment. It’s more than trains only; it’s a world on itself and build for movements but with all respect not for train lovers only. Their view is often narrowed on things that roll on rail and there’s so much more.
A nice combination is just sitting near the monument erected in honour of king Rama the Fifth while placing the first nail. Do so near sunset, colours will get another meaning and so does the high-rise above the roof in a haze of pollution. The full awareness that Hua Lamphong is vivid but also has survived and stands as a historical building of importance, something one shall neglect nor forget.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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