In final preparation I sold a surplus book that morning and also had a few bob from my key deposit to splash out with. So after tipping my regular captivating waitress Am, refreshingly distant and unsmiling, I stocked up on food for the trip, also Tiger Balm and a rare find, cotton wool balls. It was a toss up which way to go with my last 100 Baht and perhaps regretably I plumped for a Starbucks in favour of one final Chang beer at the Gecko Bar. The train materialised comfy and clean enough and very quiet and spacious, you got a 2 seat bench to yourself which would later transform into half of a very wide bottom bunk. The "Special Express" initially immitated a commuter train with the regularity of its stops but soon we were streaming south past lush greenery and rivers lined with houses on stilts. It was ridiculous that I was passing this way for the third time and yet would still not be stopping to see it in any detail. The constant carpet of ricefields was reminiscent of Bangladesh, though perhaps the palm trees were taller here, it seemed I was seeing Thailand much better than I had done from the road. More karst mountains rose to the west and we got treated to the fantastic spectacle of a surreal sunset over them, with dotted clouds looking like a scattering of islands across a golden sea, eventually tending towards raging crimson like a nuclear storm. Nature mirrored it incredibly with a rainbow the other side. I foolishly stayed sober and so didnt sleep so well but I couldnt fault the train, as well as starchy sheets you even got an inexplicably white blanket prewrapped in plastic. Just past Hat Yai the border was a one minute doddle, with this crossing marking some more immediate changes. Suddenly there was Latin script again and darker, burlier women in robes and headscarves, some ethnic Indians too. I had squared away Thai women in my head to the extent that I was now sad to see them go, and true to form the last one I saw was a babe beyond compare. Strong cultural differences were apparent too, together with a very contrasting change of tongue I would now have to remember to give up the instinctive Wai (hands raised in greeting buddha style) and mind what I did with the left one from now on. Eye contact with women couldnt be so casual anymore and dress had to be considered a little more carefully. Very relaxed though all the same, some young chicks who joined the train wanted photos with me, unfortunately we were also joined by showers. Ah the monsoon, I remembered it well. The rain hadnt been that bad in Bangkok of late but even the locals were sweating so you knew it was really hot.