I didn’t have a huge agenda for what to do in Bangkok. I’ve seen the main sites before, but I do like hanging out in the old town and using the boats to get around.
Nearby the hotel is a little Blues bar that was recommended by Mike Hamilton. It was absolutely mobbed on Xmas day with the pavement outside being filled. I wandered back the next day when it was a touch quieter. It does seem to be the hub for a counter-culture group of Thais and Koreans.
I had never previously visited the National Museum, despite it only being a 20-minute walk away from where I stay. So I decided to give it a go one morning, getting breakfast on the way. Luck smiled on me. Firstly there was no charge that day for some reason. Secondly there are English-speaking tours given by volunteers at 9:30 am on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And I turned up just in time. Our guide was Christopher, an American married to a British diplomat who had spent the last 15 years Asia. His background was in History of Art and he clearly loved the places he’d been, so had sought to understand them. His hour and a half long tour gave a fantastic grounding on the pre-history and then history of Siam, plus the basics of Hinduism and Buddhism that are needed to understand it. In 20 years of coming to this region I’ve never had it explained so well.
My thanks to Christopher for being an amazing guide and I heartily recommend getting a guided tour of the museum as early in a trip to Thailand as you can. It provides a great framework of understanding to give context to things you will see elsewhere on your trip.
On my final full day I took a Thai cooking class at the Green Garden Cooking School, just up the road from where I was staying. The course covered a lot of dishes including the preparation of two curry pastes. #
Green curry paste
Tom yam curry paste
Tom Yam soup
Tom Kai soup
Som tam salad
Fried spring rolls
Mango & black sticky rice
Note : add pictures
Because the school specialised in vegetarian and vegan Thai cookery they also used substitutes for the fish sauce common to Thai food : a mix of light & dark soy sauce, a mid-brown coloured mushroom sauce and a tan coloured, thick soybean sauce. The latter two I’ll need to see if I can find in the UK, along with the Chinese/finger ginger from Cambodian cookery. Given the number of dishes the course is a little rushed and despite not having breakfast only managed a small amount of the later dishes. I left stuffed. It’s interesting to cover dishes I’ve been taught elsewhere; everyone’s version is different.
And today the journey home. Breakfast, pack, a Grab taxi to the near end of the overhead railway to the airport, a train and then the plane. I write this from the departure area of the airport.
Yesterday was always going to be a long day. The minibus ticket was at 07:30 and they want you there to check documentation well before departure. So up early, quick pot noodle and banana to have something to eat and checkout by 06:30. Tuk-tuk to the bus company’s offices.
It’s all calm and a get a seat at the side of the street to read my book until time to leave… until somebody tells me that they’ve changed the departure time to 08:00. Still as delays go that’s minor.
The temperatures had cooled significantly 3 days before. All through the first part of the trip it had been about 35 °C in the day and around 25 °C at night. Both figures had dropped by around 10 °C in the last few days. So, almost ironically, I was slightly cool sitting reading in just my T-shirt. Still, I’d be fine in the bus.
The minibus turns up 10 mins before departure. We get loaded on and it’s just me. And the aircon is going full blast… I try to ask the driver to turn it down, but he doesn’t understand. We’re winding through tight little alleys by the market, so I don’t distract him further and set about closing every vent in reach. An hour and a half later we stop for fuel (LPG) and a toilet break. The driver come round to explain how to open the vents and make it colder. I finally get him to understand it’s freezing.
After that, and with the aircon off, it’s a short run to the border. The roads on the last stretch as chaotic, but we get there. I unload both my day and main rucksack from the minivan as the driver tells me he’ll see me on the other side.
Getting stamped out of Cambodia is a pretty quick affair. There is only a 10-minute wait then the 100 yard walk through no man’s land to Thai immigration. Up the escalator to the section for foreigners and I’m presented with this :
All I can think is “$^(&“. This border had been so fast in the other direction. There was nothing to do but join the zigzag queue. Thankfully I’d downloaded some BBC R6 shows to the phone, so in went the ear buds. That helped with the 2 hour 45 minute wait to get through.
It’s now about 13:20. Out the other side and a 200 yard walk to the office of the bus company. I know roughly where it is, but someone sees the lanyard I’m wearing and leads me the last bit. At this point I’m on the hourly minibus to Bangkok which leaves at 2 pm. So that’s enough time to grab a chicken Pad Thai (no egg) and a bottle of water.
The next minibus has its full complement of 10 passengers and my allocated seat is in the middle of the back row. It’s a long journey to Bangkok lengthened by the driver making a wrong turn at a junction which took 10–15 mins to get back to the correct rout. The journey was punctuated by a stop for LPG and a later one to have a bit to eat. It was there that I spotted a couple of people who must have been 30–45 mins behind in the immigration queue.
The bus dropped me off a 400 m walk from the hotel (pretty good) and I checked in around 19:30. I popped out to a favourite local restaurant for dinner and a couple of beers. Before 9 pm my brain was telling me it had been a long day and that was it, I needed bed.
Today is a lazy day. Despite the early bedtime I rose late. Plans today are to do little, perhaps figure out some activities for the next few days. I have my base here until my flight home on the 29th. That base is a guesthouse on an alley just north of the canal at the top of Banglamphu. Across the alley from the guesthouse is Wat Sangwet Witsayaram which is a visual nice reminder of where I am :
Wat Sangwet Witsayaram
Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this today.
I’ve been reading through Terry Pratchett’s books recently and by coincidence today’s book happens to be “Hogfather”.
Just a note : I’ll add photos and videos to the page in the next few days. I have a bit of time back in Bangkok to care of that. I’ll also add to and improve text; I’m a wee bit squeezed for time today and have not got this anywhere near the state I want it, sorry.
The journey here
A minibus, booked on 12go.asia, took me from Bangkok all the way to Battambang in Cambodia. As we set off from their office a few minutes from my hotel I thought there were only going to be three of us on the bus. However we stopped in new Bangkok and filled the remaining spaces. I was the only westerner.
The drive through Thailand was uneventful with a stop at a service area a couple of hours into the trip. The same family who only organised themselves to get out of the minibus after it stopped were also, unsurprisingly, to be the same ones that were late back.
The border crossing was pretty slick. We were dropped off at a wee office just before the border. The three of us who started together were the only ones going to Battambang, the others going elsewhere in Cambodia. Everyone else’s luggage came off, whilst ours stayed on. We would rejoin the van on the other side. We were given destination badges to hang round our necks and a photo of the group of three taken.
First off was a walk through a set of offices to get stamped out of Thailand. Then out of those offices and a 50 m walk to the Cambodian side. Up and into the foreigners’ office we were met by an agent who had pre-filled our immigration cards. A quick check of passports & visas, and we entered a short queue to get stamped in. Less than 10 minutes later I was in Cambodia. 100 yard walk and we found the van.
We drove off without a chance to change cash or pickup a SIM. I only needed the latter and could do that in Battambang.
The initial drive through Cambodia was slow given it was a two lane road, some of the very slow traffic and the limited passing opportunities. However it eventually freed up and once we hit the road between Siem Reap we were on a dual carriageway. This was not the Cambodia I knew from 20 years before. Back then if a river route ran parallel to the road you took the boat rather than the bus because it was smoother and faster. In those days needing to drive around the pot-holes made roads very slow and rough. Now we were cruising on a smooth dual carriageway.
Finally we were in Battambang. Annoyingly the driver drove past the declared drop-off point as he was going to drop the other two passengers first, then came back to the place we had passed 10–15 mins earlier.
The whole journey was about 7–8 hours in total and cost me just under £30.
The Lonely Planet maintained that it was a place visitors loved with a faded colonial charm. That charm is not immediately apparent. It does however have a compact and walkable centre, a couple of cookery schools, some visitor friendly, local cuisine restaurants and a few things worth seeing nearby.
There are two cookery schools in Battambang, within 3 doors of each other on the same small street. As my initial accommodation in the town was at the back of one of them that is the course I did first.
Starting with a quick market tour given by a nephew the cooking course itself is given by the owner Toot. The menu for the course is fixed :
Fried vegetable spring rolls : with a seasoned filling of taro and carrot
Fish amok : a local steamed curry, cooked in a dish you make from a banana lead, made using a paste you create yourself
Beef lok lak : a local hot salad made from marinaded and fried beef served over a tomato, onion and lettuce salad. It is also served with a sour & pepper dipping or pour over sauce.
A banana a tapioca dessert.
The two key dishes here are the fish amok which is a lovely delicately flavoured curry and the beef lok lak which contrasts the savoury, richly flavoured beef with the fresh salad. Both are dishes I look forward to making again.
I improved my technique for rolling spring rolls but I prefer a fresher, more crunchy filling than taro. Taro is a bland, starchy vegetable I first came across in Samoa and always regard as a last resort if you need calories and can’t be fussy about any flavour or texture. The technique shown here for preparing the filling is to mix it aggressively with your hands, further reducing the texture of the filling.
I’d never have picked anything to do with tapioca and this just confirmed that for me that is still the same judgement to make.
It’s all good. I’ve found two lovely new dishes to make and refined my spring roll skills. It’s been a good afternoon. Unfortunately I was so caught up in the cooking I didn’t take many photos.
Nary Kitchen : ready to eat
Coconut Lyly Cooking School
A couple of days later I took the course at the other school, run by chef Lyly and his wife. The market tour was given by Mr Lyly and then, as it was a morning course, the cookery lesson was given by his wife. It’s very much a business run by all in this young family. I was doing the course with a German lady and we could pick our menu.
Vegetable spring rolls : with pork is more common but runs the risk of being undercooked in the class, still taro and carrot
Green mango salad : similar to Som Tam, the green papaya salad
Fish amok : the local speciality
Coconut Lyly : a gelatine set dessert of coconut milk and vanilla
My spring roll rolling technique is pretty good by this point and the less heavily crushed filling has a bit more texture on eating. The dressing for the salad is used as the dipping sauce and is more interesting than plain sweet chilli sauce.
The green mango salad is fresh and has a dressing that uses sweet chilli as an ingredient. It’s a lovely dish but I prefer the sharper Som Tam.
The fish amok is lovely. I added a little extra chopped chilli this time to just give it a little heat. After some fiddling I can make a banana leaf dish, but craft work isn’t my forte, It’s definitely a dish I’ll do at home, though using small dishes rather than banana leaves to steam it in. One ingredient I’ll need to see if I can find is Chinese ginger or finger ginger. I don’t know if it’s available in the UK as I’ve never looked for it. All other ingredients are ones I know I can get. Cambodian fish sauce is at the strong, pungent end of the scale.
The previous course had all savoury dishes seasoned with bouillon. Today’s were all will Knorr chicken stock power, though Mrs Lyly noted that their own cooking tended to use MSG. They switched the course to stock given the unpopularity of MSG in the west. I’ll need to experiment with both.
The dessert got slightly over chilled so it was a lovely delicate ice cream.
It was a fun morning with lovely hosts / teachers. If you pick one cooking course to do in Battambang the Coconut Lyly course is the one to choose.
Fish amok ingredientsFish amok in the steamerSpring rolls & mango saladThe classReady to eatCoconut Lyly cookery school
Touring the sights near Battambang
There were plenty of pre-packaged tours in the area but all seemed to bundle in fake touristy stuff along with the things really worth seeing. I had a WhatsApp of a local remorque (motorbike towing a trailer) driver, Panhasin, and arranged with him to see just the bits I wanted.
Note : add in video of driving along road
Wat Ek Phnom
To the north of the town via some roads that run through local villages is this 11th century ruined temple. Built before Angkor Wat you can see the similarities in style. Adjacent you now find a more modern Buddhist Pagoda and a giant statue of the Buddha. The statue is to be surrounded by smaller figures, though this is still a work in progress, limited by funding.
Wat Ek Phnom ancient temple
Note : add flyover video
In the south of this city is a wooden house maintained as a museum by the owners, descendents of the original owners. Built in 1920, by an army commander, it uses three specific local woods for different parts of its construction. The rooms inside don’t have ceilings, giving rooms with a lot of height up to the inside of the roof. This height draws away the warm air keeping the inside remarkably cool. The whole house is on stilts giving a working and storage area underneath. There is a kitchen at the back without a specific roof or chimney; I don’t know how they managed the fire risk but a large water butt was nearby.
The house passed on to two of the commander’s daughters but then under the Khmer Rouge much of the extended family was killed, the rest exiled. After the Rouge were forced from power one of the daughters returned to claim the house, expecting many of the survivors of the wider family to join her. They never did. She only recently passed away at the age of 85, though still suffered phycological effects from the years of terror. The house is now owned by the 3rd generation of the family.
Bat cave, killing cave, ~15 km SW
About 15 km to the south-west of Battambang is a cave that is home to some bats; about 15 million of them. And around sunset they exit the cave in a continuous stream to go visit their feeding grounds over the Tonlé Sap lake.
Although the roads on the way there are reasonable it’s an unsettled ride in a moto without suspension. Nearby the bat caves are a couple of other caves that tourists are guided towards : the Killing Cave and Pkar Slar Cave. Both are up the same steep road that forks about half way up. Until my second day in Battambang temperatures had been in the mid 30’s. They had just dropped to the mid – high 20’s the day before I came to the caves.
I headed up the road to the Killing Cave. This is where the Khmer Rouge bludgeoned to death up to 10,000 people, pushing the remains into the cave from above. You can enter from the side and head down. The bottom of the cave now contains a Buddhist memorial and a reclining Buddha. There are a few remaining bones in a cage to memorise what happened here.
It was still hot getting here so I didn’t push on up to Pkar Slar Cave. I took the time to read up on the Khmer Rouge and how they came to power.
Phare Ponleu Selpak
In the west of Battambang is a performing arts school and the home of the Phare circus. A tour of the school is available weekdays, but I lost track of the days and missed my chance. The circus puts on a show about once every two nights and I had a ticket for the last night I was in Battambang.
The show, “Rouge”, is about the Khmer Rouge. It could have been a disheartening piece, but it wasn’t. Yes there was some clear imagery of violent suppression, but the talent of the acrobats and musicians kept you entertained, not overwhelmed. All the performers and ushers were students, all of them with a genuine smile (when appropriate).
“Rouge” @ Phare Ponleu Selpak
Cambodia needs to grow things, make things and provide each other services. But it also needs its own arts scene. No external arts, no Breaking Bad however good it is, no Oscar winning Hollywood film, will help Cambodia come to terms with its recent past. Its own arts might. I hope that these students become a part of that.
However there was a small art exhibition needs the entrance to the site, displaying drawings and paintings of the students. They were all for sale. But they were all of Angkor style ruins. All about the remains of 800-year-old history, not about 50-year-old history. I suppose it’s what sells, but it doesn’t reflect the elephant that is in the room any time you converse with someone directly affected by those events.
Over a beer in the rooftop bar at The Place hostel I met Mike Hamilton. Having started travelling about a decade ago he has spent 2/3 of the time since on the road. That travel has covered all sorts of places and modes, including the over-landing type that I have been interested in for part of my next big trip. With the time he has made available Mike is in no hurry, if a place is appealing he will linger there, not rushing off to the next site like the majority of travellers. Our conversation went on till almost 11 pm by when Battambang has almost totally closed down and when I wondered for a moment if I was locked out of the hotel. Meeting fellow travellers like Mike is one of my favourite aspects of the traveller scene; listening to stories of places you have not yet been and things you have not yet done. Swapping tales and advice you always come away with new inspirations.
Back in Bangkok for a night before I catch a minibus + minibus/bus to Battambang tomorrow morning.
I’ve now updated the Ayutthaya post to cover all of my visit there
Here, in the traveller area of Bangkok, it’s busier than it was a few days ago. It had seemed to be short of the twenty-something travellers; they are here now. The hotel is handy for next morning’s departure so it’s on a busy street, but is reasonably quiet in my room despite that.
My first impressions when I arrived 2 days ago were not good. As an Asian city on an island formed by the rivers I expected a dense little city that was bad for cars and good for walking around. It’s actually a very open city with long, wide roads that are excellent for cars and a pain to walk around. Thankfully the roads aren’t that busy.
A short walk from where I was staying are two of the more famous ruined Wats from the city’s glory days : Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Mahathat. In between the two is a road that was being setup with stalls. This weekend there is an annual festival to celebrate the UNESCO listing. I was looking for the way in and it wasn’t obvious. A gate to Wat Ratchaburana was locked and I couldn’t see anyone inside. To the south there was an open gateway in the temporary fence as the setup a staged area for the festival at the back of Wat Mahathat. On the principle that it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission I wandered into the temple that way.
Wat RatchaburanaWat Mahathat
The most popular picture in Wat Mahathat is the Buddha’s head surrounded by the roots of a tree. If you include yourself in the picture you must arrange it that your head appears lower than the Buddha’s
The area I’m staying in only has a few tourists. Most of the businesses here are aimed at locals, though all bar the most basic have some English translations.
One thing I started to note, most of the modern, very tidy looking food establishments were coffee or cocoa shops. These are typically not Starbucks clones, very much a Thai version of a coffee shop. In one of these I wrote the initial part of yesterday’s post on Bangkok. The Chirp Cafe and Chat Space has a cool, airy Scandinavian style interior and a Japanese style garden where you can sit with your feet in the pond. Check out the Google Maps listing here, browse the photos and the menu. It’s gorgeous and no Starbucks clone. After an iced coffee and with more to write I decided to give the Orange Coffee a try :
The Chirp Cafe interiorThe Chirp cafe gardenOrange coffeeRoasted root veg salad and iced coffee
Further wandering had me stumble past a wonderful street side stall that was a garden centre.
Garden centre as a street side stall
A few other bits and pieces from around where I’m staying. The nearby Earl’s restaurant decorated with matchbox toys, the cutely logoed and very modern laundrette on the corner of the hotel and the Brown Ale bar.
Earl’s restaurantEarl’s restaurantBrown Ale BarOtteri laundrette
Yes the laundrette is a strange point to note but its a great thing to have for a traveller on the corner of their hotel. Everything cleaned and dried including consumables for about £2.50.
And I’m warming to Ayutthaya…
Ayutthaya World Heritage Festival
Ayutthaya holds an annual festival to celebrate the announcement of the Ayutthaya Historical Park as a site of world cultural heritage in 1991 by UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The headline act is a live show using a light show lit Wat Mahathat as a backdrop. A large section of the nearby park was filled with supporting stages, rides, areas to sit, etc. The two roads leading in at the north and south of the festival were lined with food stalls for 100’s of metres. I didn’t get tickets for the main show but enjoyed a wander through the stalls and wider area until the heat forced me to find some air-conditioning. Only 1:100 people there were westerners, it’s very much a Thai festival for their own benefit.
Entrance to the street along the north of the festivalLoads of food stallsFood stall with a large seating areaLoads of sweet stuff to coat in more sweet stuff“Interestingly” shaped pop cakesBugs… yes lots of “edible” bugs…Market area within the festivalLit up chedi within the festival areaOne of the participants emerging from the main show
The traveller scene
There was a hint that the traveller scene is reduced in Bangkok, there wasn’t as much bustle as expected. In Ayutthaya it was clear that it was massively reduced and the remaining scene had no critical mass anywhere. The big hostel that served as a traveller hub was closed and shuttered. So was the big bar next along on the same side of the street. Opposite them had been four traveller bars. The big ones at either end had become Thai bars, with solo acts singing (with variable skill levels) Thai ballads over backing tracks. The middle two had merged and had a mix of Thai and traveller custom.
Further south a stand-alone traveller bar had two people on the pool table, no one else inside and a Thai solo act murdering rock classics out the front.
Most tourists seem to come to Ayutthaya on day trips, not staying the night. Those that do should not expect any kind of traveller scene whilst here.
Exploring the historical park I sat down for a rest on one of three logs. A tourist did the same nearby and in quick conversation realised we both originally came from Scotland. She said something that gave me pause, that I was the first British voice she had come across. Thinking back I realised the same was true for me. I’d heard and spoken to a number of Europeans, but not another Brit. Nor any English-speaking nationality. We used to make up a very significant proportion of the traveller community, but after COVID seem to have been far slower to return.
One last thing…
Ayutthaya has a different style of tuk-tuk to the Bangkok style we are most familiar with. Its wider and whereas the front of a Bangkok tuk-tuk is a motorbike with handlebars the Ayutthaya style has a steering wheel on one side.
Last week, back in the office after a business trip, I discovered that I had a lot of holiday to use. I had to go on holiday that week to use it up. So on Saturday I booked the flights and on Monday morning caught the flight from Heathrow to Bangkok. I had the first two nights booked in a particularly comfy hotel to get over the flight and the jet lag. And a rough plan in mind. Head to a couple of places I’d never been before : Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam, and Battambang in Cambodia, recently recognised by UNESCO for its food.
It’s the gateway to this part of the world. A good, well-connected airport and a charismatic old town area that’s easy to visit.
Landing here at just after 5am it was pretty quiet. Two jetways connected to the plane allowed a full set of passengers off pretty quickly. A few travelators and I was through immigration with barely a wait. Into the baggage hall and there were cash points and phone SIM booths, so you could sort yourself out before waiting for the bags. This is a great setup, better than anywhere else I know. The bags started coming quickly, but were fed through at a slow pace. Otherwise, quickly down to the basement to catch the metro into town. It was one of my best airport experiences.
Off the metro it was a Grab car to the hotel; Grab is SE Asia’s equivalent of Uber, it’s well worth setting up on your phone before arriving.
The Khao San area, Banglamphu to give its correct name, has been a draw for backpackers for decades. When I first visited in 2004 I stayed on the Khao San road itself. It was slightly brash then, with numerous bars and cheap backpacker hotels. The market at the western end was then was 50% stalls selling pirate DVDs and cracked software.
Since then the Khao San road has become extremely brash, to the point of parody, with the bars competing to have the loudest sound system. These days even standing in the street it is ear-bleed level.
One of the more OTT bars on the Khao San road.
The market is still there selling T-shirts, tourist nick knacks and carts of edible insects that have a charge to photograph them. But the pirate media has all gone; a change in the law more than a decade ago pushed that out of Thailand. A more recent change in the law, the legalisation of cannabis, has lead to a profusion of a new type of shop :
However, the roads and alleys around the area are much more civilised. Soi Rambuttri (curling round Wat Chana Songkram) to the west and the collection of Soi Samsen to the north all have good selections of hotels and restaurants on reasonably quiet alleyways. They are my favourite places to stay, eat and people watch.
The Khao San area. I’ll update this with an improved, labelled map.
One road north of Khao San Road is Thanon Rambuttri. Bustling, but sane, it hosts some more pleasant bars. A personal favourite is the Molly Bar at the eastern end. Outside it has comfy, laid back chairs well positioned for watching the street. The patrons there are mostly foreigners (farang) but with a few Thais. The Thais will be sharing a bottle of whisky plus some mixers. Head inside to find it air-conditioned and lit with low bluish lighting. Often with live music, it is all Thais in here. On a shelf to the left of the entrance are a series of labelled, part full whisky bottles, waiting for that customer’s next visit. That mix of Thai and visitor is what I love about the Molly Bar and this local area.
Stopping in front of me at the Molly Bar was a kebab cart. I’d already eaten so didn’t try, but maybe sometime in the future with the beer munchies…
Just a bit to the east is Susie Walking Street. It has the one remaining 2nd hand book store in the area, popular in 2004 and killed by the Kindle since. It also has a couple of bars that are only patronised by the Thais.
Although elements of the area are brash and tacky, they are never sleazy. You may get offered by a tuk-tuk driver to take you to somewhere sleazy, but they have to take you away for sleaze. There are no bars populated with bored Thai girls here. That’s a sharp contrast to the area of new-Bangkok with the big hotels that the travel agencies will put you in.
Staying on Soi Samsen 2 gave me some good restaurants right on my doorstep. My first meal in the city was at a place a knew was good from a previous visit; I had a couple of my favourite dishes.
My first meal in the country : Som Tam, Kao Soi and a Leo beer
The next day I tried a place that was new to me that was just up the alley, Jok Pochana. It didn’t look like much, with a few metal tables on one side of the alley and an open kitchen on the other. However the food was excellent, the portions of the vegetable dishes generous and the prices were low. You just had to get used to the occasional car making its way past. In the picture below that’s the corner of my table at the bottom.
Jok Pochana restaurant
On my one full day in Bangkok I paid a visit to Chinatown. In between the packed streets are alley even more packed with markets selling anything and everything. The other reason for visiting this area was it gave an excuse to ride on the Chao Praya Express boat. This is the local river bus service and is my favourite way to get around Bangkok, along with the equivalents that ply the canals. Ignore the tourist boats and use the one the locals do. 16 baht (36 p) for a one way ticket.
The Chao Praya ExpressOn the Chao Praya ExpressView from the riverThe Chao Praya Express docking
It avoids the Bangkok traffic and is a great way to see the city from the river. In the video above see how quickly they dock; the video ends as the first passengers are about to get off (including me, hence the video ending).
The next day I was travelling up to Ayutthaya. 50 miles north of Bangkok, it was a 55-minute journey on the express out of the new train terminus. This station has a couple of quirks. Firstly, it has two names : Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal Station & Bang Sue Grand Station. The latter as it was being built, and then the former when it was opened in January this year. Secondly, it is designed for three times as many platforms as it now has. This makes it a cavernous, mostly empty space. Despite the modern station the express train was decidedly well-used and from a different era. My seat would not stop from reclining if I leant back so thankfully the train departed and then arrived on time.