Night train to Butterworth

Watiing for the night trainA narrow bunk bed, clean white sheets and a pillow in the form of a square. A small rectangular window, providing a view to the outside world. A decorated brown curtain on a rail, providing privacy from the world inside the train. My private little habitat on the night train to Butterworth.

The window provides me with the view of a light dotted Kuala Lumpur, when the night train departs and snakes out of the station. Then, when we slitter into more rural places, I am mostly entertained with a theater of darkness. Sometimes small lights pierce through the theater curtain. Looking at them, quickly passing by, like falling stars, I feel like I am a very small object. Floating through a dark universe in my little spaceship.

Whenever the night train reaches a station, it feels like we are the temporary visitors of a small unknown planet. Each station seems unattached from reality, and the rest of the world. What is it doing here in this black universe? Is it just floating around in an endless see of darkness?

New people emerge on the train. They speak to each other in a strange language. Words and sounds which I do not understand. Probably the local language on this small stroke of light and concrete, surrounded by the dense black jungle.

The night train continues its journey, slowly traveling from one planet to another. Picking up passengers along the way. Passengers who normally provide live and culture to those small planets. For a short moment however, everybody share’s the world of the train. The train cabin becomes a travelling bee hive, smelling of sweet culture, buzzing from strange languages spoken.

I lay on my bed staring out of the narrow window. Somehow train travelling at night makes me sad. In my thoughts, the moving train, and the changing view outside, represent a vastly passing life. A life where I constantly look for answers in the dark. Sometimes there seem to be solutions floating around. Piercing trough the darkness, in the form of small and hopeful lights. When seeing those lights, I want to grab them, and hold on to them tight. They seem like touchable objects, providing answers and revaluations. Yet the train moves on. To fast to capture any clear images. To fast for me to grab the truth or the reality.

Unable to grab the present, I often try to imagine about what lays ahead, when the train reaches its final destination. Yet even so often I end up thinking about what is left behind. Imaginations of Butterworth turn into memories of home, old memories of a past live. I guess living in the darkness makes me crave for something familiar.

For now I try to hold on about one certainty. Out of this darkness will emerge Butterworth. That is the destination I am going to. However, the outcome of what will happen at that destination is still dark and unknown. I imagine being some sort of space astronaut. Traveling to a strange and exotic destination. Not knowing what will happen when I arrive. Like an episode of Star Trek. The crew heading out to examine the the creatures on an exotic world which is being called Butterworth. B-u-t-t-erworthhh I mumble before I fall a sleep, and enter a different dark dimension.

Did you ever traveled with a night train? What did you see and what did you think? What was your destination? 

Bangkok – Trouble at the gates

Bangkok - Hiding for a possible shooter in the buildingIt starts with a tip about a bombing and shootings at the MBK shopping mall, in the National Stadium area of Bangkok. Where the rational mind is saying stay away, the inside reporter in us is temped to get as close as possible. Excitement and curiousness win from reason, and so we rush to the scene. On our way to the MBK mall we pass the police and military control points, and eventually a man who gives us the advice to stay away. When we don’t make any attempts to listen to him he tells us its or own choice.

Arriving at the MBK shopping mall I am amazed to see how much this place has changed. A busy intersection looks totally different when it turns into a camping ground. Although having been here a lot in better days, I now feel disorientated. There are people everywhere. It is already late at night, and there are many people sleeping on improvised camping spots. At the stage, a little bit further down the road, someone is still shouting words into a microphone, taking turns with a band playing songs. There is certainly something going on here. However it seems not to involve a situation with bombs and shootings. Otherwise would people still be sleeping? would the band still be playing songs? Was the tip about the bomb a wrong one?

We walk around the big shopping mall, a little bit further away from the main stage. There it suddenly becomes noticeable that, at the outer rings from the locked down area, there is a whole different situation going on. There is a nervous tension hanging in the air. Something is happening. Then suddenly everyone in the street gets to the ground, and hides behind the parked cars on the side of the road. People start pointing at a building, a little bit further down the street. They use laser pens and flashlights to point at a window in the building. That puts the light on a very troubled situation. This is a fight where snipers often use bullets, when words do not seem to work for them. You don’t know where the bullets are coming from, and you don’t know now when a shooting is going to happen. This makes the people, in charge of securing the protest area, extremely nervous.

The people guarding the protest area gates are different from the normal protesters, who mainly seem to be at the protest area to have a peaceful experience by singing, dancing and making as much sounds as possible, in their colorful outfits. These guards have different tasks. There outfits show no signs of celebration. They are wearing black outfits, often combined with army clothes and body armors. There faces are tense, hard and nervous. They look tough, ready for a fight. This is where protest organisation is shown. With their transmitters, sticks, guns and willingness to guard or fight, these are the people that mean serious business. They don’t tolerate loud sounds, photographs and people that nose around. Without them guarding this area, the place would probably turn out in a bloody war zone.

It is a very strange situation. Even when there is the tension of deadly violence, there are still children walking around, food is being sold, and just 50 meters further down the road, thousands of people are sleeping, or listening to the band on stage. Who keeps playing songs as if there is nothing going on. Its a small and weird little world. The protesters seem to have locked them self in, when attempting to lock down Bangkok. Each protest area being its own island. In between those islands, the sharks are swimming around, with bombs and guns, instead of sharp teeth. They come out at night to hunt. Occasionally showing there aggressive nature, before diving away again in the deep urban ocean. It is a nervous cat and mouse game.

When reporting about all of this, I feel like I am walking behind the facts all the time. All night reports keep coming in from bombings, fires, shootings. You run to one place to find out that everything is already happened, and that they are now shooting from a place in the other direction. Being in this mess, I get the feeling that it could take a long time before everything turns out normal again in Bangkok and Thailand.

Your experience

Did you ever ended up in a place where there was a lot of tension? How did you feel while being in such a place?  Leave your interesting responses in the comments section below