It’s 9am and a woman wearing an apron is leaning over me yelling in Thai, waking me up from a nap with an urgency no alarm clock could match. I’m panicked, not sure for a moment where I am, or what I did wrong, or maybe if I’m covered in spiders (millions of spiders?!) until I notice she’s hawking food — a tray of a dozen small, folded banana leaf bowls full of shrimp, fried noodles, and a few indiscernible vegetables — and I’m not about to die. There are zero spiders.

“Mai,” I manage to grunt as I squint my eyes in the morning sun, one of the few Thai words I have on the tip of my tongue. No thank you, my eyes say. And also, maybe don’t wake up a belleagured traveler by yelling in his face next time if you want him to buy your stuff? I collect my bearings.

The train is stopped in Nong Pladuk Junction. Steamy air fills the rail car. Nong Pladuk is the starting station of the infamous Thai-Burma railway, more commonly known as “Death Railway.” It stretches from here to Nanchanaburi, the town a few hours down the road from which I am returning to Bangkok. Nearly one-hundred thousand prisoners of war and forced laborers had their lives forfeited to the construction of the Thai-Burma back in the 1940s. It’s a dark place to wake up to on a sunny Monday morning. It plucks at the melancholy I’m feeling in my heart.Keep Reading