Friday 25 March 2016

Paradise on a Night Train

After a harrowing morning we were elated to get tickets on the KTM night train!

In a gift of grace we got tickets on the train we always wanted - the night train from JB to Hat Yai! The time was only 9am and we had until 5pm - the whole day to have fun together in JB Sentral. So we made our way into the mall, up past the Koi Ponds to buy movie tickets. 

Today would be the first time for Ethan and I to watch a movie in the cinema together. As it was the beginning of school holidays we had 2 movies to choose from: Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia. So Daddy didn't choose, we watched both! Zootopia was excellent and we had so much fun scoffing popcorn together. We are looking forward to show to movie to Talia cos she will love all the animals!

In between movies we found a nice Japanese cafe. Still overflowing with happiness and gratitude, I cold not resist buying Ehan a green tea cake while he did his homework. 

Meanwhile, across the Causeway the girls were having fun at a Cat's Cafe!

Us boys preferred trains and nasi lemak! Well, we also bought 2 pairs of jeans  for Ethan and snacks for the trip. The 5pm train was delayed for a long time. In fact it only left at 8pm, but I didn't mind because I was just so happy to be able to ride it! Ethan said maybe I prayed for the wrong train to be late! 

Finally, we were allowed to board! This was the first time Daddy used my trailer on a train trip cos we were carrying lots of stuff for the missions trip to Thailand!

We settled into our beds and unpacked our drinks and nasi lemak. Ethan always look forwards to nasi lemak on the train! This time I had bought a "branded meal" as the restaurant was the only place I could find nasi lemak! But the packaging and quality was excellent, making it worth every ringgit!

We bedded down for the night, supremely thankful to God for our trip. My Hotlink SIM card was working excellently so I messaged the girls and kept them updated. 

The next morning we got up early. Ethan was elated to still have more than 6 hours on the train even after waking up! We visited the restaurant car to enjoy coffee, Milo and the buns we bought the night before. 

Ethan is so happy on a long distance train, doubly happy on a night train, and quadruply happy to be with Daddy. I had also planned to tell him something special, so we went back to our beds after breakfast and closed the curtains for some privacy. 

Ethan had asked me some months ago for further details about where babies come from. "But how do they get into the mummy's tummy?" he queried. I had always wanted to be the first one to tell him, not read it in a book or from school, or from a giggling older boy. So I told him about a boys and girls private parts, how babies are made, and how God designed sex this way for when we get married! He was stunned! His reaction was similar to last year when he found out that Mummy and Daddy were both the tooth fairy and Santa Claus!

He did say that he thought the news was "a little disgusting" because though Daddy told him he would like girls one day, he doesn't like them yet! 

Ethan settled into his travelling bed and made himself comfortable. He loves watching the views, and now reading his Kindle. I loaded a few "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books on it which he enjoys immensely. 

Watching him take in the views, enjoy the train, and seeing that precious smile spread across his face is all the reward I need to begin planning the next trip with Ethan even before this one is over. He is old enough now to turn to me every now and then, clasp me in a warm hug and say, "Thank you for bringing me on this trip Daddy."

Snacks are of course a wonderful part of any train journey! Mummy had packed delicious rice crackers and green tea Pocky for her boys. 

We finally arrived at the border town of Padang Besar. We didn't know what to expect as this was our first time crossing the Malaysia-Thailand border over land. 

We saw many interesting trains, Thai carriages and engines. 

We left our luggage on the KTM car and took our passports and valuables for immigration clearance. 

The train trundled off to refuel while we stood in line first for Malaysia immigration then for Thai immigration, all in the same building on the Malaysia side of the border. It was very convenient!

I taught Ethan how to fill up his Thailand immigration form, then the friendly staffed informed us that the train would take 30min to come back and there was a cafe upstairs where we we could get a drink. 

Daddy had an excellent tea and we shared some delicious french fries. These  really hit the spot and kept us happy while we excitedly waited for our train to return. 

There wasn't a whole lot of people crossing the border on the train. In fact when the train came back it only retained one seating car and one sleeping car. The rest of the cars would not go into Thailand. 

We reboarded the train and it quickly left the station. Without fanfare, after the past 20 hours, it smoothly crossed the invisible border and all street signs morphed into Thai. It would be another hour until we arrived in Hat Yai so Ethan cuddled into his bed to enjoy it for a few more precious minutes. 

Finally we made it! As always, Ethan was excited to arrive but not sick of the long train ride. "Was it too long for you Ethan?" I ask playfully. "Of course not Daddy!" he laughs. 

We crossed a few tracks and snapped a few pictures. Train buffs always take pictures before getting on and after getting off their train!

Hat Yai station was very nice and much less hectic than Bangkok! The time table here showed the next night trains running to Bangkok and on to Chiang Mai. Ethan gleefully wanted to take that the next time! 

Connected to the station was "The Train Hotel" where you could stay the night if you were transferring to another train soon. Guess who wanted to stay there? They conveniently sold 299THB data and mobile phone SIMs which got me connected immediately. 

Just outside the train station was the cutest little train engine on display. Ethan stared at it for an eternity while I got my bearings. We began walking to our hotel, bypassing all the Tuk Tuk touts. I was so pleased with my superb Burley Travoy trailer!

We checked into the hotel that I am so familiar with, and basked in the cool aircon and comfortable bed. Ethan enjoyed a relaxed poo (and read his Kindle) while I went back outside to buy lunch to eat in our hotel room. The big windows on the 14th floor displayed an unbroken view of Hat Yai. "Daddy look! You can see the train station from here." 

Sometime in the quiet of the night that week, a train horn would sound in the faint distance. A little boy would spring from his bed and clamour to the window. His dreams are filled with the next train adventure with his Dad, and his Daddy's dreams are filled with thankful memories with his son. 

Grace and a Missed Train

Two weeks ago Ethan and I had a grand adventure like this. We were going to take an early morning KTM train from Johor all the way to Thailand for the Sawa mission trip, but we were late! We ran through the Singapore checkpoint, sat nervously on a bus in a Causeway traffic jam, waited in a long queue of people at immigration, and ran to the train platform in Johor. We were supposed to meet the rest of the missions team the next day in Thailand, and if we missed the train we were in trouble. Both of us were very worried but we prayed to God and said, Jesus please help us! Make something wrong with the train so it won’t leave on time! If we miss the train, please show us some other way!

We ran panting and sweaty and arrived at the station, but they said – the train left 10 minutes ago! We were so sad. I went to the ticket counter to ask about the 5pm train. “Is there any seats on the night train to Thailand tonight? I knew that this was impossible. Because I had been checking weeks ago and all the tickets for the night train had been booked long ago. They are the most popular and always sell out first. But I just asked anyway and the lady said, “Two of you? This is your lucky day we have two sleeping beds on the night train available!”  “Yes, I’ll take it I said. But how is this possible I asked her?” She said, “I don’t know. Someone must have cancelled their tickets at the last minute!”

I bought the tickets and collapsed in the chair. We were going to be okay! We were saved from the mess we were in. For a long time we thanked God, and I told Ethan: “This is grace son. We don’t deserve the tickets on the night train. It was our fault that we missed the morning train, and there would be no way to ever get tickets on the night train – except that we did! And the people who decided not to go were kind enough to release their tickets. God gave these tickets to us. He didn’t have to, but he did!” 

Getting to a point of humility and receiving God’s grace can be a painful process. When I was late for that early morning train, running across the Causeway and looking at my watch there came a moment where I knew we were definitely going to be late and would in all probability miss our train. I had a little boy to take care of. I was hot and sweaty. I was frustrated and angry. It’s much easier to be angry at someone else rather than yourself! It’s always easiest to put the blame on those closest to us. So in my head I was struggling with putting blame on my wife! “If we had left the house a little faster, if she had been quicker etc. etc.” I was battling with these thoughts in my head because a part of me wanted to blame her, but another part knew it was neither right nor helpful to do so!

After some struggle I resolved it in my head. This was while Ethan and I were stuck in a bus in a traffic jam on the Causeway. I turned to him and said, “I am sorry Ethan, we may miss the train. It’s daddy’s fault. But we’re still together so let’s be thankful for that and let’s trust God for whatever happens.” There’s something healing and peaceful about settling in your heart that you will truly take responsibility for what is going wrong. The problem doesn’t go away, but you accept whatever happens and you are at peace. 

Jesus saved us! He showered us with abundant grace! That night, Ethan was in paradise, because for him, paradise is a bed on an overnight sleeper train with his Dad, on a ride that lasts for 20 hours! And that noisy, bumpy KTM train ride was better than any Shinkansen because we didn’t deserve it, but God gave us exactly what we needed.