Tucked on the edge of Chinatown and just a stones throw from the Chao Praya River, Hua Lampong Station – Bangkok’s Central State Railway stop – is a heady mix of contradictions. Outside the din of tuk-tuks. taxis. bikes and cars all vying for an inch of road space is deafening, while inside, underneath the ornate glass domed ceilings, the feeling is no less chaotic. Across 12 platforms, trains lurch in and out, passengers rush to and fro as announcements blare incessantly from overhead loud speakers. Yet amongst this, if you stop for a moment to look, there are scenes of almost poetic tranquility. Dishevelled young lovers, slumped across luggage, taking a nap, a young mother, seated on a sheet of plastic, breastfeeding her baby, an elderly man, his shoes tied together with string, quietly smoking. Everywhere, an infinite number of stories.
I meet Nui, 54, at the far end of the station, at Platform No.12. A hairdresser by trade and an established hairdressing teacher, she is here every Thursday and Friday with her students from a local training college offering free haircuts to travellers, locals and railway workers.
“The best part of working down here is the diversity of people you meet. Nui tells me. “Every day is different. You rarely see the same person twice. It’s so much more interesting than just working in a salon”.