Travelling between Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, and Chiang Mai, it’s second city is easy. You can fly, you can take an overnight bus, you can get a private transfer or, like us, you can catch the night train. It was inevitable that I would be on the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Why Did we Pick the Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
I mean come on, you know that I love a night train. Sure I get a terrible night’s sleep but it’s not really about that. I still find it all terribly exciting and romantic. I suppose there were some practical reasons too. Flying was out of our budget. £15 a day isn’t going to get you on an hour’s flight, let alone to and from the airports.
Getting the bus was cheaper but I am not a huge fan of overnight buses. You get next to no sleep, and it isn’t a particularly safe way to travel. Buses crash and people die…no joke.
Buying Our Tickets
Back in the good/bad old days, the Green House on Rambuttri Alley was the most reliable travel agent around the Khan San Road area. It was from here that we got our tickets. They added a very small commission but knowing it was sorted was reassuring.
We opted for one one top, and one bottom bunk. I was a little confused as to why the top bunk was cheaper. It seemed to me that you would be disturbed less and get a better night’s sleep but I soon found out why.
Catching the Train
We caught a cab to Hua Lamphong station. It is quite a way from Khan San Road, the area we had been staying in so there was very little option.
The signs were clear and there were a few staff around to point us in the right direction so we boarded the train quickly and with very little fuss.
Reaching the bunks we saw why one price point was higher than the other. The top bunk was about a third thinner than the bottom. You literally got what you paid for. Pay more, more mattress! I also quickly discovered as I scrambled up with my bag that the air-conditioning dispensed right into my bed and it was freezing! I quickly retreated downstairs to watch our fellow travellers settling onto their beds.
Chatter broke out amongst all our carriage-mates quickly and we soon settled down to screaming happy chats. People cracked open their beers and a pack of UNO emerged…ah UNO the universal language.
And speaking of universal languages, as we conversed with these travellers from all over the world, I got a whole new appreciation for just how much of the world has endeavoured to learn English. We were talking (with varying degrees of success) with people from Spain, France, Brazil, Japan and Germany. We travelled all over South-East Asia and didn’t ever struggle to communicate. Anyone and everyone involved in the travel experience here speaks English and on this train we realised that the travellers had to speak English too. That’s hard work!
Bedding is provided on these trains and so it is easy to climb into bed when lively conversation has died down and you have all brushed your teeth with bottled water. I climbed back up to my ice-cube bed to get some shut eye. I was so very cold and a guard walked past and took pity on me. He helped me stuff the air conditioning vents. It was still a bit chilly but at least I wasn’t buffeted by an arctic wind all night.
The bed was pretty comfortable, but it took a little while to get used to the movement of the train. Unlike most trains that we have taken, the beds run parallel to the train. That means you are not rocked from side to side, but bump between your head and feet, a slightly less natural feeling.
After a night of patchy sleep, the carriage started to awaken. People emerged from behind their green curtains, yawning, stretching and rummaging in their backpacks. I shakily descended to sit on Karl’s warm, big bed…I wasn’t even slightly jealous….OK, I hated him for a while. We sat and chatted watching the world slip by.
A little while later, the train guards came to change the carriage into day mode. The bedding was all shut away by folding the top bed up against the wall. The bottom bottom was converted into two large seats that face each other.
Just an hour later, the train pulled into Chiang Mai and we all spilled out into the bright Thai sunshine, ready to see what Chiang Mai had to show us.
If you are thinking of taking the train, read a professional’s round up of the journey including times, prices and all the info you need to book online in advance…no more praying that the Green house does it properly. Head on over to the man in seat 61 and tell him I sent you!
I always enjoy it, even if I look tired and miserable, I am loving life inside when I am on a train. I save money on a night’s accommodation, get where I need to go and it is always a fun adventure. Apparently there is now a shiny new sleeper train that began to run in 2017. The carriages haven’t changed but it is now electrified so quieter and smoother than its counterpart. A good excuse to go and explore Chiang Rai and surrounding areas me thinks!? Well, I didn’t see it last time round.