By far one of the most popular ways to travel between Bangkok and Northern Thailand is by train! After 3 hectic and exciting days exploring Bangkok, we decided to jump on the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai. After heeding some well sourced advice, we booked our tickets a couple of days in advance at Hua Lamphong train station. Even though we were travelling in low season we are glad we didn’t leave it too late as the train was pretty full when we boarded.
Don’t forget to take your passport along with you as it will be required, along with the sum of 780 baht (low season price for upper bunk in second class). We had a couple of options. Of course there is first class, still not expensive in terms of overnight train journeys but gave you your own private cubicle with a fold out bunk bed and small wash basin. The next option, which is the most popular and the one we went for was second class. Depending upon the train you get will depend on how second class is laid out. Our outbound leg provided us with quartered off open cabins with bunk beds either side. You share this little area with 3 people (four in total) which is a great way to meet the locals. Your final option which costs pennies but I would not recommend is third class. A seat. For 15+ hours. No thanks.
Another thing to note when purchasing your tickets at Hua Lamphong is to be aware of scammers who may try and stop you in your tracks before you even make it into the station. Telling you all sorts about where to go and purchase your ticket. Politely decline and make your own way to the official ticket desks.
Make sure you get to the station AT LEAST 15 minutes early. The walk down the platform can take a while as most don’t realise just how long the train is, so you don’t want to be running at the last minute!
Once you jump aboard you are ready for your journey along the Thai rails! A lovely lady will normally meet you along the carriage and show you to your seat. She will also hand you a menu to select your meals. A piece of advice; take food with you. Do not even attempt the food they are offering. After days of eating delicious dishes from the streets of Bangkok you will be mortified to pay four times the amount for slop.
Not long after the train pulls away a gentlemen comes along and makes up all the beds for you. Of course as the seats fold out into the beds, it means you have to get to bed straight away. But just make sure you have a good book or your laptop with some films loaded on to pass the time.
Then just lie back and relax and feel yourself drift to sleep to the sound of bumpy rails and Thai chatter (It’s not too bad, I promise!)
Come sunrise, make sure you get yourself up to watch the train wind through the hillsides of Northern Thailand. It’s a beautiful way to wake up and really gets you excited about reaching your destination!
When it came to safety, on the nicer of the two trains, where we were sharing a section with another couple, we stored our luggage above the door way near the top bunks. The train we had coming back, the luggage was left in the containers randomly and I pulled my possessions out such as passport, purse and laptop and slept with them in the my bed. This may have been me being over conscious however, it’s not unknown for people to have things stolen on trains in Thailand.
When it comes time to disembark at Chiang Mai the only problem you may have is that you suddenly realise; you never want to leave such a beautiful place!
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