Train travel is potentially one of the best forms of transport: there’s no fear of take-offs and landings, you are able to see the scenery, and often you get more of a ‘real’, local experience. If travelling to from Chiang Mai to Bangkok I thoroughly recommend getting the train, and the following should fill you in on all that you need to know.
There are night trains and day trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages: the day train allows you to experience the scenery en route, however you will have to pay an extra nights accommodation in Bangkok. On the other hand, the night train saves you the accommodation cost, however your view is limited. We opted for the night train, as I had never got a sleeper before and really wanted to try it.
There are several trains per day, and the last is at 18.00pm.
This is the train that we got. We arrived at the train station at about 5.20pm (the songteaw driver told us it would take an hour but it took 20 minutes, so please consider traffic!), that gave us time to grab some snacks from the shop inside the station. Our 18.00pm train arrived into Bangkok at about 6.50am, and we were fortunate enough that our hotel allowed us early check in!
Food is available on the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
Whilst the train is waiting at the station, and throughout the first half an hour of the journey, the caterers of the train will pass through the carriages with menus. They offer slightly overpriced (but decent) ‘sets’ of Thai food. I got a set of sweet and sour chicken with rice, yellow curry pork, soup, and a banana for 190 baht. It came within the first hour or so of the journey, and was what you would expect on a train in Thailand.
If you’re over 6’ tall, you will struggle.
My poor boyfriend stands at 6’2”, which proved to be a slight issue once they folded down the beds in our cabin. Obviously, the trains are designed with Thai people in mind, so those of a tall stature will have to bend at the knees to lie down. Regardless of this, he had a much better sleep than I did as he was on the bottom bunk…
The bottom bunk is better than the top bunk.
And more expensive, but if you have that 150 baht (or so) to spare, it’s worth it. It’s wider so more spacious, there’s less chance that you will plummet to an unfortunate landing, and it’s much darker as the curtain from the bunk above blocks the lighting coming through the gaps around your curtain rail. This is a huge issue for me, as I cannot sleep in artificial lighting at all, and the positioning of the carriage lights have not been designed well around the curtains of the upper bunk.
The top bunk is cheaper, and OK if you are small.
The light was irritating because of the gaps around the curtain rail (not an issue for bottom bunkers), and it was thinner than the bottom bunk, but as I am only 5’1”, I was actually OK. I wasn’t expecting much from these beds at all, but slept deeply (albeit intermittently). If there is one thing that I could recommend, it would be to take an eye mask to block out the pesky light.
There are cleaning facilities.
We committed to the full traveller experience (and had forgotten to leave our toothbrush in an accessible location), but had we been slightly more prepared we would have been able to wash-up just fine. There are sinks with flowing water and mirrors that other passengers used to brush their teeth and wash their faces. You might need to bring a towel though, as there is only one sad looking cloth to dry everybody in your carriage.
Luggage space is restricted.
If you’re moving your entire life from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, consider moving up a class. We had quite a few bags, and there was not any space for them. We managed to stow our back-packs under the seats, however the suitcases were either left blocking the aisle, or moved out of our sight.
Have you ever caught the train in Thailand? What was your experience like? Did you have to deal with the super grumpy frog-lady who works on the train (she hated me)? I can’t wait to experience more train travel in other countries, so if you have any recommendations or tips yourself, let me know!