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March 23, 2012

Romance of the Rails – sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Hualamphong Station, Bankok

After easily hopping on and off boats, bikes, utes and vans down the coast, and witnessing the prowess of Bangkok’s public transport systems firsthand, we were keen to add to our transport repertoire and test out what else was on offer. Next an old favourite – the sleeper train!

To venture north to Chiang Mai you can go slow (bus), medium (train) or fast (plane or on the back of an eagle). We opted for medium speed and took the train. The trip takes about 14 hours, so although regular trains are available, the sleeper is the way to go if you want to take your time actually enjoy the trip and not rip your hair out or stab someone along the way.

Trains leave from Hualamphong station in the centre of Bangkok. As far as train stations go in Bangkok, Hualamphong is the big man on campus, with trains leaving for all over the region nearly 24 hours a day.

Hualamphong Station, Bankok

Big man on campus- Hualampohong Train Station, Bangkok

 

This is also where you buy train tickets (surprise surprise). Before we could even step in the place to buy our tickets, we had a customer service rep politely ask us where we were going, when we wanted to go and which seats we’d like. We were then hauled to the ticket window where we promptly bought our tickets and sorted our journey in record time. No messing around. No scams. No nonsense. This is Thailand and this is transport. This is serious.

Leaving in the early evening, the sleeper train pulls out from the station and plods slowly through Bangkok and it’s sprawling suburbs. For this part of the journey you can sit up and relax (cushioned bench seats for 2 face both forwards and backwards), play cards or snack off the tiny table or move about the carriage. I’d recommend trying to get a seat/bunk away from the toilet spot in between carriages because we had to constantly get up and close the door to drown out the squeaking from the carriage connectors and stop the wee-smell from the toilet seeping in…

 

Snack Time

Snack time- the most important part of any journey.

After a while a guard will come down and make up your bunk beds with fresh starched sheets and a blanky (and probably tuck you in if you ask nicely). Don’t be fooled by the presence of the blanky – the aircon is pumping so a blanket is a must, if not a jumper as well. And pants. And socks. And mittens. And a skivvy.

There are always stories going around about people going through your bags and stuff being pinched while you’re asleep. Personally I think if you’re travelling around with your bags unlocked, you’re pretty much asking for it these days. Keep your chedder locked up or safe with you in your bunk and you’ll be a-okay.

Ryan Sleeping on Sleeper Train

View from the top (bunk)

Sleeper trains are another example of Thais just kicking ass when it comes to transport. They are clean, cheap, comfortable and a relaxing way to travel (by train, not by Thai person).  Hooray for sleeper trains! Ten gold stars.

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