Last month, I travelled by train, the 1,500 km (900 miles) km from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia to Bangkok, the Capital of Thailand. Stopping off along the way, the six train trips took 25 hours 35 minutes and it cost me $US72.
The longest section (by time) was from Surat Thani, the jumping off place for beautiful Koh Samui up to the lovely resort town of Hua Hin. I chose to ride this section in a brand new Chinese-built First Class sleeping car.
Scheduled Departure: 23:57 Arrival: 06:26 – 6 hour 29 min ride
Total distance: 300 miles / 1,671 km /
There are a number of overnight trains that ply the southern route between Hat Yai and Bangkok. Train 31 from Bangkok and train 32 to Bangkok are the ones running with brand new rolling stock.
Pricing for a sleeper is higher than for a seat on the same routes. On this train, there are first and second class sleepers. Note one of the carriages is a Ladies Only carriage.
SRT charge more for a lower bunk than an upper bunk. An upper berth in Second class costs $US18.82 and a lower berth in First Class, which is what I booked, costs $33.96. This train trip cost me almost half of what I paid for my total Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok trip! You can book a First Class sleeping cabin just for yourself if you wish to as well. That would have cost me $US59.35
Tickets are emailed seconds after booking. Note: they must be printed. Staff, apparently, won’t accept a mobile phone copy (although I suspect at midnight on a rocking train, you probably would get away with it). My hotel kindly printed it for me for no charge.
The train was twenty minutes late arriving at fifteen minutes past midnight. As there is not much to do at Surat Thani station at that time that was an annoyance. (There is a 24/7 convenience store opposite the station).
I had a brief conversation while waiting, with a very drunk Canadian and his slightly less drunk Russian girlfriend. Living in Moscow, they were travelling through Thailand to get away from the Russian cold. We swapped stories of what its like being in an intercultural couple and living in your partner’s home city. The conversation was interrupted when they became very amorous leaving me with a very clear message of what they were going to be doing when they got into their sleeping carriage!
Shortly before the train arrived, staff rang a large bell and fanned out to help passengers stand at the right location to quickly board their carriage. There were six of us including the drunk Canadian/Russian couple who staggered up to the train door of car two.
We were welcomed by the train guard who quikcly shipped us off to our cabins. It turned out, I would have my sleeping compartent to myself!
On Board: 10/10
On this trip, I had ridden the brand new Malaysian High-speed Express Trains, some very adequate Thai second class trains and a Thai third class carriage. Nothing prepared me for the brand new Chinese-built sleeping carriage.
A gleaming spotless corridor led to compact, cabins with small high-tech details that would put many other rail systems in the world to shame! (Take note NSW Rail Link in Australia).
There are security cameras located through the train. I am not sure who monitors them but it made me feel a little safer. (Not that I felt unsafe).
Each cabin had TV screen, two bunk beds (which fold into seats when not being used as beds), wash basin, small cabin, water bottle storage space, power outlets, large curtained windows and a good amount of floor space.
I was very comfortable in the bed having travelled through Asia a lot now. But it is hard and many Westerners will be in for a shock. I was tempted to place the other mattress under my mattress to increase the thickness!
Lavatories and a shower are located at the far end of the carriage. They were spotless.
Each bed and seat in First Class has access to a built-in screen with comprehensive information about the train plus videos and music. The same screens are scattered through Second Class.
The system even shows when the showers and lavatories are being occupied. Unfortunately, I was so tired and it was so late, I didn’t have a play with the entertainment system. Instead, I fell asleep ten minutes after getting into my bed and woke up not longe before Hua Hin.
Apparently, you can order food and non-alcoholic beverages via the “knife and fork symbol” on the right hand side of the screen.
There is wifi on board in the restaurant car but not throughout the train. Why? There are power outlets to recharge devices.
I did not eat on board. Meals in the Dining Car are provided by 7/11. For anyone who has experienced an Asian 7/11, this means a great range of local delights! Water (unfortunately in plastic bottles) was supplied in each cabin and in the dining car.
Food sellers meet the train at each station. Often you can buy a food that is specific to the region you are passing through. It is extraordinary how quickly a seller can collect cash and give food, eating utensils and change to you during a station stop! On some trains, some sellers come through the trains with their goods. I have seen them jump off the train with a timing that seems split second laden with trays!
After a pretty much uninterrupted sleep, I woke at 6:02am. Glancing at the screen, I found I was still a fair way from HuaHin so stayed in bed relaxing and watching the scenery until around 6:49am. I could have had a shower in the 40 minutes but eschewed that. I opened my door as we approached Hua Hin which made the train conductor very happy as he could see I was awake and ready to hop off the train. No doubt there are times when waking the passengers is a little tricky! We pulled into the beautiful station at around 7:10, 44 minutes late.
The entire train was so long that it did not fit on the platform. Those in the front few carriages were helped off the train onto the neighbouring tracks and we walked back to the platforms!
I farewelled the train which stopped for only four or so minutes.
I admired the station for a little bit as the station buildings are a tourist attraction in its own right!
Having done that, I then had walked through the small crowd of tuk tuk and taxi operators and walked the three blocks to my hotel feeling refreshed and alive! I stopped at a street stall for a delicious congee porridge breakfast (for US86cents).
Then popped into a coffee shop for coffee and some writing before checking in at my hotel and finding myself at pool and beach!
My Rating: 79% (3.95 out of 5).
About SRT: The State Railway of Thailand is the government-owned rail monopoly in the kingdom of Thailand. It owns 4,070 km (2,530 mi) of track which are split into four lines: Northern, North Eastern, Eastern and Southern.
The network serves around 44 million passengers per year. The company has bought these 115 new Chinese-built carraiages which were deployed last September.
Positives: clean, comfrotable, quiet cabin
Negatives: Late, hard bed
Would I travel with them again? Yes. already booked another sleeper to travel to the Laos border in April.
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- Asia Rail Experience: Journey #1 – Kuala Lumpur to the Malay/Thai Border
- Bucket List Check: 900mi By Train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok