Bangkok to Chiang Mai- Train Number 1. First Class. Dep: 1830. Arr: 0815
There are many ways to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai; flying, driving and a frequent bus services. Being a railway geek, I was determined to add another Thai train trip to my collection.
There are four main train lines in Thailand:
- The Northern route to Chiang Mai (today’s trip)
- The Northeastern route which breaks into two branches
- The Eastern route to the Cambodian border which we took last December
- The Southern route into Malaysia
For some inexplicable reason, State Railways of Thailand shut down their online booking tool last year! Apparently travel agents were upset they were missing out on commission. When we contacted the railway company, they told us that all tickets for the service we wanted had already been sold. We then contacted HIS Travel, who provide travel services for incoming tourists, mostly Japanese. They had plenty of tickets available for the service we wanted. Not a very friendly way of booking!
There are five trains a day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Two leave during daylight hours and three at night. They all take about 12 hours to cover the approximate 700 km (420 mile) distance.
Fares are sold by class:
- First Class aircon sleeper: approx $US48 – two bunks in a small room
- Second class aircon sleeper approx $US29- open plan cars, with sleeping bunks on both sides of the aisle.
- Second class seat $US20
- Second class seat, non aircon $US14
- Third class seat, non aircon $US9
We splashed out for First Class!
UPDATE as of Jnauray 2017: SRT now sells tickets online again
Check -in: 7/10
Our train, like most other long distance trains, operated from Bangkok’s magnificent 98 year old Hualamphong station, also known as Krungthep Station.
When we arrived at the station 30 minutes before departure time, we found just two carriages of the train on the platform. The rest of the train was nowhere to be seen. Turns out one of the carriages had “broken down”. It was being fixed. Twenty minutes after departure time, the rest of the train arrived and joined the two lost carriages.
One of the two cars waiting at the platform was our first class car which a train employee welcomed us on board. There was a steep climb from the low platform. This means you should travel light or have someone else carrying your bags! Welcome from the train staff was a little perfunctory.
On Board: 9/10
UPDATE Nov, 2016: SRT has deployed beautiful Chinese made trains in this route
Our spotlessly clean compartment was surprisingly roomy. Consisting of a seat for two people, basin and plenty of luggage space, it was a very comfortable private spot. While we were eating dinner, the attendant folded the seats into two beds with crisp white sheets. The lower bunk is wider than the top.
There were attendants moving through the train to make up the beds in the second class carriages. There was lots of cheerful camaraderie between tourists and staff.
Thanks to rail works last year, the ride was very smooth. It was easy to be lulled asleep by the train.
The first opportunity to be entertained was to look out the window at the passing scenery. Bring your own book sand games.
On board, a carriage attendant offered to bring meals to us in our suite (for a small commission). We chose instead to make way to the restaurant car where we enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner while rocking through then darkened countryside.
We rolled into Chiang Mai right on time!
My rating: 82% (4 out of 5).
Positives: meal, bed, atmosphere
Negatives: Booking system.