My rail attendant for the evening. A career for 3 years, he’s the youngest of 3 siblings in the line of work.
When it comes to hospitality and service, the Thai certainly know how to do it right!
There are many ways to travel Thailand, such I’ve made it my mission to move and shake it around Thailand in many ways I can. River boat, to scooter, motorbike taxi, Skytrain, metro…. I’ve enjoyed them all. But my favorite transport by far, is the Thai sleeper train.
Chiang Mai to Bangkok and back is my favorite route. 14 hours. Not a killer, but it might make some gasp.
The luxury of taking the Bangkok-Chiang Mai overnight train
Train travel may seem as standard across the globe to some, but after experiencing India’s sleeper trains and Laos’s overnight seater train, the Thai sleeper service reminds you of a service you might get in first class on an airplane.
When you first arrive, your train compartment houses an ordinary seater- two seat births facing each other. I booked the 2nd class A.C. sleeper bunk, so my compartment sat only two peopl- myself and another person. That meant I had my seat all to myself.
1. Buying a meal on the train
But when dinner time rolls around, the steward or train attendant comes around and sets up a table. You have the choice of eating at your seat or in the dining car.
You can buy a dinner meal from a menu of two or three options. The food is inexpensive and a better than what you’d get fed on a plane. Even seems healthier.
Train Dining Car
I ordered a tofu and veggie dish and it came with lemon grass soup, a
vegetable side salad dish, rice and fruits.
2. Your seat transforms into a comfortable bed.
After your dinner has had time to settle and you agree with the other person in your compartment about bed time, the attendant arrives again to make your bed. Out comes a curtain and a pillow. Freshly laundered white sheets get removed from a sealed package, along with a clean blanket.
Now what may make travel geeks like me excited is watching the attendant make the bed. They are quick, slick and each practices a method that makes them able to set up and break down a bed in about, a minute or under. It’s like watching a Thai magic trick.
Video of the bed being prepared.
3. The comfort of a good night’s sleep
Although I’m a heavy sleeper, I normally get cold when there’s AC. But the trains I’ve been on are pleasant.
The bed is spacious, firm and private. You get your own nightlight and pouch to hold water, a shelf to rest a bag or book.
The car is readied for sleeping.
Voila! My bed.
4. The price of train travel is cheap, considering you’re getting a bed and transportation in one low price.
The beauty of taking an overnight train in Thailand is that it costs less than a hotel or a plane flight and the quality you’ll receive will be about the same. You won’t lost much sightseeing time and if you’ve never ridden a Thai overnight train before, I’d consider it– the experience alone is a sightseeing experience in itself! The Thai are known for their hospitality and pampering. This is good luxury for a train. Just look at some of the other trains I’ve been on (India, Laos, Vietnam)
What I’d recommend: I booked the 2nd class A.C. sleeper and the bottom bunk so I paid around $25. My travel time to Chiangmai was about 14 hours.
But there are several options and times available. If you want 1st class and your own private compartment, that would be around $40. There’s also cheaper options such as overnight seaters in non-a.c. cars and that can run from $8-14. So there’s options for everyone.
The downside of train travel on a Thai overnight train
For the most part, in the 1st and 2nd class sleepers, the service can feel pretty flawless. However, like most train travel in non-western countries…
- Toilets occasionally smell
The good news is that they have generally have both, a western toilet and squat toilet. But here’s my trick with Thai western toilets. They come equipped with a power hose to shoot your bum after you use the bathroom. I use the hose to hose down the seat and the floor before I use the toilet.
- No running water in the toilet/bathroom sink
Tip: You’ll need to take hand sanitizer to wash your hands or wait until you get outside to the community sink (pictured below)
- You shouldn’t drink the train water
Tip: Take a bottle of water with you to brush your teeth and baby wipes for your shower.
- You don’t get to see the landscape as you pass by.
- Well, actually, you can see some landscape if either, you leave before the sun sets or wake up when the sun rises. Then again, if you were traveling on a plane, you’d not see anything at all.
- No light snacks are sold
Tip: Before you get to the train station, do your snack shopping at a grocery store. If worse comes to worst, go to the dining car and see what they sell to snack on.
Getting There from Bangkok:
Start Location: Hua Lampong Train Station (the last stop on MRT Subway line).
Fare: 2nd class A.C. sleeper around $25 , 1st class A.C. sleeper around $40
Times for the direct train (Bangkok to Chiang Mai)
Bangkok 6:10pm, 7:35pm, 10:00pm
Chiang Mai: 8:15am, 9:55 am, 1:05pm