Results 1 to 22 of 22
  1. #1
    Thailand Expat
    DrWilly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
    Last Online
    Today @ 07:16 AM
    Posts
    4,532

    I spent 13 hours in a first-class sleeper car on one of Thailand's longest train ride

    I spent 13 hours in a first-class sleeper car on one of Thailand's longest train rides, and it turned out to be a total letdown



    On a reporting trip to Thailand in late July, I traveled on the Special Express 14, a train journey that starts from the northern province of Chiang Mai and ends in the capital city of Bangkok. It was my first-ever overnight train trip.



    Railway line from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThe railway route between Chiang Mai and Bangkok spans 467 miles, making it one of the longest in Thailand. The journey has a reputation among backpackers as a "must-try experience" in Thailand, being described as "lovely" and "a lifetime adventure for Westerners."
    Despite having visited Thailand several times in the past few years, I've never taken the cross-country train. I was enticed by the trip's great reviews, so I decided to try it out for myself.



    The Special Express 14 takes around 13 hours and 16 minutes to reach Bangkok. It traverses nine provinces and 18 train stations.



    The train route from Chiang Mai Railway Station to Bangkok Railway Station. Google MapsThere are a few other train routes as well — the fastest route takes approximately 13 hours, while the longest can take up to 18 and a half hours.




    I arrived at Chiang Mai Railway Station at 3 p.m., around two hours before departure. I had spent three days in the province for the first leg of my reporting trip to Thailand.



    Chiang Mai Railway Station. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderChiang Mai is home to more than 1 million people. The province is best known for its mountainous terrain, cool weather, and unique cuisine.




    I booked a first-class cabin with two bunk beds for 2,906 baht, or around $81, on the official Thai Railway website.



    VIP first class lounge at Chiang Mai Railway Station. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderFor a better price and more accurate information, I'd recommend using the official Thai Railway website for your booking needs. I initially paid $30 more when I booked through a third-party website.Booking through the official site also allowed me to print my own ticket at home.
    First-class tickets also come with access to the VIP lounge, however, it was still not in service during my trip as Thailand had just fullyopened up on July 1.




    Other amenities like the food court was also closed. I had lunch at a local restaurant near the entrance of the train station instead.



    Closed food stalls at Chiang Mai Railway Station. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderMost eateries in and around the train station, like roadside hawkers and family-owned restaurants, serve Thai food.




    I had heard from locals that the train didn't serve food on board because of Covid-19 restrictions, so I made my way to the local 7-11. I bought a ready-to-eat meal, chips, drinks, a pack of gum, a bottle of water, and some local desserts.



    Some of the food I got from the local 7-11. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI usually have breakfast, dinner, and supper, and it turned out to be a huge mistake not to take along more substantial meals. The snacks didn't do much to quell my hunger. I ended up wishing I had bought some local food from the roadside hawkers to bring on board.
    I waited at a nearby cafe as the train station wasn't air-conditioned and it was 93 degrees Fahrenheit in Chiang Mai. With 52% humidity, it felt closer to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Apple's weather app.




    Passengers began boarding at around 4.30 p.m. Tourists occupied most of the first-class cabins, while local students took up many second-class seats. I only saw a handful of people in the third-class sections, which were the only passenger cars that were not air-conditioned.



    For my week-long trip to Thailand, I only brought along a small carry-on and a foldable tote. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderAs I had never traveled on a rail train before, I was surprised at how much heat the vehicle emitted. It was uncomfortable for me to take photographs of the train's exterior, or even stand next to it.
    I travel as light as I can during reporting trips, especially when I cover the backpacking beat, but other passengers brought along many of their belongings which they stowed in the train's luggage compartment.





    There were 12 first-class cabins, all located in the train's second car.



    The corridor along first-class in Special Express 14. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThe aisle was narrow and could barely fit my carry-on luggage.
    Nonetheless, my first impression of the train was positive — it was clean, it was quiet on board, and the temperature of the air-conditioning was just right.




    I'm only 5'1" and the cabin was just big enough for me. There were minimal amenities on board: a convertible leather seat/bed, pillows, and a wash basin.



    Me in my cabin for the night. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThere was little space to stow my luggage, so I was glad I didn't bring much on board.



    There was also an electrical socket to charge my devices and a tiny wash basin.



    The amenities inside the cabin. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThe cabin had all of the basics for an overnight trip. But the dim light fixture (pictured above) was the only light source I had for the night, which meant that the cabin was poorly lit. It was difficult for me to read, write, or do any activities that didn't involve my electronic devices.




    The seat could be converted into a double bunk bed. A staff member set up the beds at around 6 p.m., which meant there was even less space in the cabin. I ended up stowing my bags on the upper bunk.



    The bed after it's been set up by the staff. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderSince I wanted complete privacy, I booked the entire cabin. Unlike Amtrak's private rooms, my cabin didn't come with an en-suite bathroom.
    I could feel every jerk and jolt the train made and hear its horn honking throughout the night, but I still ended up sleeping just fine because the bed was cozy and comfortable enough. I preferred sleeping on the lower bunk as it shielded me from the dull cabin light.



    Since Chiang Mai goes dark at around 7 p.m., I only had two hours to enjoy the views outside before the sunset. The train ventured into Thailand's wilderness, where I saw an abundance of rice paddy fields.



    Rice paddy fields in northern Thailand. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderAccording to the Observatory for Economic Complexity (OEC), Thailand is the second-largest exporter of rice in the world, exporting around $3.88 billion worth of the grain in 2020. The country exported $726 million worth of rice to the US, making the US its number one export destination in the same year, per OEC.




    The train journeyed through rural towns in the north of the country, where houses peeked through dense foliage. It was a different side to Thailand, one that many tourists don't get to see.



    Homes in the middle of Thailand's jungle. Marielle Descalsota/Insider


    The train also meandered along winding rivers during golden hour — it was a stunning sight. After a brief stop at Nakhon Lamphang, the rest of the trip quickly slipped into darkness.



    A river along the rail track. Marielle Descalsota/Insider



    After eating dinner, I made my way to the bathroom at the back of the car to get ready for bed. But the toilets weren't the cleanest — I could smell the stench of urine even before opening the doors.



    Toilets on board. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderI found it too uncomfortable to shower on the fast-moving train right next to a foul-smelling squat commode, so I retreated to my cabin and washed up at the basin instead.




    I expected the train to stop at stations where there would be vendors selling trinkets and food, like on the Trans-Siberian Railway or even certain Amtrak routes, but many stations remained desolate throughout the night.



    A short stop at a province in Thailand. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderIt was also difficult to predict when the train would leave — while there are schedules online listing the train's departure time at each stop, these weren't always followed. Before the train reached Ayutthaya, the train would start chugging away after just a few minutes at a stop — sometimes without even sounding the horn.
    I took the risk and strolled around at one such stop and almost got left behind — it would have been near impossible for me to get back on track as the stations were in rural areas with little to no cell network or Wifi.





    As I had spent around 10 hours of the trip in darkness, and half of the time without Wifi, I decided to go to bed. I woke up at around 4.30 a.m. when we were already in Ayutthaya. It was a very different landscape from the countryside, with busy roads and temples located right next to modern buildings.



    The view outside at the break of dawn. Marielle Descalsota/Insider



    After crossing Pathum Thani, the train finally reached the outskirts of Bangkok. Instead of the picturesque cityscape tourists are used to, the train took me past some surprisingly squalid conditions.



    The part of Bangkok that's not commonly seen. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThe train crossed into towns with poorly-built houses and dilapidated buildings. According to documentary photographer Sam Gregg, parts of the state railway lines are located right inside some of Bangkok's biggest slums like Klong Toey.
    It reminded me of my birthplace — Manila, the capital city of the Philippines — where skyscrapers and slums coexist along sprawling highways.




    Right before reaching my final stop, Bangkok Railway Station or Hua Lamphong, a staff member put the bunk bed back into a seat again.



    Fixing the bunk beds before arrival in Hua Lamphong. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderHe told me that hot beverages like tea were served on board, but I had to pay a small fee. I decided to hold out until I reached my destination as I was craving a full local meal for breakfast.



    I finally arrived at Bangkok Railway Station at around 7 a.m. It was noisy and bustling — exactly how I remember one of my favorite cities in the world.



    Arrival in Hua Lamphong, or Bangkok Railway Station. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderBangkok is one of the world's top travel destinations with almost 40 million visitors in 2019, so it's no surprise that the station was packed with people. Some were waiting to board trains, while others were busy retrieving their heaps of luggage.




    While the Special Express 14 was certainly memorable, it's not a trip I'd do again. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that it's great for locals looking to travel to the capital city in a cost-effective manner.



    People disembarking from the train. Marielle Descalsota/InsiderThe journey wasn't as picturesque as I imagined, and without any food served on board, it was at times an uncomfortable experience. I found myself wishing the train would reach Bangkok sooner rather than later.
    But Special Express 14 isn't exactly a trip for tourists. Most locals opt for second-class tickets, which cost only around 770 baht, or $21, so it's a great way for them to travel especially if they're looking to avoid the additional baggage costs of flying.
    Overall, I'd say taking a day train trip across Thailand would be better for tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the country's provinces and natural landscapes. I'm glad to have tried the overnight journey once but in hindsight, it's not a trip worth going out of my way for.

    https://www.insider.com/sleeper-trai...tive-manner-21



  2. #2
    Thailand Expat
    Buckaroo Banzai's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Last Online
    27-09-2022 @ 12:19 PM
    Location
    My couch
    Posts
    3,928
    IMO , the only reason one would take a train , other than there are no other options, is to take in the country side,. and taking it overnight defeats that purpose.
    But nice article
    At first I thought, "Damn Dr Willy looks good" and "Sorry I was not nicer in this thread to Him/her" but then I realized these were not his pictures. So don't expect me in the future to be any nicer Willy boy.
    The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat misskit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Chiang Mai
    Posts
    42,114
    The second class sleepers are much more interesting and social than being cooped up alone in first class.

    Two people in first class really stinks.

  4. #4
    Guest Member S Landreth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    left of center
    Posts
    10,291
    Two notes........

    First, your pillow will come with a plastic cover. Save it, because you’ll need it later to stuff into the a/c vent cover when it gets late and very cold.

    Second, take the top bunk. Less bugs will be crawling on you during the evening.
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat

    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Last Online
    Yesterday @ 07:41 PM
    Posts
    1,146
    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post

    Two people in first class really stinks.
    One of my first train rides was a trip from Bangkok to Had Yai, first class. I booked a single ticket, thinking I was going to get the cabin to myself. We pulled out of Hualampong, and for a while, I was alone. At a stop about an hour outside of Bangkok, the door opened, and the biggest Thai dude I had/have ever seen, stood in the doorway. He was wearing military dress uniform, and from the look on his face, he fully expected me to move from my comfortable spot on the bottom bunk. He actually turned out to be a really nice guy.
    He was a helicopter pilot in the Thai Air Force, who spoke pretty good English. Turned out to be a pleasant journey.

  6. #6
    Chinese spy sabang's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Last Online
    Today @ 09:33 AM
    Location
    BackinOz
    Posts
    38,734
    I like catching the train- but I've never bothered with first class sleeper in Thailand. By the look of those fots 2nd class is fine- 1st class just not worth the extra. Not even a private loo?
    Anyway, I've done Bkk- Ubon several times, also Bkk- Butterworth & KL. When I lived in rural Ubon, one of my monotony breaking routines was to catch the slow train Ubon- Surin, and spend a weekend there. Strangely, never done Pattaya- Bkk though. Yet.

  7. #7
    Thailand Expat
    DrWilly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
    Last Online
    Today @ 07:16 AM
    Posts
    4,532
    Quote Originally Posted by Buckaroo Banzai View Post
    At first I thought, "Damn Dr Willy looks good" and "Sorry I was not nicer in this thread to Him/her" but then I realized these were not his pictures. So don't expect me in the future to be any nicer Willy boy.
    Sorry I was not more clear with the article.

    I have done this trip, and also the Bkk to Surat Thani.

    I like trains and train rides.

  8. #8
    Thailand Expat VocalNeal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Last Online
    27-09-2022 @ 04:10 PM
    Location
    The Kingdom of Lanna
    Posts
    12,576
    I spent 13hrs in a hotel room and woke up in exactly the same town. I am not really sure what her complaint is.

  9. #9
    Hangin' Around cyrille's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Home
    Posts
    28,059
    Her main complaint seems to be that you can't see the scenery at 4am and there aren't many people around.

  10. #10
    Thailand Expat
    YourDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Council flat. Thanks suckers!
    Posts
    4,393
    Wow what an interesting read

  11. #11
    Thailand Expat
    aging one's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Last Online
    @
    Posts
    21,483
    Quote Originally Posted by YourDaddy View Post
    Wow what an interesting read
    The thread is for people who enjoy travelling around Thailand. Not spending a night in a hotel in Bangkok or Pattaya for a thrill.

  12. #12
    Thailand Expat
    YourDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Council flat. Thanks suckers!
    Posts
    4,393
    Quote Originally Posted by aging one View Post
    The thread is for people who enjoy travelling around Thailand. Not spending a night in a hotel in Bangkok or Pattaya for a thrill.
    Oh ok....how interesting

  13. #13
    Nine
    hallelujah's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Last Online
    Yesterday @ 07:23 PM
    Posts
    9,535
    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    Sorry I was not more clear with the article.

    I have done this trip, and also the Bkk to Surat Thani.

    I like trains and train rides.
    Me too. I've done Bangkok to Chiang Mai/Chiang Mai to Bangkok a couple of times, but mostly I've done Bangkok to Nong Khai and Bangkok to Hat Yai or vice versa (I put a picture thread up a few years ago).

    It used to be lovely having a couple in the buffet car as the sun came down on the run down south, but it's not quite the same anymore sans beer.

    It's still a simple and cheap way to get where you wanna be while avoiding the hassle of airports though.

  14. #14
    Member

    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Last Online
    27-09-2022 @ 11:38 PM
    Posts
    427
    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post
    The second class sleepers are much more interesting and social than being cooped up alone in first class.

    Two people in first class really stinks.
    I prefer first, because I like to keep my stuff.

  15. #15
    Thailand Expat
    DrWilly's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2021
    Last Online
    Today @ 07:16 AM
    Posts
    4,532
    Sans beer? Since when was that a good idea?

  16. #16
    Thailand Expat
    katie23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    PI
    Posts
    5,672
    I've done the BKK-CNX o/n train, 2nd class. It wasn't bad, I think. I was able to get a good night's sleep. Sure, the conditions aren't like Amtrak but it suited me fine. I think the writer was being a bit Karen-ish (and she was born in Manila, she said) but is probably US-based now.

    If she wanted better views, she could've picked a better train schedule. I picked one which left BKK around 1930H and arrived ~1030H the next day. I/we woke up around 5:30 am & were able to see the sunrise & views of the countryside. It was a nice experience.

    If you're travelling with friend(s), then IMO 2nd class is OK since you have someone who can watch your things while you go to the loo.
    Last edited by katie23; 15-08-2022 at 06:41 PM.

  17. #17
    Thailand Expat
    Troy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Last Online
    Today @ 09:32 AM
    Location
    In the EU
    Posts
    10,996
    Quote Originally Posted by misskit View Post
    The second class sleepers are much more interesting and social than being cooped up alone in first class.

    Two people in first class really stinks.
    It's quite a few years since I took the overnight sleeper to Udon Thani. There were three of us and we booked two first class adjoining cabins. Just as well as we used one just for the luggage and partied in the other room. It was a reasonable trip but not one I'm likely to do again. The highlight was the company and the lowlight, cold fried egg at breakfast...

  18. #18
    Thailand Expat
    YourDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Council flat. Thanks suckers!
    Posts
    4,393
    Quote Originally Posted by katie23 View Post
    I've done the BKK-CNX o/n train, 2nd class. It wasn't bad, I think. I was able to get a good night's sleep.

    That is because first class bunk beds are perpendicular to train tracks, so every time the train breaks you'll be hitting those safety rails. Second class beds are more comfortable for sure.

  19. #19
    Custom Title Changer
    Topper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Last Online
    Yesterday @ 11:34 PM
    Location
    Bangkok
    Posts
    10,394
    I wonder if she thought the bum gun was the shower...

  20. #20
    Thailand Expat
    YourDaddy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Last Online
    @
    Location
    Council flat. Thanks suckers!
    Posts
    4,393
    Quote Originally Posted by Topper View Post
    I wonder if she thought the bum gun was the shower...
    Possible. Considering her previous memorable article is about spending 3 days in Thailand's most underrated tourist destination

    Chiang Mai Tips for Tourists: What to Do, Packing + Mistakes

  21. #21
    Thailand Expat
    reinvented's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Last Online
    Today @ 08:24 AM
    Location
    top of soi 2
    Posts
    2,234
    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    Sans beer? Since when was that a good idea?

    it aint.
    but since a school girl was raped and killed by some employee on an overnighter, none of us can have nice things.

    I like the Thai trains (with a beer). Used to use them for football awaydays

    but dont really have the time these days unfortunately for delayed Thai trains
    will do with the kids some day though
    we won it at wemberlee
    we on it in gay paree...

  22. #22
    Newbie

    Join Date
    Sep 2022
    Last Online
    06-09-2022 @ 10:15 PM
    Posts
    6
    Travelling by train was ruined by the booze ban. In 1990 I travelled from Suri Thani to Bangkok then straight off the train to board the train to chaing mai

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •