As children, we all dreamed of riding the rails just like Thomas the Train. Unfortunately there aren’t as many opportunities to take trains….real trains…any more.
So when you can mix train travel with vacation travel, you’ve got yourself a treat. If you are heading to Thailand on a family vacation, consider adding a rail journey to your itinerary. Our family took the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, criss-crossing the countryside on a ribbon of iron while we slumbered. The train was an easy choice as train travel is very inexpensive in Thailand and being an overnight train, we didn’t need a hotel room for the night. Plus, it was a rare opportunity that we chose to embrace.
We booked the second class sleeper seats with air conditioning. When you arrive at the train, you are seated in comfortable seats facing one another. As night falls, they fold the beds down into bunks so you’ll have to decide who gets the bottom bunk who gets the top. The beds are spacious and comfortable with clean bedding, and each bunk also has a curtain for privacy. An eye mask and earplugs are a must if you are a light sleeper as the fluorescent lights do not go off in the cabin. Bottom bunks are much preferred for anyone who has mobility issues or small children who may roll out.
Since this was Thailand, western style plumbing is not always a given. Some train cars have familiar toilets but most do not; if you have not been introduced to the squat toilet, this will be a trial by fire. The bathrooms are all metal (easier to clean) and the toilet is a hole in the floor with a tread on either side. Plus, trains are in motion all of the time. Get ready to hold on to your clothes, squat without tumbling and relieve yourself without falling onto the floor or peeing on your pants. It is definitely an experience!
During the night, the train hurtles along the tracks on the way to Chiang Mai. In the morning, you are awakened by the luscious green Thai countryside passing by.
Breakfast, ordered before bed, will arrive at your seat shortly after the bunks are made up into seats again. Food is readily available throughout the trip and is quite inexpensive, however it isn’t always the best food so snacks are a welcome addition to your pack. After breakfast there are still a few hours to explore the train, meet fellow travellers or just enjoy the views as you sway through fields, rice paddies and small towns.
One thing to make sure you have on your train trip is patience. Our train broke down for just over an hour. Our train trip was a little like traveling back in time. There was no WiFi, no video games and no television. Just books, toys, friends and scenery to keep us occupied. It left me wishing that train travel was an easier, more affordable choice for everyday travel at home in North America.
For more information, or to buy tickets: Google Train Travel in Thailand. The actual train service does not do sales online so there are companies such as www.thailandtrainticket.com that will buy your ticket for you at the station and hold it until you arrive to pick it up from their office.