After a day in Bangkok I went to Chiang Mai, a bit more laid back city in Northern Thailand. I usually fly in Southeast Asia, but this time I decided to take an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Two such trains leave from Bangkok daily from Hualamphong train station.
- Train number 1 (a newer one) at 18:10 and
- Train number 13 (an older train) at 19:35
Both have 1st and 2nd class air conditioned sleepers. I took train number 13 because of a later departure time and later arrival time. I wanted to take some photos of the landscapes before arrival and the last part of the journey was supposed to be scenic.
Most people take 2nd class air conditioned sleepers, which are good enough and much cheaper than 1st class, but it is recommended that take the lower berth. It’s wider than the upper one and has a window.
I got all of these information from The Man in Seat 61 and I really recommend you check it out if traveling by train or ferry anywhere in the world. It’s a great site, with extensive information, pictures of both overnight sleeper trains, videos, links to online ticket purchases, schedules etc.
It is highly recommended that you reserve tickets in advance, especially in the high season (and if you want to get the lower berth). I reserved them online via 12go.asia, an agency recommended on seat61.com. You pay in advance and pick the ticket in their office (across the street from Hualamphong train station) on the day of departure.
The price of the ticket with all the fees for the 2nd class air conditioned sleeper on train number 13 was 29,55 EUR.
By the way, some seat aisles have power outlets. Just write in the comment when reserving your ticket online that you would like to be seated near one if you if you want to use your laptop, charge your phone or your camera.
Comfort on the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Seats and berths are not in compartments, but are arranged “open plan”. There is enough luggage space, but bring some locks.
The beds are not made when you board the train and at first it seems that it will be impossible to sleep there with your legs straightened. But the seat backrests are removed when beds are made and that gets you quite some additional space.
A seat isle consists of two seats opposite of each other, enough room for two people.You can have a table in the middle before the bed is made.
The attendant makes the bed after at around 21:00 – 22:00. You get a proper mattress and the bedding is fresh and clean. Each berth also gets it’s own curtains for privacy.
There were two toilets in our cart – a normal one and a squat toilet. A washing area with two sinks is also available.
It was quite hard for me to sleep, because the train is constantly shaking and is noisy (bring ear plugs!), so I was waking up up a lot, but I still managed to get a few hours of good sleep.
Don’t get scammed on your way!
Please, don’t get scammed by the steward (like I did).
Soon after the ride starts, the steward brings you the menu with a few dinner and breakfast options and one price in large red letters: 190 THB. This seemed like a fair price to me and I said fine.
The dinner is then served at your seat (by the way, there is a restaurant cart and you can go get something there at your convenience and it’s a bit more social. The choice is also wider there and everything is cheaper.).
I found this out after already eating my dinner, but nothing to really get mad about, yet.
The morning wake-up call from the steward (who was a ladyboy) gave me quite a good laugh.
Morning numbaa foooo(ur)!! Thirty minut breakfat timeeee!!
And also breakfast was fine. What shocked me was the bill.
- 170 THB for dinner
- 130 THB for breakfast
- coffee (served with breakfast!) 50 THB
- service fee 100 THB
A total of 450 THB.
At first I didn’t want to pay and was trying to give him 190 THB, but he wouldn’t give in, so I just paid. It was a nice reminder on how things go in Southeast Asia. I got my scam sensors on after this point. A fast and not so expensive lesson (on my second day of travel!).
He at least earned some baht for that funny wake up call, though.
Arriving in Chiang Mai
I was waiting for the views to start when the sun was starting to come out, my camera ready to start shooting, but it was nothing special, so I didn’t take a single picture.
At arrival it’s the usual. Many drivers waiting on the exit and everything is cheaper in Chiang Mai, so it’s easy to get a cheap ride. The Songthaew (a red truck that is shared by more people) is the cheapest way. A ride to the old city should cost 20 THB.
An overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was a great way to travel. It’s cheaper than flying, more environmentally friendly and you don’t need to pay for a hotel that night. It was my first time traveling this way and sure not the last.