Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Riding the Rails of the Overnight Train: Bangkok to Chaing Mai

Happy Happy Tuesday Y'all! 

Today I wanted to share with you a wonderful adventure Matt and I had when we traveled to Thailand this last February. Since we had about 9 days in the country we knew we wanted to travel up north to Chiang Mai. After some research, we decided an overnight train would be the best option for us. We had read a few blogs and thought it sounded like an adventure. 

And it definitely was that. 

Here is how our adventure went down. I want to try to share our story and give a lot of detail just in case others are considering taking this journey, or one similar while in Thailand. 

We left on the 6:10 train from Hualamphong train station on train 1. Unfortunately, by the time we booked tickets (about a month before our trip) the first class cabin was sold out. So Matt and I were stuck in the second class sleeper air-conditioned car. 

But everything we read said with 2nd class you would really get the 'experience' of traveling through Thailand. You could meet other people and blah blah blah.
*Note: We didn't meet anyone while on the train. I did talk to a woman from Switzerland for like 5 minutes while she waited for her bed to be put together. But that was the extent of making fun and new connections.*

We paid about $40-50 total for our train tickets in the 2nd class cabin. The lower bunks are a bit more expensive than the upper bunk. 

We got to the train station around 4:45 just to make sure everything was in order and we knew exactly where to go. I changed clothes right before leaving so I wouldn't have to on the train. (The bathrooms at the station are about 2 baht or 5 baht for a shower to use.) I just wore leggings and a t-shirt- basically my pjs- just in case you were wondering. 





Okay, so was 2nd class so bad? No, it really wasn't. And it was a really exciting adventure that it  made things more fun. For the first part of the trip, the seats are set up so you can sit and visit with one another. There is a little table that the staff pop up so you can eat dinner or whatever.

Dining 
The train serves dinner if you want to purchase it, or you can bring your own food. We had a bunch of snacks and then we purchased a dinner set to share and breakfast to share in the morning. Overall, the food wasn't too bad. There was a slight mix up when the waiter gave us someone else's meal, and I had already opened and took a bite of the rice before he took it away from me. So it was a little awkward. I don't remember the exact price of all the food, but I know it wasn't over $20 for all of it plus two orange juices we ordered. The biggest annoyance was the train ride was a little rough, so when the train lurched my soup went all over the place. 

I felt like we had plenty of storage space, but we only had a small rollie suitcase, 2 backpacks, and a camera bag. Matt put his backpack on the rack above, my suitcase was on the lower rack,  I slept with my green backpack, and Matt slept with the camera.
*Note: Sometime during the night, my suitcase fell over. So maybe bring a tie or hook to keep the bags on the bottom in place.*





Sleeping
You can get your bed made up whenever you want to while on the train. But I would suggest waiting until after 9 pm to do so. After Bangkok, the train makes five other stops for the first couple hours of the ride. The train lurches pretty bad during those times and more people get on the train so it can get a bit noisy. When you want your bed made up just find the staff and they will do it for you. They also make up your bed in the morning. 

The beds and bedding really were pretty nice. I didn't get any dodgy feelings from the sheets or anything. Matt and I brought our own fold up blankets not knowing what the state of the bedding would be in. I used mine because the blanket was a little scratchy, and I got cold during the night and needed the extra layer. Around the beds, you have these lovely green curtains that really help make things more private and it darkens everything a bit.

I read that the curtains make it really warm in your bed, but I didn't feel like that at all. I was cool for the whole night. Oh also, we are not very tall, so the bed length was perfect for us, but I think if you are over 5'8 or 9 it will be a little annoying. 

For sleeping, we were prepared with ear plugs and eye masks. I couldn't hear anyone on the train by the time I was ready for bed (about 10:00pm), but the train was really loud, so I am happy we brought the ear plugs. It made it so easy to fall asleep. The biggest struggle for me was how much the train moved and that really bothered me when I was trying to go to sleep. The Thai train is no KTX train that we have here in Korea! Matt said he didn't sleep at all on the train. He was really stressed about our stuff getting taken. I don't really know why since we slept with all of our important items. I think the noise and light might have bothered him more as well. 

The Facilities

Okay- let's talk bathroom. And by bathroom- I mean squatty potty. This is where I am so glad that I have been blessed to live in Korea for the last 20 months. I have gotten so used to using squatty potties that using the train potty wasn't really a big deal. In the 2nd class car, there is one potty that is western and one that is squatty. And I gotta say- the squatty looked a lot better. I heard a couple of Western women complaining about the squatty, but really I don't know what they were expecting. The weirdest thing was the hole for the squatty lead straight out to the tracks, so I felt a bit weird just tossing my paper down the hole. 

Now- I don't want to get too graphic, but I think the lady readers will appreciate this. As I've mentioned, the train lurches around pretty badly- especially during starts and stops. So this can make it a bit difficult to A) stay in the hole B) stay squatting and not fall over and C) not bash your head against the wall. At one point, I was grasping the door handle so hard with one hand and the hand rail with the other trying to not fall over and kill myself while squatting. 

I was lucky enough to have a certain monthly visitor while on this train ride and let me tell you- one does not want to be using a squatty potty on a moving lurching train whilst changing a you know what. One can easily injure oneself. 

Too much detail... okay, I'll move on. 

Hygiene 

There is a little sink area for you to wash up a bit. We brought on bottled water to brush our teeth with. We also packed face wipes to wash up and not feel so gross before bed or in the morning. The toilets had toilet paper, but we brought some just in case. (Another Korea habit that pays off.) We had wet wipes that helped us with the not so clean table and antibacterial soap as well. It really wasn't that bad. It's only for a night, so it's pretty manageable.

Entertainment

Matt and I always like to travel prepared. For this trip (and most others) we packed SkipBo, and Matt loaded up some movies on his tablet. After dinner, we played a couple rounds and then started watching Harry Potter. What a perfect movie to watch and see the Hogwarts Express while we were on our very own train journey. If only there was a trolley lady with some chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes! I also had my kindle to read right before bed.

We saw a couple with travel RumiKub and I really wish we had the travel version of this game! I had a case of game envy. 


On the top- you have these little seat belts to stop you from falling over the edge, but Matt said he felt fine. 


On our way back, we were able to book a first class cabin. It's a bit more expensive than 2nd class obviously, but not so much more that it's more than a plane ticket. We had our own little cabin for the night which was nice We had a sink in the room, and the toilet was at the end of the cabin. 

At first, we could hear the people in the next cabin, but once the train started moving it wasn't a problem. 

I do think it's worth the price of the ticket in first class. I liked having our own space and having a door to close everything else off. 




Final Thoughts on Our Train Adventure

The way there was really cool. We saw a lot of the city and the country when the sun was out. It was cool to say we've slept on an overnight train. And everything went smoothly. I wish I had booked a return flight coming back though because the ride back to Bangkok sucked. There were delays and the novelty had pretty much worn off at that point. I do think it's worth giving it a go at least once though.

At the very least you will have some fun stories to share!



Booking Information

We booked our tickets on-line through the company Charlie Connection Travel & Tour. They always got back to us in great time. Our tickets were delivered to the hotel for us (for a little extra). And overall were great to deal with.

For more information click here.

Thoughts? Would you ride an overnight train? 

1 comment:

Thanks for taking the time to comment- I appreciate and read each and every one of them. All replies will be in the comment section, please check back to read them!

- Alex