night train – Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Posted from Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

 

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You’d think it would be easy to sleep on a train. You’d think. But when that train goes down a rail-line built by the Thais, it’s not gonna happen.

My journey starts with a Songthew ride to the train station to buy a ticket. There are numerous travel agencies all over Chiang Mai, but I have become rather untrusting of these places. If someone is feeling lazy they will tell you there is no train or the train is broken or sold out or on vacation. But in the event that you didn’t wake someone up from their nap, they will simply over-charge you. My transportation to and from the train station was about $3. It’s worth it for the peace of mind. Some girls in my dorm room said the train was sold out for three more days. They got a lazy travel agent.

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There areĀ five trains that head to Bangkok from Chiang Mai. All I knew was that I wanted one that travelled through the night so I could sleep, and I wanted a soft sleeper. Not a soft seat. I lived that nightmare in Vietnam. In Thailand, though, the train cars have different classes (first, second, third) and there’s different sorts of trains, rapid, express, special express, commuter. Check seat61 for good info on what the classes mean.

After my horrible experience going from Hue to Hanoi and only getting a soft seat for the official worst 15 hours of 2013, I prayed the dumb girls in my hostel were wrong. And they were. For 881 Baht I purchased a lower berth in air-conditioned second class. The upper berth is a little narrower, and I figured for a few extra dollars the space would be nice. First class wasn’t available, and while it would be nice to be so posh, it’s quite a bit more money.

The restaurant car. The people working there asked me if I was lost.

The restaurant car. The people working there asked me if I was lost.

I arrived early and checked some things out. I found the restaurant car (which apparently some of the people serving the food will tell you does not exist) and I found out my berth (#40) was right next to the door, the toilets and the exit. Crap.

The train was meant to depart at 5:55 p.m. Being Thailand, this, of course, did not happen. We left a good hour late.

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When you initially board the beds aren’t made up yet. You get a big wide seat to sit on with the person in the top bunk opposite you. The girl in the top bunk was Chinese, and soon her friend came over and sat down with us. And then we froze. Apparently air conditioning on a train means importing the arctic. I dug through my backpack and found my hoodie, something I didn’t think I would ever need again in Thailand. I’ve heard I will need it in Singapore too.

The train berth from Sapa to Hanoi (complete with comforters.)

The train berth from Sapa to Hanoi (complete with comforters.)

The attendant making up our beds.

The attendant making up our beds.

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The overnight train I took from Hanoi to Sapa was a bit different than this one. In this one the beds lie parallel to the rails. I didn’t like this. I’ll explain in a minute. When we asked the attendant to make up our beds, I thought it would be neat. Unlike the train to Sapa, you don’t have your own room. It’s you and the other 39 people in that coach. But you do get privacy curtains. Another difference was the service. In Vietnam they don’t really give a rats ass about helping you find your coach or your berth. Actually, they don’t give a rats ass about tourists and do very little to assist them. In Thailand there’s someone there to help and assist every step of the way, from finding the right train to getting on the right coach and finding your seat. I love Thailand.

 

One of many train attendants.

One of many train attendants.

As the train cruised down the tracks it swayed side to side. And it swayed and swayed so much that I thought I was going to be sick. Maybe this was due to my location, right at the end of the car. But I rocked from side to side for about nine hours. The train ride is 14 hours. Who can sleep like that? Well, babies can. But not me.

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Getting some work done. I actually worked on my writing.

I spent a ton of time playing soduko trying not to think about how my stomach was churning. Every now and then the train would slow down and the rocking would stop and I’d be jubilant. But it never lasted. I think I’m sick of trains.

So a good hour late we pulled into the outskirts of Bangkok. It was as we had to stop and slow down for rail crossings to be lowered by uniformed attendants that I realized it could take a long long time to get to the train station. We had to pass a lot of streets. I decided to hop off the train once we got to Bang Sue – a stop where one can jump on the MRT – Bangkok’s subway. I took this two stops to Mo Chit Station where I transferred to the BTS – Bangkok’s skytrain. Then I took this to Chit Lom Station where I could do the five-minute walk to Stephanie’s house.

Of course, that would be delayed as I had to get back on the BTS, transfer to the airport link, and take a motorbike to her work to pick up the key to her apartment. But eventually I made it back, did some laundry, skyped my mom, cooked some breakfast had a shower and took a long long nap.

One Response to night train – Chiang Mai to Bangkok

  1. Oi! Keep rockin! Safe travels and hit me up sometime will be Italy ways around the same time. Cheers and beers Jon J.

    Jon Jones March 23, 2013 at 1:50 am Reply

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