While we are limited on our travels at the moment, that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce on the excitement of past adventures!
Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to visit Thailand and Cambodia. One leg of the trip involved a train ride going from Bangkok, north to Chiang Mai.
Beautifully scenic (during daylight hours) and seriously affordable (about $26 for two people); however…the word “rapid” preceding the train title was/is a bit of a “generous” descriptor and one should really weigh options carefully before deciding if this is for you.
ONLY embark on this if you have reviewed and are willing to agree to the following conditions:
- You have infinite patience and are an extremely heavy sleeper/human 🐨 koala or sloth. This is hot, noisy, rough and not something comfortable after a couple hours.
- You have a spare 15-18 hours in your travel schedule. You WILL be bored by about hour 4 and ESPECIALLY once the sun goes down.
*I wrote notes for this at 5:02am local time, during the trip, and we boarded our train at 1:30pm the prior afternoon. We still had not made it to Chiang Mai just yet, and had another 45 minutes or so, but we did make it in time to see the sunrise over the city! ✋!
- You have pre-booked your sleeper car reservation in advance and have both a bed and AC, or at least a fan. We did not prebook so we were left with “2nd class” which equates to 1970s era, airplane style reclining seats with some “fan” in the car. While we (my travel partner and I) have no qualms with roughing it, after arriving the previous day in Bangkok by way of 20 combined hours of travel, then this 17 hour train ride, it would have been nice to give our backs/knees/necks & rest of our bodies a chance to recline fully and rest a bit.
3a. You are ok with wind, dirt, bugs and numerous other conditions, as the windows on the train stay down almost the entire time, and “surprises” make their way in for the entire journey. My travel partner made a cricket friend while I sat paralyzed in fear of a very dubious looking yellow bug who was hanging out above my head for the better part of an hour. 👀
- Have no fear of going number one or number two, in a squatting position, hovering over an open toilet bowl while the train is rocking back and forth/side to side at about 50mph. This is NOT a gentle sway that will lull you to sleep. This is aggressive movement that will (I speak from experience) propel you off of the toilet and ruin your squatting position, injuring your ankles and leaving you gripping the walls in sheer fear of falling in. 😳💩
- You are ok with listening to people yell & snore for approximately 12 of the 17+ hours, while trying to sell you food, drinks and even things like hand made hammocks. *sidenote – food is actually very good, though some look a bit intimidating (like the meat that appeared to be a fried i don’t know what on a stick or some fun bugs!)
If you meet those conditions, enjoy your train ride! Toot Toot!
If not, I would say you should look at taking an in country flight, as they are plentiful and cheap. We did many “hops” and the plane fare was usually about $50 American and less than an hour. WELL worth it!
We saw some jaw dropping scenery and we didn’t hate it but would we do it again…? Probably not without at least a sleeper car seat! We made it into Chiang Mai right before sunrise, and as we searched for our accommodations (on foot) we saw the sunrise over some insanely gorgeous temples, watched as monks walked the empty morning streets, and saw the city in a serene, quiet view that we may not have otherwise.