In this fast paced world of planes, cars, and other forms of travel that gets you from A to B really fast, why would you want to get the slow Thailand trains? Well I can think of many reason which I will begin to outline in this article.
When you are backpacking Thailand, and generally with backpacking Asia you will get worn out, especially if you have plan to do the usual backpacker route of Bangkok, Chang Mai, Laos, Veitnam, and Cambodia. So either when you have first arrived in Thailand and want to head north to Chang Mai, or when you have finally got back to Bangkok and are sipping on a nice cold beer on the Koh Sarn Road, and are at the point when it is time to switch off and head down the south of Thailand to the beaches and the islands, be it Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, or Koh Tao for a bit of diving. You will have a few options of how to travel be it on a plane, bus, mini bus or a shared taxi.
If you are on the Koh Sarn road, you will have an influx of travel shops, trying their best to get you on the overnight buses down to Surat Thani, Hat Yai, or north up to Chang Mai or some other destination that you might not have heard of before. A lot of the time they do not really pouch the train tickets, and I can only assume this may be that there is less profit involved.
I will be honest here, the trains in Thailand are old and slow, but this can be a good thing if it is what you desire. If time is on your side, why get on a plane that will have you down south or up north in a couple of hours, when you can relax and just travel through the beautiful fields and jungles of the country you have come to see. As well as that are planes a really time save? It takes about and hour to get to the airport, you then have to check in two hours before your flight, it will take an hour to get out of the airport the other end, and you may still have a few hours of travelling be it in a minibus or on a ferry.
With the train, you will get down to Hua Lamphong Station late afternoon to early evening, you will have around there for a while relaxing and maybe eating and drinking in one of the many shops there or the restaurants nearby, and when it is time to board, you will leisurely climb on board, sit back and relax and your stress factor is zero.
Onboard a train in Thailand
When you leave, it will take a bit of time to leave Bangkok, but it gives you the chance to view parts of the city you would never have seen before, and believe me it is interesting. After a while you may get a bit hungry, or if you smoke fancy a cigarette, so you can wonder of down to the restaraunt carriage and order a meal and a drink. The restaurant carriage is most definitely a bit dated, but don’t let this distract you from it’s charm. They have the windows open, a bit of music playing and they always seem happy and ready for a chat. Unfortunately at the time of writing alcohol is banned on the trains due to an incident, but I am sure this is only temporary, and I hope so, as some of the best parties I have experienced in Thailand have been on these trains. In the past you used to have the staff running up and down the trains with buckets of ice cold beers just to keep the tourist happy.
If the restaurant id not you thing, just sit back and relax and if you get hungry they will bring the food and drinks to you, and every time you stop at a station, you get the local food sellers running up and down the train offering you they wares, so you will never get hungry. This is the same for the morning where the staff will offer you coffee and breakfast if you want it.
Thailand Trains, which class?
So this bring us on which class to book on the train as this does effect how you will enjoy your journey. I really would not recommend third class as this is kind of defeating the object of your journey as you do not get a bed, and sometime you would get a wooden bench rather than a comfy seat, you would also find these are usually quite busy and noisy, not quite what you want really. This bring us to first and second class, first class is air con only and you have your own room with two bunks and single bunk rooms on certain trains, this may suit some women backpackers who may want their own privacy, but I do believe that Thailand now offers women only carriages in 2nd class but may be best to do your own research on this. The first class cabins are quite small, but they are comfortable, and have their own wash facilities.
On the trains of Thailand I personally prefer to travel second class, as I feel it is more sociable, and also more spacious. If money is tight, you can go with a fan carriage, but I prefer the air conditioned ones myself. You have a choice between upper and lower bunks and both have their merits. If like a bit of a lie in it may be worth going on the upper bunks, as the person below can still get up in the morning get the seats set up again and you won’t get disturbed, you can though get an upper bunk which is near a fan sometime so the noise may disturb you. The lower bunks have more room, so may suit the larger person, but be prepared to get woken up at 6am if you have someone on top who is an early riser. It really doesn’t happen that much and I can honestly say that you will meet the most gracious and thoughtful people on these trains be it the Thai people or the tourists. The beds do get set up quite early in the evening usually starting around 9pm, but if there is a group of you in a section, the concierge will happily leave you to your own devices until you are either ready for bed or he is.
When you get there, what next?
When you finally reach your destination, do not worry about your connection to you final place. You will be relaxed, and ready to take on the next part of the journey, and if you have not sorted out any connections, do not worry, there is always a few travel shops nearby where you can easily sort out your next leg of your journey, or if there is not there will be more than enough agents on in the actual train station prepared to organise your next part of your journey
My only recommendation with Thailand trains I have is to book your train journey a few days in advance, sometimes especially during peak seasons and holiday they can get quite full, so you do have to plan a bit more in advance what bus journey, but do ask yourself this, would you prefer a nice comfy nights sleep on clean linen, or stuck on an uncomfortable night bus seat, with a snorer a couple of seats away? I’ll let you decide!
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