Train From Bangkok To Chiang Mai

Dinner with the Songpaiboon family, Gerry Norquist, and Friends - beautiful place and very nice evening

Our train

View from the train

Inside the train

Hinckley just hanging out on the train

Emily hanging out on Matt's bed on the train

Up on Ebey's bed

Sitting after a night's rest on the train

After the train to Joy's House - our hotel

Our friends dropped us off at the train terminal in downtown Bangkok. This is a far cry from Bangkok’s brand new international airport. Homeless people covered the grounds and the minimal food available was lacking. Considering the impending 14-hour overnight train to Chaing Mai, this was a problem. The train itself didn’t inspire us with its appearance. It was sold to Thailand years ago by Japan who had created far better trains. This old sleeper train had a narrow walkway with sets of two facing seats grouped together on each side. The seats turned into beds for the night, and were already in their bed form when we arrived.

Maybe it was the Russian trains she had in her mind, but Kathryn said “This is definitely not what I expected from the pictures.” After visiting the toilet area which was corroded and disgusting beyond description, she said “it’s a sewer in there.” I responded with, “it smells like the sewer?” and she corrected me saying, “No, it smells as if you actually dunked your head into the sewer.” To be fair, the smell of the toilet improved a lot once the train started moving. The toilet must have had 60+ year old toilet seat with just a hole to the tracks below– So the waste just fell right onto the tracks. I found this extra cool when I peed while going over a huge bridge.

The setup did work fine for sleeping however, with each of us but Hinckley, having our own bed with a curtain closing it off completely. The girls and I slept before our 10:00 PM departure. The rattle and rumble of the train actually made for a peaceful sleep (We could sort of relate to Dagny’s description of sleeping on trains in Atlas Shrugged) except for the uncomfortable and slightly too short bed—apparently I’m a bit larger than the average 1960 Japanese person.

I was a little tough on Kathryn by writing her comments above, but she and the girls were amazing troopers on the trip and we all made the most of it. We slept for a while and got up early to look out the windows and have fun together in a very small and new little compartment. Kids seem to love that stuff. Trying to keep the girls quiet at 4:00 AM was not easy, but we had a great time.

If I would have written this blog post at about 4:00 AM I would be expounding on how amazing the train experience was. Here we were, my three girls and I, cuddled in my little bed, talking and laughing while gazing out into the passing miles of countryside of Thailand’s Central Plains lit up by a full moon. For a moment I literally thought, “this could be the best moment of my life.” To have our little family huddled together cruising across Thailand with everyone so together and happy was a priceless feeling. I wish we could have arrived at the station shortly after that feeling.

The rice fields extended for miles and miles and often had a person or two in each field working the early morning. I was amazed with how many small villages and towns we passed through that didn’t show up on any map. As we got closer to Chiang Mai we started climbing and went through some extraordinarily beautiful mountains and villages. The only problem was that the trip was taking much longer than expected and arrival time kept looking later and later. We could have really enjoyed a 10-12 hour trip, but at 15 hours we were getting impatient and uncomfortable and hungry. Finally they came around and made an announcement that we didn’t understand because it was in Thai. We put the pieces together from overhearing some Europeans that we were getting off the train in 30 minutes and would be loaded on to buses for the final two hours of the trip!

We were more than happy to get off the train and get on an air-conditioned bus with far better seats. The girls slept on the 100 KM drive and we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, 17+ hours after departing Bangkok. We had some amazing Thai food at a restaurant near the terminal and were picked up by a driver from Joy’s Guest House, where we are staying.

All in all, we thought the train trip was amazing and we are very glad we did it. However, I’m glad I don’t have to do it again anytime soon as well.

After checking in we were swam a little in the pool and were welcomed by a nice dinner with a few of the kids that run the Guest House, Sert and Lek. We all crashed early after such a grueling journey.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. phan
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 06:35:31

    welcome to Chiangmai 🙂
    am so glad that you guys made it up to chiangmai safely
    am sorry that i forget to tell you about the train, it is terrible train always broken:))
    hope kids didnt get any bed bug from it.
    have lot of fun in chiangmai, and take a lot of picture show us

    p.s the girls look super cute in those pic^^


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