Travelling SE Asia // Sleeper Train To Chiang Mai

Monday 9 May 2016
Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

The next leg of our journey to the north of Thailand was made via sleeper train. Most people seem to get the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but luckily for us it also makes some stops along the way, so we were able to catch the 12 hour train from Lopburi!

We tried to buy tickets from Lopburi train station the day before we wanted to leave, but were told that there wasn't any tickets available and to come back the next day when there might be last minute tickets. We didn't really understand why there would be "last minute" tickets available only a couple of hours before departure when they were apparently all sold out the day before but I guess that's Thailand for you!

After being slightly worried and concerned that we wouldn't be able to get tickets for the train on the day, David and I made our way to the station about two hours earlier than the man behind the desk had told us...okay, maybe I was more than slightly worried! We'd already stayed in Lopburi for two nights and exhausted the little town of things to do, so I really didn't want to be stuck for another night!

Luckily, we hit the jackpot and managed to get a 1st Class sleeper cabin for 8pm that evening! As soon as we purchased the tickets, I felt so relieved! Like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders,  it was great! And to make things better, we were able to get a private cabin!

So there a three different "classes" on the Thai sleeper trains.

3rd Class is the cheapest. It's seated only, no beds and with no air con. Honestly, I couldn't imagine much worse than having to sit on a stifling hot overnight train with no air con for 12+ hours!

2nd Class is an open train carriage, equipped with air con, where all of the seats fold out (or up!) into bunk beds. I think each bunk has a curtain that you can pull across for some privacy while you sleep, but apart from that you're sharing with everyone else in the carriage! For backpackers this seems to be the most popular ticket, you can hang out with your travel buddies or chat to some locals before everyone settles down for the night.

1st Class carriages contain private cabins, with a bunk bed for two people, air con, an electricity socket and a sink! They are the most expensive cabins, but don't be fooled! There is no such thing as 1st class luxury here, you're paying the extra money for your privacy and security! After hearing some horror stories of people having their belongings stolen while they were sleeping in the other carriages, I really didn't feel comfortable sleeping in an open carriage. This was why we decided to pay the extra for a private cabin, so that we could have that peace of mind that our belongings were safely locked inside with us.

The cabins are tiny, when I first walked in I had my backpack on my back, and I legit couldn't turn around because the bunk beds were already made up! I was stuck until David backed out and I had enough room to manoeuvre the backpack off! There must be about 1 Foot of space between the edge of the beds and the opposite wall, so maybe they aren't the best idea if you get claustrophobic. Excuse the absolutely terrible quality of the photo below, but just to give you an idea of the cabin size!

Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

David and I were happy enough in our little cabin though. We'd loaded up on drinks and snacks for the long journey, after hearing that the train food leaves alot to be desired. We didn't order any food, so we can't comment on it ourselves, but we decided not to risk it and just bring our own food!

It took us a while to get settled and comfortable in our cabin, as we tried to come to grips with the novelty of it all! There was an almost-awkward occurance as I very nearly open a partition door that connected to the cabin next to ours! Luckily I realised just before I pushed the door open and surprised the family next door, although I hope that they would have had their side of the door locked! Which I quickly did aswell, incase they didn't realise what the random door on the wall was either...

Once we got over all the excitement and got settled in, we played cards for a few hours and got stuck in to our snacks! During which we were treated to a rendition of Celine Dions "My Heart Will Go On" from the family next door...We still don't know if they were watching Titanic or just singing really loudly!

We had grand plans of watching a movie aswell, already downloaded and waiting on my tablet, but by the time we finished playing cards around 11pm we were both feeling pretty tired. Deciding not to question it, we got ready for bed in the hopes of sleeping through the rest of the journey and arriving in Chiang Mai refreshed and ready for the day ahead!

David was able to sleep just fine! I had no such luck.

Just as we were getting ready to turn the light off, we saw bugs. Stupid creepy crawlies, only 2 of them, but we couldn't get them before they ran away out of reach under my bunk. I was on the bottom bunk and David was on the top, which meant that I was closer to the critters. Obviously this meant that I couldn't get to sleep properly, because all I could think about was them coming up and crawling all over me, my skin was crawling and itching the whole night because of the sheer thought of them! On top of that, the train was rough. There was many a time I thought I was just going to topple straight out of my bed, the train jolted that much!

I  did manage to get a few hours sleep, thankfully, before the train staff came round at 6am shouting, "Morning! Tea, coffee! Morning!" and banging on the cabin doors to get people up. Not long after that they come back round to make the beds back into seats, ready to arrive in Chiang Mai.

It is a hassle free way to travel almost the whole length of mainland Thailand, and as it stands we've done two journeys via sleeper train so far! They aren't the most comfortable of journeys, but it beats being shoved into a minivan for 12 hours and you technically save on one night's accommodation, so sleeper train travel definitely has its perks!

We arrived into Chiang Mai the next morning only to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of taxi, tuk tuk and songthaew drivers all shouting and competing to bring the new arrivals to their destinations. It was mayhem, and not something that we were expecting or appreciative of that early in the morning!

But I guess that's a story for next time!

Have you ever travelled by sleeper train? What's your favourite way to travel?