Take The Train to Chiang Mai

Switching Trains

I just returned to Chiang Mai from a short tour of Cambodia. I had spent 2 weeks in Cambodia with my friends from Latvia, then had the good fortune to meet up with a friend for 3 days in Bangkok. Although I travel a lot, I must say it is quite draining on your system. Don’t get me wrong I love to travel and see new things, experience new cultures, meet new people, eat interesting foods, and creatures. 😉 . But what I have realized the most stressful part of the whole journey seems to be the transport.

Riding in Turbo buses (Silver high top Vans) in Thailand for instance willThai Turbo Bus leave you with very little sleep, your hair standing on end, and as you will see when you get the opportunity, these drivers are all in training for some sort of international Grand Prix. Driving on the opposite side of the road, forcing on coming traffic onto the shoulder. Avoiding all stoplights by turning onto the intersecting road making a u-turn at full speed, then turning back onto the main thoroughfare. (actually a neat idea,,, stoplights can last in excess of 200 seconds in Thailand). That being said they in fact do an amazing job at drifting through heavy traffic.There are handles bolted on to the back of the seats, many of which have been ripped off, either by the sheer terror of the passenger or just simple laws of physics and the steel/plastic handles are unable to cope with the stress.

Siem Reap Tuktuk    Then there are the Tuk Tuk drivers, who refuse to charge anything less the double that of a taxi ride. why…??? maybe it’s just the joy of being able to ride on a smoky, loud, slow, rickety piece of hand made ingenuity..  Then the biggest problem of course with the tuk tuk drivers is that they refuse to take you to your requested destination. You ask them to take you to the train station, they take you to a tour agency trying to sell you a tour package. You ask to go to your $10 per night hotel, they take you to a $200 per night hotel, and go into great detail explaining that it is high season and everything else is booked up. Yes, for those of you who have not been in Asia this is exactly how it works and unfortunately it is not the exception it is the rule.

Ok, now onto public buses, yea you know the ones , they come with great names like “V.I.P. Bus” , “The Hotel Bus”. these tend to drive at about 40kmph. There is a thing here in Asia that it does not matter how unsafe you drive provided you drive slowly. In the dusty roads of Cambodia, 40kmph is quite fast considering you can not see further then a few meters. The toilets do not work, so they will either randomly stop at the side of the road in a field for all the ladies and gents to use the public facilities. “The Hotel Bus” which is a sleeper bus. 2 layers of beds, 1 set of beds on the floor and one at about 150cm off of the floor. 2 beds on each side narrower then shoulder width, and about 4 1/2 foot long. generallyTrain to Chiang Mai managed by some local organized crime syndicate. and all of your valuables remaining with you for the extent of the voyage is also a risk and needs to calculated into the cost of the journey. This trip I had my Iphone stolen by the Bus driver assistant while I was sleeping, less then a meter from him, In less then 5 minutes after using my phone, after getting myself folded into an endurable position, I tried to get a short nap, and could not sleep so I decided to plug my headset into my Iphone that was no longer in my pocket.  Grrr.

old train carriage So after all of these stressful travels, I decided to take the train from Bangkok to Chiang mai. I actually did hesitate before making the decision, because from my experience the train has always been a minimum of 2 hours late. And this time was no exception. This time I had the joy of stopping about 2 hours outside of Chiang mai and wait a couple of hours for another train to come pick us up, as there were some sort of engine problems. So this time we all arrived only 5 1/2 hours late. Although I would still recommend it, It really is not much like traveling at all . there is a dining car ( actually more of a party car) the beds are quite comfortable, and I have always had the joy of meeting interesting fellow travelers to share stories with on the journey. The ticket price was around Train in Lampang area850 baht (approx $26). I showed up at the train station with only about 15 minutes to spare to catch the 19:35 train, and there were plenty of tickets available on a Thursday evening. The evening went fast, met some awesome people, hung out in the party car for a bit, not that I was into the party, but the ambiance was quite interesting. I was able to get a fairly good rest, ( first time in a while) . And I got to enjoy the views of the beautiful country side of northern Thailand.

Next time I take a trip, It will either be by plane, train or the best will be on my motorbike. See a country by motorbike is a whole other story. All The Best on your next journey.. And by the Way….. Take The Train…Finally Home in Chiang mai


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