Thursday, July 14, 2011

Overnight Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

Before we had even left New York, we knew that after 2 days in Bangkok, we would want to take the overnight train to Chiang Mai. We had heard that in order to book 2nd class bed seats we had to buy them the day before otherwise they would sell out. So just to be on the safe side, we decided to go straight from the airport to the Hualong Pong railroad station (even before checking in to our hotel).  This decision was also the result of us finding out there was no real way to take public transportation from the airport to Khao San road. The buses to that area of town had all been canceled as of June 1st, and our only choice was a taxi (400B).
So, riding our adrenaline rush from arrival, we took a train (90B) to a subway (29B) to the railroad station (which turned out to be the closest we could get to our hotel by train anyway). We made our way to the ticket booth.  Giddy with anticipation, we quickly approached the window and ordered our tickets, only to find out they were already full.  SOLD OUT.  Our hearts sank. We slinked away from the ticket window and looked at each other with waiting eyes, each of us hoping the other had a solution.  But we didn't.  So after some deliberation and to avoid feeling defeated in our first Thailand endevour, we decided to buy the 2nd class sitting tickets (which barely recline) with hope of exhanging them if someone canceled.  No one ever ended up canceling their tickets, but later that day we did find out some really helpful information that turned our whole sleeper train ride experience around.  Hopefully it can help you as well, if you are planning to take the overnight train too.  Here is a little Bangkok secret...If the train sells out of 2nd class sleeper beds, every morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. they will add a new car.  We found this out from a travel agent, and ultimately, we were able to change our tickets from 2nd class sitting seats to 2nd class bed seats.  To do so, we had to be at the railroad station around 9:30 a.m. the day of our train, just to ensure they did not sell out again.  It may not sound like a big deal, but for a 13 hour ride it is a vast improvement and quite an experience in and of itself. 

Hualong Pong Railroad Station
I love how there is a designated area for the monks to sit in (even though we almost sat there by accident).

All aboard!

Our sleeping quarters.  Pretty comfortable actually! I had the top bunk and Andy had the lower bunk.  They make you pay more for the lower bunk because they claim it is bigger, but we couldn't even notice. 

This is us in the dining car.  It is way overpriced, but it is the only car where you can open the window.  Here we enjoyed choked down our overpriced INSTANT coffee and enjoyed the beautiful countryside of Thailand.

One more thing worth mentioning...

One of the wondeful things about the railroad station in Bangkok is the information booth stationed out front.  The people working there are so friendly and eager to help out travelers who do not speak Thai.  I don't know if we would have made it to Chang Mai without them! Thank you!

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