Many people miss out on the wonderful experience of seeing the scenic rural countryside and mountains of remote areas in Thailand by flying to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. A good choice is to travel at least in one direction by the overnight train, which is clean, safe, comfortable and fun. For couples or a family up to four persons, I recommend the first class cabin. Those traveling alone, or, those who may feel the cost of private cabin is too expensive or who don't want to share a private cabin, then travelling in second class is fine.
The drawback to travelling in second class is that many people share the same restroom. Also, it can get noisy if other passengers in the car want to drink and party, which makes it difficult to sleep. The porter will ensure that all the beds are turned down by 22.30 hrs. at the latest. After that those passengers who want to continue drinking can carry on in the restaurant car that is open until midnight.
In first class, the restrooms are shared by only a few. The porter maintains the clean restroom where a small shower is also available. For four persons travelling together the doors between an adjacent private cabin can be opened. The cabin is airconditioned and has a small sink and vanity mirror for washing the face and brushing the teeth.
There is a fold down table under the window where food and drinks are served. As the train travels on, passengers enjoy eating dinner while watching the view. The food on the train is standard flavor but a little expensive. A waiter will come by your berth or cabin to take your order and deliver the prepared food. After dinner, a waiter will return to collect the dishes and offers the breakfast menu. You then order breakfast and tell the waiter what time you want to eat in the morning. If you wish you can always eat in the dining car before 22.00 hrs.
Around 21.00 hrs., or when you are ready to sleep the porter will remove and store the table and turn down the bunk beds. This takes much longer in second class than first class as there are many more beds to make. After 22.00 hrs. the porter locks the carriage doors for security measures.
Trains with first class accommodations depart Bangkok at 18.00 hrs. and arrive in Chiang Mai around 07.00 hrs. next morning. There is another at 20.25 hrs. arriving in Chiang Mai around 09.00 hrs. Taking the later train is ideal, as you will be able to view the surrounding mountains and canyons near Chiang Mai at sunrise. About 40 minutes south of Chiangmai the train will pass over a white bridge or "Sapan Khao" and through Khoon Tarn tunnel the longest tunnel in northern Thailand. The train is very popular so tickets sell out quickly. Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance. There are many second-class trains so there is a choice of several departure times. Another good thing about the overnight train is it is cheaper than flying and you will save money for one night's stay at a hotel.
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