Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco
To get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I opted for the overnight train instead of flying. Taking the train was considerably cheaper than flying, and it was supposed to be a more interesting and scenic experience than flying. I found Seat61 to be a very helpful website in preparation for this trip.
I bought tickets via thailandtranticket.com as suggested by Seat61, and the tickets were delivered to the hotel I stayed at in Bangkok. The total for an upper and lower berth in second class on train 13 (departing Bangkok Hualamphong Station at 7:35pm and arriving at Chiang Mai at 9:55am) including the booking fee was 2145 baht.
Hualamphong Station is an interesting place to sit and people watch. There’s a separate seating area for monks, there are lots of people of all sorts milling about, and lots of people end up sitting on the floor. Being in the train station at 6pm is also a somewhat surreal experience, but I guess that’s true of any crowded public spot in Bangkok.
There’s plenty of food at the train station, but most of the food options looked a little sad to me, including a pretty depressing food court. If you wander immediately out of the train station, you’ll find lots of restaurants catering to tourists, but if you wander just another block or so outside of the view of the train station beyond the touristy restaurants, you’ll find food that caters to locals. I stumbled upon a vegetarian restaurant called Ru Yi, which had cheap and delicious vegetarian food and was filled with older Thai and Chinese people. It was pretty great.
While there is a dining car on board and you can also get food delivered to your seat, people often recommend bringing food or snacks with you. I just ate the snacks that I brought, but my traveling companion visited the dining companion for breakfast, and he said that the food was decent but pricey for what it was (about 200 baht for his meal).
The train started boarding about half an hour prior to departure, and it was straightforward to find our reserved seats. There were a bunch of mosquitos in the train car when we got there, so definitely apply some bug spray. Almost all of the cars on this train appeared to be second-class sleeper berths, and the train filled up with almost all tourists. There definitely weren’t any Thai people in our car, except for the vendors trying to get you to buy food and the train conductor sleeping in the berths across from us.
The seats definitely weren’t fancy, but they were fully lie flat! And they come with bedding and turndown service! And they’re pretty spacious! This would be awesome in the air. Except they’re a little run-down, and cleanliness is a little bit of an issue. The linens definitely seemed clean, but the seats themselves, the mattress pad, and the pillow had all seen better times.
Each car had bathrooms, but the toilets were squat toilets, and the sinks did not work very well. There was running water, but the water would come out extremely close to the edge of the sink, and there wasn’t any hot water. If clean toilets are a requirement for you, you might want to avoid the train, since it’s a long train ride…
Once the train started moving, I was surprised by how bumpy it was. Since the trip was scheduled to be about 14 hours and the train is notorious for delays, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get any sleep because of the bumpiness and that I was in for a loooong night (and I was worried about the implications of the bumpiness for using a squat toilet, but fortunately, I didn’t have to try that). But sleep came relatively easily. The mattress pads were comfortable, and the temperature was fine (I had read reports of people being freezing cold, but I didn’t have any problems in a pair of long pajamas). Of course, make sure to bring an eye mask and ear plugs, but I slept on and off for about 8 hours before waking up and enjoying the scenery on the ride into Chiang Mai.
The train did end up being mysteriously delayed for about an hour, but it was a relatively nice and peaceful ride up to Chiang Mai. Since there are overnight trains, you don’t really lose that much time by taking the train instead of flying, and the train is considerably cheaper than flying, plus you save on the cost of one hotel night. Overall, the train was a decent way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and I’d do it again.