I’ve always wanted to take a train!
In the United States, we have the Amtrak. While renowned, it’s both expensive and a shit way to travel. Often delayed, the Amtrak also boasts prices that are almost equal to that of flying.
My aunt recently took the Amtrak out west for a tour with a friend of hers and brought up something I didn’t even think of. The rails in the United States – the actual infrastructure – is maintained by supply companies who allow Amtrak to ride on their tracks. They don’t care if the cargo is a bit bouncy. While riding Amtrak, you are the cargo! My aunt said that the whole ride was incredibly bouncy due to the imperfections in the track. Who would of thought!
Knowing I was going to have to take a train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, my head was spinning with all the potential things that could go wrong. What if it was a terrible ride? What if it was hot? What about being crowded? What if they didn’t have enough tickets or if something was wrong with mine and I couldn’t take the train? Wish I had some weed right about then.
I figured it was better to play it safe, so I went to the ticket office at Hau Lamphong a few days before I wanted to leave. The station is huuuuge and very beautiful inside.
I wanted in line with the locals and finally made it to the ticket attendant, leaning close to the window so I could get some of that beautiful A/C, and tried to explain what I wanted to do. Turns out, I was in the wrong line and was redirected to the “Ticket office for Foreigners”, which is to the left of the main ticket sales area.
This makes me feel like I’m being charged more, but what can you do? The staff members in the air conditioned office were very friendly and helpful. They explained that I have a few choices as to how I want to ride the train.
Third class. No A/C, in a seat and the cheapest. I couldn’t sit for 13 hours in a seat, cooking. My thighs would start to stick to the seat…ya’ll know what I’m talking about.
Second Class. A/C, you get a seat that converts into a bed. You can choose either an upper or lower bed.
First class. Much like second class, except that you also get meals.
I opted for Second Class, lower bunk. The total ticket cost was about $25 USD/800 Baht. If you need to, they have a dining car where you can purchase meals. I ate dinner before boarding and was fine until breakfast in Chiang Mai.
PRO TIP: I was in a co-ed car. If you’re a woman and you would like to ride in a car only for Women and Children, you can request that!
When you get your ticket, it will be a hard ticket – meaning that you do not get a digital copy. If you lose your paper ticket, you are totally f*cked. I was checking on the whereabouts of mine every half hour for two days LOL. When you get your ticket, they will tell you what platform you are boarding on – I was platform 5.
There is no platform 9 3/4, I checked 😦
On the ticket, you will notice your assigned car and seat number. I didn’t notice this and just got on the first car I came across and they made me move. Derp.
Arriving at the station on the day of, you’ll pass through the general area where you picked up the ticket and continue to the platforms. Find your number (you can confirm on the digital sign board) and then find your car number and seat number. Take plenty of selfies in front of the train…I did not do this.
The seats are basic, and don’t worry, they become beds later in the evening. They will provide sheets, a blanket and a pillow that I’m pretty sure was just a bag of rice. Hey, that isn’t a racist comment you smut-thinker, I’ve just seen a looooot of bags of rice in the last few days and I feel pretty sure that’s what it was.
Once your bed is made, you’re free to shut your curtain and do what you want. The lights on the train stay on all the time so if that bothers you, you’d want to bring a sleeping mask. It should go without saying you have headphones with you at all times.
Getting off the train, I thought maybe there was a protest or a welcoming party happening. There was a huge line of people waiting for the passengers. It was a large line of taxi and tuk tuk drivers hoping to hawk a ride from us Farangs.
I managed to split a songathew with two couples – one from France and one from Holland. For 50 baht, I was dropped at my hostel, easy peasy.
For those of you back home, I know travel can be intimidating, but conquering something like this is so empowering. If you’re willing to push through the fear, you can do it too!
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