The journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand may be quicker by plane but if you want to save money, see some scenery and have a day to spare, taking the train is a cheap and easy option.
We bought out tickets for the 11-hour journey in advance from Hua Lamphong railway station (main picture). We booked two second-class tickets in an air-conditioned carriage which cost 691 baht * (£15.82) each.
Beware of people offering to ‘help’ you buy your ticket at the station; the chances are they are scamming you. It was perfectly easy to buy the tickets direct from the ticket office.
Concerned about the notorious Bangkok traffic on a Monday morning, we got up at 5.30am to get a taxi to the train station, which meant that we arrived ridiculously early.
It did mean however that we were waiting in the station when the national anthem started playing at 8am. Everyone stood to attention as around a dozen policemen practised their drills in the middle of the waiting area.
There was plenty of room overhead for our luggage and an added bonus was that they brought food at lunchtime! It was similar to airline food, so not wonderful, but it was free. There were also vendors at each stop who came on board with a selection of cold and hot food.
One thing we struggled with was the temperature of the carriage. The air conditioning was extremely cold. I am fairly warm-blooded but I wore my fleece and covered my legs with my scarf and was still shivering. On the return journey we were more prepared and wore jeans and warm clothing.
There was a Western style toilet which was relatively clean, although a bit exposed!
The scenery as we made our way to the north of the country was very beautiful. At first it was quite flat and full of paddy fields with loads of cranes and storks; then it became more mountainous and the jungle took over. As we approached Chang Mai the sky turned a rosy pink and we were rewarded with lovely views.
We arrived at Chiang Mai station in the dark and were immediately accosted by a woman called Psun who basically shoved us in a shared tuk-tuk for 150 baht each. We couldn’t be bothered to argue, as that was pretty cheap. The tuk-tuk dropped us off at our hotel.
And back again…
Two weeks later, after an enjoyable stay in Chiang Mai, we made the return journey. This time we didn’t go as far as Bangkok city centre, opting instead to disembark at Don Muang airport and stay in that area overnight before our flight the next day.
This time the journey was just ten-and-a-half hours and was pretty much the same experience.
On arrival, we found it very difficult to find a taxi at the station and we ended up going into the airport and joining the very long queue there. There is a ticket system and lots of warning signs to check the driver is using the meter. Ours tried to overcharge us by offering to take us to our hotel for 300 baht. When we insisted on going by the meter it cost us less than half that!
*Prices correct in January 2018