There was no cheap flight available from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai, so we decided to book a flight to Bangkok, spend one day there and take the night train to Chiang Mai. We try to travel overnight as much as possible, as it combines transportation and accommodation, great way to save some money. We would arrive in Bangkok at about 23h, so booked a hostel close to the railway station, where we would take the night train to Chiang Mai the next evening.
We spent our day in Bangkok once again at Chatuchak Weekend Market, just like we did during our first visit to Bangkok. We dropped our bags off at the railway station. They have a baggage storage service for which we paid ฿120 for both of our bags. We believe we should have paid less, as the price depends on the size of your backpack, but we weren’t in the mood for a discussion and a lot of people were waiting in line.
Brecht had ordered the train tickets online more than a month beforehand, to be sure we had the tickets for that date en the cabin we prefered: 2nd class lower berth. The State Railways of Thailand have no online ticketing service, but several agencies do offer this service. We booked with 12GO Asia, as recommended on seat61.com. We paid ฿2,162 for the both of us. That included two 2nd class lower berths from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a booking fee, and a PayPal payment fee. Everything was paid online and we picked up our tickets at Bangkok 12GO Asia’s collection counter in the DOB Building opposite Hua Lamphong railway station.
Departure of train number 13 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was scheduled at 19h35, but there was a small delay of 15 minutes. We were quite early back at the railway station and had a nice chat with a lovely Chinese couple, while waiting for the timetable to indicate we were allowed to board the train.
We shared a berth with two French girls (they slept in the top berths). Our “room” had two power sockets, a light at the head of the beds, a compartment for our backpacks, and a back cushion for sitting. The beds were long enough, Brecht (about 1m88) could sleep comfortably. On the sleeper train we took from Hanoi to Hue (Vietnam) there was a door closing the four berths off from hallway, here each bed had a curtain you could close all around you.
When the train left, a woman came handing out menus. We took a look at it, but already decided we would go eat in the restaurant wagon. That pissed her off a bit when she came asking what we wanted for dinner and breakfast. If you order with her, the food gets delivered in your berth. The restaurant wagon was not at all fancy, but the food was OK. We paid ฿190 each for a menu including soup, a dish with rice, vegetables, orange juice and fruit. It was definitely better than airline food, but probably at bit expensive for what it was.
When we arrived there was only a pillow on the beds, so I was a bit worried there were no blankets for the night. I worried too soon, because at about 20h30 they come make your bed, and they bring blankets! In the Vietnamese sleeper train it was warm at night, so we expected the same of this Thai sleeper train. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It was sooooo COLD! So make sure you have some extra blankets at hand or a sweater, scarf, sarong, whatever. My toes where frozen. At about 8h in the morning they come wake you up, and take your blanket and pillow away. Time to sit up again.
The night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was a comfortable trip, except for the cold at night. The food was OK and the toilets acceptable. We were able to save some money on accommodation, as the night train combines transport and accommodation, perfect!