April 21, 2012
While in Southeast Asia we have been traveling primarily by train. In fact, we have covered over 1,700 miles by rail since leaving Singapore. We love trains and have taken them all over the world in countries ranging from Zambia to Peru to India to Canada. As we neared Thailand we looked forward to train travel here. We had experience with these trains eight years ago when we were last here with our children so we knew what to expect. They are great for covering large distances in a relatively painless way. So during our time here we planned three overnight trips for an average of about $30 per person per train journey.
The air conditioned 2nd class car has 40 berths, 20 uppers and 20 lowers, arranged down a center aisle running lengthwise along the train. When we boarded the train our reserved ticket led us to two seats facing one another with a window between them. With enough room for four people, it was spacious to sit in these seats. The train contains a mixture of Thais and foreigners and is a great way to meet people during the time to travel to the destination.
Soon after we boarded a food attendant arrives to take orders for dinner and breakfast the next morning. The menu consists of just a few items. We bought dinner and breakfast on one train and brought our own food on another. In the first instance the meal we ordered for 190 Thai Baht a piece (about $6.30 each) consists of a chicken plate and vegetable plate, which came with soup, rice, mushrooms and noodles and apple slices for dessert. Breakfast the next morning, for the same price per person, consists of an egg on top of toast, fruit and orange juice. There is also a dining car on the train with similar food but having it brought to your seat is very pleasant.
After dinner another attendant moves through the car to prepare the berths. He motions to you when he is ready to transform your seating areas to beds. While we stand to the side with our daypacks, the process begins. The seats are moved together to form a horizontal surface. Then he unlocks the top platform and moves it down to place it above the seats. Inside the top berth are sheets, pillows, blankets, mattress pads and curtains. One mattress pad is placed on top of the bottom berth and that the bed is made. Then the top berth is made up as well. Finally, the curtains are placed in front of each berth. The entire process takes about three minutes and the beds are ready.
The beds are comfortable and even though there are 40 people in the car, it is surprisingly quiet once everyone gets to sleep. The trains we booked were express so there were not too many stops during the night. The next morning, once everyone is up and moving around, the same attendant appears to take the bed apart, puts clean items in the top berth for the return journey and converts it back to the original configuration. There is still time to have breakfast, relax and talk to other passengers before arriving at the final destination.
We have taken two of our three planned Thai train journeys: a 22-hour trip from Butterworth, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand and a 13-hour journey from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our last train journey will be 14-hours from Nong Khai to Bangkok, Thailand when we return from Laos. We could have flown any of segments but chose to take the train instead. Although these trains are by no means high speed there is nothing like experiencing the world at a slower pace to get a real feel for it.
As we continue on our global expedition we have train travel planned in other areas of the world and will share our impressions as we complete those journeys as well.