I have always been a big fan of trains. There is something about riding the train that makes you feel like you are actually travelling. You can see everything that goes by you in between destinations and you feel like you’re covering more ground. When you fly you’re basically locked into an uncomfortable box with stale recycled air and you can’t see where you’re going except during take off and landing if you’re lucky enough to score a window seat and flying in the day.
Riding the trains in Thailand is a unique experience itself. It’s a mode of transportation and a place to experience some real culture (if you’re traveling 3rd class).
If you’re traveling 3rd class, the tickets are ridiculously cheap. For Bangkok to Ayutthaya (about 1.5 hours), our tickets were only 15 baht each. that’s less than 50 cents!! Granted the coaches aren’t the best condition and sometimes you aren’t guaranteed a seat, my favorite part is the food that comes around and the rotating people that come sit by you.
Local street vendors constantly walk up and down the aisles selling food and drinks. Every few stops a new vendor hops on board so it’s kind of a game to wait and see what the next stop will have. To be honest Nathan and I were nervous to buy any food and be stuck on a train without an adequate bathroom in case something went wrong. So we passed it up during our first ride. But when we were traveling from Ayutthaya to Lopburi, we gave in. We got some rice dishes with a fried egg that were pretty tasty for only 20 baht!
When we hit the tracks from Lopburi to Phitsanulok (5.5 hours and 13 baht) all we could do to entertain ourselves was get food. My favorite was the iced tea bags. Thai tea in a giant bag that helped keep me cool even after the tea was gone. For only 10 baht each, it’s a steal. It’s a hot sweaty mess in 3rd class but if you’re lucky enough to score a window seat, having the wind in your face as you watch everything go by makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.
When we hopped onto the train from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai, there were only 2nd class seats available. This was probably a better choice considering our train ride that was originally supposed to be 7 hours ended up being 9 hours. Second class meant you got a reclining chair, air conditioning and airplane-like food. For the whopping price of 490 baht a ticket, I would hope that we would be heavily upgraded in service. I forgot to take photos of this whole experience so you’ll just have to use your imagination. The seats weren’t the comfiest but the fact that they reclined was a big plus. Unless you are Nathan who got stuck in a chair that broke and reclined too far, making it uncomfortable for the person sitting behind him.
All in all, taking an overnight train may be better for some people, but personally i prefer sitting in 3rd class with all the locals and trying what new foods come down the aisle way.