The ‘Backpacker Express’ from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

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After spending three sleepless nights in Bangkok, Nikk and I started looking for options to go up north to another city called, Chiang Mai. As I have mentioned in my article earlier (Read here), I had constantly been in touch with a lot of backpackers from several travel groups on Facebook. One of them suggested us to take the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Being IMG_8660brought up in India where we have the largest train networks in the world, we had plenty of experience of spending days and nights in train. This option didn’t daunt us in the least and the idea of experiencing a train journey in Thailand sounded actually tempting. We hence agreed on taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

This train journey is incredibly famous among the backpackers’ community in South-East Asia for several reasons. It’s a public transport and hence much cheaper as compared to airlines, it’s comfortable, safe and provides a beautiful journey. The train leaves form the Hualamphong Station of Bangkok city. Inspired by the large number of travellers who take this route, the Station has a separate ticket-office for foreign travellers. The tickets can also be bought from any travel agency in the city or their website-thailandtrainticket.com. We bought the most common ticket which was an AC 2nd Class one with bottom berths. A ticket for the bottom berth costs 880 Bhatt (per person) and 780 Bhatt for the upper berths. The reason behind the price difference was clear to us once we got in the compartment. The bottom berths were wider than the upper ones and the windows beside the bottom berth was an added bonus thanks to the beautiful sceneries to be witnessed.

Train #2 was scheduled to depart from Platform number 1 at 8pm. Hualamphong Station was getting busy as we entered the IMG_8631station. To our great surprise, the station was pretty big and the standard was no less than that of a world-class railway station. The station had a food court, massage centres and finding our platform and train didn’t take much of an effort. The maroon coloured train was standing on the platform, looking like the Hogwarts Express from the famous Harry Potter films.

The reason why I am calling it the Backpacker Express is because 99% of the commuters on that train were backpackers. We could hardly see anyone walking around with suitcase.  It was as if a festival for backpacks was being celebrated all over the station as well as on the train. Solo travellers, big tour groups, couples and random groups were travelling on the train. The only local people in the car were the supporting staff and security guards. It was fun to watch some of the IMG_8650backpackers getting excited to see a sleeper train for probably the first time in their lives and jumping and walking around the car. Nikk and I had had plenty of experience sleeping on Indian train journeys so we were just enjoying the show. A tip I would like to give about this journey is taking your food with you, or eating beforehand since the food on the train is expensive and not many options are available.

The most surprising part of the journey arrived when the clock struck 2100 hours. The managing lady came to me and asked me to move aside from my seat. As I moved out, she hurriedly started making my bed. Nikk and I looked at each other with dubious expressions on our faces as to what was going on. We then realised that in Thai trains, there are attendants to make your beds, which was news to us. The lady made our beds with at a storming speed and I do think that she could have clearly won the Guinness World Record of the fastest bed making. Impressed by her feat, the other backpackers started recording videos of her bed making skills.

The journey was at night so we couldn’t take advantage of the scenery outside but the overall journey was extremely comfortable and a great experience. I would definitely recommend it more than a flight because along with a ‘local touch’, the train journey from one part of the country to another is quite amazing in itself. We reached Chiang Mai at about 7 am and the station was flooded with backpackers getting off the train. The city was ready to welcome its new visitors. Overall, it’s a trip experience so amazing that one should definitely have it on their list while in BKK. We took the same train back to BKK after our visit to Chiang Mai and it was equally interesting. You’ll get to know more about our stay in Chiang Mai here. keep wandering.

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