Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and that trains are expensive in Canada, but I LOVE trains. Love, love, love. So, when we had the option to fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (1 hour) or to take the train (12 hours), I was all about taking the train. Our tickets cost 1,280 Baht ($44 for two people), which in my mind is an absolute bargain. I’m used to British rail prices where $44 will get you … to Watford from London? A one hour journey?
The trip was stunning and changed constantly. Leaving Bangkok was excruciatingly slow (1 hour?) as we crawled through what I can only really describe as a shanty town. The homes were made of corrugated metal roofs, plastic, wood and other debris that created homes. And yet… I’ve never seen so many smiling kids. They were playing on rooftops, chasing one another or eating their breakfasts.
Leaving Bangkok, we sped through bright green rice fields for hours. The number of Wats (temples) that we passed became too many to count. My favourite was one right up on the side of a mountain with a giant golden Buddha watching over the field below.
Rice fields turned into luscious hills with vines and greenery everywhere! This is where the fun part of the ride started as we weaved in and out of valleys, rewarded with fantastic views.
Here’s what I was not expecting – to be fed on the train, multiple times for FREE. Yes, free. Coffee in the morning with a little apricot pastry, lunch (more on that shortly) and in the afternoon a bun filled with red bean paste… which I won’t lie, tasted a little boozy. Lunch. Ah lunch. Lunch was sweet and spicy catfish soup with a side of mackerel in chilli sauce. Our first taste of adventurous food.
It wasn’t half bad. What I can’t understand is how the sweet and spicy soup really was sweet and spicy. In different bites. One bite would make my lips burn, the next would make me smile. Odd…
Bathrooms – if you’re like me, you dread bathrooms on trains, buses, planes. They’re just gross. And this bathroom was pretty much what I expected. The pungent odour, the non-flushing toilet and the odd hose pipe… I still don’t know what that was for. The weird part was when I flushed the toilet, the floor began to fill with water. So glad I was wearing my shoes. TMI, I know, but weird people like me want to know this stuff!
As the day wound down, we were treated to a long, ruby sunset which burned through the sky. Absolutely stunning. Photos on the train were trickier to take, but take my word for it, if you ever get the chance to take the journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – do it by train.