We took the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train in February 2016. Overall, it’s a great experience. I don’t know that I would do it again, as flying is just sooooo much quicker and easier. That being said, it’s fun to ride a train halfway across Thailand. If you’re not in a rush to get to your next destination then this is a great way to travel. The time we had on the train was well spent and the countryside is beautiful. Sometimes the slower, less direct routes are often the more memorable and exciting ones. Life is all about adventures. Right?
Booking the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train
Enter V. She did all the research before getting the ticket. Indeed, if it were up to me (Ian) we would have never of made the train. Apparently some people plan to take this train months in advance, especially during the peak season. Wow.
Originally we wanted to take the 3:30pm Express Train No. 52 to Bangkok because we wanted to enjoy the scenery, and have a fan with open windows (s 2nd class sleeper), rather than air-conditioning. Alas, it was fully booked and we were unable to get tickets. We had left it too late. Instead we managed to secure last minute train tickets (the day before departure) for the 5pm Special Express Train No. 14 to Bangkok. We booked an S 2nd class sleeper, which is a fully air-conditioned sleeper train. V was worried it would be cold (she’d read a bunch of online reviews about it being cold and unpleasant), however we were pleasantly surprised that the temperature was perfect. We were happy and warm the entire train ride. Our tickets were only 881 Baht per person = $25 USD per person for a 12 hour overnight train ride.
The Story of the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train Experience
We start out at a great wifi cafe called Rosabieng Restaurant. It’s pretty much directly across the road from the Chiang Mai train station on Rotfai Alley. If you get to the station early, there’s plenty of sweet spots along Rotfai to chill out at and bide some time.
We walk into the train station and V breaks down how the process of getting a last minute train ticket works. Hint: it’s not super easy in the peak season (November – February and/or ‘Peak Periods’ like Public/National holidays, Festivals, weekend travel (Friday-Monday) or even ‘Commuter Rush Hour’). Many people plan a long time in advance before taking this train during these months. as these are the most popular routes. If you’re late in buying your ticket (like us) V provides a game plan.
Then we board the train and enjoy the trip. It’s fun. V wanted to eat in the restaurant car, but the lady pressured her into having us buy our food from our seats. She was a little perturbed until she investigated the rest of the train and learned that the food in the restaurant car was the same as what we were served in our seats. Yes. Happy travelers!
The attendant comes around and takes your order at the beginning of the train ride, and your meal is delivered to your seat around 7pm. Beware that food is separate and not included in the price of the train ticket. It’s also more expensive than the usual Thai meal, so if you have a chance I recommend you eat before you get on the overnight sleeper. I’m not going to lie, V and I both thought the food was very average. So buy your food beforehand!
Next, the train crew come around to put everyone to sleep early, around 8pm. They start from the top end of the car and work their way to the end of the car in a swift, orderly manner. You have to move out of your seat to let the attendant do their thing. They stash the table away under a side compartment, then your seats folds out to make the lower berth, lastly they fold out an upper berth from the ceiling. We both got the lower berths which worked out great, they are slightly more expensive however much more comfortable than the upper berth. They had more room (if you’ve got valuables you can even store them at the foot of your bed for peace of mind), no ceiling lights bothering you (which never go out), and you’re further away from the air conditioner, so it was a warm and pleasant sleep. Well worth the few extra bucks.
I needed to stay up late working on videos so the Thai train attendant set up beds for everyone else but me. He gave up in the end. If you’re like me and always have work to do, especially on long road trips, then stick to your guns. I did and I got exactly what I wanted; a long train ride to get stuck into editing. I stayed up late making the Nomad Summit video and the Nomad Summit Day video. We actually bought our train tickets on the morning of the Nomad Summit Day video, so if you’re interested in seeing how that went down, check out that video too.
I think it was complete luck that we were sat right next to a power socket (outlet). We didn’t do a completely thorough search of the train, but by the looks of things there aren’t many power sockets on these overnight sleepers. So if you have important online work to do and you need your electronics, then this might be quite the challenge and you may want to rethink this travel option.
If this is important to you, I would recommend that you ask the Thai Railways customer service operator (before purchasing your ticket) if your train has power sockets (and ask if you can be seated next to one). Also, if you need wifi during this trip, good luck. It’s super patchy and pretty much non-existent for majority of the trip. If you have an unlocked cell phone I recommend purchasing a prepaid sim card upon arrival to Thailand (True, 650B = $35 USD/month, Unlimited data) which allows you to tether off your phone and in this situation use the train as an office. If you have an online business I recommend doing this so you’re never left high and dry.
At the crack of dawn you’re woken up by the train attendants. We were the last ones asleep and probably the last ones up. They start packing away beds (in the same manner as setting them up) so that majority, or all of them, are returned to seats and ready for new passengers who will board the train when it arrives to the Bangkok train station.
We say goodbye to our new friends from the UK at a town just North of Bangkok. (I always love meeting new people and making new friends in random places – Thanks for the interesting conversations Chris and Stu!). Then V and I jump off the train prematurely (one stop before Bangkok Station) because we realize that it’s quicker if we bail here to get to our hotel. It’s a bit unexpected, but it was a success.
Our story of Chiang Mai to Bangkok train ride comes to a close as we wave the train goodbye and V bargains with a Bangkok Tuk Tuk driver (they know how to hustle in BKK) to take us to our hotel. But that’s another story altogether.
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3 Helpful Tips to Book a Chiang Mai to Bangkok Sleeper Train (last minute, during Peak Season):
- In-person at any train station – This is the most efficient way, avoiding any extra fees. The SRT has tried to make ‘Advance Booking’ as easy as possible especially for popular destinations and busy periods. In fact, you can book tickets up to 60 days ahead at stations, and up to 30 days ahead online. It’s recommended to book as far in advance as possible for these ‘Popular Routes’ or during these ‘Peak Periods’. You should book at least a week ahead for ‘Popular Routes’ leaving from Bangkok, such as Chiang Mai or Surat Thani, at any time of year, especially for ‘sSleeper Services’. This is where you’ll also be able to pick up your ‘last minute’ train tickets you’ve found over the phone.
- Over the phone – If tickets are sold out and it’s less than 4 days till your departure date you can call Thai Railways at 12:29-12:30am to talk to a lovely, helpful English speaking Thai customer service operator (within Thailand call 1690 and follow the prompts) and they will be able to inform you if any new tickets have been updated into the system (people have failed to pick up and pay for these tickets) and are now available for purchase. They can tell you of any new availabilities, however they can not sell you the ticket. If you’re lucky and there’s a ticket available you need to race to the nearest train station (Chiang Mai train station hours 7am – 7pm) to be the first ones there the next morning to purchase these golden tickets! You can call Thai Railways every night up until the night before you wish to travel to see if any new tickets have appeared for sale if you’re desperate to get a train ticket. There’s definitely a possibility that a ticket may pop up and it’s worth the late night conversation and early morning motorbike ride to the train station to pick up your ticket. No hidden fees involved. Smiles all around. Well worth the time and effort!
- Using a travel agent – This option is only available no less than 3-4 days pre departure date. The rules vary for each agency so make sure you check their website or call them. You can book up to 60 days in advance at some agencies. Choosing this service means you need to pay extra agent fees. So beware. You’ll also have a number of options of how to pick up the tickets, obviously this will depend on how much time in advance you’ve purchased them. I was given this travel agency in Chiang Mai to call if I wanted to go this route. B.I.S Travel 05 32 33 962. This option would be great for people not yet within Thailand and can’t get to the train station in person.
Check out all Thai Prepaid Sim Card options. I’ve also heard AIS have great deals. You can also use an AIS sim card to work for free at CAMP, an awesome co-working space in Chiang Mai. Feel free to check out CAMP in this vlog.
Do you have a day or two in Detroit? Here is a list of the cool stuff to do from a local who lives in the motor city.
I would just walk around the downtown area. There are a lot of beautiful buildings. Everywhere in Detroit is safe during the day, and you can see a lot just by walking around downtown.
- Guardian Building – It’s really beautiful on the inside. Check out the Guardian Building Website
- Greektown – It’s a little strip of restaurants, etc. next to the Greektown casino. There’s always a lot of people around here, and it’s a cool little area.
- Belle Isle – It’s a bit of a drive out of downtown, but you can see the entire Detroit skyline, and across the river to Canada. Along the drive, you could also cut back into Indian Village which is kind of a standard Detroit neighborhood – there’s blocks of beautiful homes in perfect condition and the next block is abandoned.
- Check out a Tigers Baseball Game – Not sure if you’d want to see it, but you can usually get $10-15 tickets, and the stadium is really pretty
- Riverwalk/Hart plaza/Renaissance Center – You can stroll along the river (Canada is right across it), Hart Plaza has some iconic Detroit statues. Renaissance center is GM headquarters, and you can walk in and look at cars on the ground level. Renaissance Center is the giant black, glass tours next to Hart Plaza.
- Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) – It’s a beautiful building with an incredible art collection. Make sure to see the Rivera/Kahlo mural.
- Motown museum – Gives you a great history of Detroit and the Motown music movement
- Jolly Pumpkin Brewery – A brewery on Canfield St has great beers and good pizza.
- Cass Corridor – If you drive along Cass Corridor between Midtown and downtown, you’ll see abandoned buildings and a lot of cool restaurants and bars.
- Batch Brewery – Brewery on Porter St. surrounded by awesome beers
- Johnny Noodle King – A new pho and noodle restaurant on W. Fort which is really cool. The bartender/servers here can tell you a wealth of information on great things to do in the city.
- Mexican Village – It’s across the freeway from Corktown, but it has THE BEST MEXICAN FOOD!
- Walk along Michigan Ave. There are a lot of car restaurants and bars. There is a large grassy lot at the corner of Michigan and Trumball – This is where the old Tigers baseball stadium was until they moved it downtown in 2000.
Have fun exploring!!!!!
I consider the Gold Coast to be a home away from home and it’s with great pleasure that I show you around this area.
The Gold Coast is located about an hours drive south of Brisbane, Australia. There are Gold Coast airports but if you’re visiting from a different country, you can land in Brisbane and take a train directly from the Brisbane airport to the suburbs of the Gold Coast. Once you get there, you can take a bus to downtown Surfers Paradise quite easily.
It’s affectionately known “sunny place for shady people.” Though I hear that the “bikey gangs” run the town, I’ve never felt like it’s anything other than safe and friendly. I would guess that this place is the Las Vegas of Australia. They have long beautiful beaches, a beautiful broad-water system where many well off people live and a stunning hinterland.
It’s also a great place to come to party… if you’re into that sort of thing.
Come on a Tour of the Gold Coast
Can’t see the embedded video? Watch it on YouTube here.
Some Travel Tips
- This place is safe a friendly. A great place to visit if it’s your first time out of the country
- The Surfer’s Paradise festival doesn’t happen every weekend so check the tourism website for events happening when you’re planning your trip
- Make sure to go in the water. It’s clean, warm and beautiful
- Australian lifestyle is much like that of the USA and it’s easy to drive around, they speak english and they are really friendly as a rule
- Remember that the Aussies use the left side of the road
How did you like the video? Have you been to the Gold Coast before? What would you recommend that I left out?
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