The Night Train to Chiang Mai

Sea's Berth
Sea’s Berth

Giving up on Bangkok during Songkran, we booked an over night sleeper car to Chiang Mai on the 17th. A second class air conditioned bed was 985 baht (about $30.00 USD). Not bad when you figure the cost of a room plus a 750 km trip. The trip would take 14 hours and was scheduled to arrive at 09:30. It was an express train with only 1 other scheduled stop.

I hailed a tuk-tuk to take us to the station. Sea was livid as she told me she wanted taxis only, having safety concerns with tuk-tuks. I told her they cost less than taxis, but this failed to mollify her. She rode to the station refusing to speak with, or look at, me.

We got to the station an hour before the train left. I found a Dunkin Donuts and bought Sea a peace offering, which she refused to accept. But I did not throw them away.

Then we boarded the train, and it left right on time. Soon after leaving food and drinks were offered. I had a bowl of fried rice and a beer. I forget the price, but it seemed steep.

Then the attendant

came around and made everyone’s bed. We had a lower bunks, which is a necessity. The upper bunks looked like pull down drawers. They reminded me of luggage racks in planes.

We went to sleep.

Early the next morning I woke up. It was not fully light, but I had good views of the countryside. Sea’s curtain was still closed and I did not bother her. We were in mountains. After while a girl came around with coffee. I had two cups. Once again, I felt it was pricey.

About 08:30 the attendant came around and turned the beds back into seats, folded the sheets, and stored the pillows. Thinking we were close to arrival, I woke Sea so her bunk could be made. But she was already awake, eating the Dunkin Donuts she had refused the previous night. I snapped some pics for evidence. Then I noticed she was looking frantically for something, tearing the bed up, going through her things, old clothes, bags, pockets. It turned out she couldn’t find the train tickets. Apparantly they had been sucked through the squat toilet she used during the night. At least, that was all we could come

up with. Since they had already been punched, it was not a problem anyway.

The train didn’t seem to be making good progress. There were a lot of unexplained slows and stops, but this was my first train trip like this, so I didn’t know what to expect. Around 09:30 people started getting their things together to leave the train, but no Chiang Mai appeared. Finally around 11:30 we arrived at the Chiang Mai station.

We were booked at the Panda House, a new guest house close to the historic district of Chiang Mai. It cost 500 baht/night (about $16.00 USD). They were supposed to have someone meet me at the station, but the train being 2 hours late, no one was there.

I waited around a few minutes in case the driver showed up, and was about to get a cab with a guy with a sign that said CHRLES came into the lobby. It was our guy.

By about 13:00 we were was settled in the room, and I was feeling a bit sleepy.

Panda House was nice, new, clean. My only complaint was there was no phone in the room, making a

wake up call impossible. Panda House has 5 floors with no elevator. We were on the 3rd floor so that was not an issue. Also, Panda House did not offer complimentary breakfast, but this was not an issue for me either, since I usually just have coffee. And finally, just to be fussy, Panda House did not offer shampoo in the bath room. They left a bar of soap only. There were no water glasses, either. I feel embarrassed to bring these tiny things up. It was 500 baht/night. What do you expect?

We took a quick walk into the historic district which is surrounded by a moat and crumbling brick walls. We walked through an ancient Wat where Sea prayed several times. Then we toured a market where we had a bowls of soup and shared a pineapple on a stick. Then returned to Panda House to decide what to do the next day. We sat in the lobby looking through the travel literature before going for a light dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant next door.

Somehow Sea found a Four Face Buddha is a hot, sunny parking lot. She did two rounds of prayers.


was a karaoke place next door to Panda House. I was told by another guest it was a actually whore house. The girls who worked there were pictured on the sign out front. I don’t know if it was whore house or a karaoke place, but I never heard any singing coming from it.


About Charles Kirtley

Have been living in SE Asia and China since 2007. I have an opinion on most every subject, and don't mind sharing them. Lover and collector of worthless facts.
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