It was an interesting couple of days in Bangkok, but we were definitely ready to move on to a slower town.We decided to take the 13 hour overnight train to Chiang Mai.
We bought or tickets the day before from our hostel, paying a 50 baht delivery fee to have the tickets delivered. The number 13 train left Bangkok at 7:35 pm, and was set to arrive in Chiang Mai at 9:55 am.
Getting to the train station was a cheap tuk tuk ride away, and we were told we really didn’t need to arrive early. People began boarding about 30 minutes prior to departure.
As for what tickets to get, we would recommend two options: first class sleeper, or second class air conditioned sleeper. In first class, you get two beds (so if you’re alone, you need to book the whole room to be alone) with a door and both Western and squat toilets. In second class air conditioned, you get four beds in one nook with no door. There were two squat toilets and one Western toilet.
We decided to go with second class air conditioned, since it was substantially cheaper than first class. Our friends who did take first class were quite unimpressed, so I think we won that gamble. We bought the lower bunk and the upper bunk on the same side. The upper bunk came to 791+50 baht ($29 CAD) and the lower bunk came to 881+50 baht ($32 CAD). Overall, it was a good experience. It’s a bit awkward to have someone sitting right across from you (or sleeping at night), but each bunk has curtains that fully enclose you. There’s plenty of space for luggage storage in each unit. Workers come around at around 9 pm to make the beds, and lights were off around 10 pm.
There was a restaurant car in the next car, and the prices were pretty fair. The ride was a bit bumpy, but everyone was pretty quiet, so it was still easy to sleep. The only thing we would complain about was that it got extremely cold at night – apparently the A/C came without a thermostat. Luke forgot pants, but luckily I remembered mine and I had a spare blanket to share. He made himself into a 6′ burrito and survived the night.
Also, the bathrooms were not the most amazing. I couldn’t get the doors to close half the time (I’m weak!), and the floors were pretty wet. There was no soap and toilet paper was scarce. The last thing I would say is more of a tip rather than a complaint: The wall plugs didn’t work for us, so charge up all your stuff before getting onto the train so it will last the night.
Overall, taking the train made for stunning views, and being able to have a bed to sleep in (and save on paying for a night of accommodation) was pretty great.