We took the brand new Bangkok to Chiangmai overnight train and it was awesome! See our full program in the earlier post – 3 weeks in Thailand.
When I was a kid, we used to take the overnight train between Bangkok and Chiangmai all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but at least once per year. I loved those overnight train rides because what kid doesn’t like trains? Trains are so awesome! That’s why I wanted to bring RB40Jr on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiangmai. You can book a berth on the train 60 days in advance and they sell out very quickly. I asked my uncle to book us a first class private cabin, but they ran out so we got the second class sleeper instead. We paid about $70 for 3 tickets. This is the old price and it will increase soon for the new overnight train.
As I mentioned last time in Exploring Bangkok, we hit the jackpot because our trip turned out to be the inaugural trip of the brand new train. Thai Railway just ordered a new train from China to replace the old one I used to ride as a kid! The new trains were supposed to go in service in August, but the rollout was delayed. I thought it was really cool that the new train rolled out right on our travel date. The Thai media was there to cover the opening ride and it was very cool to be a part of it. I even got interviewed by a reporter and RB40Jr was photographed quite a few times. All the passengers received a welcome gift of a water bottle with the Thai Railway logo.
The new overnight train
The new overnight train is really awesome. It is so much better than the old one. Let’s go through all the features one by one.
The restroom area is much nicer than previously. There are 2 western style toilets and 1 urinal per train car. These are similar to the airplane restrooms and each has it’s own little wash basin. There are also 2 wash basins outside. These are useful for a quick morning routine like brushing teeth and washing face. The cleaning crew comes by every so often to wipe up the area and empty the trash bins. This wash up area is very important and they did it right. The only problem is the urinal flushing sensor. The stall is small and it keeps flushing over and over when the stall is occupied. I guess the train has plenty of water so it’s not a big deal, but it still seems like a waste of water to me.
Automatic sliding doors
These new train carriages have very nice automatic sliding doors. You touch the button and the door slides open quietly and efficiently. Each train car has a sliding door at both entrances and a door between the passenger and the restroom area. These are really great and kept the noise to the minimum. I think the old trains had manual sliding doors and they were pretty noisy. Our berth was at the end of our carriage and we didn’t have any problem. RB40Jr liked sitting next to the door because he could push the button for everyone that was walking by. It kept him occupied for a while so that was good.
First class private cabins
The train only had one first class carriage with 20 cabins. I sneaked in to check it out when the train was at the station and it was awesome. You get a private cabin with a media console and a wash basin. I didn’t check the restroom area extensively, but later I heard that you can take a hot shower there! That alone is worth the price of admission. The problem with the overnight train is that you’re all sticky and dirty from a day of sightseeing, especially when hotels make you check out at noon. It’s uncomfortable to rest in that condition. Actually, I think you can take a shower at the station, but I’ve never used it. I’d love to travel in one of these first class private cabins someday.
The second class berths were very nice too. They are brand spanking new and nobody ever sat in our seats before. We loved breaking in these berths. The seats are comfortable, but there are no lower back rests at all. The backseats are flat so they can create a comfortable bed later. I think they should have included a small lower back pillow or something like that in the design. It’s not a big deal and we were pretty comfortable already.
The train left at 6 pm and we kept the seats up for about 2 hours. We ate dinner, played games, and hung out until it was RB40Jr’s bed time. Then we asked the attendant to convert our seats into bunk beds. The process took about 5 minutes. We got 2 lower bunks and an upper bunk. Usually a small kid can share the lower bunk with someone, but my uncle got us 3 tickets this time. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe a kid needs his own ticket at a certain age.
The lower bunk is a bit more expensive than the upper bunk. In the old trains, the lower bunks were bigger and more comfortable than the upper bunks. These upper and lower beds look to be the same size to me. I put RB40Jr to bed and shared the lower bunk with him for a little bit. It was too small for us to sleep side by side comfortably and I moved to the other lower bunk when he fell asleep. Two people can probably sleep head to toe and it’d be fine.
The lower bunk has the window and you can see the scenery. It was great to see the countryside rolling by in the morning. The lower bunk has a reading light, an electric socket, and a webbed pocket where you can put a few small things. If you have a choice, I would recommend the lower bunk over the upper bunk.
RB40Jr fell asleep around 8 pm and woke up at 4:30 am. That’s not too bad. I didn’t sleep very well and probably got 3-4 hours of sleep. The constant motion of the train was tough to adjust to. Mrs. RB40 was in the upper bed and she didn’t get any sleep at all. I think the motion is worse on the upper berth. She said it was like 12 hours of non-stop turbulence. The harsh neon light also stayed on full blast all night, and the curtain didn’t fully block out the light. I don’t know why they didn’t dim the light a bit once everyone went to bed, like on an airplane. I’m pretty sure the lights could be dimmed in the old train. If you end up with an upper berth, be sure to bring a sleep mask.
The old train did not have a dining car and you’d have to bring your own food. Actually, I think you could order some snacks, but it was just more convenient to pack your own dinner and snacks. The new dining car is very convenient, but we still packed some food because I’d rather be safe than sorry. The dining car looks very nice. There are 7 tables and a small area you can stand up and eat in. The price looked reasonable, but we didn’t buy anything from the dining car because it was mobbed during the dining and breakfast hours. There are just too many passengers on this train. I’d suggest bringing some food onboard and go to the dining car during off peak hours. If I was alone, I wouldn’t mind standing in line and hanging out a bit.
All in all, we had a fantastic experience on the new overnight train from Bangkok to Chiangmai. The adults didn’t sleep very well, but we still had a lot of fun. RB40Jr got to ride on his first train and he’ll remember this experience for a long time.
I love train trips!
Train trips are so much cooler than taking a flight. It’s such a throwback to the old days and we rarely experience that kind of travel anymore. You can wave goodbye to your loved ones as your train is pulling out of the station and enjoy a nice leisurely ride through the countryside. The ride has more motion, but you have a lot more room to stretch out than on an airplane. It’s 100 times more comfortable to travel for 12 hours on a train than on a plane. My dad came to pick us up and he saw us waving from the windows. That was pretty cool too. Trains are awesome!
If you ever have a chance to try it out, I highly recommend it. Oh, there are two overnight trains to Chiangmai everyday and only one new train. You should make sure to get the new train if you can.
Have you ever taken an overnight train trip? It would be so cool to explore the world riding the train. Train stations are so much more interesting than airports, don’t you think?
Stay tuned for next time, we’re exploring the northern cities – Chiangmai, Lampang, and Lamphun.
Some bonus food pictures!
Before going to the train station, we had lunch at Prachak Roasted Duck restaurant. As the name implies, they specialized in roasted duck and this restaurant has been in business since 1909! Wow, that’s a long time. We had noodle with roasted duck, wanton BBQ pork noodle soup, shumai, rice with roasted duck, cold chrysanthemum tea, and Thai ice coffee. Everything was good especially the duck.
We got some traditional Thai desserts from a shop near the duck shop. RB40Jr had coconut ice cream. Not sure how to describe these other desserts. I think they are made from rice flour.