The Road to Chiang Mai

January 20, 2013, In: Asia, Thailand, Travel

I know that sometimes wishes come true. Probably more rarely than wishes, sometimes new years resolutions come true. Well, mine has. I am literally “rolling with it“. Given the opportunity to go back, I might have worded my resolution differently. I would probably have said “flying with it” or “gliding with it” or “coasting with it,” But noooo…. I had to go with “rolling with it.” And here I am. Rolling through Thailand on a train.

I would say that I felt like I had been pushed back in time, but that might imply that I was riding on a Taggart train and I guarantee you that Rand couldn’t have, or wouldn’t have, fathomed that people would ever choose to travel like this. Between the two of us, we have ridden economy trains in South America, Central America, and Europe, all of which have had their own sketchy charm… None of which has ever been this bad.

I had a good feeling that tonight would have finally been the night that my body adjusted to the time change. I really felt like I was turning a corner and maybe breakfast time was finally going to stop feeling like dinner time… then came this train. We will see how a night of no sleep affects my body’s acclimation to this new world.

I haven’t been able to pick just one thing as my favorite part of this ride. The windows are open, and I think the entire Thai insect population decided to swarm to the lights that have been on all night long… keeping us from even the illusion of “night.” The bugs aren’t the biggest problem with the windows being open though, it’s the wind that is really killing us. Most of us are covered up with every layer of clothing we could pull from our unlocked backpacks. On the bright side, the wind is probably keeping the cars from reeking, as there are two little bathrooms with doors that won’t stay closed and metal toilet seats that sit directly on the floor of the train. Let’s be honest… after fifteen hours on a shaky train, who doesn’t want to pee into the floor?

All this said, we’re rolling with it. Every once in a while I let my mind wander to what it would be like to be in the sleeper part of the train, but then I take a deep breath, blow the bugs off of my computer screen, and remind myself how lucky I am to be typing in Thailand… wherever that means I’m sitting or whatever it means I am smelling.

Word of advice to those who are ever looking for transport from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: it might be worth the flight. Don’t take the bus. We have heard that it is even worse than this train, and it’s much less safe. If you do find yourself rolling down the Thai rails, I would recommend staying in Bangkok until you can buy an overnight ticket in the sleeper car (about 880 Baht, or $30ish). We bought our ticket a day in advance, but the sleeper cars were booked up three days out, so we got stuck with “recliners” (ha!) for about 400 baht. And, hey, if you find yourself in exactly the same situation, seats 31/32 aren’t so bad… Just roll with it.


Brian’s video account of the train.

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    • Eric
    • January 27, 2013

    Awesome. Way to be present.

    • Christen
    • January 23, 2013

    That’s amazing Mindy! I would’ve taken one look, peaced out!

  5. Reply

    Sounds awful! I took the bus and they overbooked meaning I had to spend the entire night on a wooden bench at the back with my head on a speaker blaring out music…not the best!!

    • Reply

      Oh noooo! That is WAY worse!!! I actually wrote that in the midst of my frustration, but by the next day- even though we were three hours late getting in- I had sort of started enjoying the view and the rails, so I really shouldnt complain too much!

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In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.
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