A bit out of synch, but for anyone travelling to Chiang Mai in the future….
If you ever need any advice about train travel from anywhere to anywhere, look at www.seat61.com. It’s fantastic. And it has pictures of each type of seat available.
We took the sleeper up to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. There’s a second stop at Don Muang station to the north of Bangkok (near the old airport) which is where we got on. You can also buy the tickets from there. It’s better to book at least a few days in advance; longer if possible. We booked about a week ahead and had a choice of seats, but later in December and at Christmas and New Year it’s a busy time so book as soon as possible.
The train line just reopened on Dec 1 after upgrading the old wooden sleepers to concrete ones on the northernmost 300km of track. There have been a number of derailments so work was long overdue. It was certainly a much smoother ride than the one south.
After experiencing the hair-raising (and by that I mean terrifying) overnight driving on the buses last trip to Chiang Mai, the train was definitely the best option.
The tickets cost around 18€ one way, slightly less for an upper berth. The lower berth is almost as wide as a double bed though (only on some trains) so well worth the little extra.
There’s a restaurant on board which we didn’t go to, but the choice looked good and prices were reasonable. You can also order from train staff – they get commission so you pay a little extra.
The beds, especially the lower ones are really comfy and are made up into beds from day seats during the evening.
The overall train ride is very comfortable (expect to be late arriving though) but use the toilets at your peril. Go before you get on the train if you can. Hold your breath if you can’t.
We chose accommodation which was around 15 euros a night for a room. You can get much cheaper in a hostel, much dearer in a fancier hotel. The Thapae Garden Guesthouse we were in suited us perfectly, in fact it was fancier than we were planning to stay in. It had a small pool, nice communal areas, a little cafe area serving breakfast and snacks if needed, and clean rooms with fans. To be honest it was nice to be away from air conditioning and it is cool enough at this time of year that a fan was plenty.
Staff were very friendly and could book tours or give advice about where to go. The location of the guesthouse was excellent, a short walk to the night bazaar and town centre.
And the coolest shop in town? The winner of that would be John Gallery, where you can buy prints and canvasses. They say a picture says a thousand words so here are a few…..