Alas my time in Bangkok has come to an end. The next stop of my 5-month adventure is Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and famous for its epic water fights every year during Songkran. Everybody has bottles, buckets, hoses and/or water guns to play. And I mean the huge Super Soaker water guns that you always wanted as a kid but your mom never let you buy them-kind of water gun! Both locals and foreigners soak each other all day long for three days to celebrate the Thai New Year.
Songkran is one of the biggest reasons why I chose to start my trip in Thailand. The splashing of water is suppose to symbolize the cleansing of the past year and welcomes the new blessings to come.
The journey to Chiang Mai was a 14-hour long overnight train ride through hills and jungle. Although, I must admit I slept through a majority of the ride. I booked my ticket early (knowing Songkran is one of the busiest times of the year) through 12goAsia, picked up my ticket a few days early at their office in Bangkok and arrived to Hua Lamphong station, eagerly awaiting my new destination.
One of the benefits of booking with 12goAsia was that they booked out the entire train car, therefore, every person in my vicinity was a foreign traveler. I shared a row with a very nice family from the UK on holiday for a few weeks. Shortly after the train had taken off from the station, dinner was served and around 9pm, the cabin staff came through to make our beds. The space in the upper berth was small but very comfortable. I was exhausted from my last day in Bangkok and had no trouble falling asleep. The next morning, I awoke around 6am. The beds were converted back into passenger seats and the next 3 hours were spent relaxing and reading my book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Here are some tips for the train:
- The upper berths are more narrow than the lower berths but also cost less and are still quite comfortable.
- Bring your own food and drinks onto the train. Upon boarding, the stewardess will go around and offer everybody a cup of orange juice without telling you they cost 60 THB each. I saw everybody drinking them so initially thought they were free, then was later surprised/not surprised that they charge for them. I cannot attest for the quality of food onboard, I’ve heard that it’s not quite good so I brought my own spaghetti from the hostel restaurant and it was delicious. I also bought my own snacks and (better) OJ from 7-11 prior to getting on the train and that only cost me 15 THB.
- This one is a tip from psychotraveller.com but a useful one. Arrive early as it may take some time to find which platform your train will be leaving from and some trains are quite long so if you are in Car 1-5, you’ll need to walk far down the platform (or run if you’re late).
Overall, I had a great experience on the overnight train. Great for both solo and group travelers wanting to go to Chiang Mai for cheap and have just a little bit of extra time! A majority of time is spent sleeping and it saves on a night’s worth of accommodation. Win-win. I can also recommend 12goAsia.com for quick and easy booking ahead of time.
After arriving to the station in Chiang Mai, I quickly found a taxi and was taken immediately to my next hostel, S*Trips the Poshtel. In the taxi, I met several travelers from California, Florida, Hawaii and Germany. They shared their previous experiences in Chiang Mai and gave me some very helpful tips and information for the city and Koh Tao, which I’ll be headed to next. At the hostel, I met another traveler whose shirt was soaked, because he was a victim of the early celebration. The hostel staff has already been amazing, very friendly and accommodating. The room is perfect, cozy and private and I’ve currently turned my bathroom into a very large washer/dryer. Not too much excitement going on, as today will be spent resting and preparing for the next three days’ festivities. AKA I’m finally buying a Super Soaker!