Visit Thailand by Train for less than 30,000 Thai Baht
Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s easy to see why this is the case; Thailand is blessed with natural beauty, friendly people, delicious food, and a multitude of interesting tourist attractions. Thailand is also relatively inexpensive to visit, making it affordable for almost everybody.
In this article, we’re going to show you how to enjoy many of Thailand’s best destinations when travelling by train. Thailand’s railway network is underappreciated, as you won’t see many travel guides that recommend travel by train. But for many people, travelling by train is the best way to travel!
Here’s an Itinerary that you might like…..
We’re going to describe how you can visit Thailand by train for two weeks while spending less than 30,000 Baht. We’ve included a specific itinerary to illustrate how a “Thailand by Train” holiday might look, but of course you can design your own journey. Here’s our itinerary:
- Four days in Bangkok to enjoy the beautiful temples, food, and shopping in Thailand’s capital city
- A day trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi to visit the “Bridge on the River Kwai”
- A day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, with it’s beautiful archaeological sites
- Four days in Chiang Mai to enjoy nature and the local culture in northern Thailand
- Four days in Pattaya to enjoy the beach and the wild nightlife
That’s a total of fourteen days, with most travel on Thailand’s train network. One thing to keep in mind is that, if you’re accustomed to travelling by train in Europe or Japan, you may have to lower your standards somewhat when riding the train in Thailand. The trains, stations, and ticketing services will not be the same high quality or cleanliness that you have come to expect when travelling in Europe or Japan. You will also find a significant difference between 1st, 2nd, 3rd classes on Thailand’s railways. You’ll have to decide if you want to spend a little more to travel in the higher class service.
Okay, let’s explore Thailand by Train!
Where is Thailand?
Thailand is located in southeast Asia. Most visitors will fly directly to Bangkok, which is served by two major international airports with direct flights from all over the world. We’ll describe your transportation options in detail below.
Thailand’s Railway Network
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city and it also happens to be centrally located within the country. As a result, Bangkok is the “hub” city for all of Thailand’s rail lines. You can see on the map that there are four main rail lines for tourists, all connecting at Bangkok.
The northern line travels north to the city of Chiang Mai, with onward bus service to Chiang Rai. The southern line travels south and in fact goes all the way to Malaysia and Singapore. Along the way, it’s possible to travel by ferry to some beautiful islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The western line goes to the town of Kanchanburi, the infamous “Bridge on the River Kwai”. You could also ride the western line to Myanmar’s capital city Yangon. The eastern line goes to Pattaya, with onward services to Cambodia. The northeast line travels through Thailand’s rural “Isaan” region , with service all the way to the city of Vientiane in Laos.
Bangkok – Thailand’s modern, bustling capital city
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city and the largest city in the country. If you travel to Thailand by air, you will almost certainly arrive at one of Bangkok’s two international airports. Bangkok is also the hub for Thailand’s state railway network, as most train journeys start and end in Bangkok’s main train station. And of course, Bangkok has a fabulous assortment of things to do, from ancient temples to modern shopping malls to bustling nightlife!
For these reasons, we recommend that you start and end your holiday to Thailand in Bangkok, and that you make the city your “base” for train travel throughout Thailand.
We’ve budgeted for a total of six days in Bangkok, four days to visit the city’s best attractions, plus two additional days for day trips to Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya.
We also recommend you stay in a hotel near the main train station called “Hua Lamphong Station” in Bangkok. The station is centrally located and it is close to many of Bangkok’s shopping and tourist destinations, and this will provide easy access to the railway station for some early morning departures on the train.
Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Top of the list for Bangkok is a visit to the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok which has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (Thailand) since 1782. The king, his court, and his royal government have been based on the grounds of the palace until 1925.
Located within the same complex is Wat (Temple) Phra Kaew, commonly known in English as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. It houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha, which is venerated as the country’s most important religious artifact. Construction of the temple began in 1783 under the orders of Rama I, the first king of the Chakri dynasty.
To enter the Grand Palace, you must buy your tickets ahead of time, at least 24 hours before your visit. Modest clothing is required for all visitors.
Wat Phra Chetuphon, known in English as the Reclining Buddha, is a very impressive sight for most visitors. This temple holds a massive statue of Buddha that is lying down on his side. The statue itself is 15 metres tall and 46 metres long! The Buddha’s feet are 5 metres tall and exquisitely decorated with 108 “Mother of Pearl” decorations, representing the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead Buddha to perfection.
You can purchase a small bowl of coins when you enter, which you can drop in the 108 bronze bowls which line the length of the walls. Dropping the coins makes a pleasant ringing sound and all the money collected goes to support the monks. This temple is located directly behind the Grand Palace so you can easily combine visits to both.
Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or Wat Arun is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok, Thailand, on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Wat Arun is among the best known of Thailand’s landmarks. The first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence. Although the temple had existed since at least the seventeenth century, its distinctive prang were built in the early nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama II.
The Golden Buddha, officially titled Phra Phuttha Maha Suwanna Patimakon, commonly known in Thai as Phra Sukhothai Traimit, is a gold Maravijaya Attitude seated Buddharupa statue, with a weight of 5.5 tonnes. It is located in the temple of Wat Traimit, Bangkok, Thailand. At one point in its history the statue was covered with a layer of stucco and coloured glass to conceal its true value, and it remained in this condition for almost 200 years, ending up as what was then a pagoda of minor significance. During relocation of the statue in 1955, the plaster was chipped off and the gold revealed.
The Bangkok National Museum is the main branch museum of the National Museums in Thailand and also one of the largest museums in Southeast Asia. It features exhibits of Thai art and history. It occupies the former palace of the vice king, set between Thammasat University, and the National Theater, facing Sanam Luang. The museum was established and opened in 1874 by King Chulalongkorn to exhibit the royal collections of his father King Mongkut.
Museum of Royal Barges
The National Museum of Royal Barges is a museum in Bangkok, Thailand. It is on the northern rim of Bangkok Noi canal in the Bangkok Noi District. Royal barges from the Royal Barge Procession are kept at the museum.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, also known as Maha Uma Devi Temple, is a large Hindu temple. The temple is constructed in a South Indian architecture style which is covered with colourful figures and religious icons. The temple was built in 1879 by Vaithi Padayatchi, a Tamil Hindu immigrant. Inside, there are a number of statues and a small Hindu temple. The temple is open to visitors of all religions.
Thai massage is a body healing system that combines conventional massage, acupressure, and assisted yoga postures. Throughout Thailand, there are massage shops on virtually every street and at every price point. Usually, there are a few massage attendants (mostly ladies) sitting outside who will greet you and explain the various types of massage available and the price. In addition to Thai massage, you can also enjoy a foot massage, head massage, hand massage, or oil massage. At some shops, the price can be as low as 100 baht for some services, so it is an inexpensive way to relax after a long day in the Bangkok heat.
Muay Thai Boxing
Muay Thai boxing is a very popular sport in Thailand. Two opponents fight in a raised, square ring similar to a conventional boxing ring. The fighters use a combination of striking and clinching techniques, and use their fists, elbows, knees, and shins to defeat their opponent. If you are interested in trying Muay Thai boxing yourself, there are small gyms or academies located throughout Bangkok where a teacher will show you the techniques and let you practice. If you would like to watch the professionals fight, there are several arenas in Bangkok where spectators can watch some fights. Tickets can be expensive, but there are some inexpensive or even free tickets available, depending on the venue. If you would just like a taste of the sport, you will find demonstrations in some of the shopping malls such as Asiatique or MBK mall.
Bangkok has a lively nightlife with lots of places to visit and many exciting things to do. Here are a few places that you might enjoy when the sun goes down!
Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest in the world. It is fun to visit during the day, but it really comes alive at night! It is just around the corner from the Hua Lamphong train station, so if you are staying in this area, it’s just a short walk from your hotel. The main street “Yaowarat Road” is home to a multitude of street food vendors, offering delicious and inexpensive Thai and Chinese dishes all night long. If you’re looking for a more elevated dining experience, the Grand China Hotel has a revolving, rooftop restaurant which offers panoramic views of the city, which are especially breathtaking at night. Talat Kao is an open air market with lots of food options. If you’re just looking for a drink, there are many cool bars where you can just sit and chat and watch the world go by.
“Sky Bars” are open air, rooftop bars located high above the city on the roof of an office tower, hotel, or condominium. They are most popular at night, when the sun has gone down, the evening air is cooler, and the city below is all lit up. Many sky bars are also restaurants where you can enjoy your evening meal. Bangkok has a lot of sky bars to choose from, but most of them are too expensive for visitors to this website! One of the more affordable sky bars is Cielo Sky Bar, located on the 46th floor of the Luk condominium. It’s easy to reach, located near BTS Skytrain station Pra Kannong. At Cielo, you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail for around 400 baht each. Cielo also has a “Sky Walk” where you can walk on a glass floor and look down 46 floors.
Ladyboy shows offer great entertainment featuring beautiful costumes, singing, dancing, and comedy. The entertainers, of course, are all “ladyboys” and the comedy can be on the naughty side, so this may not be the most “family friendly” entertainment. Nonetheless, the shows are very popular and inexpensive. By the way, you will have to “tip” the entertainers if you’d like to take a photo with them.
We suggest the “Calypso Cabaret”, which is located in the Asiatique mall (see below), or the “Playhouse Cabaret”, which is located in Chinatown, which is near the train station so an easy walk from your hotel.
Last but not least, Soi Cowboy is a short street with a number of “Go Go” bars and hostess bars, featuring many ladies in various states of undress. This type of entertainment is definitely for adults only! Although you will pay a little extra to enjoy a drink here, it is fun to visit and very safe.
Shopping in Bangkok is an entertaining and inexpensive way to spend some time, as long as you stick to browsing! Bangkok has some of the largest shopping venues in the world, and they almost always offer great food,services, and entertainment as a bonus. Here are a few for you to choose from.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest market in Thailand. The market has more than 15,000 stalls divided into 27 sections. Chatuchak Market sells many different kinds of goods, including plants, antiques, consumer electronics, cosmetics, pets, food and drinks, fresh and dry food, ceramics, furniture and home accessories, clothing, and books. It is the world’s largest and most diverse weekend market, and attracts over 200,000 visitors every weekend. It is an open air market, so you will get very hot wandering the aisles….make sure to stop for a cold drink. Chatuchak is open Saturday and Sunday only from 9:00am to 6:00pm. The easiest way to reach the market is to take the Skytrain (BTS); exit at Mo Chit Station (Sukhumvit Line, station N8) and cross the street.
MBK Center is an enclosed, air conditioned shopping mall that offers a wide range of mostly inexpensive merchandise. MBK is very large, with eight floors holding 2,000 shops, restaurants and service outlets, including the 4-storey Tokyu department store. MBK Center draws about 100,000 visitors per day, so it’s always busy. “Craft Village” is a great place to shop for inexpensive souvenirs for friends and family back home. MBK is located near the BTS Skytrain station Siam.
Asiatique: The Riverfront
Asiatique: The Riverfront is a large open-air mall with a great location right on the Chao Phraya River. It opens and closes later in the day (opens at 4:00pm and closes at midnight) and has lots of shopping, dining, and entertainment options to enjoy.
Asiatique is divided into four unique districts (Chareonkrung District, Town Square District, Factory District, and Waterfront District), each with a different “vibe”. Entertainment options include a ferris wheel, “Calypso” cabaret (ladyboy) show, live Muay Thai boxing, and a puppet theatre show. The easiest way to reach Asiatique is to ride the free river ferry from the Saphan Taksin BTS station.
Bangkok has a number of night markets where it’s fun to browse for inexpensive souvenirs, handmade or vintage items, or clothes. They’re also great for people watching or late night snacking. Here are a few that you might consider.
Chatuchak Night Market: on Friday nights, some of the vendors in Chatuchak open as a night market
Khaosan Road: this street is popular with young backpackers, and every night of the week it becomes a night market open until 2:00 am
Patpong Night Market: Patpong is infamous for it’s “naughty” nightlife, but it also offers a busy night market that is open until midnight every night; it’s a short walk from the BTS Skytrain “Sala Daeng” station (Station S2, Green Line)
Train Night Market Ratchada: also known as Rod Fai Market, offers lots of shopping and street food Thursday to Sunday from 6:00 pm to midnight; it is easy to reach, located next to the MRT station “Thailand Cultural Center” (Blue line, station BL19) https://www.facebook.com/taradrodfi.Ratchada/
Artbox Bangkok is a more modern version of a night market, made from old steel shipping containers and selling products aimed at younger people; there is live music and picnic tables and it’s located in a large city park; open from 4:00pm to midnight every day; it’s very easy to reach, just a short walk from BTS Skytrain stations Asok or Nana https://www.facebook.com/Artboxthailand/
Siam Paragon Mall
Siam Paragon is a huge, enclosed, luxury shopping mall that is always fun to visit. It has nine floors and is anchored by the “Paragon” department store. The lower levels offer lots of places to eat, from fast food to the finest dining. There are two floors hosting many luxury brands and offering clothing, shoes, fragrances, and jewellery. If you can afford to shop here, you’re visiting the wrong website! The next floor up is all about technology, including a number of high end automobile showrooms…..you can dream about owning a Bentley, Rolls Royce, or Aston Martin while you see the latest models. Continuing up, there are floors that focus on furniture, wellness, and education. Finally, the top floor is for entertainment, and hosts a bowling alley, movie theatre, and games arcade.
Practical Information for Bangkok
If you’re travelling to Thailand, you will almost certainly arrive at one of two international airports in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi International Airport or Don Mueng International Airport. You have a few options for transferring to your hotel from either of these two airports.
Suvarnabhumi Airport (IATA code: BKK) is the main airport and serves airlines from all over the world. If you are flying on a “mainstream” airline from anywhere in Asia, Europe, Australia, or the Americas, your flight will almost certainly land at Suvarnabhumi Airport. It is a large, modern airport located about 20 kilometers east of central Bangkok.
To get from Suvarnabhumi Airport to your hotel near the Hua Lamphong Railway Station, we recommend taking the Airport Rail Link from the airport to the city. The Airport Rail Link is reliable and inexpensive and will get you quite close to the railway station. Take the Airport Rail Link all the way to the end (Phaya Thai Station) and then travel by taxi to your hotel. At the end of your holiday, simply follow the same route in reverse to return to the airport.
Don Mueng Airport (IATA code: DMK) was Bangkok’s original international airport until it was closed in 2006. Since then, it has been renovated and has become Bangkok’s “second” International airport, serving mostly Low Cost Carrier (LCC) airlines. If you are flying on a LCC from Asia, you will most likely land at Don Mueng Airport. It is located about 20 kilometers north of central Bangkok.
To get from Don Mueng Airport to your hotel near the Hua Lamphong Railway Station, we recommend taking the train service operated by the state railway. There is a train station called “Don Muang” across the street from the airport terminal. Take any train southbound to “Bangkok” station, which is the name used for the Hua Lamphong railway station. In the early morning and afternoon there are trains operating every 30 minutes or so.
If you arrive in the middle of the day, you will find there are no trains running and you will have to find an alternate form of transportation. One alternative is to take a taxi to the nearest “BTS Skytrain” station which is called “Wat Phra Sri Mahathat” (station “N17”). From there, ride the Skytrain south to the “Siam” station (station “CEN”) and then another short taxi ride to your hotel. Another alternative is the Airport Limo Bus service which has a stop near Silom station; you’ll need to take a taxi from there.
Getting Around Bangkok
Bangkok is a very large city, so walking is impractical. You will need to use public transportation to get around. The traffic in Bangkok is very congested, so getting around by car, taxi, or bus can be frustratingly slow, and we recommend you avoid these as much as possible. Instead, we recommend that you use Bangkok’s subway, “Skytrain”, and river boat services to get around the city.
The subway system, which is called the “MRT”, operates a large subway system that covers much of the city. There is an MRT “Blue Line” station next to the Hua Lamphong train station. The Skytrain, which is called the “BTS”, operates elevated trains around the city. You can easily connect to the Skytrain from the MRT Blue Line. We suggest that you purchase a “day pass” that allows unlimited travel on the BTS and MRT.
The river boat system, which is called the “Chao Phraya Express Boat”, operates a system of boats that travel up and down the Chao Phraya river. There is a river boat station called “Marine Department” (Station 4) within walking distance of the Hua Lamphong train station. There are a total of 33 stations. Be careful to board the correct boat as some boats operate “express” and may not stop where you need to disembark. It is very inexpensive to ride these boats, so we suggest you buy individual tickets from the operator.
As you can see from the map shown here, you can reach many of the best sights in Bangkok using the MRT, BTS, and River Boat systems. There are many taxis and tuk tuks around if public transportation is not convenient.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
We recommend staying in a hotel near the main railway station Hua Lamphong. There is a MRT “Blue Line” station nearby that make it convenient for getting around Bangkok, and the location will also be convenient for your other journeys by train and river boat.
We found a number of inexpensive hotels near the station that offer private rooms that are comfortable, air conditioned, with an “en suite” washroom. You should be able to get a room in one of these hotels for around 800 baht per night.
Day Trip to Kanchanaburi and the famous “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Our first recommended day trip from Bangkok takes you to a small town called Kanchanaburi that is the location of the famous “Bridge on the River Kwai”.
Today, Kanchanaburi is an ordinary small town located just west of Bangkok….but this town has a darker past. During World War II, it was the site of the “Bridge on the River Kwai”, also known as the “Death Bridge”. The occupying Japanese army built a bridge using local forced labourers and Allied prisoners of war. This was portrayed in the film “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) and others. During construction, conditions were very difficult and it is estimated that up to half of the prisoners working on the project died from disease, maltreatment or accidents.
Today, Kanchanaburi is a popular destination for tourists who want to see this famous bridge. Many will visit to pay their respects by visiting the cemetery and two museums that commemorate the victims. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is a public cemetery and memorial located just a few steps from Kanchanaburi train station. It is a sombre place that holds the remains of more than 6000 people who perished there during construction of the bridge. The “Thailand–Burma Railway Centre” is a privately run museum. Admission Fees are 150 baht for adults and 70 baht for children aged 7~12 years. JEATH (Japanese-English-American-Australian-Thai-Holland) War Museum is also dedicated to the bridge and the Death Railway. It is part of the Kanchanaburi Center and admission fee is just 10 baht.
During your day trip, you can take the train to Kanchanaburi, spend the day enjoying the town, visit the bridge and museums, and make it back to Bangkok. If you’re more ambitious, there is a weekend tourist train that will take you to Sai Yok Noi waterfalls in addition to stopping at Kanchanaburi.
Getting to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok
There are two ways to make this trip by train: the regular “local” train from Thonburi station, and the tourist train from Hua Lamphong station.
The local train runs everyday. Please note this train departs from Thonburi station, and not from Hua Lamphong station, so you will need to take a river boat from your hotel to get to Thonburi station. These are 3rd class trains with very basic facilities and no air conditioning. There are two departures a day, at 7:50 am and at 1:55 pm. The trip takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes each way and costs 100 baht. The return trains to Bangkok depart Kanchanaburi at 2:48 pm and at 5:41 pm.
The tourist train operates only on weekends and holidays. It departs from Hua Lamphong station so it is more convenient if you’re staying near the station. This train includes visits to the bridge (with a stop for photos), then on to the waterfalls at Sai Yok Noi, then the train returns to Bangkok with a stop near Kanchanaburi station. These trains include both 3rd class and 2nd class seating. Departure time is 6:30 am and returns to Bangkok at 7:25 pm. You do need to reserve your seats in advance. The round trip cost is only 120 baht for 3rd class or 240 baht for 2nd class.
Getting around Kanchanburi
It is a long walk from Kanchanaburi station to the River Kwai bridge. You may prefer to ride a songtheaw (“baht bus”). They travel along the main road and charge 10 baht per person.
Day trip to Ayutthaya – the ancient capital of Thailand
Our second recommended day trip from Bangkok will transport you back in time to Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand and is located just a short train ride north of Bangkok. There are many beautiful temples within the city, many of them dating back to the 14th century, and so it makes for a worthy day trip.
There are so many temples worth visiting, you’ll have a hard time choosing. Wat Chai Watthanaram was built around 1630 and is likely the most iconic temple in Ayutthaya. Wat Phra Mahathat was once a royal burial ground and is now the site of a haunting Buddha’s head wrapped in an overgrown banyan tree. Wat Na Phramen and Wat Phanunchoeng hold magnificent statues of Buddha inside. Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a large complex with three large “chedis” (towers) that are very photogenic. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon includes a large reclining Buddha statue that is draped in yellow saffron robes. Wat Na Phra Men features n elegant white temple.
Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
There are frequent trains from Bangkok Hua Lamphong station to Ayutthaya station. These are 3rd class trains with very basic facilities and no air conditioning. The trip takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes each way and is a bargain at 20 baht. There is a faster (express) air conditioned train if you prefer; you can reserve seats at the Hua Lamphong station for this train.
Getting around Ayutthaya
The city is quite large and the temples are spread out over a large area, so the best way to see the sights is to hire a “tuk tuk” and a driver. When you arrive at the Ayutthaya train station and walk out onto the main street you will see a number of tuk tuks waiting for passengers. Negotiate with the driver for a half day or a full day of sightseeing. If you prefer, you can rent a small scooter for the day for just 200 baht, there are many available directly in front of the train station.
Excursion to Chiang Mai
We highly recommend a multi-day excursion to Chiang Mai. We have budgeted for a four day excursion which should be enough to see all of the best attractions.
Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and offers a wide range of interesting things to see and do. It is a long trip from Bangkok by train, but we are sure you will enjoy your visit.
Many of the best sights are located high in the mountains around 15 kilometers west of the city. You will need to travel with a tour operator to reach these sights, so be sure to shop around for the best value for the money. You can also find tours that combine two or more attractions on a single ticket to save time and money.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the “star” attraction on these mountain tours, It is a beautiful Buddhist temple and it also offers impressive views of downtown Chiang Mai. You can either climb a large staircase or ride a funicular to reach the temple and summit. Nearby you will find Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, with a small waterfall and garden. On the same trip you could visit Bhubing Palace which is a royal residence with a beautiful garden, or meet with local “Hmong” (long neck) people in a hillside village.
Many people travel to Thailand to see and interact with elephants, and Chiang Mai is a great place for this. There are several elephant parks that you may want to consider, here are a few suggestions. Some of these parks allow you to ride the elephants, while others do not, so please check before booking your experience.
There are a number of temples within the city that you may want to explore, although by this point in the trip you may be tired of looking at temples! But just in case, we suggest visiting the Wat Chedi Luang, which is located in the centre of Chiang Mai, and Wat Phra Singh, which holds a golden Buddha statue.
You might enjoy a trip to Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium which is located just outside of the city. It is a large zoo, and if you prefer can ride the tram or even rent your own golf cart to get around the zoo. The “star” attraction is the Chinese panda bear exhibit. The aquarium includes an underwater “walk through” tunnel to get a better look at the fish and other sea creatures.
Royal Park Rajapruek is a large botanical garden with floral displays from around the world. The park offers a free tram service, or you can rent your own golf cart. There is also a beautiful “Royal Pavilion” which you can visit.
How about some shopping? Chiang Mai offers a lot of shopping options, including both enclosed, air conditioned shopping malls and outdoor “night markets”. The biggest and best indoor malls are Central Festival and Maya Lifestyle.
Chiang Mai night markets are very popular, with lots of street food, inexpensive items for sale, and great people watching. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the biggest, it’s conveniently located, and it is open 7 nights a week from 5 pm to midnight. Tha Pae Sunday Walking Street is only open Sundays, also from 5 pm to midnight. Saturday Night Market Chiangmai, as the name suggests, is only open on Saturday nights. Remember to haggle for the best price!
There are a number of cooking schools in town where you can learn to cook some delicious Thai dishes. Some of these even include a trip to the local market where the instructor will show you how to choose the best ingredients, before returning to the classroom for the cooking. The best part is you get to eat your own creation!
If fishing is your passion, Chiang Mai has a few “fishing parks” you may want to visit. They will supply you with fishing equipment and bait and let you fish in their stocked ponds. These are outside the city so you will need to arrange for transportation out and back. You can try fishing during the day, in the evening, or even overnight. If you prefer, the staff will clean your “catch” and you can take it back to town to eat.
Getting to Chiang Mai by Train
It is a long train trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai but we think it’s worth the journey. How long? It’s an 11 hour trip each way.
There are two ways to make the journey. If you prefer travelling during daylight, there are morning departures that will get you to your destination in time for dinner. From Bangkok, the train (Train #7) departs at 8:30 am and arrives in Chiang Mai at 7:30 pm. The return journey (Train #8) leaves Chiang Mai at 8:50 am and arrives in Bangkok at 7:25 pm. These trains are air conditioned and offer both 2nd class and 3rd class seating.
If you prefer travelling overnight, there are “sleeper” trains which travel overnight while you sleep in a comfortable berth on the train. From Bangkok, there is a departure at 6:10 pm (Train #9) which arrives in Chiang Mai at 7:15 am, or you can depart at 7:35 pm and arrive at 8:40 am (Train #13). For the return journey, you can depart Chiang Mai at 5:00 pm, arriving in Bangkok at 6:15 am (Train #14), or you can depart at 6:00 pm and arrive in Bangkok at 6:50 am (Train #10). These trains offer 1st class and 2nd class seating which converts into sleeping berths. The fares range from about 600 baht (2nd class day travel) to 1600 baht (1st class sleeper) each way.
Getting around in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is quite compact and, if your hotel is in town, you may be able to walk to many of the sights. For longer journeys, there are always tuk tuks who will be happy to drive you to your destination. You could also rent a bicycle or scooter if you prefer driving yourself.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
In Chiang Mai, you have a lot of options for places to stay. If you choose a hotel in the city centre, you’ll have lots of activities and places to visit within walking distance, but your room will likely be on the small side and the hotel may not have a swimming pool. A little further out, you may need to walk a little farther or hire a tuk tuk to get where you want to go, but your room will be larger and your hotel will likely have a small swimming pool on the premises. If you choose a hotel outside of town, you can stay in a resort with a pool, fitness centre, and a large room……but there may not be any restaurants within walking distance. Here are some choices for you to consider. You should be able to get a room in any of these hotels for less than 1000 baht per night.
Pattaya – Quiet Days and Wild Nights!
Our second recommended excursion is a trip to Pattaya, a small beach town southeast of Bangkok. Pattaya is a busy tourist town, with lots of activities, so we’ve budgeted for a four day stay.
Pattaya is a town with two distinct personalities. During the day, it is a sleepy beach town with a few nice tourist attractions, some decent beaches, and some sports to entertain visitors. But when the sun goes down, it transforms itself into a noisy, naughty town with an intense nightlife.
All of the “daytime” tourist attractions are located just outside of town, so you will need to arrange for transportation to get there and back. The “naughty nighttime” activities are located in town, and easily reached by riding the “songtheaw” (“baht bus”) or on foot.
Sanctuary of Truth
The Sanctuary of Truth is an unfinished Hindu-Buddhist temple and museum which has been under construction for about 40 years. It is a beautiful building, set on the beach, and contains many impressive idols and sculptures. It is located in Naklua, just north of Pattaya.
Pattaya Floating Market
Traditional Thai floating markets were impromptu marketplaces where buyers and sellers would meet on small wooden boats. The floating market in Pattaya is a tourist version of such a marketplace, but as long as you don’t mind the inauthentic nature of the place, you will certainly enjoy a visit. There are shows, rides, and lots of food to enjoy.
Sri Racha Tiger Zoo
Sri Racha Tiger Zoo is a private zoo with lots of live tigers and crocodiles. If you’re brave, you can get in the cage with a huge tiger and pose for a photo. You can also feed a crocodile, enjoy a tiger show, feed a baby tiger, or meet the “Scorpion Lady”, who is covered with live scorpions.
Nong Nooch Tropical Garden
Nong Nooch Tropical Garden features six large themed gardens that are sure to impress any gardener. There are also live shows, including an elephant show that is sure to impress you. You can also meet and feed the elephants after the show……be sure to ask for an autograph!
Pattaya has two large water parks with some exciting rides and shows. These are especially popular with kids and teenagers, but adults enjoy them too. Ramayana Water Park and Cartoon Network Amazone are each about 20 minutes drive outside of Pattaya.
Pattaya Elephant Village
Pattaya Elephant Village is a “rescue centre” for elephants and has been in operation for more than 50 years. They appear to treat the animals well, and they offer a number of activities for visitors, including a cultural show and mini-zoo.
Beaches in Pattaya
If you enjoy the beach, there are large public beaches in Pattaya or in the next town Jomtien, which is located just south of Pattaya. These are not the “world class” beaches that you might find in other parts of Thailand, but the sun and the sand are always nice and there are plenty of vendors who will supply you with food, drinks, cabanas, beach chairs, and so on.
When the sun goes down, the party starts in Pattaya. It is party time every night, from dusk to dawn, if you can keep up!
The most intense action can be found on Walking Street, LK Soi Metro, or Second Road, but there are bars of every type all over town. We’ve provided a guide (below) to help you choose your favourite type of bar. The drinks are inexpensive, your hosts are skilled at making sure everyone has a good time, and you’re sure to enjoy the people watching. Despite the rowdy nature of the place, it is very safe to walk around at night. There are special “tourist police” to keep the peace, and the friendly Thai people will help you if you need directions getting home.
Getting to Pattaya
There is one train per day between Bangkok and Pattaya. Monday to Friday there is a basic 3rd class train, and on the weekends an air conditioned 2nd class train. It’s about a 3 hour ride either way. The train station in Pattaya is located just outside of town so you’ll have to hire a songtheaw or taxi to get to your hotel.
Getting around Pattaya
Pattaya is not that large, so you could just walk from place to place. If you prefer to ride, there are songtheaws (“baht bus”) that drive along Beach Road and Second Road, which will cover most of the city. You can ask the driver to make sure he’s going the right direction. Just hand the driver 10 baht when you get off the bus.
Where to stay
We recommend staying in the town of Pattaya so you can enjoy all of the daytime and nighttime activities, but be careful……..if you choose a hotel close to the bars, you may be disturbed by the loud music playing all night.
Here are a few hotels that you may want to consider. Some of them have swimming pools, so make sure you check if that’s important to you. You should be able to get a nice room in any of these hotels for around 1,000 baht per night.
Other Destinations in Thailand that you can visit by train
There are many other destinations that you can reach by train in Thailand. We won’t go into too much detail here but here are two that are certainly worth your consideration.
You can travel by train from Bangkok to Vientiane, which is the national capital of Thailand’s neighbour Laos. To get there, you have to take a train to the Thailand city of Nong Khai, then transfer to an international shuttle which will take you across the border and then into Vientiane. You will need to purchase a visa on arrival at the border, so check the entry requirements before you leave.
It is a very long train journey, so you may prefer to take an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai and back. The shuttle to Vientiane operates twice a day. Even in 1st class, the fare is quite inexpensive so this makes for an economical way to visit Laos.
You can travel by train south from Bangkok to Hua Hin, which is a beach resort town. Hua Hin is not blessed with a spectacular beach but it does have some nice resorts and tourist attractions that you might enjoy. Hua Hin is a short train ride south from Bangkok.
Ko Tai, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan
If you’re looking for those spectacular tropical beaches that you see in travel magazines, you’ll want to keep going south and then transfer to a ferry to visit one of Thailand’s islands. To reach Koh Tao, take the train south to Chumphon, then transfer to a ferry for Koh Tao. To reach Ko Samui or Ko Phangan, stay on the train to Surat Thani, where you can transfer to a ferry for either island. You have likely heard of Ko Phangan, as it is world famous for it’s “Full Moon” parties where people spend the whole night dancing on the beach. All of these trips are quite long, but it is possible to make the journey during the day or overnight by sleeper train.
Train Travel in Thailand
Al of the trains mentioned in this article are operated by the State Railway of Thailand. The website is rather difficult to use, as much of the information is available in the Thai language only, with limited English. Nonetheless, you may want to visit the website to check out the latest timetables and services offered.
The State Railway does not sell any type of tourist pass, so you will have to purchase individual tickets for each train journey. You can purchase tickets in person at Hua Lamphong station, just walk up to the ticket counter and ask the customer service agent. You will need to show your passport to purchase a ticket. Some tickets require a seat reservation, while others do not.
If you prefer to purchase tickets online, you have several good options. You can purchase tickets directly from the State Railway website shown above, but the user interface is rather difficult to use and you may have problems completing the purchase. Nonetheless, it is worth a try as this is the least expensive online option.
There are at least two online ticket agents that sell tickets that you may find are easier to use. These charge a premium on top of the prices charged by the State Railway but the extra fees are modest and you may find the convenience to be worth the extra cost.
The first online agency is “12GoAsia” and they offer train tickets for all of Asia. If you order through 12GoAsia, you will have to go to their office to pick up a physical (paper) ticket, you can’t simply print out the e-mail and use that as the ticket. Their offices are located close to the train stations. Their website also has a number of travel guides to help you plan your trip.
The second online agency is “Baolau” and they also offer train tickets for all of Asia. If you order through Baolau, you can receive your tickets by e-mail in “pdf” form and print them at home. Their website offers very detailed descriptions of all of the train routes in Thailand, with timetables and photos of the trains to help you make your decision.
Okay, it’s time to do some accounting! Here’s our budget for your two week “Thailand by Train” holiday. We’ve included 14 nights accommodations in private, air conditioned hotel rooms, all of the train travel and local transportation, and a wide range of fun activities, and we came in under budget at around 29,000 Thai Baht! We think that’s great value for the money. To get “under budget”, we did exclude some of the more expensive activities, such as a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary or a day at the water park.
Wrapping Up – Visit Thailand by Train
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading “Visit Thailand by Train”. Happy travels!