But first…Making it to the Overnight Train By The Skin of My Teeth
Note: This is a Continuation from the last post: Around Bangkok In 2 Days
And so, one of my craziest memories in Bangkok happened.
Three Reasons to Ride Any Overnight Sleeper Train in Bangkok
With the many ways to travel Thailand, I chose to avoid the most convenient and fastest way. There was no way that I was getting back on a plane this soon after 35+ hours flying. The sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani was my only other option. Looking back, having ridden the sky train, then a 150cc moped, the iconic Tuk-tuk, pink taxing all over the Bangkok at night — all these were amazing experiences, but my favorite experience and mode of transport by far is the 10 hours that I spend on the train heading to Surat Thani’s.
There’s something special, a bit of magic created when you’re bonding with a total stranger sharing experiences of being in a strange land. You can also experience that magic on any trip by bonding with locals who will open up to you and possibly reveal some secrets that can lead you to wonderful places off the beaten path. The best place to experience this in concentration is on a train filled with Backpackers – one train car has possibly thousands of stories waiting to be shared.
1. Meeting other interesting travelers
Hence the number one reason to opt for any overnight trains in Thailand is also an excellent travel lesson – making friends. You should always muster up the courage to speak to as many people as you can during your travels. You never know what new journeys that you might open up yourself too. I met Xiangyu on the train, she was traveling at the time with her cousins on a two month long trip through Cambodia, Vietnam and now Thailand. We both were crazy about photography, chatted for what appear to be hours, sharing travel stories and photographs from our trips. There’s somewhat of an old fashion charm to traveling a foreign country by train . Looking over your sit to see a group of backpackers playing a card game that you ask to join in. This doesn’t happen on a plane, people are generally more uptight and cautious staying in seats.
With all the social media apps available Xiangyu and I remained friends and kept in touch often. If ever I decide to visit China or her New York City, we both know that we have a host if needed. So, take the train. However, don’t be a silent observer, or else you’re going to be missing an opportunity of meeting individuals from all over the world.
Bonus tip: Questions to get conversation flowing with a fellow traveler:
- Start with: Where are you from?
- Where have you been on this trip?
- Where are you going next?
Each of these questions can open up the way to have interesting back and forth dialogues.
2. Comfort and Relaxation & The food is better
In regards to Comfort and Relaxation, there’s something relaxing about sleeping on a moving train. Personally, I seem to get my best and deepest sleep while on the Amtrak back home – same for any moving train. It’s the rocking motion, takes me back to being a baby being rocked to sleep. Also, helps that the bunks on the train are not bad at all. They’re comfy.
Overall, food is inexpensive throughout Thailand, but it’s exceptionally cheap to get a great meal on the train, 180 Baht for a dinner platter and about 400 Baht for seafood meals. Airline food doesn’t come close. Another experience to hammer #1 in further; while eating dinner in the restaurant carriage I sat next to a Thai Film director, who pulled out his laptop to display the latest film that he was editing while heading home to one of the Islands. He invited me to his Island home but it was an island not on my travel route—social media o the rescue again — we remained WhatsApp contacts for another time.
3. Old Fashion Charm, Landscapes, a Glimpse at Everyday Life
In my case, traveling from Bangkok to Surat Thani. When pulling out from the station in Bangkok, for a while your view out the window will be the outskirts of Bangkok, not the best scenery, but it gets better as you go along — a film reel like the view out the window of landscapes & everyday life. Those in between glimpses can be a destination in and of itself.
So, don’t miss that train!