Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Night train: love it or hate it!

Yesterday, we took the night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, a small city at the border of Laos. We arrived 1 hour too early at the main station of Bangkok. The waiting hall was crowded and we had an evening picnic on the hall's floor.

Although we didn't expect to have this kind of evening meal made of Dunkin Donuts and biscuits, it has not been a bad experience, with all travellers around us also trying to make the best of their waiting time in a relaxed atmosphere.

An hour later we boarded the train and it got worse. On the advice of a station agent, we had purchased only 3 tickets for all five of us, thinking that our young children and I would sleep together in the beds. Once aboard we realized, horrified, that the sleeping berths were desperately tiny and narrow.  From our experience, we had selected a coach with fan only, as we got cold in an air-conditioned compartment 2 years earlier. In the train, we suffocated in the sticky hot air. The train did not depart on time, and we were sitting in it, thinking of running out and getting an additional hotel night in Bangkok. Luckily I talked to the train attendant who helped arrange an additional sleeping berth for us.

Finally the train started off, the air got cooler and we all had enough space to stretch our legs on the beds. In reality, sleeping on a night train is a very noisy experience: the sound of the rolling and the screeching of the brakes doesn't stop at night. But the kids and I slept well, very well in fact. 

That's the thing about night trains: I can't help falling asleep! 

If you thinking of taking the night train with your family in Thailand:
- do it! It's cheap, clean and quite comfortable.
- I would still recommend first or air-conditioned class over "fan-only" class. The additional comfort justifies the small price difference. Pack an additional sweater for the night.
- it' s a lot of fun for children - but pack some toys and books as well, the journeys are very long.
- be patient - our train was late but this is rather the rule than the exception with Thailand's night trains.