My arrival into Bangkok began with something I once considered unfathomable – a Starbucks without free WiFi.
The minivan from Cambodia dropped us off a block off of the main tourist trap road of Bangkok – Khao San Road. Not knowing exactly where my hostel was, it made sense to hop into the Starbucks I was let off in front of and use the WiFi to check out the address. Needless to say, my first bit of Thai ‘culture shock’ came in discovering that there isn’t free WiFi at Starbucks, but if I’d like to pay $5 I could purchase 2 hours of internet. As it turns out, all of the WiFi access points are locked down with a payment portal, although occasionally you can find a place that will give you an access password if you purchase enough. (Where I’m at right now, for about $2.50 I was given a 2 hour login on a sheet of paper.)
[I’ll write more about Bangkok later, so for now we’ll focus on the transportation part of this story.]
Seat61.com is a fantastic website that lists out all of the major train schedules with an amazing amount of detail for nearly half of the world. There are really only two options for trains from Bangkok (in the middle of the country) to Chiang Mai (in the north of the country). Day train or night train. If you take the day train you get to be awake for the entire 10-12 hour trip and you arrive around 10 to 11pm. If you take the night train, you get the benefit of sleeping somewhere for the night and don’t need to pay for a hotel.
You also arrive early in the morning the next day. I settled on the 6pm night train that would get you to Chiang Mai around 8am. As it turns out, due to railroad construction we were going to be an hour late. I also paid for a second class sleeper cabin – this meant that I’d be able to sleep at some point on a bed during the night. I was a bit confused when I got onto the train to find seats like this that clearly didn’t involve sleeping. I also swear I asked for A/C and there were nothing but fans on the ceiling.
Things didn’t end up to be a complete wash though; apparently these seats pull out and the curved ceiling of the train doubles as a bunk-bed that combine to allow both of the people facing each other to have somewhere to sleep. You can see the end result in the picture below – with all of the sleeping curtains pulled shut.
As for the rest of the facilities, the bathroom was the only other thing I could have possibly been concerned about. Although a bit small, it was stocked fully with TP. It also came with a fun feature – no plumbing. Why waste costly water to flush away your waste, when you can just build in a pipe that drops it right out of the train? It’s not possible to see it from this picture, but you can legitimately watch the ground go by under you if you’d like.
Eventually, I arrived into Chiang Mai. A city in the mountains of the northern part of Thailand.