Joel and I have been wanting to visit Chiang Mai for the longest time. We have been hearing of the beauty of the place from Joel’s family. His aunt and her family have lived there for about a decade and has been constantly inviting us to visit. Finally, last year, we decided to give it a go. Our journey to Chiang Mai took years to plan and took 12 hours to complete.
This was the first time we would be taking a sleeper train and I was excited (and scared at the same time). Joel cannot sleep well when we travel, especially by land, which is why I was scared of the sleeper train journey. I thought it would have been better if the train trip to Chiang Mai was during the day so that he can be distracted taking photos of the scenery, but I wanted to try the sleeper train so much. And because I was the one planning the trip, I booked the sleeper train.
We booked the train ticket to Chiang Mai at the Hua Lumphong station in Bangkok six days before our departure date. The train route was Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai, which was already half way of the Bangkok-Chiang Mai journey. We came from Sukhothai for a weekend and used the Phitsanulok train station as our starting point to our journey to Chiang Mai.
When I boarded the train, stored my luggage underneath my bunk, washed my face, and brushed my teeth, I pulled my socks, covered myself with the blanket that came with the bunk, and fell asleep. I momentarily woke up when I felt the train stop for a long time. I do not know where we were because it was pitch black outside and there was no signal from our pocket wi-fi. I promptly fell back to sleep only to hurriedly wake up at 4AM because I once read the views of the mountains in Chiang Mai are epic. When the sun rose, I took some photos and videos for a while, but I stopped and decided to just enjoy the view.
We were in the midst of the Thai jungle and the leaves kissed the windows of the train. I could not make out anything until I saw clouds moving away from trees, revealing vegetation so lush and waters calmly snaking their way from the mountains. I saw no one, but I saw a lot.
Chiang Mai, so far away from busy and bustling Bangkok. I was welcomed with so much calmness it made me realize how lucky I am to get there in the best of circumstances. I know the people of Thailand were mourning the time we were there, but my heart was so happy at that moment, I celebrated my smiling until the train lady started shouting, “One more hour to Chiang Mai!”
Joel and I merged forces and got coffee and sandwiches at the restaurant near the end of the train. We spent the rest of the train ride sitting in our once-bed, sipping our coffee, looking at the verdant greens outside, and listening to other passengers greeting each other a good morning. It was indeed a good morning.
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How to book tickets to Chiang Mai? We booked tickets at the Hua Lumphong station in Bangkok. When you enter the train station from the left side, we went to the far right corner with the violet seats to buy the tickets. There is a number and just wait for your number to be called. We went there mid-afternoon six days before the departure date and the ticket buying transaction went fast. When buying the tickets, make sure to indicate to the teller the accommodation you want (berth, lower or upper) and review the place and date of departure. In the Phitsanulok train station, it is the same process, only less complicated because the ticket booths there are fewer compared to Bangkok.
How often is the train from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai? You can check out the train schedules at the State Railway of Thailand website. I only took note of the sleeper trains leaving for Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai, and they are the following:
How much is the train fare? We booked lower bunk beds of the SPEX (special express) trains and it cost us 730baht.
How to get to Chiang Mai city address from train station? We rode a songthaew and paid 100baht per person. We shared the songthaew with a Scot who just graduated from college and was on his vacation before real life starts. He did not know where his hostel was located and he asked to be dropped at the old market. We asked to be dropped at Chuang Puak north gate and walked to our accommodation from there.
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Going back to Bangkok, the train has a different schedule. We did not ride the train anymore as we wanted to make the most of our stay in Chiang Mai. We instead booked a flight with AirAsia for 1,502.60baht for two people. I think this was a promo fare.
From our accommodation in Chiang Mai, we rode a songthaew and paid 150baht for two persons. The airport is quite far from the city center but there was no traffic as we went there early. To be honest, I enjoyed the train ride more than the plane ride, and I would probably take that over a plane any time, all the time.
How to Go to Chiang Mai from the Philippines?
It is quite a long journey. From Cebu, we needed to get to Manila for a flight to Bangkok, and another flight (or, in our case, train ride) to Chiang Mai. Cebu to Manila takes less than 2 hours, Manila to Bangkok takes 3.5 hours, Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes 1 hour by plane. That is not counting the time you need to transfer from the Suvarnabhumi Airport to Don Muaeng Airport where the AirAsia flights are located. For us, it took us about 2.0 hours to commute by bus and train from Don Muaeng to Suvarnabhumi. By taxi is 30-45 minutes.