Our journey exploring Southeast Asia began in Thailand. We started in Bangkok, took a side trip to Koh Chang and then returned to Bangkok. The next phase of our trip was to explore Northern Thailand; destination Chiang Mai! Our options for covering the 500 miles between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, were Air, Road or Rail. As a family of 4, on a budget, we opted for the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
This post is part of the series called ‘Sleep less, dream more’ in which we share uncommon sleeping places and circumstances travelers encountered during their trip.
Written by Heidi Wagoner
The Vision of the Journey
This was a well traveled route and we were certain the 15 hours on the night train would pass by quickly. We had visions of boarding the train at 7:30 pm, eating dinner, and then getting a good night’s sleep in the air conditioned sleeper car. This was going to be so exciting for the kids to sleep on a train, with each of us comfy in our own beds. We would wake up in the morning and view the Thailand countryside, while dining on our breakfast. This was going to be a journey to remember.
When the Vision comes up Lemons
Well, the first lemon that came our way was missing the 7:30 pm train. We were traveling by bus from Koh Chang back to Bangkok in monsoon rains and arrived at the train station 3 hours late. Our next option was to purchase tickets on the 10 pm train, but that came with more lemons. The only tickets they had available were second class seats (no beds) with fans (no AC). Oh and by the way, they are the last for seats in the rail car just next to the toilets. The only other option was to wait 4 days. Okay, we can take those lemons and with a positive attitude and 15 hours we can make a lasting memory. Uh oh, here we go.
Getting More than Lemonade out of Lemons
Just before 10 pm, we boarded the train. It was a typical train with rows of 2 seats on each side. It was hot and humid, but the fans felt great. We had a bit of an adjustment period, to find those positive attitudes we so bravely said we would have. The moving train came with a waitress and a dining car, so feed the bears food and they will calm down. It worked, once the bellies were full, the complaining stopped and the positive attitudes flourished.
We were well on our journey, with the fresh air blowing through the open windows and the clickety-clack sounds of the train going down the tracks. We passed through the suburbs of Bangkok and through small villages beyond. It was dark out, and as we would approach a stop, we would see lights and hear the hustle and bustle of each station. Sometimes it was just the sounds of chirping crickets and frogs.
We quickly became friends with the 3 travelers in front of us, from Argentina. We enjoyed the basic get to know you conversations and then it was time to try and get some sleep. It was 1 am and time to get to those dreams. It was difficult to sleep, as the bright florescent lights remained on all night. I found myself people watching and taking a cat nap here and there. The kids managed to sleep a bit more than Alan and I, but the morning came quickly.
We awoke to the waitress bringing us our bacon and egg breakfast at 7:30 am. It was quite enjoyable and within an hour, everyone in our car was fed. There was now a buzz of energy and the sound of chitter chatter on the train. The kids claimed their spots viewing the mountains and rice fields out the window.
We spent hours chatting with our new friends from Argentina and they even shared their coveted mate with us. We arrived into Chiang Mai, as scheduled and said our heartfelt goodbyes to our new friends. It is amazing how things can turn out. I wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world. To meet such great people and have such a wonderful time is priceless. Just work with what you are given, and sometimes, just sometimes, something unexpected or even better will present itself.
Remember to dream and then live your dream!
About the authors
Heidi and Alan Wagoner are passionate about travel (40+ countries) and both authors of the popular travel blog Wagoners Abroad. In Aug 2012, they left the “perfect American life”. They quit their jobs, sold their belongings and moved to Southern Spain, with their 2 kids (Lars and Anya). After nearly 2 years in Spain, they have become nomadic and are exploring Southeast Asia for a year. They are a true source of inspiration and proof you can make your dreams come true. Follow them on Facebook, or many of the other social media channels.