Spend a day in Thailand’s southern province of Krabi and another up in the hilly regions around northern Chiang Rai and you could easily think you’ve been to two entirely different countries. Culturally and topographically, the Southeast Asian kingdom is so diverse; it’d be a shame staying in just one destination during any Thai holiday (we know it’s hard to wave goodbye to the beach, but trust us it’ll be worth it!).
Travelling around the country from Bangkok is very much the thing to do, and thanks to an elaborate railway network and affordable tickets, doing so is as easy and fun. Hop on board – here are our favourite train journeys around Thailand!
Bangkok to Maeklong
Ever wanted to board one of the slowest trains in the world? Now is your chance. Jump on a Maeklong-bound service at Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai station and get ready for two and a half hours of changing sights, from big-city vibes to rural idyll. The most unique scene by far (and arguably the reason most travellers choose to make their way here) is Maeklong’s famous market, which is dangerously close to the train tracks – so close, in fact, it downright spills onto them! But don’t stress; this is exactly why the service moves so slowly, coming with the added benefit of high-fives from the locals… Just hold your hand out the window.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If the idea of looking out a window for twelve hours doesn’t put you off (and really, it shouldn’t unless you have a hard time sitting still), make your way from the capital to Thailand’s spiritual home of Chiang Mai. Leaving on an early morning service from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station, you’ll travel past upcoming Lopburi and historic Ayutthaya as well as hectares and hectares of evergreen jungle in the north. Keep your eyes peeled for small villages on the horizon and the occasional golden hilltop pagoda looming from the dense forests that put the ‘tropical’ into ‘tropical Thai vacation’. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, do stick around for at least a few days. This is cultural Thailand at its best!
Bangkok to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand
Didn’t think you could take a train to an island? Well, you can’t, but you can certainly hop on a Chumphon or Surat Thani-bound service in Bangkok and cover the remaining distance by ferry – and it comes highly recommended, too! For the first part of the scenic ride, picture snaking around imposing limestone formations and past Hua Hin, the chosen home of Thailand’s former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, before hopping onto a ferry to whizz you over to the islands in no time. Whether you’re going to Koh Tao from Chumphon, or to Koh Samui via Surat Thani, this part of the journey is arguably no less spectacular: who doesn’t enjoy looking out at the turquoise sea?
Bangkok to Nong Khai
Travellers looking to make their way to Laos on land are in for a real treat by boarding a train to the border town of Nong Khai from the Thai capital. Jovially rattling through one of the country’s least-visited areas, Isan State, the service is among the most romantic in all of Southeast Asia. The vast and verdant plains spanning Isan bustle with life upon closer inspection from a train window: rice paddies are being tended, children chase each other in open fields and best of all, local food vendors board the service at each stop to sell traditional Thai fare at bargain prices. Better hop on quickly!