Thailand is part of the Indochinese Peninsula and has common borders with Burma to the North, Laos and Cambodia to the North-East and Malaysia to the South. The country, with a total area of 514 000 km2, covers around 800 km from East to West and 1 770 km from North to South. It has 77 administrative districts regrouped in 5 areas.
The tourism sector has been long developed on the beaches of its peninsula, but the local authorities decided to develop the cultural tourism so as to attract more visitor to the northern regions, rich in archaeological relics. In Thailand there are different transportation means, but none truly prevails.
Train or bus in Thailand?
- By bus
Largely used for long distance trips. The network is dense, the rotations are numerous and the market is divided between public buses (usually the cheapest) and private companies that offer VIP buses – faster, somewhat more
comfortable and better service, at least in theory. One can easily go by bus to any corner of Thailand; there are even bus ferries to get to the islands. In Bangkok there are three bus stations, each providing connections for certain destinations. The Ekkamai bus station provides routes for the eastern regions and the Sai Tai Mai station for the southern region.
It’s good to remember also that there are many air-conditioned mini-vans, faster, but a bit more expensive. They can take 12 to 18 passengers.
- By train
The train is certainly one of the cheapest way to travel. It’s also the slowest, but beyond certain disadvantages, there are also many benefits to it. The network is managed by the national State Railway of Thailand and incorporates 4 000 km of railways that serve the four cardinal points of the country. From the Hualomphong train station you can take the 4 main lines – to the north to Chiang Mai, to the east to
Aranyaphratet and the Cambodian border, to north-east to Ubon Ratchathani and the Laotian border and finally to the South and the Malaysian border. The Thonburi train station provides trains to Katchanburi and its famous bridge over the river Kwai. For more information about this destination, please click here. There are different comfort levels and different types of trains, according to their speed: Rapid, Fast, Express and Special Express. To book a train ticket in Thailand, click here.
So, how should you travel in Thailand by train or by bus?
The question deserves to be thoroughly answered, considering that your choice will take into account several important factors. Do you have time? How do you like to travel in general? What do you seek when you travel – a way to get by or an experience? The contact with the locals? A fast mean of transportation?…
Now, the basic questions summarizing the previous ones are: how do you like to travel and what are your general motivations? In any case, the train is the slower, the cheapest and the most friendly way of travelling. This way you can truly immerse in the local life and culture. The slowness of the route may seem inconvenient, but it will allow you to get the most out of the landscape and of meeting the locals who are really fond of the trains. Take for example the Chiang Mai sleeper train – you will be able to interact directly with Thai passengers.
The restaurant-car will offer you a nice menu of Thai foods, but equally a Thai or a western breakfast. It’s surely pleasant to eat while looking out the window and see the different landscapes passing by…
During your trip by train, you also have the possibility to move around as you please, to stretch your legs or make a round trip to the restaurant-car. In this respect, if you are a little lucky, you will be able to enjoy the club-like atmosphere in certain trains, with a disco-ball, Thai music in the background and tasting a good cold beer. The train staff and the Thai passengers are always willing to sing and party with you until late at night. When the sleep time arrives, you will get back to your berth, pull the curtain and cradled by the monotonous noise of the rail tracks, you’ll fall asleep with all the exciting experiences you will have lived during the day.
Finally, there’s also a “fun” side to the trip by train – if you can, take a train to the fruit & vegetables market at Mekong. Four daily trains stop by this small town, the rails ending right in the middle…of the market. An unforgettable experience, the train cars touching the market stalls and the merchants folding and unfolding their stalls each time a train passes.
In a nutshell, all these little moments cannot be lived otherwise but by taking the train in Thailand. It would be impossible to have such pleasant and varied experiences by taking the bus. For your information, there are 2 high-speed train lines that will be implemented for the Bangkok – Chiang Mai and Bangkok – Nongkai routes and this fun and picturesque side of the trip by train might not be available that much.