We took the daytime train to Chiang Mai a few years ago. It's a very long journey - took us over 14 hours as the train seemed to have difficulty through the mountains outside of CM. The first part of the journey is pretty ho hum as it travels through flat farmlands and unfortunately when it gets to the interesting bits through the jungle it's towards night time and not much to see
If we were going to do that trip again we would go on the night train and you arrive refreshed and ready to go in the morning. .
I'd say its OK if you enjoy long train rides (and Thai trains invariably arrive late). Personally I prefer to fly and not waste 12-14 hours of valuable vacation time in a train. I can use that time for sightseeing etc.
I took the night train once, and it too took over 14 hours. Because of the constant juddering of the train as it slowed for stations, and any small pile of rocks, I arrived in Chiang Mai exhausted after having virtually no sleep, (the return trip to Bangkok was the same). Next time I will take the plane.
The train is always a disaster, except you love to be suffer.
Fly there, it's now cheap. There're 3 low cost airlines competing on this route. Some provides 10 flight a day now. From Chiangmai airport to hotel : just take a cheap cap, only 120 baht.
"The train is always a disaster" - not exactly correct. Many TA members report how much they enjoyed it.
Jerema, like bbtony suggests, if your time is limited you may be better off flying. The flight to Chiang Mai is just one hour and it is reached by a number of airlines. The train can be fun and I have experienced it twice travelling to the north east. I am told that one of the reason for the slowness of train journeys is the actual size of the rail track which does not allow for high speed and tilt. I seem to recall that the previous government indicated investment in this respect and a gradual replacement of the rolling stock. However, all this has little value to you now. In parting, have you considered travelling by coach? There are three main terminals in BKK depending of where you need to go. The ones for the north leave from Mo Chit Northern bus station and some company that are good. You may wish to avoid rattling government buses make frequent stops at every minor township and may be uncomfortable for long distance travel. The journey takes around 12hrs and costs 200 baht.Non-stop 24/32-seaters and 1st class buses provide larger seats and snacks; making the long trip more comfortable. They manage the trip around 9 hours and cost around 500 baht. Be cautious about the so-called "VIP" buses touted on Khao San Rd; they may be cheaper, but you may end up crammed into a 2nd class bus or worse. Some companies have good reputations such as Nakhon Chai Air.http://primia.net/thaibus/ enjoy your holiday.
I read several posts from people who took the train and eventually decided to take it and see how it goes! (Budget not an issue.) I am taking the night train in early January - apparently there is a nice view in the morning after waking up.
Many Thanks to all who were kind enough to respond with very useful information. In spite of the possibilities of an "adventure" which many times are the stuff of travel stories, we've decided to fly from BKK to Chiang Mai in in the interest of saving time.
Best to all and thanks again for your advice.
Really!.... the nice view they refer to, is the train pulling into the station.
But..... it is an experience.
We caught the train from Chang Mai thought we would have a adventure (ha ha) let's just say done it once don't need to do it again. The train was definitely on 'Thai time' we eventually left Chang Mai about two hours late. I would probably fly as other people say you can get cheap fares. Don't really see a lot except rice fields probably the overnight train is better.