Part 11: Taking Train number 10 from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in a VIP sleeper

After spending five days eating and touring Chiang Mai, the end of our quite extensive South East Asia trip approached. But first, one of my most anticipated events of the trip awaited us: catching the number 10 train to Bangkok.

How to book the train

Allegedly, you can book through Thailand State Railways’ website about two months/60 days in advance. As we were planning this trip far earlier than two months before, I couldn’t really wait and instead (again) opted to use 12go.asia for our tickets.

What you do is that you pick and pay your choice on their website, in our case for a private VIP/deluxe sleeper and then, when tickets are ready, 12go staff will go and purchase a ticket in your name. If the ticket you wanted has sold put immediately, you’ll get your money back (possibly excluding some kind of admin fee). Also, be wary that other train numbers than number 10 – or 9 if going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, means less modern trains which may not have the same standard as in this post. But you choose your specific departure on 12go, so it’s only on you to pick the right one.

Getting on the train

What you finally do before boarding the train is that you need to pick up your ticket(s). You can pay to have them delivered to your home country, a hotel in Thailand, or you can pick them up at the Bossotel just across the road from the train station, which is what we did. It was super easy with a sign and we just walked in, showed our passports and was handed our tickets and a surprise partial refund since we initially had overpaid. Nice!

You can also stock up on some snacks, drinks and food items from the seven eleven which is next door to the hotel to enjoy onboard. They also sell alcoholic drinks, but big signs on the train made it quite clear: no drinking (alcohol) onboard!

Right on time, together with a beautiful Thai sunset, the train rolled into Chiang Mai’s main railway station, and our trip to the Big Mango begun.

Deluxe sleeper on Train no 10

As mentioned, we had opted to go for the maximum comfort onbord, which is the deluxe sleeper or VIP compartment. It’s by no means super luxurious, but quite comfortable and for instance nicer than the night trains I’ve been on in my native Sweden (it does not beat my number one experience on the Nightjet to Zurich last year though🤓).

Anyways, when you board the train, the lower bed is in sofa mode as you can see from the picture above. After an hour or so a staff member came and turned it into two beds as can be seen on the picture below. The beds weren’t that comfortable, but not bad either.

There is also a tv-screen per bed which shows a map where you currently are positioned and the next station. You can also (theoretically) order food from it, and I have a vague memory that you also in theory might’ve been able to watch tv or some video too. Neither food service or any video content worked for us though. There was however a great function which allowed you to see when one of the three bathrooms in our carriage was available. Cell phone connection was spotty at best, but worked here and there.

The train bumped a bit, during the night and sleep quality was so-so, but who cares when you’re on a train going straight through South East Asian jungle.

One of my favourite moments during the ride was around midnight when the full moon came out and you could actually see what was outside of the window for the first time since the sun went down an hour or so into the trip. I probably spent an hour sitting in my bed looking out the window at tiny villages, hills and jungle. I crossed my fingers to see some wildlife, but no luck unfortunately. Imagine to see a rare Thai tiger from the train. But I’m guessing the few remaining ones stay well clear of loud moving trains.

After a slightly rocky, but still decent night of sleeping, we approached Bangkok. For the last hour before arriving we went through cityscape while the big red sun was going up. At approximately 6.30 a.m. we rolled into Hua Lamphong railway station. Leaving the train was a quick affair and just minutes after relaxing in our cosy compartment, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a crowded megapolis.

We went to the super long taxi queue to try to get a taxi to our hotel as we for once had opted out from a hotel pick up, as they charged something ridiculous for the five minute or so ride. But the queue was super slow and we had read that the railway station is connected to the subway, so we thought “why not”. Our hotel (Amara Bangkok) was just one stop away, and using Google Maps we managed to get ourselves there in about 20 minutes.

Part 10: eating in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi Islam

One of northern Thailand’s most famous dishes is the delicious khao soi noodle soup. In Chiang Mai, we had it twice; the first time was at restaurant Khao Soi Islam. The soup consists of a coconut-y broth (I chose chicken as protein) and then also both soft noodles in the soup as well as crunchy deep fried noodles on top. On the side there’s lime wedges, raw red onion and other condiments to add to your soup as you like. Very delicious

Price: low

Lemongrass restaurant

Lemomgrass is a quite touristy Thai restaurant situated close to the Chiang Mai night bazaar. With staff quite actively trying to persuade people passing by to get in, it felt more tourist trap than it actually is. We passed by most night and it was usually quite crowded past 7 pm.

During our visit we tried a few Thai classics such as paneng gai chicken curry, the local laab/larb spicy salad (it was very spicy), and a plate of springrolls. All very tasty, and with English menus and decently affordable beer. Just next to Lemongrass is also a very nice massage place that we visited one evening.

SP Chicken

One of the best meals in Chiang Mai, and probably during the entire trip was enjoyed at SP Chicken. It’s a small, almost hole in the wall, kind of restaurant located on a backstreet in the old town. Their specialty is roasted chicken, and they do it incredibly well.

We ordered a whole chicken to share, and it was really the perfect roasted chicken. Meat was moist, juicy and tender. Skin was crispy, and flavours were great with a hint of garlic, charcoal and salt. As recommended we ordered a few sides of super tasty, tangy and spicy som tam papaya salad with crunchy peanuts and rice. Included were also veggies and a couple of sauces. So, so good.

Price: affordable.

Khao Kaa Moo Chang Phueak (Cowboy Hat Lady)

Of foodie fame is this small but world famous food stall. Having been visited by food celebrities such as the great Anthony Bourdain, you probably could call Khao Kaa Moo Phueak a foodie institution in Chiang Mai, and the food is pretty good. We arrived just before the official opening time, navigating by using Google Maps. We were seated immediately, and just a short while after it was almost full. We ordered their classic pork rice which basically is pulled pork style slow roasted pork on top of rice with creamy yolk boiled eggs and cabbage. It’s quite simple, but delicious and affordable.

Price: Affordable

Nakwan Café (at Siripanna Resort)

While it might not be worth a detour if you’re staying far away, I still wanted to include one of our hotel restaurants since we had a very delicious bowl of Khao Soi noodle soup there before we jumped on the train to Bangkok.

I actually found it as good as Khao Soi Islam which is famous for the dish. So if you’re staying at or close to the Siripanna Resort it might be worth a visit. An added bonus is that you can walk around the beautiful hotel gardens, pools and rice field if visiting.

Price: Expensive-ish (for Thailand)

Coffee

Into the Woods

Into the Woods serve some great (and Instagram worthy) coffee. Situated in the old town, just next to the river. It is also close to where the Cowboy Hat Lady’s restaurant is located if you wan’t to tick off two worthwile places at once.

Ristr8to

Very tasty coffee in a cool venue in the hip Nimman area of Chiang Mai which serves great, very artsy coffee (as can be seem above). We visited on our way back from Doi Suthep mountain temple complex for an early afternoon coffee break and managed to snag seats almost directly, despite the place being quite full. We also shared their waffles with ice cream that were delicious.

Bonus: what to do while visiting Chiang Mai

A visit to Doi Suthep temple features both the beautiful temple itself as well as stunning views over Chiang Mai.

Visit an “ethical” elephant park, such as Elephant Nature Park.

Drink Chang beer while people watching at the night market area. And of course – shop away if you’re interested.

Part 9: the luxury Green Bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

To get from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, we opted to take the luxury Green Bus.

Green Bus has an English website, but when we booked we found it a bit confusing and instead we chose to use 12.go, an English language site that lets you buy tickets for various forms of transport around Asia.

They charge a dollar or two extra, but has a really easily navigated website. We paid for our tickets with credit card (approx $25 for both of us) and was sent a PDF ticket that we printed and showed to the bus attendant when boarding, that was it.

There are three different classes of Green Buses from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai (and from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai). A standard one, one first class, and then the VIP bus that we chose. Apparently they are all quite nice, but it was only a $5 or so difference between the regular one and VIP so we thought we’d splurge for the 3,5 hour ride.

The bus left from Chiang Rai’s bus station in the city center, close to where the clock tower is. It also made a stop at another bus station in the city before it went straight to Chiang Mai.

The onboard experience was quite nice. There are plush comfy leather seats, there’s a bus attendant handing out water bottles and a small snack, and the driving was also very nice.

I remeber reading that the bus was super cold due to the air condition, but I was fine in a t-shirt. If you’re sensitive to cold, you might still want to bring a sweater.

There is a bathroom onboard, but we never used it during our trip.

The trip took around 3,5 hours with some really nice scenery along the way. When leaving Chiang Rai you can spot the White Temple in the distance on the right side of the bus. You still should go there properly, but if you didn’t you can at least see it whizz by.

All in all a very comfy ride, and I’d definitely would recommend it.

Part 8: Chiang Rai and a day trip to Myanmar

Before moving further in Thailand we opted to spend two days in the city of Chiang Rai. Except for a short day visit to Myanmar and the Golden Triangle (of drug fame), basically our only plan was to visit the White Temple and eat local food.

The White Temple of Chiang Rai is actually not that old and, despite being a “real” temple, it is in fact an artwork made by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat in 1997. To tip: come early if you want un-crowded pictures. It’s a few kilometers outside of Chiang Rai, so we rented a taxi that picked us up in our hotel and then waited outside while we visited the temple, before taking us back.

Food: Sai Oua and (Thai) Khao Soi

Khao Soi in Thailand is very different from the herby, tomato-y Lao version we had in Luang Prabang. In Thailand the broth is coconuty, and apart from boiled noodles, the soup is also topped with deep-fried crunchy noodles. It also included chicken and optional flavourings such as lime, chopped onion, and something pickle-y.

We also had sai oua sausage which like Khao Soi has its Laotian version, but where the Thai sausage it’s spicier and in my mind more flavoursome.

The restaurant we visited was called Four Stars and was located very close to the Chiang Rai clocktower.

Day trip to Myanmar

Before leaving for our trip, we had found out that you could do a day trip to Myanmar from Chiang Rai, and since I have my visit-new-countries-habit, naturally we had to go.

We booked online with a company called Green Trails, that is seemingly owned by Chiang Mai A la Carte (we received confirmation and communications from both companies which confused us a little at first).

Despite booking many months in advance, our (super funny) tour guide arrived on the minute in our hotel, and then drove us straight to the border, while giving a lot of interesting context of the region and of Myanmar.

At the border, we were stamped out of Thailand and then literally walked across the bridge to Myanmar. There, to our guide’s great surprise, they did not keep our passports as per usual protocol, but instead handed them back to us. Apparently Swedes are trusted to not escape into the country as you’re only allowed to visit Tachileik city on the land border visa we got. Also remember that you can only enter Thailand by land border twice in a year (at least as an EU citizen). As we used a land border to cross into Thailand from Laos, this was our second. This might be easy to forget, as a day trip might not seem like a ‘real’ border crossing.

In Tachileik we hired a tuk tuk and then went around town, visiting the sights such as their golden pagoda, a wet market and a few other markets and temples.

We finished the visit with a yummy Burmese lunch consisting of a buffet of local dishes.

Deep fried samosas, spring rolls and buns to start. Super tasty.

Little bowls of deliciousness: pork curry, corn, bambo shoots, okra, fermented funky fish (okay, not that delicious), soy beans, vegetable soup and more. As Myanmar also borders Bangladesh, the food also has a touch of Bangladeshi and Indian flavours.

After the lunch we went back to Thailand, visiting the Golden Triangle Area. We made an interesting stop to the great museum The Hall of Opium, and also visited a couple of nice viewing points from where you could see Thailand, Laos and Myanmar at the same time. A loooong but very interesting day.

This was pretty much what we did and saw in Chiang Rai. It’s a nice town, and I would love to return some day to see more than we were able to during our two days.