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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

45. Overnight Train To Chiang Mai

After talking with our family doctor today (I'd gone to get a travel letter), I decided to go ahead and book my train ticket Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately the booking system of Thai Railways is still unavailable and has been since last September (2010). There are a couple of other sites you can pre-book and Thailand Train Ticket is cheaper than Thai Focus, so I booked through them.

First or Second Class?
There was much contemplation and asking of advice to this question, but after weighing everything up, I opted for First Class. Yes, yes, I know it's more expensive, and between you and me I'd much rather have paid less, but - the "bunks" in second class don't have any personal space or room. Plus, I've been told the second class sleeper air/con gets like a freezer box at night, whereas the second class spleeper with fan is better in that regard. First Class sleeper has individually controlled air con, so you can adjust it to suit your needs.

Above: The great train ride
You have a cabin when you travel First Class, these people obviously didn't though!☺

Above: First Class - Sleeper berth
The long bench seat converts to a bed.

Above: First Class - Wash basin and table
Each cabin also has a wash basin and mirror, a small table and according to the website, drinking water and towels are provided free of charge.

Did you know it costs more to sleep in the lower berth? The train I'm catching (6.10 pm from Bangkok) has only 1st class and 2nd class air-con, no 2nd class with fan. Second class is 791 baht (881 for lower berth) and 1,253 for first class (1,453 for lower berth.) There is a 200 baht booking fee and they will deliver your ticket free of charge to your hotel in Bangkok. The only problem is I don't have a hotel as I'm going straight to Kanchanaburi the day I arrive. You can collect your ticket from the train station (Hualamphong) but have to pay 300 baht for the privilege. Why it's free to deliver it to hotels and not to the station is beyond me. But, that's the way it is so to the station I will go.

Anyway, all up the fare was 1,953 baht. I could have waited and purchased my ticket the same day but that's a bit risky - it'd be just my luck that the train would be full or all the lower berths would be taken. As doc said, if you pre-book then you have peace of mind.

Above: Train travel

I received an email fairly soon after submitting the booking. In bright red letters at the top it says
"This is booking acknowledge only - not confirmation. We can confirmed acknowledgement only - not confirmation."
It goes on to say (also in red) "Status - Waiting for Confirmation."

You will receive a confirmation statement via e-mail from one of our consultants:
- within 24 hours (Mon - Fri 08:30 - 17:00 and Sat 09:00 - 12:00)
- by Monday if booking received after our office closes on Saturday
If you should decide to go ahead with purchasing the ticket(s), we would ask you to fill in the credit card authorization form of which we will provide you with to fax back to us urgently.

However please note that sales of train ticket are very fast and prebooking is not allowed so we can not guarantee the seat(s), class, travelling date or time.

If the requested booking can not be confirmed we will inform you of other alternatives. In the case that they do not fit in with your travel arrangements and do not wish to continue with the booking, your credit card will not be charged. Thank you for using Thailandtrainticket Reservations Services.

The waiting game
So now we play the waiting game - again. Remember I said this when I was waiting for confirmation about booking accommodation etc? Well, now we wait. Hopefully there will be a first class berth available. If there isn't I'll probably be going around saying to myself, "I knew I should have booked the ticket when I first contacted them three weeks ago." And it'll be my own fault. Ah well - should that happen - think of the money I'll save by going second class! (572 baht actually which is $18.61.

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