I was ready to leave Bangkok and start my new life living in Chiang Mai. Although I barely brushed the surface of Bangkok and what it had to offer, I knew I’d be back and therefore was content to leave. Although originally I was to spend a few days lounging around and recovering from my jet lag before moving to the Thong Tos Foundation near Wat Arun to volunteer teaching English for two full weeks, I left after only 7 days. The opportunity to volunteer had been a great one, but it wasn’t what I expected. School was on a break and they had been well over staffed by volunteers, so there wasn’t much to do. By this time I had been teaching online with VIPkid and the internet at the foundation was not stable enough to hold a connection with my Chinese students and I knew my job was suffering for it. I said goodbye to my new friends from the foundation and eagerly set off on my journey across Thailand.
Due to financial reasons and a significant amount of time, I decided that the 12-15 hour train from Hua Lumphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai would be my form of transport. I had heard good things about the overnight train, so I figured this was the best opportunity I would have to take it. Because I did have extra time, and not wanting to spend so long in one go on the train, I stopped just over halfway in Phitsanulok for two nights at a cute little hostel in a very sleepy city. Although I ended up spending more money on the train by breaking it into two separate journeys, the cost difference was marginal and worth it if it provided me the opportunity to see more of the country I would be calling home for a time. I spent around 480 baht to Phitsanulok, and around 640 leaving to Chiang Mai. Both times I chose the 2nd class sleeper car with fan, no air conditioning and was not disappointed or uncomfortable.
Now that I have the Thai overnight train experience under my belt, it is unlikely that I will opt for it again. Time prohibitive, it is not much more money to take a flight direct from Bangkok to Chiang Mai if you plan ahead (not my strong suit). Even the bus, though potentially less comfortable for longer journeys, is much faster.
Phitsanulok was an enjoyable experience but it was nothing to write home about or revisit. The nearby heritage site of Sukhothai sounded amazing but I didn’t have the opportunity to go there, because I wasn’t completely sure how! I am sure if I really dug deep, I could have easily found a route and tour to get there. But as I wanted to spend one day wandering around the temples and markets in Phitsanulok and was leaving the next day, I left Sukhothai for another time or trip.
My train was scheduled to depart Phitsanulok at 8:37pm. Having come from Bangkok, it was obviously late and arrived approximately 20 minutes after its scheduled time. I arrived in Chiang Mai before the sun at 4:30am. Knowing I likely could not check into my hotel for several hours, I used the time to sleepily freshen up in the train station bathroom and enjoy a cup of tea in the food court area. Taking the train to or from Chiang Mai? Have no fear! Hot food is available for you at any time! Once my stomach caught up I had a healthy plate of fried rice and vegetables before finding a songthaew (the red trucks that function as Chiang Mai’s overpriced, pollution ridden public transportation) to take me to Nimmanahemin Rd, where I had booked a hotel. I bartered with the driver a bit, since I had lounged around for almost 2 hours after my train arrival there were no other passengers to take and this driver needed a fare. I paid around 160 baht for the 20 minute drive to Nimman Boutique Resort on Soi 17.
Next up? Finding an apartment in Chiang Mai!