Traveling to Chiang Mai, early morning. Train or bus? Train. First class, too expensive. Second class, all booked. Third class? Why not. 15 hours of train ahead of us. Find our wagon, is the last one. Inside : completely full, just local people, the young couple, the mom and her little girl hanging in a hammock with a very clever set up, the lonely old guy.
Our seats : wooden with no possible inclination at all and no air con, just a couple of old fans to push the hot air around. Backpacks to the rack above us and off we go, on time for our surprise. All the people talking between each other, looking and smiling at us. Vendors of food and extra cold beverages (much needed) passing along the aisle with astonishing frequency. Every time someone buys from them. The heat almost unbearable, humid, we are sweating all the water we drink straight away. The train stops a lot, in every town, city or little village we cross. People go down but new passengers take their places. It is never empty. Outside, in the various stations we cross, more food vendors try to sell their goods over the open windows, people take what they can’t find inside. On one of the stops the guy sitting in front of us bought three cups of coconut ice cream, offering them to us, happily we accept, he tries to explain what this is but the language barrier makes this complicated, so he just smiles and we smile back thanking him for the attention. Hours pass and the landscape outside the window, changes, from flat and dry, to green mountains. After a long passionate conversation we check the clock, still five hours to go. People start to get tired and begin to sleep, we don’t know how they manage to do this. After the sun is down we start to feel cold and hug each other. We try to sleep with the tetris position. 5 minutes. Wake up. Try again a different position. Same. Just last for another 5 minutes and this goes on for what seems an eternity for us. By the end of the trip the once full of life wagon is in complete silence and the picture we have is the one of a party where people have been drinking too much and fall asleep in impossible positions, heads hanging, on the floor, over each other. It’s funny. Half. When will we arrive?
Finally the sign in the station reads Chiang Mai, we get up of our seats with our whole body cramped, the clock reads 04:30 am and after grabbing our backpacks and getting out of the train, we come across an empty bench, we decide to get a “little nap” where we can fully stretch our legs and lay our whole body flat. after two hours we wake up to a gorgeous sunrise and walk out the train station finally we are here Chiang Mai, about to discover it is one of our favourite cities.
Tips for the journey
- Read a good book
- Take a neck pillow (you will tell us thank you !)
- Take a scarf to cover a little during the night
- Bring with you drops for the eyes because of the pollution
- Bring extra water