February 6, 2023

The 467-mile journey between Chiang Mai and Bangkok is one of the longest railways in Thailand. Crossing the dense forest in the northern province takes more than 13 hours to reach the country’s capital.

Aerial view of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Aerial view of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Marielle Descalsota / Inside

On a reporting trip to Thailand in late July, I traveled on a sleeper train for the first time. At about 5 pm, I went up to Special Express 14 Train in Chiang Mai, the largest province in northern Thailand. More than 13 hours later, after crossing nine provinces and 18 train stations, I arrived in Bangkok on a tumultuous morning.

Since it was just Thailand completely It opened to tourists on July 1, and all the amenities of sleepy train and railway stations have not returned to normal. There was no food for sale on board, barely a layover over the 10 hours of the flight, and no cellular or Wi-Fi for more than half the flight.

But it was a trip worth trying once – it allowed me to experience Thailand, a country I’ve been to so many times, in a whole new way. Here are seven things I wish I’d known before traveling on Special Express.

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