Ok. I just got to Chiang Mai for a brief pit-stop before I head a tiny bit further north to Pai. And it was quite the magical trip up here.
I took an overnight sleeper train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai, running 12 hours through the Thai countryside and mountains. I’ve never been on a train like this before! How cool it was to have my own bed on a train, to fall asleep to the sounds of clicking and clanking, as we raced through the countryside. The thought of how magical and fun it would be convinced me I was headed for Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Perhaps I’ve gone delirious from solo-travel, but forgive me in advance; I really felt like I was Hogwarts-bound.
Let me paint the picture.
It was about 9 pm. I sat on the boarding platform of the Ayutthaya train station, waiting for an expectedly delayed Thai train. And then magic happened. The lamp I sat under began flickering. Every now and again it would turn back on, only to flicker off thirty seconds later. It was as if I was waiting for the Knight Bus. Aside from a few dogs barking in the distance (Sirius?) and the background noise of crickets chirping, it was a quiet night. The station workers used flashlights and whistles to welcome our train, #13 (perhaps a strange magical coincidence?), into the station. With my backpack strapped to my shoulders and my smaller pack in hand, I boarded car #2. The aisle stretched far beyond my eyes could see, lined with upper and lower sleeper berths on either side, bunk bed style. I slowly began to walk, peeking into the berths of fellow travelers. Some were already fast asleep, with their bright green curtain drawn. Identical bed after identical bed, I made my way to number 36, a lower berth with my own window. I couldn’t help but notice the two blonde-haired girls sitting in the berth above me, giggling and staring. I panicked… Not one, but TWO Lavender Browns ready to love-potion me. I quickly jumped into my berth and yanked my curtain closed. In the privacy of my own little bunk, I prepared myself for bed. I stared out the window as we departed the abandoned station. In just 12 hours, We’d be pulling into Chiang Mai! Surely, Harry shared this same excitement.
Admittedly, it wasn’t the best nights sleep. I woke up throughout the night, either by some extra loud clank or an extra strong jerk of the train. By sunrise, a man paced the aisle, yelling out for coffee, orange juice, or breakfast. “Anything off the trolley dears!?” The conductors came around and transformed the berths into seats with tables. The upper berth folded into the ceiling and the lower berth folded into two seats. I couldn’t quite hear the spell he used though… Around 8 am, the train came to a sudden stop. I’m sure we’re thinking the same thing. And let me put your fears to rest. The windows did not turn to ice, nor did happiness or joy disappear. I, too, breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered there wasn’t a single dementor in sight.
Instead, the Thai National Anthem played on outside loud speakers. It’s pretty neat: at 8am and 6pm every day, everyone stops what they’re doing, stands, and listens as nearby speakers play the anthem. It always catches me off-guard but is a really inspiring gesture, a sign of respect for the country and centering of the nation.
The train pulled into Hogsmeade Station (Chiang Mai, but just go with me) around 11 am. I tagged along with a Colin Creevey type kid from France and we took a thestral cart to the Hogwarts Grounds, more specifically the hall we would be sleeping in. After such a long train ride with little food, and obviously keeping with Hogwarts tradition, it’s time for a great feast!
But seriously, the overnight sleeper trains are a great way to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. They are comfortable and fun, with a bit of magic thrown in! And they cost anywhere from 700 baht to 2,000 baht. I booked a 2nd class, lower berth, which ran about 816 baht ($23) and was pretty comfortable. Two tips: book in advance, as overnight sleeper trains sell out quickly. And no matter what, book the lower berth. The upper berth does not have a window and has the fan/AC blowing right on it. You could always take a bus, some of which take 10 hours, and can be much cheaper ($10-$20). But I’ve been crammed into buses, overnight, for that long. And it’s pretty much a miserable, no-fun, muggle bus. Not that I have anything against muggles…