I'd recommend taking the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and then flying back to Bangkok. The trains leave CM several hours earlier than they leave BKK, which just means you'll spend more daylight hours sitting on a train. That isn't awful, given the lovely scenery in northern Thailand along the rails, but you'd get to see this in the morning before the train pulls into CM station anyway.
If you head this direction on the train, you can also stop off for a day trip in Ayutthaya on the way north, and then catch the overnight sleeper train as it passes through on the way to Chiang Mai.
Of course, it also depends on what places you wish to visit along the way. If you were really wanting to see Lampang or Sukhothai instead of Ayutthaya, then you may be better off flying north and taking the train or bus back down to Bangkok.
In any case, the train is usually much more comfortable and has a better safety record than the bus. A first class sleeper compartment on the train isn't a budget buster either and can be a real treat.
If you do decide to take the overnight sleeper train, be sure to book your tickets as soon as you know what day you'll want to travel, since these sleeper seats tend to book up ahead of time these days. Cheers.
^ Agreed, especially the last point. As you are travelling as a couple you would need to book upper and lower berths so that you can, first of all, sit together and the sleep 'together.' I have never booked early enough and the lower berths are always sold out so The Wife and I end up having ask someone in they would mind swapping seats. Some people agree some people don't so it's not worth the hassle. Book at least a month or two in advance.
#3 Guernseystu has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 108
Second class sleepers with no a/c, I believe, are the best way to go for overnight train trips. First class a/c sleepers are like refrigeration cars ... freezing! But they are quieter, that's for sure.
I'd break the journey up on the way back. There are loads of special spots to stop in on the way up or back. Sukhothai, as mentioned already, but also Si Satchanalai (I think is a must).
Absolutely right, in my experience (in 2nd class) the fans are often turned off at night as it is even too cold there as well!
Don't forget Kamphaeng Phet, another nice place.
#5 Guernseystu has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 108
Just wanted to clarify a point on the a/c vs. no a/c debate. I agree that the second class a/c sleeper cars can get very cold at night, so many backpackers do elect to take the fan cars instead.
The first class sleeper compartments, however, have nozzles in the cabins that are adjustable, meaning that you can reduce the amount of a/c entering your cabin and effectively determine the temperature. This is one of the many reason I recommend paying the extra money and taking the first class overnight sleeper train journey. Regards.
Hey, I gotta give a vote for the full-on 1st class aircon! :)
Travelling 10 hours or so on a train in a first class compartment is quite nice. Altho sleeping in 2nd class with all thoes other people is quite fun, I would still take the 1st class 'freezer compartment' any day.
BTW, ive never found it too cold :)
Kinda hot there in July isn't it? My vote would be air con. February is ok for fans but think July is a bit warmer and more humid.
#8 teacherdavids has been a member since 30/1/2007. Posts: 7
How can you book in advance, as far as I understand you cant book the train until you get to Bankok?
#9 lorna1hamilton has been a member since 28/2/2008. Posts: 5