Initially we thought a train would be less expensive than flying from Bangkok to Hat Yai, but we soon found out that was not the case. The prices were very similar and since we were already excited about the idea of the train, we decided to book a first class cabin which was actually a little more expensive than flying. The overnight train runs only a few times per day, so we knew it was best to book our tickets before hand to insure we could board on the day we planned.
We found the correct train’s website, but there was no English booking available. We also found that in order to buy a ticket, you must pay a surcharge to have a local person go to the train station, purchase the ticket and then mail it to you. Luckily, we had a friend in Bangkok to get us the tickets.
To anyone who has taken a train in Europe, this train was a bit shabby looking, but knowing we booked first class, we realised we were sitting in the nicest part of the train; and this was Asia, not Europe. Besides the train being freezing cold (which we put plastic bags over the vents), everything else was wonderful; the cabin was clean and comfortable, the staff was nice and accommodating, and the toilets stayed clean for the entire trip.
Every half hour or so people would walk down the hallway selling food and drinks. Not being able to speak any Thai, I had to open the curtain each time to look at the goods being sold which became a highlight of our time on the train. Then, around dinner time a woman came to take our order and brought us a feast. Although we had the option of going to the dining car, it was more fun to have a picnic style dinner on our seat. The food was quite good, inexpensive and left us feeling satisfied with our decision to take the train.
Shortly after our meal, a man came to change our seat into bunk beds. For a 16 hour train ride, we were very comfortable and well taken care of. Around 7 am the next morning, we packed our things and got ready for our 7:20 am arrival at Hat Yai. When the train stopped at the station, we hopped off, but luckily the train worker knew where we were going and informed us that this place was not Hat Yai and the train had been delayed 3 hours over the night.
The extra 3 hours we got to enjoy the scenery of Thailand, which was the reason we decided to take the train. Once we arrived in Hat Yai, we were already in the middle of the town and didn’t have to deal with the normal hassles of getting to and from airports which saved a lot of time and sanity. An overnight train is a great experience and I will always opt for a train over flying.