November 28, 2023

The Floating Train

This was my first ever ‘excursion’ train trip in Thailand. These are special trains travelling at the weekend to popular tourism destinations. They tend to run on a timetable to allow people to get off at just a few stops.

My train on Saturday was to the Pasak Chonlasit Dam, a huge reservoir that at the end of the rainy season is so full that the train appears to ‘float’ across the water just below the tracks on both sides of the line.

The only downside of this train (for me) is the 6am departure time, but on the plus side it is from Hua Lamphong rather than the new Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal. I’m still wondering how to shorten that for taxi drivers.

The train is 16 carriages long and will soon expand even more, much longer than most Thai trains, and so long that at the front and back of the train there is not always a platform, so you need to move down inside the train. It’s an eclectic mix of 3rd class, commuter style 3rd class, second class and seated first class. Even more than one dining car some weekends. Up front however was my carriage, one of a pair of Japanese sleeper carriages running in daytime configuration. Lots of space, but a little uncomfortable compared to a normal seat as the backs are upright and the berths have little padding without a mattress.

The atmosphere on board was great, a real feel of people heading off on a holiday trip. Most of the passengers were Thai, but a few other nationalities were there too. I shared with a friendly Taiwanese couple, and Richard Barrow, my partner in crime for the weekend. Three and a half hours sped by looking out the window and drinking coconut smoothies from the restaurant carriage.

We made one stop near the final reservoir, at a station that had been turned into a market. Our arrival was slightly delayed after an unfortunate collision with a cow. The train was undamaged, which is more than be said for the cow.

Thai people love sunflowers, and they were not disappointed on this trip. There were a couple of tours by van to local farms and places to eat.

We had a few hours at the dam before hoping back onboard for the return trip, which was a bit more low tempo. I even got told to be quiet by someone in the carriage who thought it was intended to be a real sleeper!

My journey finished at Ayutthaya, where I changed trains for Lopburi, home of the annual monkey festival the following day. I have to be honest and tell you that I’m not a monkey person, but it was still a fun day out.

I’m grateful to Richard Barrow, my travel companion this weekend, who runs the Thai Train Guide, for grabbing the tickets – they sell out fast – and making everything go smoothly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *