Siam Grand Tour

Steam Week on the River Kwai

Steam Week on the river Kwai

I have referred to ‘steam week’ in Kanachanaburi as one of Thailand’s best kept railway secrets. The dates are not published until just a few weeks before the event, communication is in Thai and the details are a bit vague. But it’s worth persevering. This year the dates were moved back two weeks and I nearly didn’t make it, but where there is a will there is a way, and I managed to swap a few things round. Normally the event takes place in late November or early December – so keep an eye out if you are thinking of […]

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Bukit Timah to Bangkok

Bukit Timah station Singapore

In the 1920s the southern line in Thailand connected to Malaya and travel was popular by train between Bangkok and Singapore. In the days before sleeper carriages, passengers would stop in local guesthouses, later replaced by railway hotels. International travel by train from Thailand has become quite disjointed lately, so I decided to try the journey from Singapore to Bangkok – not by the Eastern & Oriental Express, but using everyday trains. I have to confess to flying down to Singapore, and after an interesting night in Chinatown I met up with my travel partner for this adventure, Richard Barrow. […]

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The King’s Birthday

Steam train Hua Lamphong

One of the problems of Thai ‘excursion trains’ is guessing when they might take place. Communications from the SRT are usually only in Thai, and can be very close the date they will take place. One exception to this is the steam train trip on the King’s birthday. It’s a public holiday, and we know the date. All you need then is someone in the queue at the station at 8.29 in the morning on the day the tickets go on sale. Enter stage left, Richard Barrow, who has kindly sorted this for me. I was up early for this. […]

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The Khao Yai Express

I took the train to Pak Chong last week, departing from Bangkok’s new Central Terminal station for the very first time. Train 71 is described as an Express, which makes it sound more exciting than it really is. It’s a DMU with air conditioning in 2nd class and seats that are okay for a couple of hours. The guard on the train was great at marshalling baggage and finding passengers to remind them of their time to get off. ‘Pak Chong’ he says to me patting me on the shoulder like it’s time to take a parachute jump out of […]

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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 […]

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Bang Sue Junction

Bang Sue Junction book

The 1st of November has rushed towards me like an express train in my diary, and my latest book is finally published today. Being an author is a strange occupation. The months become years as you slowly write and polish your work, then just when you think all the hard work is done you find yourself in a last moment dash of publishing, marketing and PR. I’ve had a few questions about the book from readers of my other books, so I have shared some of them here. Why is it called Bang Sue Junction, and who is Sue? Bang […]

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Behind the Scenes at the Makkasan Rail Depot

When Hua Lamphong was the station for the privately run Paknam line, the railway workshops were mainly located close by, just across the canal. However, when work began on the current Bangkok Railway Station in 1910 all these workshops had to be relocated to Makkasan, which had been open as both a station and a smaller depot since 1897. This isn’t the location of the MRT stop with the same name, but a location 5 km northeast of the city centre. You actually pass right by the short platform on the line from Bangkok to Pattaya. (Small piece of rock […]

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The 171 Rapid Train to Hua Hin (and onward to Su-Ngai Kolok)

Train 171 is neither a modern long distance train or a local one. It’s somewhere in between – a train with older carriages on an overnight route. In fact it is currently the longest distance train in Thailand, travelling from Bangkok to Su-Ngai Kolok in around 22 hours, depending on the degree of flooding and the progress of other trains on the single track stretches of line. I took this route the other week as far as Hat Yai, 17 hours away, well 20 hours by the time we actually arrived. My plan is a cunning one. This train stops […]

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Behind the Scenes at Bangkok Railway Station

Many of you will know that this is going to be a big year for the railway in Thailand. Bang Sue Grand station will finally take over as the Bangkok rail hub for all long distance trains. A modern airport like station, it will offer passengers a rather different experience to its wonderful predecessor, Bangkok Railway Station – better known to most as Hua Lamphong. Let’s get that one out the way to start with. The original station was built where the canal is alongside Rama IV road as part of a private line which opened in 1893 and closed […]

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Train 31 – The Special Express to Hat Yai

It’s the usual procedure at Hua Lamphong, or as I’ve now been reminded by several people to more correctly call it, Bangkok Railway Station (that’s going to really confuse people later this year when Bang Sue Grand finally opens). Trying to travel light, I have just my daypack and my cool box, loaded with provisions for the 17 hour journey south. Train 31 turns out to be another one comprised of the modern Chinese carriages, despite some confusion as my ticket agent says its an older Korean train. Whilst its easy to buy tickets at the station for most trains, […]

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