March 1, 2024

The 467-mile journey between Chiang Mai and Bangkok is one of the longest rail journeys in Thailand. It takes more than 13 hours to cross the dense jungle in the northern province to reach the country’s capital.

An aerial view of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

An aerial view of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

Marielle Descalsota/Insider

On a benchmark trip to Thailand at the end of July, I traveled on a train for the first time. Around 5pm, I boarded the Special Express 14 train to Chiang Mai, the largest province in northern Thailand. More than 13 hours later, and after crossing nine provinces and 18 train stations, I arrived in Bangkok on a bustling morning.

Since Thailand had just fully opened for tourists on July 1, not all train and railway station amenities have returned to normal. There was no food for sale on board, almost no stops on a 10-hour journey, and no cell service or Wi-Fi for more than half the journey.

But it was a trip worth trying once — it allowed me to experience Thailand, a country I’ve visited many times, in a whole new way. Here are seven things I wish I had known before traveling with Special Express.

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