The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was 13 hours, so we decided to take the night train. Unfortunately, first class was full, and the only second class option available was upper bunks across the aisle from each other. Fortunately, the folks on the lower bunks were together, so during the daytime we were able to sit with each other.
Since the train started in Bangkok, loading the bikes was a much less stressful process – the price was different too – only 148 baht for both instead of 200. Most of the time it seems people pay 90 per bike, so we aren’t sure what the difference was. We found it strange that the staff of the cargo car always want us to load the bikes ourselves, but will unload them for us.
Similar to the Chumphon-Bangkok route the ride was anything but smooth. This and the fact that they never turn the lights off in second class, meant that neither of us got a particularly good night’s sleep – even though we went to bed by 9:00 pm and didn’t get up until 6:30 am! In addition, only the bottom bunks have windows, so you can’t see anything or sit anywhere while the folks down below are sleeping. For our cross China train, we will do our best to get a “soft sleeper” (aka first class) cabin. The train from Kunming to Beijing is almost 40 hours, including two overnights (and that’s for the fast train!)
It did not take us long to discover that we really like Chiang Mai. The city is a much nicer size (about 200,000 people), and is a great place cycle around. Cars and scooters are even more friendly than usual, and the old city is a nice size, and filled with interesting places to see and visit.
We found ourselves a room at the fancy Sira Boutique Hotel (a bit of a splurge at 1200 Baht a night – discounted from 2200), dropped off our bags, and spent the morning riding around town. We saw many beautiful Wat’s, but in our cycling clothes we aren’t dressed appropriately to visit. We also stopped by a couple of bike shops, including “Top Gear”, which is owned by a Canadian.