Don’t set your watch by Thai Trains
Let me be the first to warn you against traveling on a train in Thailand . Up to ten years ago it was clean and ran on time, like the railways of the British Empire in its colonies. Now, it Rarely does it arrive on time and it is far from clean even by third world standards. Maintenance is not certainly not a priority, If you are on a time sensitive tour do not count on a train to get you there.
This winter I was to meet some friends getting off the 9:30 train from BKK. I went to the chiang Mai train station early in order not to be late, and waited till 11:30 when i had to leave for other commitments. Later they told me that it was 1pm when the train pulled into Chiang Mai, does 18 hours sound right to you? On a trip up from BKK this last dec. we left the station at 2:35 and arrived at 8 am, that is a three hour delay and a total of 17 hours spent on that train. Locals in Chiang Mai tell me not to go meet the train..''it always runs late''. If you are short of time or have any tours to meet, do not take the train. I am writing this article during the time it took us between our expect arrival time and actually arriving at the CNX train station.
Over the past 20 years I have used the rail system of Thailand and watch it fall into disrepair with every season that has passed. Last year half of the reading lights in the sleeping bunks did not work, this year we found none worked . The floor areas under the seats has turned black from a lack of decent cleaning. Five years ago I saw my first cockroach on the floor in one of the cars, this winter we had to brush two off the bed prior to crawling on.
There was no lights in the toilets during the nite, this is actually a bonus if you have experienced the toilets on these trains lately. Add a few more things like plugged urinals, beds that do not lay flat, and non opening windows in the fan cars and the trip is no longer a fun ride, more of 18 hours of torture. This is my last train ride, the buses arrive on time.. They may not have the safety record of Trains but that too may be a thing of the past looking at maintenance of the system in Thailand.
For clear reason the rail system of Thailand has increased the walking venders selling food in the aisles between seats, as well at their stations. From 2:30 till 9pm we had yelling food sales passing us every 3 minutes. So much for a nice peaceful ride in the country. Gone are the days when the Thai trains are a pride of Thailand but have become a smear on the its reputation of providing good service with friendly people.
An editors comment: (not the authors)
The letting go of the national rail system is perhaps a sign of the Thai officials thinking of offering it, (to themselves or friends) in the so called free market with people around the globe now seeking rail as a true cost effective and Eco friendly mod of transport, the idea of making it a money loser, in order to open it up for a fire sale may have been someones idea. Since it started to go down hill the same time Air Asia started by the late primeministers family. This is a strange country where the rich want to own more, if not all.