sleeper-train, Bangkok to Surat Thani

Sleeper-train, Bangkok to Surat Thani

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Sleeper-train, Bangkok to Surat Thani

After 11 days it was quite emotional bidding farewell to my wife’s family. My son and daughter were upset to be leaving the family village but they were excited about heading to our next destination, Koh Samui in the south of Thailand.

We caught a train from Buriram to Bangkok and changed trains at Bang Sue Junction. The journey from Buriram to Bangkok had taken 6 hours and now we had another 10 hour+ journey ahead of us to Surat Thani. Surat Thani is a town on the main southern railway line, from there we would catch a cab to Donsak Pier around 70 kilometres away (฿1000 to ฿1200 in a taxi) and then take the ferry to Koh Samui (1.5 hrs and ฿130).

The train was a sleeper-train and we were looking forward to getting the heads down as we had been up since 4.30am and already it was mid-afternoon. The 2nd Class Surat Thani sleeper-train pulled into the station at 3.50pm and we bundled aboard with our luggage; it was a brief stop and before we had time to sit down the train was rattling out of the station.

We located our seats and wedged our luggage into the storage racks. The seats on the sleeper-trains convert into the lower bunks, the upper bunks are pulled down from their storage position and are accessed by a fixed metal ladder; neither bunk is made up for sleeping until early evening, when an attendant comes around with clean bed sheets and blankets and expertly makes the bunks up in a flash.

We took to our seats and almost immediately I noticed that the train had a heavy police presence. I asked my wife why there were so many police on the train; she leaned in close to me and muttered under her breath: ‘…because a 13 year old girl was raped and murdered and thrown out of the window of a sleeper-train by a railway employee  in 2014.’ I could hardly believe my f#cking ears – what a sad and mental story. And what a sick c#nt to have carried out such a despicable act.
Read the story here

Despite the initial horror at hearing the information my wife had just dispensed, I managed to dose off for the first 30 minutes of the journey with my head resting against the window.

I awoke to my wife gently shaking me from slumber; a policeman had asked to see my passport and I had it in my back pocket. The policeman was apologetic for having to wake me but told me that it was police policy to establish who (whether Thai or foreign) was riding the trains. I told him ‘mai mee panhaa’ (no problem); he smiled and continued up the aisle checking ID cards and passports.

I had to take my hat off to the Thai authorities for continuing the beefed-up security on the trains two years on from the terrible incident. In my experience, Thailand is generally a safer place to be than most countries in the west. Bangkok, for example, as long as you observe the same common-sense precautions that you would in any big city, is probably as safe as any big city gets; tourists often remark that they feel perfectly safe walking around Bangkok, even in the wee hours of the morning.

However, crime does exist in Thailand and over the years – like most places in the world, tourists in Thailand have been victims of crime; most crimes – thankfully, are usually relatively rare and minor incidents, but serious crime, such as muggings, rapes, and murders have been committed against tourists in Thailand.
for Surat Thani hotels see here

My 16 year old daughter and 12 year old son were travelling with us. I don’t buy into this ‘paedophile around every corner’ bullshit that we’re forced to swallow in today’s paranoid world, but I do admit that if not for the police presence on the sleeper-train I would have been somewhat anxious in light of what had happened to the young girl (even although it was a two year old crime, and the perpetrator had been caught and sentenced to death – result!).

Anyway, my sincere condolences go out to the 13 year old’s family, but sleeper-train travel in Thailand is regarded for the most part as a safe and enjoyable way to take long journeys around the country. By 6.30pm I could hardly keep my eyes open, and the wife and kids were the same, so we asked the attendant if he could make up our bunks; we had booked the top bunks (the lower bunks are more expensive as they are wider and have a window, but as usual we left things to the last minute, and by that time all the bottom bunks were gone). Nae big drama! At least we had a bunk and I for one was choking for a kip.

When the attendant was done making up the beds I clambered up the metal ladder to my bunk and pulled the curtain across. I was looking forward to getting to Koh samui – a bit of sun, sea, and sand, where I could put my feet up and mellow out on the beach all day. I’d been stressed ‘oot ma nut’ back in Scotland and Koh Samui sounded like a good place to try and find a bit of balance in my life. I lay there, thinking – day-dreaming about Koh Samui mostly and what I was going to do when I got there, until I eventually succumbed to the gentle, rocking motion of the train as it rattled along the track…
for Koh Samui hotels see here

Read my Koh Samui post here

See Donsak to Koh Samui ferry times & prices

Read more articles like this here

‘Have you ever thought about starting up your own blog? see my blog post here

Sleeper-train Thailand - Bangkok to Surat Thani
Sleeper-train Thailand – Bangkok to Surat Thani

‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’

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43 thoughts on “Sleeper-train, Bangkok to Surat Thani”

  1. Pingback: Quora
    1. Thanks.The bus in Thailand is cheaper but not so good. Last time I took a long journey on the overnight bus – Bangkok to Phuket, as soon as the lights went out I had cockroaches crawling all over me; never had that on the sleeper-train. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Wow this blog is very interesting! Thanks for sharing your interesting experience! I would never of thought that there would need to be a heavy police presence on a train for protection!

    1. It was a horrible crime and I think the Thai authorities just want to reassure tourists and the public that this will never happen again. Trains in Thailand are regarded as pretty safe in general; they’re a great way to get around a big country like Thailand. Thanks for commenting, Brittany. Best of luck to you on your travels.

  3. Thanks for the information you have put in there. I somehow always find sleeper trains more comfortable than any other mode of journey. Nice to know the option is available in Bangkok

  4. Sadly that young girls rape is not as uncommon as we may think when traveling through Thailand, the land of smiles. Thanks for including the hard stuff in your post Raymond!

    1. I love Thailand and Thai people. But I agree, Shona – some proper ‘wrang yins’ (bad people) to be found in the ‘land of the smiles’; everywhere has its darkside though, I suppose. Thanks for commenting.

  5. The sleeper train sounds so much comfier than the bus that I took. How nice to be able to lie absolutely flat and get some proper sleep and wake up at your destination feeling refreshed !

  6. What a horrible crime! It’s too bad something random like that has had such a lasting effect on everyone. I didn’t spend a lot of time in Thailand, but I was impressed by how safe the country felt.

    I used to love sleeper trains when I was little! When I was backpacking I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, but possibly because getting woken up for border checks was so annoying! Some countries take your passport and it makes me anxious. I’ll have to give it another try — but probably my next long train trip will be across Canada, so no borders.

    1. That should be nice, a sleeper-train trip across Canada. Canada is a great place – I lived in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario, back in the mid 90’s. I worked all over the east coast – Quebec City, Montreal, Saint John, New Brunswick were my favourites. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Good to know that it’s possible to travel from Bangkok to Koh Samui by train! Excuse my ignorance, I had no idea about that crime until this post. Just googled some news articles and holy jeez, that is devastating….

    1. I know – truly despicable. Trains in Thailand are regarded as safe though; and with the police presence on them, I don’t think anything like that will happen again anytime soon. More than two years have passed since that horror-crime, and I’d recommend the train all day long. Crimes like that could happen anywhere, I suppose. Best advice for visitors to foreign countries is to stay vigilant. Thanks for commenting, Ivy.

  8. It sounds like an interesting experience. I would definitely choose the comfort of the sleeper train over an overnight bus. Thank you for drawing attention to that horrific murder. Too often travel blogs gloss over the reality of life in a particular country. While it shouldn’t tar our image of a whole country, it’s important to raise awareness so well done for that!

    1. The sleeper-trains in Thailand are the bizness. Much more comfortable than a bus and a better way to travel than a plane, providing time is on your side. I think it’s important to raise awareness of the darker side of life for anyone wishing to travel to any foreign country. I regard Thailand as being a safe country to visit but dangers in Thailand exist, like in any country, and good practise whilst overseas is to always stay aware of your surroundings. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Sleeping trains are a great way to travel between destinations without wasting any time. I took the night train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpor a couple of years ago and it was a very nice experience, and the prices where pretty good as well – a lot cheaper than a hotel room in Singapore. One thing I like about traveling with trains is that you are able to see all the beautiful nature before you arrive to your final destination.

  10. I have never traveled via sleeper train yet. This sounds interesting for when I am in Thailand and want to travel to other parts of the country. I’m sure it’ll be a fun experience!

  11. I too enjoy the over night travel. Not just because you save on accomodation. As you usually do find that when you get there you are too early to check in. It’s a different way to travel and certainly brings out a different side of people in the country that you are travelling in. Glad you guys arrived safely, albeit a wee bit sleepy.

  12. First of all it is so sad to hear about what happened to the poor girl. There are some evil people in the world.
    I have travelled by many sleeper trains in India and I love them. It is so nice to have a bed for the bight. I am currently in Thailand and wanted to travel by sleeper train however due to my unorganised nature, I have found that they are always fully booked. So I would recommend that you are a little more organised than me and book a few days in advance.

    1. I’m a bit like that too, Kathy – unorganised/chaotic. Sleeper-trains in Thailand are my favourite way to travel, there’s something about happily dozing whilst rattling along a track that really appeals to me. The story about the little girl is despicable and should not be forgotten. But neither should it put you off from taking the train. There are monsters in every country, not just in Thailand. Thanks for commenting! Good luck on your travels!

  13. I really love your writing style; I did feel as if I were actually there.
    I did get a sleeper train once in Thailand but then I found buses were cheaper and switched to them, because I’m a big tightwad.
    It shows how much the journey is enhanced when you can understand the language (or when you travel with somebody who does). I would have just gotten annoyed at being woken up, without knowing why they were doing it.

    1. Thank you, Sarah – being married to a Thai I have learned over the years to never try and understand my wife’s culture from my own cultural standpoint. When I am trying to work out my wife’s moods, I find it helps if I try at look at things from how a Thai person would see it (not easy). I have been a part of my wife’s family for nearly 18 years and they treat me as such. I am very lucky that way, I have heard horror stories about the Thai/farang relationship. I have two kids to my wife; we are roughly the same age, and it helps that I’m not fat and bald and old enough to be her grandfather too. Thanks for your kind words about my writing. Good luck in your endeavours and safe travels!

  14. Just got off the sleeper train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. It was such a great sleep! We were pretty much alone in the wagon!! Would strongly recommend it 🙂

  15. We’ve used the sleeper trains in Malaysia and Vietnam (which were both similar), so I imagine they are of a similar standard/set up to those in Thailand. We stayed in a sleeper car with the beds down the sides of the train in Malaysia and didn’t sleep well as we worried about our luggage, and in Vietnam, we rented cabins for 4 and didn’t have to worry so much. Had I known about the atrocity on the Thai railway – which although a two year old crime is still horrific – I doubt I would have slept at all!

  16. I have so good memories of this experience! I traveled last year around Thailand and I loved the night I spent in the sleeper train from Bangkok to the north. It’s true that sometimes bad things happen but we don’t have to think about it, just be a bit careful and enjoy the trip! Thanks for sharing 😉

    1. Totally! Things happen and you move on. Sleeper-train travel is a great way to get around a large country, and I don’t anything like that awful incident will happen anytime soon. Fair play to the Thai Police – they do sometimes get a bum rap! Thanks for commenting. Good luck!

  17. The police in Thailand usually forget about any crime after it has happened so I’m impressed that 2 years on they are still keeping the train safe. I hope it was the right guy that they found and sentenced to death sometimes they just accuse anyone to make it look like they have caught the criminal. It looks like you had a great sleeper train trip!

    1. Yeah – like the two Burmese boys accused of the double backpacking murder on Koh Tao, when everybody and their granny knows it was the son of a local Jao Pho who done it. Rough justice for sure in Thailand, James – but I think they got their man on this one, with the railway employee, according to what I’ve read. Thanks for commenting! Stay tuned for the ‘Why Tourists Should Boycott Koh Tao…’

  18. Never experienced a train ride in Thailand but looks quite similar to the ones we have in India. But ya scams and crimes are on rise these days everywhere not just Thailand 🙁

  19. Wow, I can’t believe the story about the 13 year old girl. The scariest thing to me about traveling to certain countries is when the police and law enforcement (who you think should be protecting you) are the ones committing the crimes, because then you have no one to turn to for help. So at least here, the police are the good guys. I’ve also heard about corrupt police taking bribes from tourists in certain countries (not Thailand), so also glad to hear that’s not something to worry about in Thailand. I’m going to Thailand for the first time next month and am glad to hear that the big cities there like Bangkok are about as safe as any big city gets.

    1. Enjoy your time in Thailand, Diana. And ‘hats off’ to the Thai authorities for keeping the trains safe. Thailand is such a beautiful, interesting, captivating country where the people can be so helpful and friendly. I love it! And regard it as being a safe country. But Thailand is a developing nation, Diana, and where money is tight for some people then – sadly corruption exists. Best advice for any first-timer to any foreign country is to stay alert. I’m sure you’ll have a blast. Good luck and take care!

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