SRT – Thailand’s State Railway – 1st class private sleeper cabin

Written by Frank on November 27th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind

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Only some trains carry 1st class sleeper wagons, they are the pride of the rail system and about 0,5 % of all passengers choose them. Lockable compartments with a small sink (water not for human consumption recommended), a comfy sofa, a miniature fold-up-table and a lockable sliding-door to the gangway outside. 1st class is surely kept clean and no irritating smells or odors will spoil your journey. The upper wall half contains the upper bed, it is folded flat against the wall in day use. Cheap linoleum flooring, a non-adjustable air-conditioning and locked down windows still limit the fun quite a bit. Lightning is basically provided by an overhead lamp with a switch. The fact that windows can’t be opened, not even for ventilation, is a really bothering factor for us! It also excludes you efficiently from all goodies and dealers in the various stations, which sell drinks, hot coffee or snacks and ice cream through the open windows in 3rd class. They run up and down the platform, but will skip you as they are also not allowed inside to hawk their wares.


The nightly set-up will be executed by the steward at bedtime or if you wish, fresh linens and pillows will be provided. Each micro-cabin has a special connecting door to the adjacent cabin, so 2 micro-cabins for 2 passengers each can be combined to a 4 person layout. The lower bed appears slightly larger, but persons sleeping here would have to have Asian dimensions to really sleep comfortable. The mattresses cannot accommodate 2 people (for those with romantic ideas). A reading light at each berth plus a small net for phones or such is installed. Not installed is any form of electrical outlet, laptops or phones can eventually be charged by the steward in his quarters. Toilets are on either end of the car, but their basic design and lack of any modern features are not exactly fitting a first class western standard. Smoking is prohibited in the entire car, the steward points to a noisy and unstable area between cars near the locked doors upon request. Noise levels throughout 1st class are subdued, but light years away from what one may expect after having experienced similar rides in the USA or Europe.

Friendly railroad staff delivers a lukewarm assortment of shrink wrapped Thai dishes to your door from time to time. Cost is marginal but higher than in the dining cart 2nd class, which usually accompanies 1st class train setups.

The cabins all stretch along one long hallway, that is too narrow to let two people pass each other. Access to the cabins only directly from this hallway.

Note: No stowaway for suitcases or travel bags, all need to fit inside your micro-cabin!

This may be a real problem to the tourist with suitcases or large bags, as the room under the bench is occupied by the ladder and other fittings for the nightly setup to a large percentage!

Littered with advertising, the washing facility at the cars ends feature no or too little room for a much needed mirror. Soap and paper towels are provided here.

Some cars have a public phone installed, but it operates on greatly overpriced prepaid cards only, the attendant sells these. The prices charged for this type of transport make train travel no option for modern people. Long haul domestic flights are often cheaper and require a lot less time. 1st class passengers are screened from the life in stations and en route as well, the stationary window may or may not be clean enough to allow for photographs. We have experienced both nice and milky/dirty ones.The fare is for example 1.379 Baht to Surat Thani (Koh Samui) or 1.594 Baht to Hat Yai Station per person for this class. To Surat Thani the traveling time is approximately 10 hours, to Hat Yai 18 hours are realistic. 

Make sure to pick the right train for your destination, some do arrive at hours ranging from ungodly hours in the middle of the night and involve further hours of idle time waiting until the towns wake up! Depending on your group size, 1st class rail travel may be an option for those uninterested in contact with others and no interest in the areas they pass through. Watch, where you buy your tickets – only SRT outlets or rail stations charge you fair, all so called “Joint tickets” that the agents try to hawk to camouflage hefty markups are actually rip-offs of a mild kind 🙂

Train usage makes more sense, the further you travel up or down one line. Chiang Mai, Nong Khai and Hat Yai make more sense than Pattaya, Hua Hin or Chumporn. Always compare to online offers of low budget airlines, 1st class rail may equal a big waste of time and money! 

Reservations can be made at any railway station for any class of service nationwide, be aware that popular trains with nice schedules are sold out fast in high season or before the big Thai holidays. We will continue this with actual individual photo reports from lower (and cheaper) classes of service and have quite some surprises waiting for our concerned readers. Thank you for your interest in our SIAMPEDIA-reports.

 

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