After two days in the capital, the Southern islands were calling with their promise of picture perfect palm trees and wooden huts ten feet from the sea.
We researched the ways of getting to Phuket and quickly ruled out the flights as too expensive. This left us with two options: get an overnight 14 hour coach all the way through to Phuket, or get the 12 hour sleeper train to Surat Thani and then the short 2 hour bus ride. We had heard horror stories about the coach, and the thought of sitting upright for that long with rucksacks wedged in the aisles was daunting. Having never been on a sleeper train before we found ourselves falling for the romance and novelty!
Our hostel in Bangkok was really helpful and our train tickets were delivered to us within the hour. There was no availability in the cheapest beds in the fan carriages, so we chose two fold down upper bunks in an air conditioned carriage, priced at a reasonable 800 baht (£16) each. (These are cheaper than the wider bottom bunks with windows.) Catching our 6pm train was really straightforward, it was clearly listed and sign-posted in the station. The station is big and modern, with plenty of coffee shops and even a Dunkin’ Donuts.
We were hyper. After finding our seats, we made friends with the elderly Thai couple next to us and peered through the window as we rolled out of the city. The train was clean, on time, and had plenty of room to store our luggage right beside us.
We didn’t know if any food would be available on board, so we packed our own. One hour into the journey I attempted to ration our wholesome meal of BBQ crisps and a pack of Oreos with Charlotte, but sadly failed.
At 8pm, the guard travelled through the train, turning the seats into lower beds, and folding down the upper beds from the walls. Phrasebook in hand, we quickly worked out whose beds were whose. Our excitement reached new peaks as we clambered up ladders into our bunks. Half an hour later, we still hadn’t tired of swinging like monkeys from ladder to ladder.
Our one and only fear onboard had been the toilet situation. Could we face not only a train toilet, but a train toilet that had been in solid use for over 12 hours? Our fears soon turned into more excitement when we discovered the toilet did not flush, but was actually just an open hole through the floor. If we looked really hard, we could see the tracks whizz past!
Charlotte updated our travel journal then slept like a baby, after an evening of such excitement and the rocking of the rails to soothe her. I, however, enjoyed hour upon hour of peaceful reading.
When arriving in Surat Thani, we hoped the bus journey would be as comfortable as the train had been. It was not. The ride turned from an optimistic two hours to a miserable five, with delays, stops and changes every few minutes. There was chaos pulling the bags out of the back each time, and a heart stopping moment when Charlotte watched in horror as her lonely rucksack was thrown and abandoned in the middle of the busy road.
We arrived in Patong, Phuket at around midday, tired, grumpy and hungry. But oh so pleased we had not taken the coach the full journey.
11 years ago I took the “12 hour” sleeper to Surat thani. It was really fun and it only took 22 hours. The locals were so patient with the whole thing that it was infectious. We ate kilos of sticky rice as we sat on the tracks waiting for the train to move again. Have fun.
Agh! We’d heard that this journey isn’t always as smooth as ours! Sticky rice and happy locals sound like good compensation though 😉
We’re taking the sleeper train and bus journey from Bangkok to Phuket tomorrow! I’m glad to hear it isn’t too difficult to navigate…I am a bit scared of the bus though. Safe travels!
Hope you had a great experience, the sleeper train is our favourite way to do long journeys without a doubt, the bus back up to Bangkok was far less enjoyable… Charlotte & Sarah x