Night trains (with sleeper) are awesome. You not only get a relaxing ride across the countryside. You also get a bed to sleep in for the night. No accommodation to pay for! There are quicker and sometimes cheaper ways to get from Ayutthaya (or Bangkok for that matter) to Chiang Mai. You can catch an airplane very easily however you will miss out being lulled to sleep by the clickety clack then waking up to watch the scenery stream past your window.
Booking at least one day in advance is advisable for the night train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai. The same goes if you are planning to head directly from Bangkok. The night trains get very full very quickly. Especially on the weekend or during national holidays. Both Thais and travellers use the train between the central and northern parts of Thailand. At the time of writing, booking means physically going to a train station and buying a paper ticket. No net booking here.
There are at least six night trains that run between Bangkok to Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai nightly. The best ones to catch leave Bangkok between 6pm and 8pm, the trains then stop between 7pm and 9pm in Ayutthaya to finally arrive in Chiang Mai between 7am and 10am the next day. If you catch an earlier leaving train then you will arrive in Chiang Mai at an ungodly hour of 5:30am. Nothing is open then! It should be noted here that the trains often run late. So, it is wise to not make any morning day tour bookings the day you arrive in Chiang Mai. Also, not all of these trains may have sleeper cars.
To check out the train timetables running from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai, please click here to be taken to the Thai Railway Northern Timetable.
Our train that was coming from Bangkok was meant to arrive at 9pm in Ayutthaya. In true Thai fashion the train was a good hour late. Normally we would have no problem with our transport being late as we don't really have any appointments to keep. But when it comes to a night train, and you know that your sleeper bed is going to be set up for you and it is night time already and it is nearly bed time, then we may get a little grumbly.
Finally the train came. Everyone was just as happy as we were. We climbed on the train to find a four sleeper bed booth. We had one side, a top and bottom sleeper booth each. Only the bottom sleeper bed was taken on the other side. Our booth mate was a lovely Thai tour guide who had just finished taking a group of French people from Bangkok all the way up to Chiang Mai and back again. He was very tired also but we had a nice chat. You really do meet some lovely people on trains.
There are two different sleeper bed ticket prices. The bottom sleeper bunk is more expensive than the top sleeper as it is generally bigger and easier to get into. It also has a little shelf that you can put your glasses on, like Andrew did. To get to the top bunk you have to clamber up a metal ladder hoping that the train doesn't stop suddenly. The top sleeper bunk is still really comfortable though. Tanya prefers it to the bottom bunk. It feels like a little cocoon. Both sleeper beds have a curtain that completely surrounds the bunks and a personal night light to read a book by.
Our tickets from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai cost: 856 Baht for the lower bunk and 766 Baht for the top bunk. To get a further idea about how much the train costs between Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Chiang Mai please click here to be taken to the Thai Railways Price Chart.
The train from Ayutthaya takes approximately twelve hours to get to Chiang Mai. It is probably best to add on an extra hour or two for little stops here and there. During this time, you can either spend the entirety sleeping peacefully in your comfy bed that comes with a clean bottom sheet, a clean pillow case, a clean pillow and a clean blanket. Or, you could join the others in the restaurant carriage.
Basic Thai food was offered at a reasonable price along with beer of course. You could pre-purchase breakfast sets for when the morning came if you wanted to. Unfortunately, we do not remember any of the prices of the food or the drinks. Apologies for this.
We recommend you bring a good book, an ipod for music, some playing cards, and perhaps a game of scrabble. We had so much fun playing scrabble on the train. Tanya won by the way. If you aren't into scrabble or any other game, then just looking out your window whiling away the time is just as good. The views are spectacular.
Our train was meant to arrive in Chiang Mai at 9:45am. Many stops and starts later, we finally arrived in Chiang Mai it was well past 11:30am. We didn't mind too much. We had brought some snacks with us so we weren't starving by this time.
The night train from Bangkok - Ayutthaya - Chiang Mai really is a great ride. This was the third or fourth time we had done this trip. We recommend it to everyone!