January 2017 – Our stay in Bangkok, Thailand, was filled with exotic sights and sounds, and at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market we got a peek at a way of life that had been uniquely Thai back in the days when the city was built on canals. But it was a train trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, about 75 miles west of the city, that made us feel like we were beginning to see the “real” Thailand.
The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is a 3rd class train that leaves from the Thonburi station in Bangkok. The station and the streets around it were absolutely teaming with people, as it sits alongside a huge market where anything and everything was for sale on a vast array of tables and carts.
Tickets for the three hour train trip were just 100 Baht each, about $2.85 US, but we’d made the mistake of showing up without any notes worth less than 500 Baht. To our surprise, the ticket booth at the train station wouldn’t accept a 500 Baht note for 200 Baht worth of tickets.
So, I ran off through the market, passed by an ATM that was out of order, and finally found a lady selling juice from a cart who had an apron filled with bills of all denominations. Fortunately, she understood enough English and sign language that when I waved a 500 Baht note at her she figured out what I wanted. In no time I was back at the train station ticket window with exact change. Phew!
There were quite a few “farangs” (foreigners) waiting for this train, as it is a popular trip for tourists to do. But all the other trains at the station were loading and unloading throngs of locals who were going about their daily business.
The Kanchanaburi train finally arrived, and we hopped on board. We hadn’t been sure what “3rd class” would mean, but it turned out to be just like the commuter rail trains I used to ride as a kid years ago, except the windows were all wide open.
As we headed out of Bangkok, the train narrowly missed hitting the corrugated metal rooftops of endless rows of houses, and we got a peek at the backside of Bangkok, as is so common when you take a train somewhere. We saw what amounted to being the “other side of the tracks” in some very poor neighborhoods.
Once we got out of town a ways, we began to see classic Asian sights out the windows.
We stopped at quite a few train stations along the way. Several stations were very ornate with uniformed guards standing watch, and most were decorated with memorials to the beloved deceased Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who had died in October, 2016.
During our stay in Thailand we saw thousands of memorials to the king, often with photos of him either as a young man who appeared to be very studious, or as a middle aged man dressed in all his royal splendor and regalia.
In general, when we walked on the streets, we couldn’t go 50 yards without encountering a memorial of some kind, and in a car or on this train the billboards and roadside shrines appeared several times per mile.
After about an hour, we stopped at one train stop and a group of vendors got on board. They walked up and down the aisle selling foods of various kinds.
Each vendor took a turn in each train car, waiting for the vendor ahead of them to finish walking through the car before strolling down the aisle themselves.
Meanwhile, out the window, the ornate rooftops of temples and other buildings appeared between the trees.
In the seat in front of us, a little boy was as fascinated with what he saw out the train window as we were.
His sister hung her head out the window too, and we got such a kick out of watching these two adorable kids taking in all the scenery and pointing and commenting on it.
They were loving the train ride as much as we were.
Their mom let them take shots out the window with her cell phone and then she got some pics of the two of them. We couldn’t help but take photos of them too!
After a while, the little boy peeked over the top of the seatback at me, put his hands together and bowed his head in the Thai expression of respect. I was touched and told his mom her children were very beautiful and she gave me a huge smile.
She and I tried to tell each other where we were heading, though, and our attempt at conversation was hopeless. I think she said they were going to the mountains, and I tried to tell her we were going to see some waterfalls. But sign language and giggles only go so far.
The train ride took us out into the countryside, far from the chaos of Bangkok, and soon we began to see the rural sights of farms and farmers tending their fields. Some of the farmers were tilling the land by hand.
We passed a row of trees that was so perfectly lined up I just had to take a photo. I didn’t realize at the time that these trees were rubber trees. A few days later I would see these trees up close, each one holding a small mug-sized cup to catch the sap.
We also passed a cemetery filled with pointed shrines for deceased loved ones.
In no time, the trip was over. The three hours had zipped by, and we had arrived in Kanchanaburi.
An agent came to the train and greeted all the foreigners as we got off the train. She asked each of us where we were staying and assigned us to a cab or tuk-tuk to get us there. We were staying at the Bure Homestay which is just a few kilometers from the train station.
Peering out the window of the cab, the town of Kanchanaburi seemed very inviting. We loved the fish that adorned the tops of all the streetlights.
As we wandered around the town we noticed some very cool buses that were two stories tall and were painted up in wild colors and said “Mr. Beer” on the side.
We poked our heads inside one of these buses and were amazed to find that the entire first floor of the bus was a bar! The two bar tenders greeted us warmly, although they seemed to be a few sheets to the wind themselves, and we got a chuckle as we realized there are many ways to get around Thailand.
For us, the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi was a great way to go, and it felt very authentic and made for a very pleasant three hour ride.
But taking the Mr. Beer bus could always be another option!
There are a few tips for taking the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi below:
Never miss a post — it’s free!
More info about the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi:
- Take small bills of 100 Baht and 200 Baht to the train station window to buy your ticket!
- Train Schedule – Trains go twice a day from Thonburi Station in Bangkok and you can buy your ticket there
- Location of Thonburi Station and Kanchanaburi – Interactive Google Maps
- Bure Homestay – Where we stayed in Kanchanaburi (Bure Homestay location on map here)
Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:
- Snorkeling Ko Rok with Dive & Relax – Underwater Magic in Thailand! 03/31/17
- Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House 03/18/17
- Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House – Khao Sok National Park… Wow! 03/12/17
- Kanchanaburi, Thailand – History, Caves, Monkeys & Exotic Fruit! 03/03/17
- Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures 02/15/17
- Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures 02/07/17
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center? 01/24/17
- One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat! 01/18/17
Other memorable train and bus trips we have taken:
- A Bus trip in Chiapas, Mexico – A Day of Adventure
- The Cog Railway in New Hampshire – The Little Engine That Could
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