Traveling Thailand via Train – State Railway of Thailand

Thailand is a very large beautiful country with vast jungles, cities, coastlines and everything in between. Luckily, when it comes to transportation between all the places you want to see, there is a variety of choices. There are many bus companies, tour guides, boat companies, and airlines that you can choose from in getting to where you need to go. When it came to us traveling Thailand, Lisa and I always went by train for the longer distance routes, the State Railway of Thailand.

When traveling the State Railway of Thailand, you will find different classes of travel, just like on an airplane. We have traveled 1st Class, 2nd Class with air conditioning, and 3rd Class without air conditioning while getting from city to city and by far, my favorite was 2nd Class with air conditioning. I will review everything we traveled though and you can decide the best class for you.

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1st Class Air Conditioned Sleeper Berth

The first class air conditioned sleeper berth is a great way to travel long distances in Thailand if you want privacy and a completely lie flat bed. The room is basic, about 3 square meters, two windows with curtains (one looks into the corrider of the train car, the other directly outside), a sink, one electrical outlet, a mirror, a padded sitting bench that converts to a bunk bed, and a lockable door. If you are traveling by yourself, you will share the room with someone else that is the same sex as you. If you want the bottom bed when they convert the room for bed time, you will pay a a few hundred baht more when purchasing your ticket. You will not be able to change once you are onboard unless your roommate wants to as seats, and consequently beds, are assigned when buying tickets. If you are traveling in groups of 4, you can request conjoining rooms as there is a door between the two that can be unlocked and opened.

My only problem with this class was the area is very cramped when the bunk beds are put away. You are just sitting on the bench as there is no space to put your luggage or backpack anywhere except right at your feet making it difficult to move about. The generator was also right below our room and is consistently running, making it hard to talk to the person you are sharing a room with and too noisy to sleep at night. It might be quieter in another location in this train car but for us, it wasn’t worth paying almost double the price as air conditioned second class. In my book, the only positive in first class that second class did not have was the privacy but the cons do not outweigh it. Usually we’re more sociable anyway so first class was pointless for the most part.

As far as toilet facilities are concerned, the first class had one western toilet and one squatter at the end of the train car. Toilet paper was provided for both in addition to the bum gun. Soap was plentiful for washing hands and the water coming from the sink was safe to drink as well.

2nd Class Air Conditioned Sleeper Berth
Similar to first class, second class converts your sitting area into two bunk beds when you are ready to sleep at night. The most obvious difference between the two classes is a lack of privacy, you do not have your own room as before and share the train car with about 30 other people. However, being air conditioned and the ability to lay completely flat when you are ready for bed makes this class an excellent choice for long distance journeys at night and you will save on accommodation.

Lisa in the State Railway of Thailand's 2nd Class Air Conditioned Sleeper Car

Lisa in the State Railway of Thailand’s 2nd Class Air Conditioned Sleeper Car

One thing I noticed was depending on the cities you are traveling between, you may either have a newer train car or an older one. In terms of quality of service, they are the same. The cars are quiet and you do not hear the generators as you do in first class. The newer train cars do have more width than the older ones giving you more sitting and sleeping room. We rode the newer cars between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and the older ones between Surat Thani and Bangkok. I do not know if the newer ones are always on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route so it could be hit or miss but for the money you are paying, the older cars are still well worth it.

The toilet facilities were the same as first class but toilet paper was not provided, only the bum gun. Again, no issues with soap for washing hands or the safety of the water coming out of the sinks.

3rd Class Fan Only
By far, third class was the cheapest but also the worst class to travel by for a few reasons, the largest being the lack of air conditioning.

Without air conditioning in this train car, all the windows open instead and there are overhead oscillating fans every 8 seats to keep the air moving. Unfortunately, Thailand is a very hot and humid place so this setup still makes a 14 hour train ride unbearable. To make matters worse, mosquitos love this car and there isn’t enough Off! in the world to keep the bastards away from you because the fans suck them off the ceiling of the train car, where they all congregate, then spit them directly at you. Yuck! As if that wasn’t disgusting enough, their dead carcasses landing on you but sometimes, the fan just mutilates them and they still manage to suck blood out of you only dying after their last meal, while still on your skin.

That’s definitely the worst part of third class without air conditioning but isn’t the only shit thing wrong with it. In Thailand, Thai citizens can ride third class fan only for free which is fantastic for them but not you. Unlike you, they do not need a ticket and can simply hop on the train and off whenever they please and since they don’t have a ticket, they don’t have a reserved seat and if you disappear long enough, they will most definitely claim your seat for themselves! I saw this happen a few times on the train and luckily for those people, the Thais gladly moved but they don’t have to so be aware of this! The most annoying thing about this however is Thais will get on the train to sell you food and drinks all the way to your next stop. It might seem great at first, having food and drinks available that are cheaper than the monopoly restaurant on board but they constantly are yelling and screaming throughout the third class cars to sell you something. Not ideal if you are trying to sleep.

Finally, the toilet is simple at it’s best, a squatter with a bum gun. That’s it. No toilet paper, no soap, and no sink. You are better off trying to sneak into the second class toilets than using these as they are primitive and should only be used if you’re a guy taking a leak, even then, bring hand sanitizer.

Like I said, third class with fan should be avoided at all costs. We didn’t travel third class with air conditioning but I saw it and it was better than the fan only version. People were still trying to sell you stuff but at least it was cool, dry, and most importantly, mosquito free.

Purchasing Tickets
You can purchase tickets at the train station either the day of or the day before you need to travel. You can also prepurchse tickets up to 60 days in advance. We usually bought our tickets the day of our journey a few hours before. We only got screwed over and had to take third class when going to the Full Moon Party. I do not know what the process is like buying tickets before your day of travel but it is probably just as straight forward as buying them a few hours before.

To purchase, just go up to a sales window displaying All Tickets in the screen, tell them what your destination and desired class is and pay. At the train station they accept Visa, MasterCard and Thai Baht. Most of the sales representatives speak and understand English well enough that there won’t be any screw ups. Be patient with them and they will be patient with you. Don’t lose your ticket as the conductor will punch it once you have boarded the train and it has departed the station!

Tickets are also available through travel agents but will cost slightly more as that is how the travel agent makes money off selling the train tickets. If you’re a penny pincher, buy them for at cost at the train station. Tickets cannot be bought online through the State Railway of Thailand’s website but this might change in the future. If you are outside Thailand and need a ticket you will have no choice but to purchase through a travel agent.

After Thoughts
Keep in mind trains are seldom to their final destination on time but somehow always manage to leave the first station on time if not 5 minutes early. Don’t rely on your train being on time if you have a flight out of Bangkok, one of our trains arrived to our destination 5 hours late.

Food and drink is available for purchase on the train both from the dining car and train staff that can bring the food to you. The train staff might sometimes deny the existence of the dining car since they get commission so don’t let that deter you from passing them up on bringing you food if you want to eat in the dining car. After 9pm the dining car turns into a disco eatery which is quite a sight to see! If you are on a budget, keep in mind train food will be the same price from the dining car or staff but will be 5 times what you would pay for on the street!

Also travel during Thai holidays and Full Moon Parties via train is extremely popular. Be sure to book ahead of time.

Hopefully this article gives you some insight into taking the train in Thailand which I would recommend everyone do at least do one since it’s cheaper than it would be in your home country and is safer than the buses! As always, if you have questions just ask them in the comment section. When I’m reunited with my laptop, I will add more pictures and links to the official website so you can get schedule information!

An Update – 17 March 2014

Time really does fly when you’re traveling. Once again I managed to not post anything in over 6 months! So much has happened since I last posted too but I will definitely backtrack later. I am currently in Thailand with Lisa on the island Koh Phangan. I used up my entire working holiday in New Zealand,  even getting an extra 6 months with a work visa. But I have hit the road again and have so much to post and hopefully in the coming weeks, I can update everyone on what exactly I’ve been up to lately as I know I’ve been a bit secretive. Stayed tuned!

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Is Civil War Imminent in America?

Again I know it’s been almost half a year since I posted anything on this site and I know it’s supposed to be about being an expatriate so at first this post may seem a bit weird but I assure you, it is part of why I am an expatriate so bare with me.

There is without question that our liberties and freedoms have been under attack in America for quite sometime now. Everyday it seems to get worse and worse. From domestic drones roaming our skies to corrupt government officials telling us they know best. Well America, today is the day that marks the beginning of the end for what once was the freest country on the planet. It’s been happening for a while now, we give up some freedoms to enjoy security but the price is rising to a point that I believe even every day Americans will refuse to pay. Hell, I started to refuse to pay the price last year back in May.

I am talking about the United States government spying on EVERYONE. Not just those suspected of terrorism, not those even remotely associated with terrorism but every single American in the United States. I know for a fact Americans abroad are spied on by the government and in a sense, after 9/11, many have come to both accept and encourage that (I don’t and never will) but now, even those in the homeland are treated guilty until proven innocent or no need to prove innocent at all. The latest installment of your life in the hands of a corrupt government official comes out of the National Security Administration’s subpenaing daily reports of ALL phone calls made/routed/terminated over the nation’s 2nd largest telecommunications provider, Verizon. See here if you haven’t a clue what I am on about.

Apparently, all branches of government are involved and when this story broke about 12 hours ago, the White House quickly dismissed it as routine and “normal”. There is nothing normal about this. When all branches of the government are telling us it is for our own good and that we must accept it, that my friends is when we must fight back. There has been no due process of law for the government to obtain this information about everyday citizens and in fact, it is our right to privacy and due process. The Forth Ammendment of the U.S. Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now, do you think the United States government has probable cause on every single person in the United States for our papers to be searched? I don’t. If these government officials are telling us that they are in their legal rights to do this, they are dead wrong.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and for them to circumvent this is treasonous. Any politician whom agree, affirms, or does not object to what is going on is part of this oligarchy that has taken over our country and should be swiftly charged with treason and shot upon being found guilty (for those of you who don’t know, I am not pro death penalty but for tyrants, which these people clearly are, I will make an exception and I am at least willing to give them due process of law, something they no longer afford to us).

If you think that the government is only targeting those on the Verizon network, think again. This story just broke. In the coming days, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they’ve targeted all the networks and have been doing it for years. This is by no means something new.

This brings us to the question, is civil war imminent in America? No.

Unfortunately, as you read this, you probably have already lost interest and may have accepted this as the price you pay. You will continue about your day maybe giving a thought or two about it if someone else brings it up but otherwise, you’ll be more interested in the sports on TV or what your friends are up to on Facebook. You figure this is someone else’s problem, that there still are good politicians and they will clean house. You are wrong. This is YOUR problem and yes there are good politicians but they CANNOT clean house without your help. It is time for action. Turn off your TV and close your laptop. Take to the streets and protest! If protesting in the streets isn’t your thing, write a scathing letter to your senators, congressmen and president. Demand action or demand their resignation. Do not just go about your day as if nothing new has happened because this is big.

Today is the day we must take action, that we say enough is enough. Today is the day we push back, that we take back the country that is rightfully ours and put leaders in the position of power that can fix this and not compound the problem. If you fail to act, you may not have a TV or Facebook to log onto tomorrow. It will just be propaganda and you will become another mindless zombie feeding the machine more so than you already do.

If you aren’t as pissed off as me, you should be because what the government will do next will be even worse. They will know that if you do not react, that you have become complacent and are happy with this oligarchy. Our freedoms and rights as humans are eroding faster than ever in America, it is time we draw the line in the sand behind their current position and push back.

We won’t be going to civil war with our government anytime soon because we forgot what freedom is all about, we got comfortable in our lazy ways and the, “we’ll fix it later” attitude, but really, we should have started the war years ago. By time most are ready to fight back, it will be too late.

The Case Against Fort Collins – Why Fort Collins Sucks – Part 1

I know this blog is about being an expatriate and most of my readers will not quite understand why there is a blog entry about Fort Collins, the last city I was a resident in the United States on here. Well in order to understand me better, you need to know where I am coming from and I feel you would better understand my dislike of my country I have if you knew the kind of city I came from. This entry will give you a little more insight into where I am from and what propelled me into becoming an expatriate. Granted, you won’t get the full story (you need to wait for my book) but you will get some idea behind my thought process.

I lived in Fort Collins for almost 2 years of my life and in that time, I witnessed extreme police corruption and brutality. My first witness to these corrupt officers was the week I just moved up to Fort Collins. There was a riot in old town, granted I did not witness this first hand but did hear from friends and through the old grape vine that the riot originally started after an officer used excessive force on a drunk patron, go figure. The Fort Collins Police department (or as they call themselves Fort Collins Police Services, a joke of a name) has been known for only ever telling half the story and said that a crowd got out of control over a misunderstanding but I think it was the Fort Collins Police that got out of control over a little misunderstanding. Read the article about the riot here. It doesn’t say why the rioters suddenly began throwing beer bottles at officers but I think the reasoning is obvious. Perhaps the Fort Collins Police should have been charged with starting a riot? Obviously they were behind the riot in the first place.

Fort Collins Police officers, those sworn to uphold, protect and defend the constitution have little respect for the legislative authority that allows them to exist in the first place. They don’t seem to grasp We The People allow them to be, not the other way around. Therefore, you would think that they would have a little more respect for the people and the law that allows them to have a job in the first place but they don’t. In this report, an officer is shown shoving an innocent civilian that was legally filming the officer in public. I guess the man had a good reason to be filming the Fort Collins Police, as does any person in Fort Collins as their short fuses can go off at any moment. Was the officer charged with police intimidation or assault? Nope. He probably got promoted as happened in the next case.

Meet Officer Kobey Northen, who is now Detective Kobey Northen. Before Detective Northen harassed CSU students for the whereabouts of family members (seriously, this guy does this) he was a patrol officer with the Fort Collins Police. He was called to a domestic violence report where in the end, he ended up shooting a suspect he accused of drawing a gun on him after being maced. What? I asked myself the same thing. This officer maced a suspect then shot him after accusing him of drawing a weapon on him and the victim. How does one draw a weapon on an officer after just being maced? I can’t imagine someone doing this but supposedly it happened. You can read all about it here and you can decide for yourself if the story adds up or not. For me, it just doesn’t add up and I think the officer was promoted just to get him off the street so he doesn’t end up shooting someone again. Excessive force anyone?

Some people may chalk these up to isolated incidents, I don’t as I know these aren’t isolated incidents, these are only the ones the press will report on (another problem with our country, the selected reporting of important news). Consider this, is it an isolated incident when the Fort Collins and Larimer governments makes it policy to arrest people for not breaking the law? Nope.

In November 2012, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment for the legalisation of small amounts of marijuana. The vote has yet to be certified by the governor so technically it is still illegal but most police departments and district attorneys in the state of Colorado have recognised the will of the people and decided to stop the prosecution of these victimless crimes. Not in Fort Collins where the Fort Collins Police, Larimer County Police and Larimer County District Attorney continue to go after petty offences that soon won’t even be a petty offence! I think Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said it best that he doesn’t listen to the constitution, only statutes that gives a prime example of why the entire government of Fort Collins and Larimer County should be dissolved.

Good news for those who got citations, if you continue your case until the governor certifies the vote, your case most likely will be dropped as the prosecution won’t have a leg to stand on. Knowing Larry Abrahamson (whom is term limited and being replaced in January with his mini-me) he will try and strong arm you into taking a plea deal. Decline any deal he gives you and demand a jury trial. The jury will most likely find you not guilty and you will have cost the backwards county a small fortune in trying to prosecute you for something that is legal now. It’s unlikely it will even get that far as I know some where Larry Abrahamson has a few brain cells left (he’s almost consistently drunk from what I heard) and he will dismiss the case right before it goes to jury.

Actual photo of District Attorney Larry Abrahamson without his human mask on.

Actual photo of District Attorney Larry Abrahamson without his human mask on

Finally, there is the case of Tim Masters, the man who was wrongfully set up by a Fort Collins Detective by the name of James Broderick for the murder of Peggy Hettrick in 1987. If this case in itself doesn’t describe the state of Fort Collins, I don’t know what will. The way poor Tim Masters was treated all the way to the bitter end sickens me. Larry Abrahamson wanted to try and charge this poor guy again even after it became blatantly obvious he was innocent until the Colorado Attorney General stepped in an said Masters was exonerated. The worst part is that this corrupt detective James Broderick not only continues to get a paycheck from the city for over $100,000 a year but they are footing a lot of his legal bills! What is wrong with this city? In case you were wondering, the average officer in Fort Collins makes at least $72,137 a year to rid you of your constitutional rights and most are just as corrupt as James Broderick such as officers Jarad Sargent, Nick Rogers, Adam Braun, Timothy Moeller, Randall Klamser, Rex Steele and Wendy Slaughter, just to name a few after a quick Google search as quite honestly, the whole department should be listed.

These aren’t the only examples of the corruption in this city but just the tip of the iceberg. Many accounts of police corruption go unnoticed by the public and our media will even turn a blind eye to it in many cases. This is one of the major reasons I have had it with America, it has become a police state where the average citizen cannot and will not be treated properly by the very people we entrust power to. It’s time We The People woke up and said enough is enough. Vote out of office these corrupt officials, sheriffs that have no regard for the constitution, mayors and city managers that allow police departments unlimited budgets, judges that aren’t impartial, and district attorneys that have their heads too far up their own asses to see what’s really going on.

I want to come home but refuse to until we as a nation clean up our act and get rid of the corrupt government officials. This is my political statement but I cannot do it alone. Before you vote for anyone, ask yourself, do you believe in a better candidate or are you voting for a lesser of two evils? Because if you are simply voting for the lesser of two evils, you too are what’s wrong with America.

The police aren’t the only problem, the courts are too! In my next article, I will discuss how the courts are in bed with the police department and district attorney office and why you will never find a fair judge in this town. This article is part 1 of a 2 part series on Why Fort Collins Sucks.