The Northern Line: Bangkok-Chiang Mai

The Northern Line: Bangkok-Chiang Mai

About this trip

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In this trip

The entrance hall of a a train station in Thailand

Hua Lumphong Station

Welcome to Hua Lumphong Station - the beginning or end of all great Thai rail journeys.

Bang Sue Junction

Its not a thrilling sight, but Bang Sue junction is about to become rather important place for Thai rail travel, and its an interesting case study on how Thai's like to build things.

To sets of railway tracks converging

North-South Line Junction

The train lines diverge between North and South here. The Northern and Eastern Lines go up to Ayutthaya before separating. The Southern and Western (the infamous "Death Railway") head West to Nakhon Pathom before separating. Singapore is a couple of days reach of here by rail for the price of a cheap hotel room, or there's a luxury option taking 3 days.

The outer facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art

A Creative District: MOCA, and Kasetsart University

This is perhaps a strange place for an artistic hub. It is home to one of the region's largest contemporary art museums, and a university founded to bring the silk industry to Thailand.

An Air Asia plane at the terminal in Don Mueang airport

Don Mueang

Don Mueang is Asia's oldest continually operating international airports. Its actually owned and run by the Royal Thai Air Force, who have a golf course in between the airstrips.

A man standing by some tuk tuks on the streets of Bangkok at dusk

The City of Bangkok

Bangkok is a force. Its the centre of the Thai universe, and is the sort of city that takes a lifetime to really know. Unfortunately, visitors walk into and out of this rich and vibrant city with the wrong ideas.

A modern building in Thammasat University with a flag pole

Thammasat University

Thammasat is Thailand's second oldest university, is probably the country's most prestigious, and has been the hotbed of Thailand's most game-changing politics.

Picture of a factory area in Thailand

The Thai Economy

As we pass an industrial zone on the outskirts of Bangkok, lets talk about Thailand's economy.

A lake with a stilted temple in Ban Pa-In.

Ban Pa-In

The Ban Pa-In Royal Residence has a strange assortment of architectural styles, even by Thai standards.

A turbulent river with Thai riverboats and hotel buildings on its banks

The Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya translates to "the Chief", such is the importance of this River to the Thai nation.

Ayutthaya 1665

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the second capital city of Siam after Sukhothai. The city helped harbour in the golden age of Thai culture.

Powerlines in front of a sky

Electricity in Thailand

Thailand is not a very green country. Electricity generation could be 100% renewable by 2050 if they really wanted it to be, but it doesn't seem to be a priority.

A view of Inundated Thai countryside from the air during a flood

Thailand’s Floodplain

The Chao Phraya floodplain, which is where most of Thailand lives, is probably Thailand's most important geological feature.

To sets of railway tracks converging

Ban Pachi Junction

Ban Pachin junction is a crossroads famous for it's coconut ice-cream. If you're well prepared, and bold, you might be able to get some as the train stops.

Cargo being towed down the Pa Sak river

The Pa Sak River

The Pa Sak is one of the main sources of flooding in downstream Bangkok, so in 1998, the Thai government built an epic dam on this river.

A close-up of a pile of casava.

Cassava Country

Hang on... Why are they growing a poisonous, Brazilian plant in central Thailand?

Green rice paddies

Geography of Central Thailand

Seismically, Thailand isn't the most thrilling of countries, but there's enough going on to talk about.

Lopburi

The history of Lopburi is AWESOME! You'll see some from the train station, but get off and digging deeper if you can. We have an intro for you.

Thai Home Architecture

The traditional style of home architecture in Thailand is a breezy, stilted, and social arrangement that perfectly fits Thailand's climate and culture.

An old temple of the town of Chan Sen.

Ancient Chan Sen

You're not likely to raise an eyebrow when you pass Chan Sen on the train, but we noticed it, and found an ancient city!

Old picture of aircraft lined up on a tarmac in Takli airforce base

Takli Royal Air Force Base

There's an odd looking object at the top of the hill West of the rail line in the middle of nowhere. Its the radar of an airforce base that has seen a lot of action.

Elephant walking past solar panels

Solar Farm in Central Thailand

A solar farm in the middle of Thailand is a good start to making Southeast Asia greener.

An aerial view of Nakhorn Sawan

Nakhon Sawan

Nakhon Sawan - the "Heavenly City" - is where most of Northern Thailand's rivers converge to make the Chao Phraya.

A man fishing on a dinghy in a lake

Lake Boraphet

Lake Boraphet is a large freshwater wetlands - originally a swamp that was flooded in 1930 to improve fishing. It is the only known habitat for the White-Eyed River Martin, which hasn't been seen since 1980.

A colourful Thai buddhist temple

Thai Temple Complexes

Buddhist temples in Thailand are known as "wats", meaning an enclosure, and generally contain 7 or 8 types of buildings, each of which have their own symbolic, ceremonial, or practical importance.

A hand with whole rice husks in it

Rice in Thai Politics

With more than half of Thai voters involved in rice agriculture, rice is always central to Thailand's politics. For example, in 2011, an elaborate rice scheme initiated by a political party changed Thailand's politics fundamentally, and for the worse.

Tiered and browned rice paddies backed by a forests

The Rice Production Process

If you're travelling through Thailand, you'll definitely see rice being produced. So depending on when you're travelling, you should be able to see rice production at one of a few stages.

A white crocodile statue in front of a white temple in Phichit

Phichit

Phichit is a great place to go for Pomello. You might be able to buy some from the station if you're speedy.

A wide river with green banks

The Nan River

Into houseboats? Then this is your river!

A temple complex with a clear blue sky

Phitsanulok

Phitsanulok is a one-time ancient capital of Siam, and the birthplace of one of Thailand's liberator King.

Statue of a soldier carrying two swords

Phichai

Phichai is a tiny town, but its not to be messed with.

Looking down the rails of a truss bridge

The Porramin Bridge

The Porramin Bridge over the Nan river, is one of Thailand's longest, and is a truss bridge - typical to Thailand.

Road sign showing what Uttaradit is famous for

Uttaradit

Uttaradit is the "Port of the North" - as far as you're likely to get a boat before heading into the Northern hills. It has a strange affinity with dinosaurs, and has reportedly great durian, if such a thing exists.

train heading into misty hills

The Northern Hills, and the Khao Phlung Tunnel

North of Uttaradit is the point where the floodplains give way to the first mountain range. This proved a particularly challenging part of the line to build.

Statue of a Thai general

Den Chai

Den Chai is a turning point for the railway line, and it might have to do with a rebellion that happened here which left an impression on Thailand's Southern rulers.

A temple on a river bank

The Yom River

The Yom river is the largest tributary of the Nan river, and meets it a long way downstream in the central floodplains.

Derailed train carriage

1989 Rail Disaster

There was a nasty rail accident on this Northern Line in 1989 near Nakhon Lampang due to some dodgy brakes. Lets hope its not repeated.

A satellite image of a scarred landscape

The Industrious Mae Chang River Valley

From a relatively verdent and natural surrounding, the Mae Chang River Valley, with no major towns nearby, is surprisingly industrious, and a bit of a pity to be honest.

An satellite image showing the outline of a caldera of an extinct volcano.

Doi Pha Khok Hin Fu Volcano

There's a volcano up here alongside the Northern Line. Granted its a rather little one.

The central traffic island of the city of Lampang, with a fountain and a statue that looks like a lighthouse.

Lampang

Lampang was founded in the 7th century as an important centre of the Lan Na Kingdom. It has a really nice train station!

Local people from the tribes in the Kun Tan Mountain Range, with the women wearing ceremonial head dresses.

The Khun Tan Mountain Range

The Khun Tan mountain range is pretty special - rich in ecological, human, and scenic treasures. Definitely worth a visit if you can.

An arched entrance to a dark railway tunnel lined with red bricks and an ornate Thai sign

The Khun Tan Tunnel

Historically, the Kun Tan range was a formidable barrier, and required a tunnel that was, at the time, an engineering feat.

A golden temple in a sunny sky in Lamphun

Lamphun

Lamphun is a small town, but it was once called Hariphunchai, and was the capital of a mighty kingdom of the same name.

A view of Chiang Mai city from a nearby hill

Chiang Mai Station

If you've come here from Bangkok, you've come 751 kilometres. Its an ancient city, but its name means "New City".

A tangle of many wires hanging on a pole in Bangkok

A messy city: Cables, canals, and tight squeezes

Bangkok can seem like a messy city. Tangles of cables, tight squeezes, and dirty canals.

The front facade of Dusit Palace - a European styled palace in Bangkok

Dusit Palace (Wang Dusit)

Bangkok is a not-so-ancient seat of the Thai Royal court, and you may be passing a surprising and important palace.