Hua Lumphong Station is, for the time being, the beginning or end of most great Thai rail journeys. We love it!
The Thai railway network was inaugurated here in 1897, and the building you see was erected in 1916. Like many significant Thai buildings with Royal patronage, the architecture is Italian, and of a neo-renaissance style – with a typically lofty and triumphant hall, and great natural light thanks to use of glass that was, at the times, considered state-of-the-art and adventurous.
A portrait of the founder of Thailand’s railway system greets you as you pass through to the train platforms. As an infant in 1855, King Chulalongkorn was presented with a model train set from an envoy of Queen Victoria who was trying to convince his father – King Mongkut – to link her colonies in British India and Malaya by rail. Mongkut declined to do as Victoria wished, but after assuming the throne 13 years later, Chulalongkorn began surveying a rail link in 1888 – not to Britain’s bordering colonies, but instead north to Siam’s second city of Chiangmai.
Hua Lumphong serves over 60,000 passengers daily. It is a terminus for every line in State Railway of Thailand network, taking you north to Chiangmai, Northeast to Laos, East to Cambodia, West toward Myanmar, and South to Malaysia. It is also, usually, the terminus of the Eastern and Oriental Express luxury train that connects all the way down to Singapore.
A not so pleasant story about this departures hall: At 8.55am on 8 November 1986, a newly repaired locamotive was heading here from Bang Sue station, towing 6 carriages, travelling at around 50km per hour. But there was nobody on it! The train careened into the barriers at the railhead and was flung upwards onto the elevated platform, skidding onto its side across the terminal floor. It grinded to a halt a few metres short of the station entrance. A book stall, information booth, soft drink stand, and foreign exchange counter were all smashed.
Fortunately, the station master had been notified of the coming disaster as the train began its 8km dash from the North, and was able to evacuate the area in the few minutes he had to respond. However, the airborne train knocked over two giant timetable boards which caused 4 fatalities.
Buying tickets in advance: Trains can get sold out well in advance. If you’re still in the planning stages, we recommend using 12Go.asia and book early. They have a great website for train tickets, but can also connect buses, ferries, and flights if you need. You can pick up tickets in their office across the road from Hua Lumphong to the south when you exit through the main hall, but be sure to check their opening times. You’ll see a building labelled D.O.B – it also has a cafe with great juices! You can book your ticket with them in the little booking window below.
Public Transport Connections: The station is connected to Bangkok’s underground train – The MRT – which then connects to the the overground BTS Skytrain lines, and the Airport link to Suvarnabumi Airport.
Thonburi / Bangkok Noi departures: Some train journeys to the West and South depart instead from Thonburi Station, which is across the river to the West from here. If you are heading that way, be sure to check your tickets for the departure station listed. It can be tricky to get there, so if you need to get to Thonburi, leave plenty of time to either take a taxi, or inquire about how to get there by train.
Children: under 100cm and younger than 3 years travel free, provided they can share a seat with you if it comes to it.
Ladies: Some trains have special carriages for ladies and their accompanying children. Keep a look out for the pink signs on the side of carriages if you’re interested.
Dogs: You can bring dogs and cats on 3rd class carriages if they have a cage or case. They may charge between 90 and 150 baht per animal.
Old rolling stock: There are a few interesting pieces of old rolling stock around Hua Lumphong. Go exploring and you might find a 1935 Hitachi engine, another engine that has been converted into a mini shrine for railway workers, and a curious military carriage with cannons poking out of it.
Railway Museum: If you exit to the south of the main hall, you’ll find a small railway museum to the right (attached to the southwestern corner of the building). Not a bad place to visit if you have some time to burn, but keep expectations low).
Hungry?: There are some cheap and clean eats in and around the station, but you’re in a bit of a culinary dead-zone by Bangkok standards. There’s always the food court on the eastern flank of the main hall, which looks dodgey and has a strange coupon-based payment system, but has okay Thai fair.
Thirsty?: I don’t mind the coffee at Black Canyon upstairs inside the main station. If you have time, there are some hipster-styled cafes or bars if you head to Chinatown (to the west of the station, over the canal and into the alleys). I like 2W for a good coffee, and the oddly named “Teens of Thailand” for a fancy G&T at night.