A travel guide by Window Seater
About this trip
For those heading to or from the ritzy and heady resorts of Southern Thailand, this is an authentic view of modern Thailand’s everyday life.
In this trip
Welcome to Hua Lumphong Station - the beginning or end of all great Thai rail journeys.
Bangkok can seem like a messy city. Tangles of cables, tight squeezes, and dirty canals.
Bangkok is a not-so-ancient seat of the Thai Royal court, and you may be passing a surprising and important palace.
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.
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.
Chao Phraya translates to "the Chief", such is the importance of this River to the Thai nation.
Tailing Chan is where the Thonburi branch merges, is a new BTS hub, and a sight of a nasty train crash!
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.
For a small town, Salaya has plenty going on.
There's a strange little museum tucked away out here, but I think it deserves a mention.
Buddhist Temples are everywhere in Thailand. There's a lot to learn about them. And this one in particular is quite peculiar.
Thailand is a country of water, particularly in its floodplains. Canals and bridges have been a major engineering feat.
Nakhon Pathom is a surprise. We really recommend you explore it - particularly the Pra Pathomachedi
Nong Pladuck Junction is the crossroads where the Japanese began to lay tracks West.
You've likely never heard of the Mae Klong, but its name a bit upstream from here is the River Kwai.
You're now in the floodplain of the Mae Klong, in the greater Chao Phraya floodplain, which is where most of Thailand lives.
Potharam isn't a big town, but its got an incredible cave temple full of bats, and a creepy doll museum.
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.
Rachaburi means City of the King, so named because it was the birthplace of King Rama the 1st: the founder of the Chakri Dynasty that still rules to this day.
It won't look like it, but the Southern Line train actually passes THROUGH an ancient city.
The Malay Peninsular is formed by the Tenasserim Hill system rising between the Indian and Pacific Oceans due to a collision between two of the world's biggest tectonic plates.
You're likely to see a lot of rice paddy on the Southern Line, particularly in its northern reaches, so we best explain what you're seeing.
You'll be passing hundreds of caves hidden along your journey on the Southern Line, and they're pretty incredible places.
Phetchaburi is an old Mon royal city dating back to the 8th Century, making it one of the oldest settlements in Thailand.
In the Southern stretches of the Thai Southern Line, you will see many specimens of Arecaceae - the botanical family of perennial climbers we know as "palm trees" - they're rather incredible.
The most northerly karst mountain alongside the Thai Southern Line has an interesting story hidden inside.
The Thai resort town is a winning recipe. Cha-Am is the most northerly of Thailand's resort towns on the Southern Line.
Unfortunately you can't see Mrigadayavan Palace from the Thai Southern Line, but its worth a mention anyway.
On the Thai Southern Line, you'll take a tunnel under the northern edge of the landing strip in Hua Hin airport.
There are so many quality hospitals throughout Thailand. The better hospitals are on par with some of the best hospitals the world over, and the industry is booming.
Although you won't be able to see Klai Kangwon Palace from the Thai Southern Line, it is very nearby. It was the summer residence of a man who's face you might recognise.
Hua Hin is a playground of Bangkok's elite.
Rajabhakti Park was built by the Royal Thai Army in honour of the past and current Kings of Thailand in 2015, but with some controversy.
As we travel through Thai villages, lets talk a bit about Thai village life, and how it compares with what tourists see.
The hills in the distance to the East of the Thai Southern Line you can see the karst hills of Thailand's first marine national park.
The Gulf of Thailand was once the edge of Europe's known world. It is an interesting body of water.
Did Thailand partner with or capitulate to Japan in WWII? The Prachuap Khiri Khan airfield was definitely invaded.
Hatwanakorn is the newest National Park in Thailand. If you're looking for a pristine Thai beach, this is it.
The hills inland along a large stretch of the Thai Southern Line are the land of the Karen - an ancient, stateless nation.
The dramatic little mountains you see more an more of as you head South on the Thai Southern Line are called 'karst', and they're pretty weird.
There are so many nice beaches alongside the Thai Southern Line. So what makes for a nice, sandy, crescent-shaped beach in Thailand?
We need to talk about the African Oil Palm - you will see a lot of it from towards the Southern side of the Thai Southern Line, and all the way down to Singapore.
Travelling through the countryside, you'll see a lot of variants of buddha statues. They all have meaning.
Chumphon is a Jumpoff point for people going to the Islands of Koh Tao, Phangan, and Samui.
Thais have been thinking about building a canal across the narrowest point of the Malay Peninsular for years, but it has always only been an okay idea.
"Lang Suan, city of fruits, paddle boat race, source of durian, royal garden"... oh, and toilets.
As we head South on the Thai Southern Line, we head more and more into the Islamic World. Thailand's relationship with Islam is an interesting one.
Blink and you'll miss Chaiya. But there seems to be a lot of history buried beneath.
If you're seeing neat rows of trees on the Thai Southern Line, and its not oil palm, its probably rubber trees. They're amazing.
Ban Thung Pho Junction is the point the southern line has a small branch down to Khiri Rat Nikhom.
"City of 100 islands, delicious rambutan, big shells and red eggs, centre of Buddhism" - Surat Thani. For now, its as far as we've travelled South.