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Travel Notes on Sleeper Trains

Travel notes on sleeper trains
Travel notes on sleeper trains nong khai train station
I always thought I spent a fair amount of time on the train back home in London. Not a huge amount… not enough to make me completely stressed when the trains don’t run on time, but enough to give a heavy sigh when I run to the station to find that’s the case. A nice, in-between, middle of the road amount of time to spend on a train.

I have quickly been learning: I have never really spent time on trains.

There is a small element of our trip that is a bit Darjeeling Limited in that we’re doing most of our travel throughout southeast Asia by train. Including my first ever ride on a sleeper train, traveling from Bangkok to Nong Khai, a much smaller town in the northeast of Thailand, right on the Mekong that creates the border with Laos.

Upon finding our seats, we’re given a menu should we want dinner or breakfast delivered from the dining car. “What time is breakfast served?” we ask.

“An hour before we arrive in Nong Khai.”

“What time is that?”

“Oh. That’s different every day.”

Classic.

Travel notes on sleeper trains
The term ‘sleeper’ train has continued to make me giggle, because we often tell ourselves it’s good to take sleeper trains as it means we don’t need a hotel room for the night, so we can save a little money (train tickets are considerably less expensive than rooms in some cities) and not waste any time by traveling during the day. This is all true in theory.

In fact, it is pretty much impossible to really sleep on a train.

Perhaps it is possible in first class of a brand new train on smooth tracks traveling at a constant speed. Perhaps then, with ear plugs and an eye mask. Perhaps.

So far, I’ve learned it’s not possible with a group in the same carriage who have decided to turn the carriage into a bar, with an all-night happy hour special on local whiskey. It’s not possible when the train rocks back and forth to the point that you’re searching for something to cling to so you don’t fly from the top bunk. It’s not possible when someone’s story of a much-worse experience has you convinced the moment you shut your eyes, you will be attacked by giant insects. It’s almost possible when your bunkmates turn out to be very young mothers who already have their babies tucked in bed asleep, but it’s then you’ll realise you arrive at your stop at 5am and therefore need to be awake in order to not miss it – nor wake said sleeping babies by setting an alarm clock.

Travel notes on sleeper trains
Still… sleeper trains is what they are called. And they can be rather fun.

I’ll let you know if at any point in time I learn to actually sleep on one.

xlovesx

10 January 2011



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12 Comments for Travel Notes on Sleeper Trains

  1. Cathy Watson Says:

    Oh dear! LOL, you poor things. You must be exhausted! You will seriously be looking forward to a proper bed I guess. Happy travels, the photos are amazing!

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Lol, this brought back memories. We travelled through SE Asia by sleeper train a few years ago. I actually found it a lot easier to sleep on the trains than in hostels – turns out I like a lot of noise and movement to get to sleep! Hubby did NOT enjoy them though, so I know what you’re saying. I admit I did use my MP3 player alot! xx

  3. Irene Fitzpatrick Says:

    Or get shouted at by the Steward because some ‘friend’ decided to turn your bunk back into a seat and you need a key to get it back again!!!!!!!!!

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    And to think I’ve always wanted to take a sleeper train ride. You don’t paint a pretty picture of how it will be.

  5. Tinkersdamn Says:

    We (meaning husband, 2 kids and my mom) took the sleeper train from thr UK to Avignon about a year ago… NEVER AGAIN. There were COWS walking faster than that stupid train. ARGH.

  6. Robin Says:

    When we took the sleeper train in Thailand there was a group partying pretty hardy in our car too. We also had people walking through periodically shouting out about what food they were selling! It was not a way to sleep, but it sure was an experience! :)

  7. Julie Jeavons Says:

    I did a couple of interail holidays at the end of the 80s using overnight trains for exactly those reasons you state. Only once did I have the luxury of a bunk. For most of the ‘sleeper’ trains there were 6 seats in a carriage, which pulled forward to create a single jumbo sized bed for 6 people. OK if it’s just the 2 of you, but sharing with a family of four wasn’t too much fun.
    Most surreal experience – waking up and the train is on the ferry from Germany to Denmark – no kidding the whole train goes on the ferry!
    Scariest night was when I was travelling alone from Italy to Yugoslavia and the conductor wanted to get too friendly!
    Night of least sleep – being jammed into a packing compartment in a Romanian train where the passengers included a chicken.
    Happy Days.

  8. Lizzie Says:

    Ah, yes, “Sleeper” trains… I tried a couple of those while travelling round Scandinavia as a student. Couldn’t afford the Sleeper car though, so we were “sleeping” in normal seats that reclined. As you say, not much sleep actually happens (until you reach a certain point of exhaustion where you would sleep through almost anything… then you risk missing your stop!).
    Tried sleeping on the overnight train to Scotland as well…At least the scenery was pretty at Scottish 4am sunrise! All those mists, swathes of grey-blue heather, sleepy lochs, brooding pine trees… zzzzz

    I hope you manage to find a cosy spot to catch up on the lost sleep. Meanwhile, you know what they say – “If you can’t beat them…” – may as well enjoy the all-night party!

  9. j.leija Says:

    did the lights go off at night at all? the sleeper train i took from bkk to chiang mai didn’t turn the lights out at any point during the night. so brutal! i hope you get to sleep at some point :)

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