2013.9.21-22: My husband and I always took plane rides to get from Bangkok to other destinations in Thailand during our past vacations. It is convenient, but there is nothing unique about it. During our last vacation to Koh Samui, we decided to ride an overnight train to Koh Samui. Well, it isn’t exactly train ride all the way to Koh Samui. As you all know, Koh Samui is an island.
1) Bangkok on a rail involves 12 hours of train ride to Surat Thani (southern province, Thailand), 2) 2~3 hours of bus ride to Seatran Ferry Docks, and 3) 1-1.5 hour ferry ride. 4) Then, when we finally arrived Koh Samui-Nathon Pier, we took mini van to our hotel near ChaWeng beach, Koh Samui.
1st class sleeper train car/ Food/ Toilet/ Service:
When we stepped into the cabin, we were generally satisfied with the cleanliness of the cabin and the restrooms. There were two restrooms in the 1st class car (there’s an attendant sitting between 1st class & 2nd class cars to make sure the passengers use the facility they pay per train ticket). There were several attendants to take your snack and dinner order, make up your bed and wake you up as the train approach the destination. You can get meals for about 150 to 200 Baht and 150 Baht for a large bottle (750 ml) Chang beer. My husband made a mistake and ordered two at once assuming the beer came in small bottles. Regular Chang is 6.4% alcohol, so he had a really good beer buzz by the end of his dinner in the train. oh well, it helped him sleep better! XD
Though the bed was big enough and not too bad, my husband could not get comfortable sleep as the train was constantly rocking (I had no problem) and the cabin was too cold (both of us felt like in a refrigerator). The AC was blowing arctic cold air viciously and there is no way to turn it down. Through the train ride, he was half asleep and half awake.
After train, how to go to Koh Samui/ Transportation fee:
At about 6 AM, the train unloaded us at Surat Thani Train Station. Conveniently, there was a greeter from the travel agency to guide us to the restaurant, where we waited for the bus. We could eat, wash up and ready ourselves for a round of land-sea transportation.
The bus ride was not comfortable, as the bus was an old one with very small seats. On the other hand, the ferry ride was comfortable in an air conditioned passenger compartment. We bought a van ride ticket from Na Thon Pier to our resort in Koh Samui for 200 Baht per person at the restaurant where we waited for the bus. I thought it was a smart move at the time as I did not see much transportation available at Na Thon Pier then. Taxis from Na Thon to Chaweng usually costs 600 to 700 Baht.
1) book your 1st sleeper class train car early due to limited cabins. We got our ticket through Thailandtrainticket.com as recommended by seat61.com 1-1.5 month ahead of travel. The total cost for our transit to Koh Samui was about 1,500 Baht per person. There were some confusion as to which train they booked for us, but we ended up taking earlier 5 PM train. We got 1st class seats, and two seat made up a cabin, so we got a cabin for ourselves.
2) bring a thick jacket to sleep at night as the 1st sleeper air condition is VERY strong.
1) Thailand train is usually not on time for departure.well, since no one guarantees when it takes off, I still suggest you to be there on time. You could walk around, take some photos and take some rest.
2) recommend using 1st class over 2nd class, if you can afford 300 to 400 Baht. Both 1st & 2nd class are sleeper train car, but 1st class is a private cabin with a sink for hands/face wash and you could switch light off when sleep. 1st class door has a very secure door lock.
2nd class is open sleeper and they leave lights all night in the 2nd class cars for security and the restrooms get dirty quickly as they are shared with way more people.
3) suggest to take the fair offer from the coordinator agent at Surat Thani for the mini van ride to collect you at Nathon Pier to your destination hotel at Koh Samui. 200 baht/person. Per my personal experience, it seems not easy to get a taxi at Nathon Pier, taxi would be more expensive unless 4 ppl shared (600-700 baht/car). I didn’t see many truck bus (Songthaew) either. If ride a Songthaew, of course it’s cheaper but it may be not as comfortable because the road condition sometimes not so good.
Overall, the journey was memorable experience as we do not get to ride train at all where we live.