Trains allow you a slower pace of life, time to look out the windows and enjoy the journey you’re on, a front-row seat to different sceneries. Whether you’re a train buff or just looking for a new way to explore Thailand, here’s a list of the most scenic railway routes and stations, most being destinations in their own right. Of course, they work as pitstops for photogenic content along the way.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Pasak Cholasid Dam, Lop Buri
It’s the final call for passengers wishing to hop on a seasonal floating train tour to Pasak Cholasid Dam. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is running a round-trip excursion between Bangkok and Khok Salung station, Lop Buri, for B330 per passenger in regular carriages and B560 per passenger in air-conditioned carriages until Jan 29. Prepare for a magical journey that evokes a scene from Studio Ghibli’s classic anime film, Spirited Away. For a day, you will board a floating train, chugging along one of the country’s most scenic routes above an endless expanse of water, just like Chihiro in the film. The train will make a stop at a curve in the railway while crossing the reservoir, allowing passengers to hop off on the rail for some leg-stretching and photo-snapping. The end of the line is Khok Salung station, where locals set up shops selling snacks and Otop products.
The Death Railway and River Khwae Bridge, Kanchanaburi
What’s a trip to Kanchanaburi without visiting the Death Railway and River Kwai Bridge? Originally called the Thailand-Burma Railway during World War II, the Death Railway earned its ominous nickname due to the staggering number of labourers who died during its construction. It was a 415km rail line at the neck of the shared border, whose tracks were gouged through jungle terrain and rock cuttings by hand. Today, a 130km stretch of railway track remains and has been turned into a scenic route that is hauntingly beautiful. Seventeen stops curve around the rock wall and stretch over the river, while the Tham Krasae station is a famous attraction with a picturesque walking trail through a bamboo forest overlooking the mountain countryside.
The River Kwai Bridge has become synonymous with Kanchanaburi. Located in the downtown area, the cast-iron bridge over the River Kwai has been modified for tourists, with walkways and viewpoints on either side of the rails. After the war ended, the River Kwai Bridge has been regarded as a symbol of peace. With such momentous history, the bridge has also been featured in Hollywood movies such as The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) and The Railway Man (2013).
Photo courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Kantang Train Railway Station, Trang
Kantang Train Railway Station is a relic from the past that stands as a testament to the area’s rich history. Officially opened in 1913, the station was once a hub for trading with neighbouring countries. It is the terminal station of the Southern-Andaman train line. Its unique Panya-style architecture, characterised by a mustard-yellow and brown colour scheme, is a nod to the design popular during the reign of King Rama VI. The architectural significance of the station earned it a place on the Fine Arts Department’s list of ancient places in 1996. As visitors step into the station, they are greeted by the grandeur of its classical architecture, with intricate Thai fretwork decorating throughout the platform, adding to the station’s historic charm. Inside the station, a glimpse of daily life in the past can be seen through the display of old utensils.
Ban Pin Railway Station, Phrae
Ban Pin Railway Station in Phrae boasts a unique architectural style, combining Thai Panya-style architecture with European touches. Standing as the one and only railway station in Thailand built in the Bavarian style, the station showcases the traditional quaint timber-framed house with a familiar gable roof from the Thai architectural flare. German engineer Emil Eisenhofer was tasked with designing the station. He was also the man behind Thailand’s longest railway tunnel, the Khun Tan Tunnel. The design concept of the station, which plays with the wooden finishings, connects visitors to the roots of the locality, which was known for its abundance of teak forests. Despite being over a century old, the building still stands the test of time.
Photo courtesy of Thai Rail News via Facebook.
Phra Phutthachai Railway Tunnel, Saraburi
Add Phra Phutthachai Railway Tunnel to your itinerary when visiting Saraburi. The 1,197m-long tunnel is one of the seven mountain railway tunnels in Thailand that have been carved through mountains, and it has become a new check-in spot for photography enthusiasts. The tunnel’s concrete structure provides a clean background that contrasts with the lush greenery of the surrounding area. As you explore, you’ll find that there are north and south sides, with the northern side recommended for its facilities, such as bathrooms and parking spaces. Getting there is easy: set your course to Bu Yai Railway Station and park your car there. From the station, it’s just a short walk of less than a kilometre to the tunnel entrance, where you’ll be transported to a world of natural beauty and man-made wonder.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Hua Hin Railway Station, Prachuap Khiri Khan
Hua Hin, a popular seaside destination, is known for its scenic beaches and laid-back atmosphere. But what many may not know is that the town’s prosperity is deeply tied to the train. Of all the many Hua Hin attractions, the most original and iconic is the Hua Hin railway station. The picturesque station, rebuilt in its present state as an exquisite example of Victorian-Thai architecture in 1926, is one of the oldest railway stations that have remained untouched since its completion. The station marks the main gate to the South, from which all southern train routes begin.
Back then, when Hua Hin was discovered during a survey for the Southern Railway Line, the train was the main transportation from Thailand’s capital that brought life to the coastal town. Because of that, the imitations of the station’s unique design can be found all over town, like street signs. A little away from the station stands the Royal Waiting Room, a beautiful teak wood building in vibrant yellow and red hues, relocated from the Sanam Chandra Palace in Nakhon Pathom.
Photo courtesy of Wanchai Horattanarueng via Trainlism.
Seaside route (from Bo Nok to Khan Kradai railway stations), Prachuap Khiri Khan
If you’re looking for a hidden gem in the coastal province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, look no further than the little-known railway route that takes you on a scenic journey along the seaside. By hopping on a train from either Bo Nok or Khan Kradai railway stations, you’ll embark on a relaxing journey, with the scenery along the route being nothing short of breathtaking. Rolling hills, dense greenery and picturesque seaside towns will all pass by your windows.
Photo courtesy of Sittichai Iadsee via Trainlism.
Tha Chomphu Bridge (Saphan Khao), Lamphun
If you’re a train passenger travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you’ll want to make sure you’re awake and looking out the window as you pass Tha Chomphu Bridge, also called by the local Saphan Khao (white bridge), in the early morning. Running across Tha River, the bridge also signals the near arrival to the station when the train exits Khun Tan Tunnel. It’s located in the middle of a grassland, standing out with its white-washed structure and Western semicircular arches. The bridge can also be reached by car by dropping a pin on the bridge’s location, where there is a viewpoint with parking lots.
Khun Tan Tunnel, Lamphun
From a formidable barrier between two ancient kingdoms, Lanna and Siam, to the gateway to the North, Khun Tan Tunnel is a landmark of history. Constructed in 1907 and completed in 1918, it took 11 years to build and remains in daily use. It’s known as Thailand’s longest railway tunnel, with a length of 1,362 metres, stretching from Lampang to Lamphun provinces. Beyond its background that entices history buffs, the tunnel, which has a striking entrance made from red bricks, is very popular with Instagrammers as a backdrop for taking selfies. Next to the tunnel is a memorial park dedicated to German engineer Eisenhofer and his wife for his devotion to the construction of the tunnel and other projects.
Mae Klong Railway Market (Talad Rom Hub), Samut Songkhram
Mae Klong Railway Market, also known as “Hoop Rom” (umbrella-closing) or “Siang Tai” (life-risking) market, is in Samut Songkhram, offering a unique experience of being intimately connected with the train. What sets this market apart from others is its location, on a railroad track with a train snaking its way through the market. Don’t worry about getting run over by the train. As soon as you hear a warning bell, you have exactly three minutes to get out of the way. It’s quite a sight to see local vendors perform their magic tricks to clear their stalls from the track and return everything to normal after the train has passed like nothing ever happened.
Krung Thep Apiwat Central Station (Bang Sue Grand Station), Bangkok
After accepting the baton from the historic Hua Lamphong station to become Bangkok’s central train hub, Krung Thep Apiwat Central Station is finally going full steam ahead. Having started services on Jan 19, the new central station, formerly known as Bang Sue Grand Station, has 12 platforms for departures and arrivals of 52 commercial trains bound for the North, Northeast and South. Unlike Hua Lampong, which wows in Neo-Renaissance style, the new terminal flaunts its concept as a smart train station within the walls of a massive, modern edifice. Four out of 12 platforms have been reserved for electric trains. A huge sunroof in the centre fills the place with light making the station a good photo backdrop.
If you are following all the name drama, here are a few updates: all the misspellings of the new name have been corrected, whilst the controversial change of nameplate, which caused public outrage over the overpriced 33-million-baht contract, has also been suspended by the State Railway of Thailand.