by Emma Solis
Take it easy & let the train take the strain!
If you are planning to visit Thailand and you have a fairly flexible schedule, then your holiday there will be enhanced by using the Thai Railway.
In terms of actual manpower, the State Railway of Thailand is currently the largest state-owned enterprise in Thailand with more than 26,000 employees.
Up until late in the 19th century, the only types of land transportation in Thailand were elephant-drawn howdahs or bullock-carts pulled by a selection of animals like buffaloes, oxen and horses.
Under the guidance of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), Thailand’s Ministry of Public Works enlisted the services of English businessman, Mr. G.M Campbell, to begin construction of the Thai Railway from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima province, in North-Eastern Thailand.
The railway development was unfortunately set back by extensive damage brought on by air-raids during World War II. However, through the efforts of the Ministry of Public Works and the office of the RoyalState Railways, the railways had been successfully restored and improved to the condition it is now known today.
The Thai Railway has an impressive 4,000-kilometer (2,400 miles) network, snaking its way towards the farthest regions of the kingdom, and even reaching towards the borders of Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Malaysia.
There are currently Four Main Routes you can choose from when travelling by train in Thailand.
The North-Eastern Line trains will take you from Bangkok to Khon Kaen and Udon Thani, towards Nong Khai & Laos, around 20km away from the Laotian capital of Vientiane. The North-Eastern line branches out onto another route, going through Nakhon Ratchasima, Surin, Buri Ram and Sri Sakhet, taking you all the way to Ubon Ratchathani, at the southern border of Laos.
The Eastern Line takes passengers through Chachoengsao, Prachinburi, Kabinburi and Aranya Prathet. A branch of the Eastern line, has the odd train to take you to Sattahip, Pattaya & to the eastern seaboard islands of Koh Samet & Koh Chang .
The Southern Line transports you from Bangkok down towards Phuket,Krabi & the Southern Islands ,with its tropical beaches & crystal clear seas, and connects with the Malaysian railway to stops at Padang Besar and Sungai Kholok. From Padang Besar, the trains may take you throughout the whole length of Malaysia and can bring all the way toSingapore.
For leisure tourists, especially those who are on a Tight Budget, travelling via the Thai Railway is a comfortable and inexpensive way to see Thailand. The tracks are narrow (about a meter wide) and for the most part, single-tracked.
Unfortunately, this makes travelling by train quite slow. But if you are in no hurry to get anywhere, then you will most certainly enjoy soaking up the views!.