Every country has its own distinctive flavor of train service. The Thai variety is decidedly affordable, comfortable, and memorable. Even if you have the means to arrange for private transportation when you visit the Thailand, joining the hoi polloi and riding the rails comes highly recommended.
Though the main lines don’t travel to most of the islands (even the most popular ones), travelers new to the country can easily aim for Chiang Mai in the north, Nong Khai in the northeast, Ubon Ratchathani in the east, and Surat Than and Trang in the south, as well as many other destinations.
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History and railway buffs alike will revel in the regular guided tours to the notorious Mae Klong River made famous by Pierre Boulle’s novel of the Second World War, The Bridge Over the River Kwai and its subsequent film adaptation. The bridge in question is part of the “Death Railway”, or Thailand-Burma Railway, conceived by the Japanese during World War II, the construction of which cost the lives of over 100,000 forced laborers (16,000 of which were Allied prisoners of war). Most tours to the area include traditional meals, visits to multiple memorial sights and museums in and around the town of Kanchanaburi, including the JEATH War Museum, and, more to the point, a ride along a section of the now-partially defunct railway itself.