Taking the night train from Chiang Mai in the north, down to Bangkok in the south was an overnighter, we didn't really give ourselves enough time when choosing the train, so were too late to get a sleeper car. This would have come in extremely handy for the journey. Instead we shared along with everyone else, (which was alright) but if you expect that you'll get any kind of rest, you'd better think again. I got up many times to explore the train and hang out the doorways (Warning here, there are many very close poles that run along the tracks, so don't be surprized if one fly's right by you) keep your head inside the car at all times, especially when it gets dark.
Here is a good website which features the times to and from Chiang Mai - Bangkok and how much for the trip.
Countryside? Trust me, after 1 hour of rice paddies, you ain't looking forward to the next 12. If you have to take a train, do the overnight, down a few Singhas and sleep like a baby.
I took the bus twice, both times they broke down for several hours. I've taken the overnight train 3-4 times, which is fine with a good book.
My advise, take the plane. I've flown Air Asia, Thai, Bangkok Airways, Nok and even 1-2 Go and there is no comparison, 40 minutes and you're there.
Take the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Reserve early and pay a little more for a comfortable compartment. It sleeps two and has a sink. There were even fresh flowers on the table. You can sleep well. Don't worry; they will wake you up in time to get off.
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