How to travel border-to-border in Thailand, entirely by train

Writing for, writer John Borthwick heads off on the longest border-to-border Thailand rail route he can find.

The writer began his train journey in Nong Khai, northeast Thailand to travel from Laos to Malaysia via the longest border-to-border Thailand rail route he could find.

Borthwick’s Thailand railway travel tips include booking ahead, especially if close to Thai public holidays. “In sleeper class, choose the lower bunk; wider and slightly more expensive,” he says.

Here’s a short extract – you can read the full story at

A red-hot sun bellyflops, slowly, into the Mekong. For a moment, I imagine the great mother river erupting, boiling itself dry like a thermo-nuclear tea kettle.

The river is as calm as a monk. And as the sun recedes, a thumbnail moon soon hangs in the dusk above it. Propped on the Thai shore with the lights of Laos coming on across the water, I ask myself, “Why leave?”

Arriving somewhere special, only to then leave it for somewhere else is the paradox that inhabits most of our travels. I’ve come to Nong Khai in northeast Thailand in order to leave—in this case on a train, and then on more trains, from Laos to Malaysia via the longest border-to-border Thailand rail route I can find.

Every Thai train station has a gleaming brass bell. At 7.45am sharp, Nong Khai’s station master steps up to his one and gives it a resounding whack. Train 76 lurches forward, moving south to Krung Thep, aka Bangkok.

Arctic aircon, the way Thais like it, chills this second-class carriage. But the seats are padded, unlike the slatted benches of hard-arse class that I recall from years ago. A snappily-dressed conductor scans our tickets. My fellow travellers are mothers and kids, couples, and a rotating cast of snack vendors who work the aisles. Shun, a Japanese traveler in the seat next to me, soon pulls down his hoodie and barely stirs for the rest of the journey...

Read the full story at

All images: (c) John Borthwick

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