Many people travelling between Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani, in either direction, choose to travel overnight. There are several reasons why they do this. If you are on holiday, travelling from place to place, and perhaps on a fairly limited budget, then overnight travel saves you the cost of a hotel room as well as the hassle of finding a hotel room. The journey itself is long, almost eleven and a half hours if the train runs to schedule. It is probably more comfortable lying down than sitting up for that length of time .
What you miss, though, is the scenery outside the carriage windows. And although I love to see early-morning Surin and Si Sa Ket outside the window when I travel up to Ubon, I know that the more impressive part of the journey was done during the night: the steep, uphill climb between Saraburi and Pak Chong on the Korat plateau.
So, if you want to view the scenery, what are your alternatives?
Well, from Bangkok the choice effectively comes down to two trains which leave quite early in the morning, but which arrive in Ubon before the real dark sets in.
The first is the Special Express (sometimes referred to as a sprinter, though both the train and the journey are a little too long for this to be an accurrate description). This leaves Hualampong station at 05.45 and arrives at Ubon Ratchathani at 14.00. All carriages are air-conditioned and the fare is 551 Baht.
A Rapid train leaves Hualampong at 06.40 and reaches Ubon Rathathani at 18.00. The fare on this train is 331 Baht 2nd class, and 205 Baht 3rd class. Currently (December 2010) 3rd class fares are free for Thais but I am not sure whether this applies to foreigners. I wouldn’t think they are or should be.
Travelling between Ubon Ratchathani and Bangkok there are two Rapid trains with convenient departure/arrival times which allow you to get a good look at the scenery: 07.00 – 18.40 and 08.45 – 2100. The Special Express leaves Ubon at 14.50 and arrives at Hualampong at 22.55, so perhaps the most scenic part of the route would be in darkness. However, this train is very convenient as a way of getting to Si Sa Ket (15.31), Surin (16.41), Buriram (17.15) or Nakhon Rathchasima (18.47) if you prefer train to bus travel.
You will find some nice picures taken on the journey HERE.