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Thailand’s ‘floating train’ could be one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys

The floating train travels along Pasak Jolasid Dam, Thailand’s biggest reservoir in Lopburi province.
The floating train travels along Pasak Jolasid Dam, Thailand’s biggest reservoir in Lopburi province. Copyright MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP
Copyright MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP
By Euronews Travel with AFP
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The route offers endless water views that some passengers described as like a scene from a Studio Ghibli film.

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A lone boatman watches Thailand's so-called "floating train" pass as selfie-seeking passengers soak up the water views, disembarking from carriages stopped on a narrow bridge.

Railway adventures are gaining popularity in the kingdom with tourists seeking off-the-beaten-track travel experiences away from the hordes visiting temples and beaches.

Saturday was the State Railway of Thailand's first Bangkok to Pasak Jolasid Dam service "Rot Fai Loi Nam" marking the end of the rainy season.

Hundreds of bleary-eyed passengers boarded the train at Bangkok's century-old Hua Lamphong Station before sunrise.

tate Railway official and tourists aboard the popular "Floating train" to the Pasak Jolasid Dam.
tate Railway official and tourists aboard the popular "Floating train" to the Pasak Jolasid Dam.MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP

Lotus ponds, jungles, temples and rice paddies zipped by as tourists in third class hung out the window and took pictures while enjoying the natural air conditioning.

Endless water views and unique selfie opportunities

Enjoying the day trip with her mother, 11-year-old Lily Piratchakit said the water view was "endless".

"It was amazing," she told AFP. "It's nice to travel, be outdoors and get some fresh air."

Greying Thai aunties boarded at Ayutthaya, the ancient former capital of Siam - to sell candy floss and pad krapow, a famous stir-fry basil dish.

A tourist travelling aboard the popular "Floating train" takes photographs along the railway tracks during a stop in the middle of Pasak Jolasid Dam.
A tourist travelling aboard the popular "Floating train" takes photographs along the railway tracks during a stop in the middle of Pasak Jolasid Dam.MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP

Three and a half hours after chugging out of Bangkok, the refurbished Japanese train pulling more than a dozen carriages crossed the Pasak Jolasid reservoir over a series of viaducts - stopping for 20 minutes of selfie time.

Taiwanese university exchange student Wei Wu, 21, said it was a thrill to pose for photos on the railway track.

"It's very cool. It's my first time to take a train in Thailand," she told AFP. "Most tourists will only see the stereotypes of Thailand."

An undiscovered but unique experience

For most of the year, cattle graze underneath the bridge "but from October to January, the water is high on both sides which gives the impression that the train is floating on water," said long-time British expat, train enthusiast and travel blogger Richard Barrow.

"I have done it many times and I am already booked to do it three more times this season."

Other passengers describe the journey as like something out of a Studio Ghibli film, comparing the route running along the dam to the famous train scene from Spirited Away. 

"I think in Europe and America, and certainly in Japan there is a rail culture, people want to travel by train as part of the holiday," Barrow adds. 

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Selfie-seeking passengers soaked up the water views from the windows of the train.
Selfie-seeking passengers soaked up the water views from the windows of the train.MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP

"But the problem is in Thailand, all the trips like this one today, are only publicised in Thai language. There is nothing in English at all, and it’s the same with the steam excursion that goes six times a year, nothing in English, so it’s kind of a missed opportunity."

Later in the day some passengers toured the Pasak Jolasid Dam and enjoyed picnics.

The dam is used for agriculture and flood prevention and is fast becoming a draw for tourists with the popular rail trips running from November to January.

For Mail, 28, and his boyfriend the floating train experience was the perfect compromise on water views.

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"I don't like the sea, but he likes it. That's why we came here," he joked.

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