Take the slow train to monkey city

Limited rides to Lopburi offered on Japan's Kiha 183 trains

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is offering trips on a slow train to monkey city, from Bangkok to Lopburi in the Northeast Thailand, on the refurbished Kiha 183 diesel-powered trains from Japan.

The trips this weekend and next will cost 599 baht. Only 200 seats will be available each day.

The train leaves Bangkok’s historic Hua Lamphong Railway Station at 12.15pm and arrives A Thailand’s famous monkey city, Lopburi at 2.45pm. The return trip departs at 8.30pm and ends in Bangkok at 11.05pm.

The slow train to monkey city leads to a sightseeing tour of the historical area of Lopburi, which dates back over 3,500 years, as well as cultural performances and light-and-sound shows. Lopburi is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, home to King Narai’s Palace and Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat. A visit to Lopburi is often a good way to get off the usual tourist trail of Thai cities.

Seventeen second-hand passenger train carriages from Japan’s Hokkaido Railway Company arrived at Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi last December, with SRT covering the shipment cost of 42.5 million baht.

The trains have been refurbished at SRT’s maintenance and repair centre in Bangkok’s Makkasan area. Three of the 17 diesel powered trains delivered in December 2021 are ready for trial runs after being modified by the SRT to fit Thai railways. The trains will be in use for another 15 to 20 years.

Carriages of the Kiha 183 series were manufactured between 1981 and 1982 and decommissioned in 2017. They had been used as limited express trains in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. The trains are being completely overhauled with new wheels, bearings, engines, electrical systems, brakes and air-conditioning so they can be used for long-haul services.

The trains were developed specially to withstand the harsh, snowy winters in northern Japan, so are uniquely well adapted to tropical Thailand. The driver’s cab of Kiha 183 is elevated for better visibility during snowfall. The slow train to monkey city features a “slant nose” designed to keep snow out of the front of the train while on the move or perhaps bouncing recalcitrant buffalo off the tracks.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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