Take the train for an eco-friendly Thailand holiday in 2012

Take the train for an eco-friendly Thailand holiday in 2012

We all know that using public transport is one of the best ways to be green, but how can this be applied to a holiday in Thailand? Eco-friendly holidays are growing in popularity, and how you get around the country is just as important as whether your hotel runs on solar energy.

You can offset your carbon emissions when booking flights to Thailand, but there is another way to be green – take the train. Rather than hiring a car to get about, why not make use of the country's railways to move around and get an amazing experience thrown into the bag?

Not only is travelling by train better for the environment than going in a car or hopping on a domestic flight, but it also allows you to take in the scenery in comfort and chat to locals. Here's a flavour of what travelling by rail has to offer in Thailand.

The five best rail journeys in Thailand

Eastern & Oriential Express

Travel from Bangkok to Singapore through the dense jungle of the Malay Peninsula and you'll feel like you've gone back in time to the days of Somerset Maugham and the great rubber plantations. The journey takes four days and includes a stop at the River Kwai bridge, made famous by the film of the same name. In Malaysia you can stop off to explore colonial Georgetown, before arriving in the modern metropolis that is Singapore.

Chiang Mai Escape

Take your time on this leisurely trip to the northern town of Chiang Mai, where the scenery has to be seen to be believed. You can shop for souvenirs and crafts all day in the city's vibrant markets, or take day trips in the mountains that make the north so different from the rest of Thailand.

River Kwai Escape

Start in Bangkok and travel in third class for a real sense of adventure to Kanchanburi to view the famous bridge (pictured). Stay a couple of nights to explore the surrounding area. Take in the fabulous fauna and flora of the Erawan National Park and head to the amazing Tiger Temple.

Sukothai Escape

At the end of a three and a half hour train ride from Bangkok lies the Phitsanuok, the gateway to the ancient capital of Sukothai. Get lost exploring the ancient ruins and temples of this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site, then head to Sri Satchanalai to check out its museum.

Hua Hin Escape

Again, jump on the train at Bangkok and head to this beautiful seaside town. You'll pass through some stunning scenery on the way, before arriving at the historic station. The waiting room constructed for the king is a must-see for railway and royal enthusiasts.

So just why should you be thinking about eco-friendly travel? Well, Dan Linstead, editor of Wanderlust magazine, reckons it's all about protecting things for your own benefit.

"There has already been a huge shift in what people want from a holiday, from pure escapism to unique experiences," he says. "And unique experiences – from meeting a mountain gorilla to sleeping out in Wadi Rum – will only remain special if travellers and host destinations act responsibly."