Bangkok to Chiang Mai on the government run bus!
20.09.2011 - 22.09.2011 30 °C
Last night in Bangkok, chilled in the Green Room which is definitely a great base in that area when you are finding your feet as the free wifi and great food, atmosphere and location it is hard to beat and ill be back on my next visit to Bangkok in November when two of my best friends will be flying in to start their SE Asia adventure!
The day before we happened across a cool place called The gecko bar (on cnr Soi Chana Songkhram & Soi Rambutri) nice place you can sit outside and chill with restaurant set up meets street food prices, had a nice chicken Pad Thai and a Chang beer here.
How not to start your day...
Wednesday morning i woke up after a hectic night on the Khao San (where else lol) and the combination of cocktail buckets, fried bugs and late night meant that around 15 minutes after id had breakfast (and with only an hour before we were due to check out) i was hit with the most awful nausea and so followed a horrendous hangover/food poisoning combination that with 5 minutes to go before check out found me in pieces in the communal bathroom weighing the necessity of drinking a mouthful of water against the absolute certainty that it would follow the rest of my prayers to the porcelain gods.
I eventually managed to pull it together enough to successfully check out and we began our journey to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It rained down heavily, mirroring my general state of mind as we walked south along Samsen and onto Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang and got as far as the intersection to Thanon Tanao before realising that food was needed and only western food would stay down so we headed to Burger King on Thanon Tano at the top of Khao San and had an expensive but satisfying lunch/breakfast, almost 1000b for a supersize meal but worth it if only for the fact i didn't feel like hell any more. We continued down along Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang to the bus stop outside the 7-eleven that we were familiar with from the previous days trip to MBK shopping centre and sat down to wait for our bus (no. 3, 15 and all pass the national stadium where we were getting off to take the BTS Skytrain at Siam station to the last stop Mo Chit the location of the Northern territory bus service that would take us to Chiang Mai) as the traffic crawled along in front of us.
After a few minutes and seeing as we weren't going anywhere fast we took a peek into a Stray New Zealand Laos (http://www.straytravel.asia/) office just after the 7-eleven to look at travel books only to get some fantastic advice from one of the staff on how instead of waiting around 2 hours to get to Siam station by bus due to the rush hour traffic jam we could walk East up Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang once again towards the golden temple and take the canal boat to Siam. The traffic was a crazy soup of mopeds, cars buses and tuktuks as we waked to the Chao Phraya Express Boat at Khlong Saen Saeb (just after the roundabout on the right hand side of the road) and upon asking which pier we should get off at, were advised to follow a group of Asian tourists already aboard the boat, this turned out to be great advice as we pretty much saw those guys the whole way to Mo Chit!
The canal boat speed along the narrow river bouncing all over the place on the choppy water and at one point ill admit i had an imaginary flash-forward to a news piece describing how a canal boat sank due to dangerous driving killing all aboard including Gareth and Eimear who were mental enough to get on the damn thing instead of take the nice safe bus into the city, but in saying that, the experience was one i would recommend for the craic! One piece of advice when getting off these things, don't do like i did and completely misjudge the height of the boat roof versus the height of my 65L backpack strapped to my back and look like a complete jackass trying and failing a couple of times to manovere my way out of the boat with Gareth laughing away at my effort.
Once off the boat we headed up the stairs and onto the main road taking a left at the top of the stairs and walking down to the Skytrain overbridge. The stairs felt like Everest with the weight of our bags as we climbed up to the platform and bought our tickets using the machine on the wall (you can get change from the lady at information opposite) and after watching some builders at work on a new high rise of some sort preform some interesting hopped onto our train to Mo Chit.
At Mo Chit we headed out exit 3 and cut across Chatuchak park, through an outdoor gym and took a left to walk around Queen Sirikit park, the bus centre in around a five minute walk but you could easily get a tuk tuk or taxi!
The bus terminal is pretty huge and services the northern regions of Thailand. We bought our tickets at booth 120 outside and chose first class with air conditioning which cost us 493 baht, we got to choose our seats on the little electronic display and picked two near the front of the bus top floor. The bus service we chose is run by the government (www.transport.co.th) and so is regulated and pretty safe to travel on with valuables, there are a lot of traveller stories about getting dodgy buses to areas of Thailand including one i was told recently where everyone on the bus fell asleep only to be woken at the end of their trip having ahd their valuable belongings stolen from their bags, it turned out that gas was being pumped through the air-conditioning system by the driver colluding with one of the local gangs..true or not its best to keep theses things in mind and choose your transport wisely!The bus terminal has shops food court with a KFC, a 7-eleven and some souvenir shops and we chilled for an hour and a half until our bus at 6.30pm, had some food and bought some snacks for the journey .
Our backpacks were checked into the undercarriage by one of the bus helpers and we were shown to our seats which turned out to be near the back of the bus not the front but as luck would have it we were beside the emergency exit door so lots of leg room! The bus was pretty empty so we stretched out and waited for departure, we were given a small snack box kit with a bread roll coffee sachet sugar and a sealed cup of water, also a nice comfy blanket, all bonuses as we had no idea what to expect from this bus service, my netbook is giving me so many problems that surfing the web for travel info was not an option before this trip to Chiang Mai!
The journey took around 10 hours and there were a couple of stops at 7-eleven filling stations along the way, we were given a complimentary meal at the first stop in exchange for presenting our tickets, the food was pretty random and we ended up opting for the near by 7-eleven shop instead!
The rest of the journey was mostly in darkness and the sky was filled with ultra bright stars as we climbed higher into the Thai countryside. The days sweaty journey to get here became pretty evident when we could smell ourselves and the prospect of a nice shower in the hostel we had booked the previous night via Hostelworld.com was all the more inviting. We arrived in darkness in Chiang mai around 4.30am and jumped in one of the red minibuses that service the bus depot. It was like a cross between a tuk tuk and a ford 4x4 you see on the discovery channel romping its way through the desert, and made our way to the All in 1 hostel on Moonmuang Road (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/All-In-1-Guesthouse/Chiang-Mai/18936) where we were checked in and went for a well deserved sleep before the day began.
Its worth mentioning that overnight trains to Chiang Mai are a really popular option for travellers and locals alike ( http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/getting_here/train/ )however they are more expensive than the government run buses, take longer and there is always the risk that your stuff can be stolen if you don't keep it close at hand in your shared compartment (unless you've paid a small fortune for first class!). I do hear that the views in the morning from the train are pretty nice and the experience is something that draws travellers to this option so check it out and take your pick!