Macro Public Transport in Thailand
Macro Public Transport
Songthaews don’t just provide transport within the towns and cities but in some remote areas they are your only link to the outside world. Not all small towns have bus stations and might only have a twice daily Bangkok bus. Songthaews act as a bridge to the closest bus station and run whenever the driver feels it’s necessary. I attempted to stare a driver down once when he was eating his lunch. Normally my perfectly executed raised eyebrow has the effect of a sergeant major drilling his troops in the classroom, however the influence on the driver only seemed to affect his lower jaw, which resulted in the chewing cud syndrome!
Taxis are a means of enjoying your own private travel experience to wherever you want to go – the border is the limit and even then I am sure negotiations can be made. However, taxis to the coastal towns and hotspots are a fashion amongst those on holiday from around the world. If I was looking for a taxi my best option would be either by word of mouth or the internet.
Minivan and minibus
If I had to vote on the best mode of transport South of Bangkok, I would definitely go for the minivan. Yes, I know you can’t take a lot of luggage or you pay for an extra seat but honestly, who needs more than a bikini and a sarong? It’s a financially viable way of getting to where you want to go and even though the drivers do tend to drive a little fast, motion tablets will have you dozing within half an hour! Prices vary according to destination and they run from 6 am through to 6 pm.
The minibus is an upgraded version of the minivan and I have seen companies advertising their luxurious benefits of a “non-domestic” arrival. Limousines also raise their head on the net and around Bangkok. I have no doubt that the water will be sparkling and the driver adept at parallel parking that goliath in any petrol station along the way.
When planning a trip to Hua Hin; one of the “to do’s” is to take the train from Bangkok to the Hua Hin train station, which boasts as the most beautiful place in Thailand. One thing to be kept in mind is that the journey must to be taken with the view that time is not of the essence, and that marveling at the passing beauty is the main objective. Booking in advance to avoid disappointment is not just a slogan but a good idea. Sleepers are available overnight and prices are cheap. There are updated timetables available on the net and stations listed for your convenience.
I am in the process of planning an island getaway and have found ferries to be my new best friend! They are the arm that connects you to the heart of the story – white sandy beaches, cocktails, exploring and activities that cater for every family member. The fee is only a small bite out of the Visa card, which on insertion belches a telephone call from your bank manager, green with envy, asking why the hell you’re withdrawing funds over the border at 2am in the morning local time! Sunscreen and a hat that doesn’t let you down in obscuring your vision to low archways wouldn’t go missed. The times of departure and arrival vary according to the distance from mainland to island but are constant throughout the day.
Once a person has experienced the “bee hive” activity of any bus station and taken note of the different options, your view on getting around becomes broader and you feel more at ease in enjoying what Thailand has to offer. The long distance buses run according to scheduled times and booking in advance during busy periods like long weekends and festivities are recommended.
The dividing of the classes comes in the form of VIP, 1st and 2nd class buses etc. In my mind, the link between the top three is the leg room and the number of times the bus stops en route. I have had the pleasure of traveling on all 3 types and if you’re bladder has a mind of its own or you enjoy hopping on and off at the various stops then traveling on any class should not be a problem. One thing I learned very quickly, which has already been mentioned, is the use of Thai connections in writing down the names of the towns in the native language. The other useful tip I learned was the use of one’s senses when hopping on and off to buy something to eat or just mosey around until the bus heads on out again. Familiarize yourself with what the driver or assistant looks like.
When hopping off, use gestures in the form of pointing to your watch to find out how long the bus will be “docked” for and take a look at the bus bay number the bus is parked in before straying from the mother-ship.
It’s at this point that I come full swing back to my arrival in Bangkok. The mother and father of transport cannot be forgotten or underestimated in enjoying your traveling experience in Thailand. The scenery may not change or you can’t see it because your nervous travel companion has ensured that the air hostess has jogged up and down at least 4 times with the drinks trolley and is now doing a face plant against the window. However, this flying limousine will get you around Thailand in no time! There are numerous different airlines to choose from and flying in any direction is not a problem. The custom-made online bookings cater for the currency needs and are available in most currencies and in English. Like the train, booking in advance would be highly recommended.