Date: Dec 14th, 2009
The bus ride from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok took much longer because of evening traffic. Also, this bus wasn’t going to the Southern Bus terminal. Instead, it was headed for the Eastern Bus Terminal, also known as Ekamai. Once I got there by around 5pm, I was approached by many bike taxis (mostly mopeds) asking me where I wanted to go. The buses that go to Chiang Mai leave from Mo Chit Bus Terminal, the Northern Bus Terminal. I turned down the bike taxis because the rates they were charging were close to what the taxis were charging. Also, with luggage, it wasn’t the safest option in Bangkok city.
Instead, I took a van taxi. Basically mini-buses that leave once full of passengers. A bit of a time waster if you are among the first ones in but at 35 baht, an economical choice. Once we left, it took an hour to get to Mo Chit. Bangkok traffic is pretty bad — but I’ll write about that in detail later.
Once I got to Mo Chit, I asked around as to where the buses to Chiang Mai were. I was directed to the platform where several private buses were stationed and I got a ticket for a double-decker A/C bus with a toilet. It cost 605 baht (Rs. 846) and the distance to cover was approximately 750kms. The bus was… nice!
Now I’ve travelled by private long-distance buses in (South) India a lot. I often take the bus when going home to Kerala. I don’t know of any bus service that offers this level of service for around Rs. 800, that too for distance of over 700kms. But that was not all.
They have bus attendants too, all dressed up in their uniforms akin to what you see in airliners. Each seat has a pillow and a blanket and when the bus left Mo Chit, the attendant gave the usual talk (using the on-board microphone) about how long the journey would take, about the service one can expect, etc. She spoke only in Thai but I got the gist of it. Either that or she was making fun of the only Indian on board and I didn’t get it. Soon after, she started serving us food.
I wasn’t expecting dinner as part of the ticket fare. She handed us a box consisting of a deep-fried chicken leg, a sausage roll (not sure what meat but who cares, I eat it all) and a cupcake. Plus juice/cola/water. After that, she gave biscuits and other sweets. Since I was famished, I gobbled it all.
Feeling quite full, I thought to myself how good value this seemed compared to what I was used to back in India. In-flight bus entertainment was mostly Thai karaoke music videos followed by a high-octane Thai action movie — with sporadic audio. But who cares, I fell asleep.
I woke up at around 11pm when the bus had stopped… somewhere. We had, apparently stopped for what was actually dinner at some restaurant. The ticket includes a token which you hand over at the counter and it’s essentially a simple buffet of rice gruel, some steamed vegetables and boiled egg. The egg yolk was bright orange in colour and tasted very sour. I didn’t have much of the rice gruel either, I was already full. My only concern was that I had run out of credit on my mobile phone and because of that, I couldn’t inform my father and brothers where I was.
Fortunately, my father called me later and told him I would be able to re-charge only in the morning from Chiang Mai. I tried to sleep but by 5am, we had already arrived at Chiang Mai. (By the way, in the morning they also serve coffee or juice). I collected my luggage and took a Tuk Tuk (cost 100 baht/Rs. 130) to the tourist heavy Loi Kroh road which is where I decided to base myself. Loi Kroh has plenty of hotels and restaurants but I also chose it because it was close to the Night Market and a few temples I planned on seeing.
I first went to a Ramming Lodge which I found to be good on the internet but then the Tuk Tuk driver said it was expensive (it was over a 1000 baht a night, which I knew) and he told me he knew cheaper places. He took me to a hotel called Rux Thai Guesthouse, just a few metres off Loi Kroh road. It was only 490 baht (Rs. 680) per night and I could check out the next morning. Plus there was free WiFi.
I told the receptionist where all I planned to go in Chiang Mai and when I brought up Huay Pu Keng, he told me that to go there would mean an overnight stay. Instead, he offered me a packaged deal for 1300 baht (Rs. 1,800) which would take me around some places and includes a visit to a Kayan village.
So I thought, what the heck, and paid for it.
Other posts in this series: