My intention with this blog was mainly a place I could share my thoughts and opinions. Yet so far I haven’t really done any reviews! So here goes…
There are hundreds of different bus companies in Thailand that range from Thai local bus’s too long distance VIP buses. I have experienced quite a few different styles whilst I have been here. From all of the bus journeys, I have taken the one piece of advice I would like to share is, look on the bus before you buy your ticket! A fellow Farang friend that has lived in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) for many years gave me that advice not to long ago. Now I have said it, it seems pretty obvious. However, when you are here and you don’t know much Thai and you’re in the middle of an extremely busy and confusing bus station, you just don’t think like that.
So what different bus styles are there? First up is the local Thai buses… They are mainly found in Bangkok, we didn’t have any in Nakhon Ratchasima because they mainly use Songthaews. Back to the bus… the one I got on was tiny and pretty much empty. The seats were rock hard and very grimy so I didn’t sit down for long, even though it was empty! The driver spoke absolutely no English whatsoever so I was relieved that I understood the price and had google maps to let me know when and where to get off. If you are travelling through Bangkok and need to get to the other side I would recommend walking if you can, if not, grab a taxi (motorbike or car) or maybe a tuk-tuk. The bus’s are quite hard to work out and extremely uncomfortable in Bangkok traffic with no aircon, all windows open so you may as well smoke 100 cigs at one time because that’s what the fumes feel like on your chest.
Next up are the normal Thai long distance bus’s which I experienced going to and from Bangkok and Ayutthaya. The lowest quality ones have small seats and not much leg room, for me, that is fine because I am only 5ft nothing but for somebody a bit taller I could imagine it being a nightmare! The seats are relatively comfortable other than the size and they are very clean buses. The majority have aircon so they do get a little cold after a while. One major problem with these buses is that they will not leave until they are full! There are a few times I’ve been waiting for it to leave feeling sorry for the people crammed into the alleyway stood up. But all in all, they get you from A – B, even if it takes a while longer because they do stop quite a few times.
Obviously I save the best until last! A new company has just expanded into Nakhon Ratchasima and has started running bus’s to and from Bangkok. I’ve never experienced anything like it! The company is called 21 and the bus’s are amazing! They are not much more expensive than the basic Thai bus’s so they are totally worth it. When you buy your ticket the staff are very nice, smiley and helpful. They direct you to the right bus and make sure you approach the right bus. Then it’s normally a male that approaches you to check if you have any luggage you would like to put in the hold and a female that receives your ticket. With a warm and welcoming smile she welcomes you onboard. The alley between the seats is very small so it is a slight struggle walking through if you are wearing a backpack but that’s a small price to pay for the size of the seats. They are huge! The lady shows you to your seat and assists you as you settle. The buses tend to leave at the exact time they say they do even if they are not yet full (I have been on one that hasn’t been full). By full I mean every seat is taken but there is still nobody standing! Sometimes they leave early if they are full well before the allotted departure time.
Once you depart the ride is effortless even though you know its going to be between 3 to 6 hours long. The seats are padded very well, the leg rest is adjustable, you can recline the seat all the way and still be nowhere near the person behind you, they give you a clean and fresh blanket in case the aircon gets a bit chilly, shortly after departure the lady that seated you will bring you a bottle of water and a little snack box (containing either crisps, a cake, chocolate or biscuits) so you don’t get hungry. When it on a bus I tend to listen to music and play a few games which tend to drain my battery pretty quickly. That’s fine because you have a USB port under your armrest which you can use to charge your phone. Have you ever overdone it at the gym or playing a sport and then had to sit on a bus or plane for 3+ hours? Yep. Me to. They even have that covered and this is my favourite bit… underneath your USB port is a button, press the button and your chair comes to life! A slightly heated bar comes out slightly and rolls up your back whilst it gives you a nice massage!
Those buses are the serious deal! I have never travelled in such style! Even flying business class on the Emirate airbus doesn’t beat it (apart from the free and unlimited source of alcohol). If you around Thailand and you know you have got a bit of a journey by bus, check if 21 runs that route first!
I find it pretty interesting looking at the different ways company’s go that extra mile for their customers… Let me know if you have any examples of an extra mile service.
Please note: I did not take the image. As I failed to capture an image of any of the buses during my time in Thailand I found the image on Google so you could see what they look like from the outside.