Saturday, July 3, 2010

Going Bush in Thailand


Mo Chit Bus Terminal - Bangkok

It's all very nice to jet about the world in comfort at 35,000 feet but this is just not possible with every destination. This is a trip report with a difference, a journey by bus! But not just any bus.... a Chan Tour operated VIP coach with seats almost as comfy as the old regional business class seats on Singapore Airlines. That's not the only thing this bus company has in common with Singapore Airlines either, as you are about to find out!

The purpose of this journey was to get out of Bangkok and visit extended family in rural Bangkok, just outside the small town of Nong Song Hong in Khon Kaen province, Thailand. For those familiar with Thailand and it's bus network, you would know most journey's to the north-east commence at the massive Mo Chit bus terminal in northern Bangkok. This trip is no different, so off we went by taxi to Mo Chit...

Going to these places? Then take a Chan Tour VIP Bus - gee the logo looks familiar?

As I arrived at the Chan tour ticket desk, something very familiar appeared above me... is that the Singapore Airlines bird on that sign?? IT IS!! 

For a moment I thought to myself, 'Hang on! They can't do that!'. But then I realised where I was, Thailand, land of copyright infringements! But then again, maybe Chan Tour came first and Singapore Airlines copied them? Oh well, the next bus was leaving at 12 noon and had 3 seats available on the Upper Deck but not sitting together, rather than wait for the 1pm service we grabbed the last 3 tickets and headed to the gate.

Computer Reservations System

Tickets/Boarding Pass

Our ticket today to Phon (the nearest stop to our final destination) cost a grand total of 329 baht (10 USD). The bus itself would continue North east to Khon Kaen. The ticket cost included an onboard meal, snacks, 2 drinks and onboard entertainment! Not bad at 10 US dollars.

Mo Chit Bus Terminal

Mo Chit Bus Terminal

Just like an airport you have to go to your assigned gate number to board the bus. Our bus was waiting for us so we rushed down and were amongst the last to board...
The Singapo... I mean Chan Tour SCANIA bus

Boarding

The bus was very nicely presented, very clean and modern. It is fitted with a mini cabin downstairs behind the driver compartment, and the main cabin upstairs. Seating is in a 1 x 2 configuration. Today, we would be sitting upstairs.

The Seat

I arrived at 3A and found a towel (used as a blanket), a meal, and a bag with snacks on the seat.... The seat itself was very comfortable and features a leg rest, decent recline, in built massage facility and pull out tray table.

Seat Instructions

Today's meal

Snacks included in ticket price, also a bottle of water is included as well as the juice

I decided to leave the pork with rice and snacks until we had settle into the 5 hour journey. I was pretty impressed with the seat, and everything that was included. I've never seen this on an Australian bus! A few minutes after settling in we pushed back (the driver went into reverse and we left the parking bay) and took off (down the highway).

Upper Deck Cabin - 1 x 2 configuration

Pull out Tray Table


Massage buttons

It takes quite a while to battle through the Bangkok traffic and get out of the city, along the way we drove past the Don Muang airport. About an hour in to the trip we were in rural Thailand and I was enjoying the ride, munching on my snacks and trying the pork with rice (not the best tasting pork ever but it was passable).



In-Drive Entertainment System

The bus was fitted with an LCD screen which showed Thai movies or western movies dubbed in Thai. Unfortunately headsets are not a part of this service, and the movie is played quite loudly over the main speakers. Fortunately for my I had packed my own entertainment, and settled in watching Family Guy...

my own Entertainment

At some point during the trip we hit a bit of a traffic jam. I could see police cars up ahead and everyone was being diverted around a car accident, it didn't look too serious fortunately for those involved...

passing the car accident

en route scenery

If you need to go to the loo, no problem, the lavatory is located on the lower deck, just go downstairs and you will see the entry. I didn't need to go, so no pics sorry!

We only stopped once or twice during the journey, this is a VIP express bus and it does not stop at every rice paddy along the way like some other bus'es. The major stop along the route was Nakhon Ratchasima, which had a decent sized bus terminal that was mostly empty as we made our 5 minute stop. You could get off for a toilet break or to purchase drinks or snacks in the bus station.



Nakhon Ratchasima bus terminal

The weather started to look a little rough outside during the last hour of the ride. I snapped a shot of this storm cell to our left:


Soon after this photo we entered a period of heavy rain, however there was no increase in turbulence fortunately. The rain lasted 20 or 30 minutes and by then we were pretty much in Phon. Time to say goodbye to Chan Tour for today and find a ride from Phon to Nong Song Hong.


Bus about to depart Phon

It didn't take long, in fact only about 5 seconds before this Tuk Tuk showed up and offered to take us the final 20 km to Nong Song Hong, the price was a bit high at 200 baht but we took it anyway as it was about to rain again.

Phon based Tuk-Tuk 

A short time later we arrived in the little town of Nong Song Hong (town population 13,000). 

Main street of Nong Song Hong

That ends the trip from Bangkok, here are a couple of photos I took whilst in a small village 8km from town.





door to door furniture salesman

Huge storm approaching

Storm hits - very heavy rain



It's great to get out of the city and see the real rural Thailand. I would recommend it to anyone!

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