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Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back)

Tim Newton

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Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back) | The Thaiger

So you need to get from Phuket to Bangkok, or Bangkok to Phuket? You have choices of flying, driving or taking a bus. As the flight prices remain cheap and the services generally numerous and reliable, the buses have plenty of competition on their hands. But they are a cheaper option and you’ll certainly see more of the countryside along the way. But there are few things you need to know…

1. Choices of bus

You have plenty of choice of style of buses, prices and times. Most of the bus services leave from the Phuket Bus Terminal in Thepkasatri Road, between Phuket Town and the Bang Khu intersection. We chose a VIP Express bus service (more about that later). The buses are generally in better condition than the one plying the island packed with Chinese tourists which seem to rely on a lick of paint and a few prayers to hold them together. Most of the buses we saw at the various terminals were in good condition and some of them fairly new. You will need a bit of patience to find the right window to buy your ticket and someone who speaks Thai will make your life a lot easier and get you on the right bus at the right price. They left the ‘service’ out of Bus Service here but was better at Bangkok than Phuket. There are a few food outlets around the terminals at both ends and eager car and motorbike taxi drivers to get you to your next location. The food outlets are there for a reason, you’ll find out why later.

Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back) | News by The Thaiger

2. VIP buses

Growing up we though VIP stood for Very Important Person. When it comes to Thailand’s buses VIP stands for Vague Inconsistent Pricing. There are a number of better buses with only three seats across, compared to the usual four across, but you’ll have to ask a few questions to ascertain that you will actually be on one of the ‘first class’ buses or just an ordinary ‘VIP’ bus. All the buses heading to Bangkok are air-conditioned (more about that later too), usually have a small snack of biscuits and a bottle of water. The distinction between the three-seats across and four-seats-across buses was a bit difficult to figure out. Bottomline, the better, more comfortable seating costs more, up to 1,000 baht for the journey, depending on your chosen company. The ‘usual’ VIP tickets cost less than 700 baht. If your ticket is less than 700 baht you’ll be in a four-seats-across bus.

3. Express buses

Again, my poor understanding of the word ‘express’ led to another surprise about the bus services to and from Bangkok and Phuket. I, stupidly, assumed that Express Bus Services would stop infrequently and zoom me to my destination on a magic flying carpet.

That, in fact, is not the case.

Express buses stop often and sometimes for no particular reason. The Mercedes bus (a VIP Express service) had 90% of the seating upstairs with the driver, his assistant, a toilet (ummm, more later as well), luggage, the engine and about 8 extra seats for those who were happy to travel directly behind the driver’s curtain and were keen on listening to whatever was shuffling on his smartphone through very loud, but cheap, speakers. So, from the lofty heights of the top floor we knew little what was going on downstairs or why they needed to stop so frequently. But they did. Sometimes the driver leapt out of the coach and signed something, sometimes something suspicious was loaded into the back (mmmmm), sometimes a person appeared out of the darkness and jumped into a vacant seat. Sometime the bus just stopped for a few minutes. In all cases, none of the stops helped improve the reputation of the word ‘Express’.

4. Glacial 1

I asked, when purchasing the ticked, how long it would take in the journey from Phuket to Hua Hin. 10 hours! It was around 8 or 9 according to Google Maps in a car so I thought that was reasonable. Try 12 hours! Don’t think that I’m whinging here because Trip Advisor comments about the same services mostly make the same comments about the glacial pace of the buses and the later-than-anticipated arrival times. Just keep that in mind when planning your trip. Our journey north took us via Ranong – six hours up the west coast, through Khao Lak, before making a right hand turn and heading across the isthmus to Chumpon and then up the Gulf of Thailand coast from then on. Probably not the fastest route but understandable as it went through a lot of the tourist hot spots in Phang Nga and would be a popular way to get to Ranong for those doing a visa run (and I think a lot safer than the visa-run buses zooming up and down the same road). All said, our driver was excellent although he had a penchant for tooting his horn whenever passing a motorbike or when another bus came from the other direction, which was every 30 seconds or so!

5. Glacial 2

When Mr. Carrier invented air-conditioning in 1902 he surely had no idea how enthusiastically it would be applied by VIP Express buses plying the roads in the Land of Smiles. The operators provided each seat with a light blanket. When getting on the bus you look at the blanket thinking it might provide a nice little folded support for your lower back or your neck. But an hour into the ride you realise that the blanket is actually essential for your survival. Don’t jump on board in your skimpy shorts, singlet and sandals without taking some accessories appropriate for an Arctic expedition. Again, Trip Advisor posters all raved about the high effectiveness of the air-conditioning. It was FREEZING and no amount of adjustment to the perfunctory vents above or sign-language to the bus assistant could improve the situation. Take a warm jacket and wear long pants – you’ve been warned!

Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back) | News by The Thaiger

6. Snacks and eating

You would have thought, with all the stops, that there would be plenty of chances to jump out, stretch your legs and zoom around a local 7/11 for a quick snack. No. If you don’t stock up with something to eat you will likely have to travel for 11 hours or more (travelling north from Phuket) before you get a chance to get off the bus. About an hour out of Hua Hin there is a large, and very ‘Thai’, bus stop-over where there were 40 or more similar coaches with semi-frozen, rather stunned, tourists and locals disembarking. As a farang you may be challenged to find something to eat unless you feel just a little adventurous. There wasn’t even a 7/11. I found some delicious noodles. Then again, after 11 hours of rumbling away on the top floor wondering when the ordeal would end, I would have eaten anything. Take some provisions or become chummy with the person sitting next to you who was smart enough to pack something to eat. The packet or Oreos and single water bottle was never going to last the whole journey.

Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back) | News by The Thaiger

7. Toilets

Probably the less said the better. It seemed clean enough but nothing worked and the door wouldn’t close. Probably going to vary a lot from bus to bus. I didn’t have anything to eat or drink so it didn’t really matter. The toilets at the bus stop about an hour out of Hua Hin had excellent and super clean toilets.

8. Seats for pygmies

I fly a lot. I am used to small budget airline seats. I am not particular tall, or large (173cm, 72 Kilos). But the seats on the buses were made for people a lot smaller than I. Now the seats on the three-across arrangement were better than the four-across arrangement. But both had a short squab – the bit you sit on. There was NO way I could get comfortable in these seats, no matter what I did. And you’re sitting for a LONG time. Lumbar support was zero. The seats were clean. The mechanism for reclining on my seat didn’t work despite ‘experts’ from the seats around me all giving it a try. The seats would recline, about 20 degrees, and a foot support would raise up to support your calves. Well all that probably worked well in the factory with Peter Drinklage as the test pilot. But they were just bloody uncomfortable for a short-than-normal farang. Take a pillow.

9. Value for money

On the plus side the seats are reasonably cheap, even if you score a real VIP bus with the better seating for less than 1000 baht (one way). The other obvious option is jumping on an aeroplane or driving. In both cases it’s going to cost you more and, in the case of flying, you’ll end up with a 30-60 minute trip into the middle of the island or the middle of the city (depending which direction you’re travelling) from the airport. At least with the bus you are taken into the middle of the island or at least the outskirts of Bangkok. It’s cheaper than driving yourself and probably a lot less stressful.

10. Options

There are more flights per day than there are buses per day so you’ll have a lot more choice and probably be able to control your timing a lot more with the flying option. The bus arrival times were a long way from reality. BUT, if you have a strong bladder, don’t mind freezing air-conditioning, have patience, will sleep through a nuclear war and are not particularly fussy, the bus is your cheapest option.

The roads, mostly are either perfectly good – it’s mostly a dual carriage-way on the main Phuket-Surat Thani-Bangkok road – or under improvement. Our route through Khao Lak and Ranong was single lanes in both directions and the road across the isthmus from Ranong to Chumpon has a lot of roadworks going on as of March 2018. Don’t expect a movie although. If your TV’s actually work, I’m assured the movie does have English sub-titles. But, hey, you’re not going for the movies, you’re trying to get from A to B and, for that, the buses work perfectly well as long as you don’t expect everything to be perfect along the way.

Top 10 Things to know about taking a bus from Phuket to Bangkok (or back) | News by The Thaiger

I travelled from Phuket to Hua Hin and then onward to Bangkok. The trip from Phuket to Hua Hin took a full 12 hours, and Hua Hin to Bangkok another 4.5 hours – it’s a LOT of time. So take your snacks, plenty to drink, upload a few movies onto your laptop or phone, take some warm clothing and enjoy the ride! Tim



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Hua Hin. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Find more Hua Hin top 10s and top 10s in Thailand on The Thaiger.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,200 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Instagram and Facebook.

Bangkok

Who is Miss Thailand, last weekend’s runner-up in the Miss World competition?

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Who is Miss Thailand, last weekend’s runner-up in the Miss World competition? | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Sereechai Puttes/Time Out Bangkok

“Beauty is seen in action and how much you give to society. Beauty is what you do for other people and what you say to other people to make them feel better about themselves.”

She was the runner up in this year’s Miss World competition held at Santa, China last Saturday night. She was also crowned Miss Asia at the same event. But who is this young career beauty pageant entrant?Time Out Bangkok met Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan before she headed off to Sanya for the title event. Read some of her pageant-winning answers… (NB. The term ‘world peace’ was never mentioned)

Why do we still need beauty pageants in the era of female empowerment?

Nicolene: I believe beauty pageants help society see how a woman can be empowering. One, beauty pageants are not just about beauty. A beauty pageant shows how a woman can be strong, how she can be smart, and how she can help other people and empower other women, so I think beauty pageants are platforms for people to see how empowering women are.

What is the difference between the beauty pageants in the past and now?

Nicolene: I believe that beauty pageants back then focused on the wrong thing. They focused on a woman’s femininity and how womanly she is. They focused on her curves, and they didn’t focus on their minds and what she has to say. Nowadays, we have shifted our focus because we now know that women have so much to offer. I feel that, in 2018, so many people see that woman have more to offer than just pretty hair and pretty teeth.

Read the rest of the interview with Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan HERE.

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Bangkok

Tourists complain about thin elephant being forced to do party tricks

Kritsada Mueanhawong

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Tourists complain about thin elephant being forced to do party tricks | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Mail Online

dailymail.co.uk is reporting that an adult elephant has been photographed performing in front of deserted audience seating at Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo, just south of Bangkok.

With its bones clearly visible, a female elephant is seen balancing on two wooden tables before being led down and forced to walk across a metal tight rope.

She pauses in the middle, turns around and walks back, according to the article.

The skeletal frame of the small Asian elephant, with its pelvis and shoulder poking through its saggy leathery skin, raised concerns from one visitor who filmed the ‘show’.

“I’ve been visiting the zoo for a long time because I like to look at the animals. But when I visited last week I was upset when I saw one of the elephants. The elephant looked so thin and weak. I felt so sorry. I think he needs help.”

The unidentified tourist thought the zoo might be having financial problems and couldn’t afford to look after the elephant. The Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo was built in 1950 as Thailand’s first crocodile farm. It boasts that it is the world’s largest crocodile farm and has expanded to include other animals as well.

dailymail.co.uk reports that the zoo now has over 60,000 crocodiles of different kinds in various pits and features daily shows. Locals say that the zoo was once popular, but in recent years the crowds have dwindled and many shows are now empty.

Visitors who reviewed the zoo, which has a one star rating on TripAdvisor, said they were ‘heartbroken’ at what they saw, although the attraction did receive some praise. Here are some other responses…

“The place is poorly maintained – a lot of the facilities are run down and look like it hasn’t been upgraded in a long time.”

“It’s very heart wrenching to see the animals kept in such poor conditions and God knows if there’s even anyone taking care of them.”

“I literally cried numerous time throughout the day.”

A spokesman for the zoo said that all the elephants at the park are “good”.

“No, no, no. The elephants here are all healthy. They are all good. None of them are thin. They are all fed well. They do shows every day.”

Tourists complain about thin elephant being forced to do party tricks | News by The Thaiger

ORIGINAL ARTICLE : Mail Online

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Bangkok

Chinese charged over test-taking scam

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Chinese charged over test-taking scam | The Thaiger

by Khanathit Srihirundaj

A scam of a different kind has been uncovered today. In this case no one was being harmed but the system was being cheated.

The Nation reports that Thai police have arrested seven Chinese who were allegedly hired to take ACT (American College Testing) exams on behalf of other test-takers who wanted good results in order to apply to study in the United States.

The first batch of five suspects – Chinese nationals between the ages of 29 and 33 – were arrested on Friday afternoon at the ACT examination site at Mahidol University’s Salaya Campus in Nakhon Pathom.

The five suspects reportedly confessed to police that they had been hired to take the ACT exams on behalf of the real applicants for between 10,000 and 20,000 yuan (about 47,500-95,000 baht) per person.

They said a China-based agency had helped coordinate with the customers and arranged for their accommodation, travel expenses and fake passports – containing the real applicants’ details, but with the suspects’ photos – to undertake the task.

They were to get good results in the exam, discard the fake passports and travel back to their home countries, police quoted them as saying.

The second batch of two suspects – Chinese nationals 28 year old He Liu and 39 year old Huang Xiofan were arrested on Saturday at the ACT examination site at NIST International School in Bangkok’s Watthana district.

Police also found that Liu was carrying eight fake passports, and he reportedly confessed to having previously taken exams for hire in various countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The seven suspects, whose Thai visas have been revoked, were all charged with using forged passports, while Liu faces the additional charge of having fake passports in his possession for the purpose of selling them, Surachate said.

Chinese charged over test-taking scam | News by The Thaiger Chinese charged over test-taking scam | News by The Thaiger

STORY: The Nation

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December 12, 2018, 2:55 pm
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