Have you ever traveled by bus in Thailand? Up until now, I had only used buses in Thailand for short trips, like from Bangkok to Hua Hin or Surat Thani Airport to Donsak. Recently, I took the bus from Bangkok all the way down to Surat Thani, where I caught the ferry back to Koh Phangan. I took the bus only because flights were mostly booked out for the period I wanted to travel and the only available tickets, which arrived at Koh Samui Airport, were too expensive.
Let’s just say it won’t be a repeat experience. I have always defended travel providers in Thailand when people say bad things about them. I understand that some are dishonest, but most are just ordinary, nice people doing difficult jobs. Many have to deal with drunk and irritating tourists on a daily basis, and a lot of them are poorly paid. No wonder they’re occasionally surly, right?
Well, my trip from Bangkok to Surat Thani reminded me of why people complain so often about buses in Thailand. Keep in mind I didn’t take one of the tourist “scam” buses from Khao San Road. I took a VIP bus from a government bus station, expecting it to offer better service. The seats were big and the bus was clean, but that’s where the pleasant trip ended.
First, the trip takes hours longer than it’s supposed to. We stopped several times during the trip, always for an hour or more, so that the driver could take a break or go to the bathroom. I understand stopping to keep the driver alert and comfortable, but why so frequently and why for so long? It added hours onto a trip that already takes a long time. I suspect the bus company was paid to stop at certain locations, since we always stopped near a restaurant or petrol station.
Second, the entire journey, which is marketed as quiet and comfortable, was ruined by the constant movies and music that played on the bus. What is the point of a VIP night bus if you play karaoke the whole way? In the end, it was impossible for anyone to sleep and the entire experience, which should have been simple and comfortable, was a pain. I got to Surat Thani without a minute of sleep, knowing that I would feel tired for the next two days after I got home.
Next time I’m in Bangkok, I will return the same way I normally do: on a Nok Air or AirAsia flight from Don Muang Airport. If any aren’t available, I will fly to Koh Samui, even though it’s a horribly expensive airport dominated by Bangkok Airways. Even the high price of a direct flight to Samui is worth it to avoid dealing with bus companies that treat their customers like ATMs and go out of their way to make a long journey even less comfortable than it already is.