After spending a few days in Bangkok, we decided to make our way up to Chiang Mai, the second biggest city in Thailand situated in the Northern part of the country.
I have always heard good things about Chiang Mai, I have also heard that it is cheaper than the souther part of Thailand. These two factors combined with a weather forecast of pure sunshine made the decision to come here a no brainer.
After some expert googling, it became apparent that the best way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is via overnight sleeper train. Flights are quicker but more expensive, buses are cheaper but less comfortable.
Armed with such information and having read positive reviews (on this other blog our intention was to catch the #9 sleeper train which departs Bangkok at 18:10pm and arrives in Chiang Mai at 07:15am the next day. Unfortunately what we didn't realise is that you have to book your tickets 3 days in advance MINIMUM. Unable to get tickets on this (or any other train on our required date) we were left in a bit of a predicament.
FUNNY STORY ALERT & TOP TIP FOR THE LADIES - NEVER TRUST THE BOYFRIEND'S BOOKING SKILLS
We decided to have a look at flights, my boyfriend took charge of the task at hand and promptly started googling away on his iphone. After a few minutes I was delighted at his announcement of having found 2 flight tickets at the ideal time with Thai Lion Airways (a company I had never heard of...but anyhow). The price was excellent, only a few dollars more than the train and the travel time was substantially reduced. What a win! After asking him to ensure that all the details were correct prior to paying for the tickets, he happily confirmed that it was all in order and completed the purchase. We happily continued about our business until the email confirmation for the flights was delivered to my email address.
My darling boyfriend, although equipped with good intentions had failed to notice that the aforementioned 'ideal flight tickets' had been booked for the wrong Month! We looked at each other in disbelief and were left with no option but to laugh hysterically. " At least this will be a funny story to share, we both agreed"....Good thing he is cute ;)
Eventually (after putting myself in charge of making the bookings lol) we were left with no other option but to take an overnight bus. I wasn't crazy about the idea of sleeping on a chair for 11 hours, especially as I was picturing a long journey in a hot crammed smelly bus, with uncomfortable seats.
The booking process was simple I used the website 12go.asia you are able to read reviews, pick from different departure times, choose your seats and pay online. It only took a few minutes and I received the confirmation email within minutes. If you are interested we travelled with Lignite Tour PK Dep 20:15pm Arr +1 07:35am two one way tickets cost us THB 1,243 (approx $35 USD, $47 AUD, £28 GBP)
On the day we took a taxi to Morchit Bus Station, walked to our ticketing desk to collect the actual tickets and after waiting for an hour (it is recommended you get there at least 30 minutes before departure) we boarded the bus on time.
My vision of a dingy old bus couldn't have been further away from reality. The bus was on two floors, new, modern and clean. A hostess showed us to our seats....this is what we found
Everyone is given a soft blanket. The chairs are not normal chairs, as well as being larger than usual they are MASSAGE CHAIRS! which you can activate at the push of a button when ever you want.
The space between your seat in front of you is big enough for you to outstretch your legs and more. The back of the chair can recline backwards (not all the way but at around a 45 degrees angle and the foot rest can be opened up for your legs to be stretch out in front of you.
All seats have individual TVs which offer films in both Thai and English (not a huge collection but good enough)
Soon after we left everyone was given snacks (soy milk and a brioche). At around midnight we made a stop, here we were given a ticket which we could exchange for either a drink or a bowl of soup....I picked the soup but regretted it.
There is FREE WIFI on board which worked pretty well
The journey was smooth and comfortable, I was sincerely surprised at the quality of service on these VIP busses. We were due to arrive at 7:30 am, however the bus arrived two hours in advance at around 05:30am. Some people may find this frustrating, as most types of accommodation will not allow you to check in that early in the morning. It didn't bother us too much, however I may have felt differently had I been on my own especially as not all types of accomodation have 24/7 reception and not many public places are open at the time of day.
On arrival we were able to book a taxi via the taxi stand at the station. Once we arrived at our accommodation we were told we couldn't check in until 12pm (as expected). Thankfully through a combination of eating some breakfast and spending time by the hotel pool, we were able to entertain ourselves until check in.
Overall I would recommend the VIP Bus option to travel around Thailand, especially if the train is not available. We tried booking a train back to Bangkok in a weeks time but again...the tickets have already sold out (REMEMBER TO BOOK IN ADVANCE!) so we have decided to take the same bus back down...this time, knowing what I know I feel much more comfortable and happier that the journey won't be the experience from hell i imagined the last time!
I hope this helps some of you out there, happy travels!!!