Monday, 3 April 2017

Bus Bangkok to Nu Po and back

Bus Bangkok to Nu Poe and back

Musings and observations about public transport in Thailand.

1. Home to Mor Chit 2 bus station (Mon 26dec2016)
From Soi Ngamduplee (Malaysia hotel, Ibis Sathorn, Pinnacle), google maps shows 35 minutes to Mor Chit. As I’m late, I will try this instead of going by MRT as I usually do. In reality 49 minutes (10:48-11:37, 169 THB) and driver told me he would have refused had he known I insisted on freeway.

By MRT it would have taken (estimates from going this way several times before, rounded to full 5 minutes): 10 minutes to walk to Lumpini station, 5 minutes buy ticket and wait for train, 30 minutes ride to Kamphaeng Phet, 5 minutes get to bus stop, 5 minutes wait for bus, 5 minutes by bus = 60 min and about 50 THB. (From Kamphaeng Phet, alternatively walking 20 minutes or mocy 50 THB.)

2. Mor Chit to Tak (Mon 26dec2016)
There are buses to Mae Sot only in the morning and evening. When I arrived, there were not even buses to Tak within reasonable time. But knowing that buses to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai go through and stop in Tak, I ask at several operators until I get one that leaves within 30 minutes. It’s important to shop around, they will sell you a ticket for a bus that goes in 2 hours, not knowing or not caring that there is a bus by another operator in 30 minutes. Sombat Tour, 297 THB for bus line 90, departure schedule 12:30, real 12:28. Break for lunch and toilet 16:36-17:05. Arrives in Tak 18:58.

3. Tak to Mae Sot (Mon 26dec2016)
There are still vans to Mae Sot, I get van 168 (Nakon Sawan – Mae Sot) for 78 Baht, dep 19:22, arr 20:52 (including stops by police and immigration on the way).

4. Mae Sot town to Wat Thai Wattanaram (Tue 27dec2016)
I arrived at this bus station (ตลาดท่ารถแม่ละมาด 16.718452, 98.569001 = 16°43'06.4"N 98°34'08.4"E) and stayed in a hotel nearby. But songtheos to border (passing Wat Thai Wattaram) do not leave from here, but from bus stop at HongLong Minimart ฮงล้งมินิมาร์ท (16.714997, 98.565947 = 16°42'54.0"N 98°33'57.4"E) First I had a long wait (11:00-42), and then a long (11:42-12:06) and expensive (50 Baht) ride for 4.7 km. It would have cost the same on a Bangkok taxi! With hindsight, I should have taken mocy, not much more expensive, but considerably faster.

But that's not all. There were three women who had a detour from the normal route, and were first quoted 150 Baht, but then the driver accepted their counter of 100 Baht. Detour estimated 5 km, wasting time of all other passengers. At 300 Baht (100 for each of them), this is modern waylaying! If I had had nothing else to do, I would have recorded this and filed a complaint with the transport authority.

5. Wat Thai Wattanaram to Mae Sot town
On my return, I'm cleverer, take mocy to bus station at airport (16.704854, 98.546196 = 16°42'17.5"N 98°32'46.3"E) (13:10-15, 2.3 km, driver asked for 50, I countered with 30, we agreed on 40; would have cost the same in a metered Bangkok taxi).

Take-home messages for 4 and 5: 
In the provinces, I have had rides that were considerably slower, more expensive, and less comfortable than Bangkok taxis. 
There can be multiple bus stations, sometimes just stops, in a town and you have to ask around: buses to X leave from where?

6. Mae Sot to Umphang
Blue songtheo line 2261 for 130 Baht. Departs bus station near airport 13:56. Multiple stops to pick up more passengers and luggage, at bus station in town 14:35. More stops, including petrol stop, finally on hwy 1090 to Umphang 14:59. That’s one hour to get started and then 4.5 hours for 164 km!

I tried to read on the songhtheo, but wind was too strong, almost blew the letters off the pages. I was lucky to have a seat, others were standing or hanging on the back! I could observe woman sitting across breast feeding her baby.

Break for toilet and smoking 16:53-17:07. 

Sign in the toilet: "Do not vomit into a bowl"

Finally get off in Umphang at 7-Eleven 19:25. Signs of motion sickness. What an awful ride, and I would have to take the same songtheo back in a few days!

7. Umphang to Nu Po (Wed 28dec2016)
There are several songtheo every day between Umphang and Nu Po, but when we (Burmese friend and I) are back in Umphang from a day of sightseeing, it’s too late. Hire car to take us to Nu Po, 1500 THB, 17:35-18:49.

8. Nu Po to Umphang (Thu 29dec2016)
Burmese woman takes me to the songtheo stop 10:30, but doesn’t know when it will come (I estimate there is one every 2 hours). Instead of waiting an indeterminate time, I hitchhike (takes a while as there is little traffic). A car with Nonthaburi licence plate takes me (car is full, but space on back where I hold on for dear life), but they only go to Umphang. He drives like crazy and manages in only 11:01-58.

9. Umphang to Mae Sot (Thu 29dec2016)
Blue songtheo line 2261 for 130 Baht, 12:19-16:28, with stop 14:09-36. I get a seat, but an uncomfortable one.

10. Mae Sot to Tak (Thu 29dec2016)
Missed the 17:00 van while having dinner, van line 1153 17:28-19:17 for 78 Baht.

11. Tak to Mor Chit 2 (Thu 29dec2016)
Lucky, the 19:15 bus line 90 (the same that I came with!) is still there, quickly buy ticket 297 Baht, departs 19:20. (General advice: look at the platform first and if you see bus/van/songtheo in your direction, ask when they leave and where to buy ticket, instead of going to ticket counters first.) Stops in Kamphaeng Phet 21:32-59 for dinner. Arrive in Mor Chit 2:02 (Fri 30dec2016). (Stopped in Rangsit and at Sombat tour, but none of these is convenient go get home. These buses pass MRT Chatuchak / BTS Mor Chit, but don’t stop there.)

12. Mor Chit 2 to Home (Fri 30dec2016)
Take taxi (139 Baht, 2:04-25) from regular queue. Instantly switches on meter, but I did not consider that taxi queue is on the western side, then leaves to the north and goes on Vipawadi Rangsit, and at 2:10 and 69 Baht (including 35 flagfall) is on same latitude as MRT Chatuchak / BTS Mor Chit (that is 6 min and 34 Baht for that loop). Better walk to main entrance of Mor Chit and take taxi heading south.

That bus station Mor Chit is completely fucked up traffic-wise. As far as I observed, EVERY bus has to drive a detour either when coming or going. (Compare Mega Bangna which has direct access to expressway.)

13. General observation on buses in Bangkok:
Usually, bus stops are at least 100 m from intersections, so if you want to change at an intersection, you have to walk at least 200 m from one bus stop to the other. Example for Rama 4 road: one stop is 500 m before and the next 200 m after Silom road. In many buses, there is a sign in Thai “This bus does not stop out of bus stops”, but in reality many do (let passengers in and out when the bus is standing at a red traffic sign at the intersection).

But beware of mocy overtaking bus on the left side (where the doors are and passengers get out): This month, I almost got hit by a mocy (in my case bus was stopping in 2nd lane), and I witnessed a near hit (bus in 1st lane, i.e. next to the curb/kerbstone). There are already signs above the door, and cashier warns passengers to watch out for mocy, but what is really needed is a piece of plastic or rubber that extends about 0.5 m from the bus to physically prevent mocy from passing on the left side.

Summary: after 4 years of extensive travel by public transport, still room for improvement.

Copyright 2017 ChristianPFC


  1. ever considered buying a cheap second hand car to travel in relative luxury instead of this nightmare ?

    1. No. The inconvenience of driving, parking and having to come back to the parking is far bigger than the inconvenience of limiting my luggage so I can carry all of it (no problem for trips up to 5 nights) for distances of up to 5 km. And public transport is far cheaper than owning a car.

  2. Now you know why there are sooo many buslines in BKK that duplicate one another-on main crossings there may be buslines for all possible directions/turnoffs. IF you ask a busconductor where to change, s/he will tell stops that have some buses at same place in same direction. Its a kind of London system-it also helps when 1 line is running ery late-you can still use the other ones-hopefully.
    In the USA in smaller towns-and even also many big towns, BUses/transit does stop right at the red lights making for easy transit if so needed.
    Where as the German system is for a bus to connect into electric railtransport asap/making need for many changes. Die nennen das unnoetiges parrallelbefoerderung.


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