If there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the last six months, it’s this: we hate travelling by bus. However, backpacking on a budget in SE Asia rarely leaves us with a wide variety of transport options, and three weeks of travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam saw us on four ‘sleeper’ buses, and a total of 41 very, very uncomfortable hours.
Nothing is more nerve wracking than the wait for the bus (usually a couple of hours on the edge of a road by some bins), and the same questions circle our minds every time: will we be sitting near each other? Will the air con work? Will my neighbour be a vomiter? What time will we arrive – 4am? 1pm? (Both equally possible.) Why do they demand punctuality from us when it’s so hard to achieve themselves? Will they have toilets on board, or should I go to the toilet just one more time? And lastly, why do I still have some hope that it won’t be that bad? It will be.
After two days in the capital, the Southern islands were calling with their promise of picture perfect palm trees and wooden huts ten feet from the sea.
We researched the ways of getting to Phuket and quickly ruled out the flights as too expensive. This left us with two options: get an overnight 14 hour coach all the way through to Phuket, or get the 12 hour sleeper train to Surat Thani and then the short 2 hour bus ride. We had heard horror stories about the coach, and the thought of sitting upright for that long with rucksacks wedged in the aisles was daunting. Having never been on a sleeper train before we found ourselves falling for the romance and novelty!
Hua Lom Phong, Bangkok Train Station
Our hostel in Bangkok was really helpful and our train tickets were delivered to us within the hour. There was no availability in the cheapest beds in the fan carriages, so we chose two fold down upper bunks in an air conditioned carriage, priced at a reasonable 800 baht (£16) each. (These are cheaper than the wider bottom bunks with windows.) Catching our 6pm train was really straightforward, it was clearly listed and sign-posted in the station. Continue reading