Getting around thailand
Trains, planes, longboats, speedboats, cars, carts, tuktuks, motorbikes, bicycles, minibuses, coach buses, catamarans, ferries, taxis and water taxis... we took them all. Getting around Thailand was cheap, sometimes confusing and always an adventure. To learn more about Thai transport, keep reading!
We rented motorbikes in Ayutthaya, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Before our trip, I read several articles about scams involving motorbikes, so we came prepared with David's expired Argentine passport and my expired US passport. We also rented our bikes from people associated with where we were staying. In Ayutthaya, we rented our bike from a restaurant/rental place next to our guesthouse. In Koh Samui, we rented our bike from a British guy who lived in the villas where we were staying. In Koh Phangan we made an exception. David looked up a "trustworthy" bar that rented bikes near the port where we arrived. We didn't have any problems with it... except for that the gas tank was completely empty when we got the bike. In Koh Tao we tried to rent a bike from our hotel, but they didn't have any. So, we did the next best thing. We rented a bike from the hotel across the street. Bikes were quite cheap. They cost about 150 baht a day ($4.33 USD) but you can get them for even cheaper if you are renting for a few days.
Songthaews"Songtells" (a kind of truck tuktuk)
In Chiang Mai and on the Thai Gulf islands, we took Songthaews as they were the cheapest form of transport. They are basically pick up trucks that have two benches in the back and are covered. They boast a luggage rack on the top and you can even hang out on the metal fixtures on the back. We took this vehicle up the mountains in Chiang Mai where we did our hike, through the jungle to the Elephant Sanctuary and from the port in Koh Samui to our guesthouse. Some people don't like them because you have to wait for them to fill up. Often they will not go anywhere until they have 10 passengers. If you don't mind waiting, it's a good option. You'll need to bargain your own price and it will depend on where you are going.
Tuk Tuks are everywhere. Personally, we avoided them like the plague. Why? Let me explain. Bangkok is filled with tuk tuks. It is also filled with air conditioned taxis. Tuk tuks do not have a meter. Therefore, you have to argue a price, hope that your driver won't make an extra stop or three in order to get a commission and you will most likely have some sort of exhaust billowing in your face. Taxis? Tell the driver where you want to go. Ask them to put on the meter. They won't? Ask the next taxi. Easy. Cheap. Air conditioned. Of course tuk tuks are fun, so I would recommend a few rides, but if you are really on a budget - stick with taxis.
Catamarans - High Speed Ferries
Catamarans are high speed ferries that connect the Thai Gulf islands with each other and with the mainland. We took two different companies: Lomprayah and Seatran. Online reviews of the companies seem to be hit or miss. Some people hate them and some people, like us, had no problems. The journeys were usually pretty short and you could go up to the top deck or out back to get fresh air. There were comfortable seats on the upper and lower decks.
The ride of the catamarans varied from quite smooth to choppy. I felt a bit seasick on all the boats, so just a warning to the weak of stomach. Tickets were a bit expensive, but then again everything on the Thai Gulf islands is much more expensive than the mainland. You can check the above links for exact ticket prices and schedules.
Trains and Sleeper Trains
We took a few different trains on our way up north from Bangkok towards Chiang Mai. We also took an overnight train after our stay on the islands. More on that terrible experience later. The first train we took was a third class train. Sometimes you have to stand if they are crowded, but there were many empty seats on our car. Mostly people were taking up multiple seats by putting up their feet (which I thought was insulting in Thailand, but rule breakers were elderly and Thai, so I guess they get to do what they want.) On our next trip, as pictured above, we had comfortable seats and even got lunch which was a bowl of rice, and extremely spicy fish sauce to put on top of it and the strangest spiced, boiled eggs I've ever had in my life. To see a video of the meal and the view from the train, CLICK HERE. You can see the train ride at the end of the video.
Now... the sleeper train. AKA the night I didn't sleep more than 5 minutes.
I took a water taxi from Koh Tao to Nangyuan Island one of the days that David was completing his Scuba diving certification. It was a bit of a struggle to get because I was alone, so unless I wanted to pay 400 baht for the 20 minute ride, I had to wait for more passengers. After about an hour, I was escorted to the longboat and met a Dutch family who was also going to the island to snorkel. Once again, I found myself a bit seasick as we bounced over the waves, but nothing vomit inducing. In the end I think I paid 200 baht ($5.79 USD) for a roundtrip. I was told to come back to the dock at a specific time, and there was my driver, waiting with a smile.
In Bangkok, we rode the River Taxis many times. We used them to get to different temples, as well as a way to relax and enjoy the skyline. Tickets were 40 baht ($1.16 USD) and even cheaper for the ferries that simply crossed the river. The ferry tickets cost 14 baht ($0.41 USD). The river taxis went pretty fast and you can see a different view of the temples along the riverbanks. To see some footage of what it was like to ride in a River Taxi, CLICK HERE.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the transportation in Thailand! If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Happy travels! ~ Jamie and David
Seeing Sukhothai Ruins by Bicycle
Sukhothai Historial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Northern Thailand. It contains ruins from the 13th and 14th centuries. Sukhothai was the first Siamese capital. Unlike Ayutthaya, the ruins are relatively close together - which means they can easily be visited by bicycle!
How we got there from Lopburi
From Lopburi we took a train to Phitsanaluk and then a bus to Sukhothai. The entire trip took about 5 hours.
How to get around
BICYCLE! The majority of the temples are within the Sukhothai Historical Park. There are a few more temples outside the park grounds and they can easily be reached by bike. We rented bikes for 30 baht ($0.86 USD) for 24 hours. You can rent bicycles from a stand close to your hotel, or near the Historical Park entrance.
What to visit
Wat Mahathat is the most important temple in the complex. During the 20th century some parts of it were restored. The name Wat Mahathat means "temple of the great relic." It is surrounded by beautifully kept gardens and is best visited early in the morning.
Wat Si Sawai is one of the oldest temples in the Sukhothai Historial Park. It was originally a Hindu temple. It was later adapted for use as a Buddhist temple. There is a small crypt inside.
I loved Sukhothai. Nothing quite compares to leisurely peddling a bicycle and discovering ruins among lush green landscapes. I would recommend spending two days, instead of one. There were a few temples outside the Historical Park that we didn’t have time to visit. Gorgeous, magical place.
Lopburi - Thailand's Monkey temple
Monkeys crossing the street, monkeys swinging from power lines, monkeys drinking from plastic water bottles, monkeys jumping into pools of water, monkeys fighting, monkeys running up your leg. This is Lopburi, a small city where one of its temples, and the surrounding blocks, is completely overrun by monkeys.
How we got there
From Ayutthaya we got a train straight to Lopburi. We booked the ticket at the train station about an hour before we left.
The monkey temple (Phra Prang Sam Yot) is located a few hundred meters from the train station. As you leave, turn right and walk straight.
As you get closer, you will notice more and more monkeys. They may be climbing buildings, walking on the sidewalk or picking bugs out of each other’s hair.
Of course right before we went to Lopburi I read a blog post about the dangers of these monkeys. They can, and will, bite you and if you get bit you can say hello to several rounds of rabies shots. The more you interact with them, the more likely you are to get bit or scratched and during feeding times they can become aggressive.
So… basically I wore my jacket even though it was extremely hot to avoid scratches and bites, and kept my distance. In the end, no monkey touched me, but one did decide to climb up David.
How to visit the temple
Go to the entrance, pay the entrance fee and be prepared to be surrounded by monkeys. The entrance fee was 50 baht ($1.43 USD).
You can visit the inside of the temple and see some Buddha statues inside. The inside of the temple is monkey free, but it does have bats. You can also see the monkeys up close through the temple’s wire windows.
If you like monkeys, the trip is worth it to Lopburi. If not, skip Lopburi and go straight to Sukhothai. Happy travels!
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