Taking the bus for the first time in Thailand

First off, you have to know that in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia like everywhere else in southeast Asia, there are different kinds of buses that share the road

  • The local buses
  • The “normal” buses
  • The “VIP” buses

If you’re planning on going a long distance, you may wanna take a normal or a VIP bus.

But you can also try to fit in the local culture as much as possible and take the local buses which are of course, less comfortable, but they’re also cheaper and it’s nevertheless a memorable experience.

Local bus, phang nga, Thailand

Local bus, Phang Nga, Thailand

Facts about local buses

  • There are rotative fans on the ceiling
  • The back seat row is reserved in priority to the monks
  • You don’t run into many tourists
  • The doors remain usually wide open
  • There are lot of air flows (the windows are also open)
  • The foam from the seats has gotten so hard throughout the years that it’s more of a concrete block than an actual seat
  • The room for the legs has obviously been designed for Asian people (understand people no higher than 5.4″)
  • The ceiling is about 6″ from the floor (yes, I am 6.2″ tall and you’d better not be too close from the rotative fans)
  • There is no “stop” buttons to let the driver know you want to get off
  • The bus stops every 60 feet
  • The smells are sometimes “funny”, and are getting more and more funny over long distances
Local bus, Mae Sai, Thailand

Local bus, Mae Sai, Thailand

Anyways, quiet a business! and the list is not exhaustive! In any case, it was one of my the first lasting memory. Basically, I was supposed to meet my couchsurfing host somewhere in Bangkok with the help of few approximate directions and one of them was to take city bus

The city bus, it’s easy!

I was supposed to take a bus from this Victory Monument place, a major bus intersection in Bangkok.

Actually, I was completely disorientated. I landed here in the middle of peak hours, along with my back and front heavy loading, and the first thing I was trying to do was to find a counter or a machine to buy a bus ticket. Couldn’t find that.

Though a bit disorientated, I am standing below what looked like a bus shelter, waiting with hope my bus to show up. A few minutes passed as I was trying to understand what the hell was going on all around me. I was facing a buses-ballet, never stopping that seemed a complex but organized anarchy. Some buses more or less recent would share the place with other ones from pre-war, and the carbonized and toxic diesel smokes would sneakily infiltrate into my breathing apparatus. You couldn’t find any directions either and there were so many things going on all around me. All of my senses were like “overheating”.

And the buses, as they were arriving, tried to roughly park where they could for a matter of just a couple of seconds, just enough time to overload the bus. Sometimes, they wouldn’t even stop and the people would just jump inside as they were moving (slowly, of course).

My “razor sharp” habits were taken down.

I wanted adventure after all..! Well, eventually I perceive my bus and hop on inside, trying at the same time to make myself some room to fit my two big bags and my big height, avoiding the rotative fans also. Basically, I was a pain for everyone around and I was trying to stand straight as I could. Finally, I got the answer to my first interrogation : an employee shaking some metallic box fulfilled of coins was making pay everyone in the bus, making his way through as he could. My turn. My two hands are busy taking out my big notes and I’m trying not to fall on the floor between two jerks waiting for my money back.

Good, now I just need to wait to arrive. The audio announcements of the stations are of course non existing, and the route stickers for the bus line above the windows aren’t either. I have no idea when I have to get off.

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