Jul 13 2011
One of the most common Thailand double-headers seems to be a stop in Bangkok and a visit to Chiang Mai. If you are heading to the north, you’ll run into the question of how best to make the journey from the capital. The roughly 600 km trip is pretty painless no matter how you break it down — deciding which way to do it is really just a matter of how much money and time you are ready to spend.
Flying between the two cities is obviously the fastest choice, but also naturally the most expensive. The flight takes only about an hour, and even with the added in time of airport finagling and additional transport it should take only three to four hours at the most. A few budget airlines travel multiple times a day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Start your ticket hunt with AirAsia, Nok Air and Bangkok Airways. One-way tickets are usually 1,500 to 2,000 baht, but if you can do any planning ahead scour the sites for discount tickets. AirAsia in particular often has cheap seats for as low as 600 baht if you are able to plan a few months in advance.
After planes, buses are the next speediest route up north. The trick to bus travel seems to be taking the overnight bus, which makes the trip in nine hours. The same route during the daytime can take up to 12, due to traffic. I would not advise taking buses from the Khao San area as those are often overpriced or a bit of a scam. The most reliable buses to Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Terminal leave from Bangkok’s northern & northeastern bus terminal, more commonly known as Mo Chit.
Two good bus companies to look for are Sombat Tour and Chayasit. The easiest thing to do is buy tickets at Mo Chit station. Buying ahead of time is not necessary but does guarantee you the bus you want. Buses leave at least every hour and tickets generally cost about 600 or 700 baht depending on the company and whether or not you splurge for VIP seats. Mo Chit bus terminal is a short way from Mo Chit BTS station. From the BTS station you can catch city bus 3 or hop in a taxi to get you the rest of the way.
The train’s biggest selling point is getting to take in the beautiful country scenery. The train departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station and arrives at Chiang Mai’s train station 11 to 15 hours later. Currently, seven trains a day ply the route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, with the first departing at 08:30 and arriving the same day at 20:30, and the last departing at 22:00 and arriving the next day at 12:45. Seats cost 270 to 620 baht, while sleepers go for 880 to 1,460 baht. Sleepers tend to sell out extremely quickly, so if you are last-minute planning it’s likely you will be upright for the entire trip. The State Railway of Thailand has a mildly English-friendly site where you can look into things, and a free hotline, 1690, to call for information and bookings. And do check out the Bogie Gourmet Express!
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