Hi there, it's a while off (April) until I leave for Thailand - but I was wondering what is the best way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the North and the best way to get to the islands in the south?
This relates to price, and amount of time taken - ie I'll be on a backpacker budget!! Also, i want to visit the Gulf and the Andaman Coasts, does anyone know if I should hit the islands or Chiang Mai first? Thanks in advance!
PS - Awesome site - it's so helpful!!
I'd go south before I went north ... and at that time of the year, I'd DEFINITELY be heading north because it's going to be smokin' hot.
Cheapest way south would likely be by government bus straight to Krabi (assuming that's where you're thinking of heading to). If you take the train you'll have to get another bus west from Surat Thani. This will add to your time and cost.
Same with going back north. The train is a heck of a lot more comfortable, but the bus is less expensive and gets you there just about as quickly. If you're on a tight time and $ budget, take the overnighters so you can avoid having to dish out for a guest house and so you can spend your days checking out the sites.
You might want to consider skipping over to Laos for the Bun Bang Fai Festival (the Rocket Festival). It's a blast (pardon the pun), especially in Laos around Vang Vieng and LP, where the weather is considerably more comfortable. Check it out ...
That's great advice - thanks! I have about 10 weeks to spend in SE Asia, so I will def want to visit Cambodia, Loas and Vietnam too. So i'll be checking out that festival. I also want to check out the Islands on the both the Andaman and Gulf Of Thailand side - does anyone know if it will take long to get from the likes of Krabi to Surat Thani?
I remember that bus trip from Krabi to ST being a bit over 3 hours, but that was a few years back and maybe the roads are better now.
Another option is to take the train all the way to/from Trang Province instead of Surat. It's a longer train trip but a shorter bus ride to Krabi. Plus, Trang is worth checking out all on its own.
Also, if you'll be travelling over the Lunar/Buddhist new year in April (typically several days on either side of April 15th), be sure to book your travel ahead of time. If you don't, it will be very easy to get caught out as almost the entire country hits the road for that holiday week. Cheers.
I'm a big fan of the overnight trains in Thailand. I think that is the very best way to get from BKK to Chiang Mai. I particularly enjoy heading up to Ayutthaya in the morning, getting a room for the day to drop my stuff and clean up later, enjoying the ruins all day and into the early evening, then catching the train as it passes through Ayutthaya on the way to Chiang Mai. For a big splurge, get a first class cabin for the trip. You'll sleep better and stretch out in reasonably affordable style.
The other good alternative is to fly. There are maybe half a dozen airlines that make the BKK to CM run now, and prices are very competitive as a result. The only warning on either of these options is to book ahead if you are travelling between 10 and 20 April, as they really do fill up for the Buddhist New Year holiday. Also, be warned that the people in Chiang Mai take their Lunar New Year celebration seriously, and you'll have little to no chance of staying dry during the 3 to 5 day celebration. Have fun.