Oddly enough we found Mae Sai bus station a fascinating spot with some weird and wonderful routes linking this northernmost town with just about anywhere in the kingdom. Wandering among the booths we weren’t sure what wacky destination we were going to spot next. A cracker was Mae Sai to Sungai Kolok – direct! That’s more than 2,000 kilometres from the extreme north to extreme south of the country, taking an estimated 28 hours and costing 2,260 or 1,695 baht for VIP or first class, respectively.
Another unfathomable one was Mae Sai to Beung Kan in far northeastern Thailand. We had to look this one up; it’s between Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom. Presumably the point of the service is providing stops at more popular destinations enroute such as Phitsanolok, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. Correspondingly the Kolok bus serves all points south of Bangkok: Chumpon, Surat Thani, Nakorn Si Thammarat, Hat Yai and so on. Nakorn Chai Air Company also run buses between Mae Sai and Ranong, Chonburi and Pattaya.
Here are a few of the more popular routes -- we won't list them all.
The reliable Sombat Tour runs three Bangkok buses per day, taking 12 hours to arrive at Mor Chit. There’s a 16:30 VIP service for 927 baht, 16:30 'Super' at 695 and something called a ‘Star’ service for 596 departing at 17:00.
Nakorn Chai’s Rayong bus departs daily at 15:00, costing 778 baht and the two Hat Yai/Sungai Kolok buses we mentioned earlier depart at 07:30. A final long distance destination worth mentioning is Mae Sot, departing at 06:45 for 427 baht and arriving 11 hours later.
There are of course plenty of Chiang Mai options:
2nd class buses for 164 baht at 06:15 and 14:00
1st class buses for 211 baht at 07:15, 08:15, 09:45, 14:30, 15:30 & 16:30
VIP buses for 326 baht departing at the same times as 1st class ones
All the above are daily except for the 16:30 departures which are Monday, Friday & Sundays only.
Chiang Rai buses depart hourly between 06:00 and 18:00, taking around 90 minutes and costing 39 baht.
Alternatively, there are minibuses for Chiang Rai which also, in theory, leave hourly throughout the day taking a bit over an hour for 46 baht. Fang minibuses depart at 08:00 and 14:00, costing 120 baht. The latter take Route 1089 so if you’re heading to Mae Salong you will need to bus it down Route 1 to Pasang where there is a songthaew stop at the junction of Route 1130.
The bus station is located at the southern limits of town a couple of kilometres down the highway. Public buses aren’t allowed to enter the downtown area anymore but there is a songthaew shuttle service costing 15 baht per person and stopping just before the bridge on the right side of the main street. There are no tuk tuks in town but motorbike taxis tend to hang out across the road from the songthaew stop.
Green Bus: (053) 266 480; www.greenbusthailand.com
Sombat Tour: (053) 646 473