Wow. Complex, confusing, frustrating & infuriating. That sums it up.
We arrived in Bangkok early morning after an overnight trip from Phuket via bus. There are a number of long haul bus services running between the major centers like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi & many more. Usually these buses come in 3 categories, ie, economy, 1st class & VIP. We used VIP as with my length, seating is always a problem. There are various companies who run these, some better than others.
Beware however. I have heard people say that they purchased VIP tickets at one of the travel agents in town & only received seats on terrible, sub standard buses while paying VIP ticket prices. It seems that the only way to ensure that you recieve the tickets you pay for, is to go to the bus terminus from which your bus is to depart.
Now this is where it also gets tricky, as not all companies run all routes & not all routes arrive and depart at the same terminus.
Let me explain: We arrive at Bangkok from Phuket at Mo Chit Station in Bangkok. Totally clueless as to where we are, we need to find a way to get to our hotel in Bangkok near Khaosan. Taxis & Tuk-Tuks try to rip us off, so eventually after settling down, we ascertain for locals that there is a “number 3” public bus that departs from another terminus just behind the main one. They point us in the direction which is basically a dingy enclosed, dark street market “maize”.After negotiating various bends & turns with little in the way of marked directions, we exit to see the public bus terminus. If you figure these out & the routes they run through town, they are great. Around 14 baht (less that 7 rand), to cart you all over town for about a 40 minute trip. With our driver reminding me of a kamikaze pilot, jamming the lever into gears while bouncing over canal bridges while missing smaller vehicles of all shapes & sizes by mere inches, this is the way to go & took us to meters away from our hotel.
In Bangkok itself, we tried a number of times to find out from Tuk-Tuk drivers what they would charge us to get to a specific place. In all instances, they either quoted ridiculous amounts or as in most cases, they where continuously haggling us to take us to specific tourist sites and of course trying to convince us to stop off at a certain tailor to make us a suite, or some or other vendor or business where they wanted to scam us. In one instance, we arrived on foot at one of the gates of the Grand Palace which we wanted to see. A neatly dressed person who was chatting to the guard, told us that the Grand Palace was closed and would only open later the day. He then went on trying to persuade us to go on a sightseeing trip with him so long to make up time. We refused and took the long walk through town & came back hours later, only to realize that the Palace had been open all the time & that we had wasted the day generally trying to avoid being scammed. Really frustrating. By the time we got to the Grand Palace, it was swarming with bus loads of Chinese tourists, so we gave it a miss.
Then there are the taxis who either quote ridiculous prices too, or don’t really give any clear indication as to whether they use their meter or not. Either way, we either could not figure out what they would charge us or that they would be very expensive so we chose not to use these at all. there are thousand of Tuks-Tuks and taxis in Bangkok, yet it seems that most of our energy & day was being used up by trying to avoid scams or by trying to figure out how to get around.
Of course there is the Skytrain & the Subway, as well as water taxis, all of which we never experienced, as Bangkok was not a place we wanted to hang around in.
We left Bangkok for the more laid back & friendly Chaing Mai. On the return trip however, we needed to stop in Bangkok again. This time arriving at Mo Chit Terminus, then not being able to leave from there but having to go via Minibus taxi to the Southern terminal where we needed to buy a ticket to Krabi. So after a whole day per bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, getting to Mo Chit at night, rushing across the length of Bangkok to the Southern Terminal per minibus (about 40 baht per person, very reasonable), then rushing to get find & book an overnight to Krabi where we arrived and entire day later. Exhausting.
A massive problem remains the fact that just about nobody understands a word of English if you are arranging these things yourself. One of the buses we were rather lucky to get overnight was through a company called Sombat Tour. This bus was in a class way better than the others we used. They have massaging seats, on board entertainment, stewardesses and midnight meal stops at their own depots along route. Unfortunately their website is in Thai only (see: http://www.sombattour.com/html/home.php), but you can book them at the terminals of the routes they have & rest assured that one can clearly see their professionalism, safety standard & service is great, so we would look for them again if needed.
And then of course one can hitch a ride according to may backpackers. We have only done this once as a three up on a small motorcycle, but all sorts of vehicles will get you around.