From Chiang Mai to the River Kwai…

We last left you in Chiang Mai, Thailand where we enjoyed whizzing around the city on a motorbike, watching Thai Boxing and indulging in some great food. Our very last day there was spent milling around the city, preparing for our onward journey to Kanchanaburi on the River Kwai and feasting on street food at the city’s famous Sunday Night Market. The Sunday market is buzzing and stretches from Thapae Gate right the way across Ratchadamnoen Road, inside the old walled city. Dotted amongst the many stalls selling handicrafts, jewellery and clothing are a number of ‘foodie’ areas where you can find all sorts of BBQ’d meat and fish on sticks as well as fruit shakes, hot pots and of course, rice and noodles! We tried out some Thai spring rolls and Pad Thai Omelette which were delicious!

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The next morning we set out on phase one of our journey to Kanchanaburi, which involved an overnight stop in Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital. We took the Government-run coach from Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station which was lovely and modern! It only cost us 364 Baht each, so we were half expecting a run-down little bus crammed with locals, but instead, they had laid on a double decker, Mercedes coach which was uber comfy!

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The journey itself was supposed to take around 8-8.5 hours, but there were so many rest stops along the way that it ended up taking about 10 hours. But we didn’t mind that much, as we were quite enjoying the cross country trip! As we approached Ayutthaya however, we started to remember something that a few of the other bus companies in Chiang Mai kept saying when we asked if they went to Ayutthaya. They kept saying “Yes, Super Highway, Super Highway” but we didn’t really think much of it at the time. Having witnessed a few of our fellow passengers alight the bus at various random points along the motorway we began to have a horrible feeling that we would be dropped off at the side of the motorway outside Ayutthaya. At this point, it was about 7pm and pitch black but we thought “No, this is a Government Bus, they wouldn’t just leave us in the middle of nowhere”.

Guess what. They did! The driver called out ‘Ayutthaya’ over the tannoy just as we drove past the 8km to the city sign, and then pulled over at the side of the Super Highway. We got out, slightly scared with bags in tow, and asked the bus driver how we could get to the bus station – he then turned around and pointed to a man on a motorbike! As if one of us could fit onto the back of a bike with our massive backpacks, let alone two of us! When the motorbike man then told us it would cost 100 Baht each as it was ‘so far’ we turned on our heels and started walking down the hardshoulder!

Now you may think that we were cutting off our noses to spite our faces and that walking down a Thai motorway in complete darkness isn’t the cleverest of things to do, but there was no way we were getting on that bike and getting ripped off in the process! And it all worked out okay in the end anyway! After about 5kms of walking and extremely achey shoulders and knees we stumbled into a shop with our printed out Google map and asked some guy which way the bus station was. He then walked straight towards the road and wiggled his fingers at a passing Songthaew (something we handn’t even seen since we left the motorway) and then told us to get in. Dubious, we asked ‘how much’ and were surprised to hear ‘7 Baht’ rather than something like ’70’!

We jumped on board alongside the other 15 or so passengers and Richard had to stand up and hang onto the back (something he’d always wanted to try by the way!).  After around 10 minutes, Rich got off and walked up to the drivers window to clarify our destination and a young lad who was standing beside him then offered to walk us to the bus station as he was going that way.

Literally about 4 minutes later, we were there! The bus station was closed by this time of course, so we couldn’t ask about phase two of our journey to Kanchanaburi, but we did manage to find the ‘backpacker area’ a few hundred metres from the bus station and checked into a guesthouse.

All in all, I think our journey was quite successful and it just shows that even if you are dumped in the middle of nowhere, you can always find a way around it!

That evening, we gulped down a couple of cold beers and watched a (pretty awful) live singer in the bar next to our guesthouse before going to bed ever so slightly knackered!

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The next morning, we checked out, had some food and then walked down to the bus station to look for a bus to Suphanburi. This is a city about 60 kms away from Ayutthaya and we would have to change there to get the bus to Kanchanaburi. The 703 bus was a rickety old thing with wooden floorboards that you could actually see through, but we had loads of leg room right at the back! We paid 60 Baht each to the conductor on board (which we were certain was at least 20 Baht too much) but had a rather fun trip sitting next to random people at the back.

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Around an hour and a half later we arrived at Suphanburi bus station and were directed towards the bus to Kanchanaburi – number 411, which was due to leave around 15 minutes later. Again, we commandered the backseats and stacked up our bags before getting an ice cream to fend off the increasing heat that we were experiencing in this part of Thailand!

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Soon the bus was ready to go so we got back on, paid 50 Baht each this time and off we went. This journey was slightly longer as Kanchanaburi is another 90 kms from Suphanburi, but the bus was surprisingly comfy for a shed on wheels!

As soon as we pulled up at the bus terminal we were accosted by several tuk tuk drivers and ‘taxi’s’, but ignored all of them and went in search of some prices to Bangkok where are are due to go in a couple of days. Quotes obtained we then asked one of the ticket sellers how to get to the backpacker part of town near the river and she called over what we thought was a taxi driver. He gave us a price of 40 Baht each, which we agreed, and then followed him around the corner towards a row of rickshaws! We hadn’t seen one of these since India and knew we’d never both fit in one but this wasn’t a problem for the guys there who promptly pointed Richard towards one and me towards another.

We got on and followed eachother through the traffic towards our final destination (for now!) – a cheap guesthouse on the banks of the River Kwai!


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1 Comment

  1. April 09, 07:14 #1 R Abel

    Very very impressive and informative article.