After self-sheltering in my apartment for what felt like eons, I badly needed a change of scene. Well aware that I had to get a sniff of sea air or else I’d be at risk of ending up with a screw loose or ten, I booked a trip from Bangkok to Hua Hin online. This was a bargain and done hassle-free in just a few clicks.
After all, cruising along the mesmerizing Chao Phraya River, enjoying the dazzling view at a rooftop bar or just visiting a lesser-known floating market were activities to look forward to.
I took this fascinating trip from Hua Hin to Bangkok in June at a time when most restrictions had just been lifted, and the journey was the reward, quite literally.
More on that in just a bit, so jump in and enjoy the thrill of anticipation. Trust me, that pleases a loafing mind even more than a post-vacation high.
Finding my bus station and checking in
Since the words “HX26 + HR Hua Hin” on my voucher weren’t particularly informative, I decided to give the operator Nor Neane a buzz to learn more about my pick-up location.
I’d never heard of the bus station they were talking about, but a cabbie knew the place and drove me there for a fare of 150 baht ($4.80).
Check-in went smoothly and quick because there were no lines. Aside from my significant other and the staff, there were no people hanging around the bus station. There was no commotion; it was strangely quiet, and the lack of travelers was a poignant reminder of this not inappropriately named Year of the Rat.
I’d arrived a quarter-hour before the scheduled departure time at 2:45 pm and wanted to stock up on last-minute snacks, but the infrastructure at this pick-up location isn’t good enough. Other than the check-in desk plus a handful of minivans as well as one restroom that both women and men use, there’s nothing.
My other half said this was because the only offered route here was Hua Hin to Bangkok, and that’d hardly attract enough peeps to make street vendors want to set up a stall.
Since I’d had to wait 25 minutes on my trip to Hua Hin until the bus was full, I assumed there was no rush now either and checked out the two restaurants nearby.
Waiting for my food and setting off
Both restaurants are a stone’s throw from the bus station. One of which is situated across the street, and Alici is located at Soi 96. You can’t miss this Italian restaurant with its gabled roofs and spiky peaks.
This time round, the bus driver was adamant about leaving on the dot and not a minute later. My better half who is Thai called me and said in a tone that betrayed her distress, “Hurry up na, he wants to go now.”
It was 3:08 pm when I climbed aboard the 22-seater, and the driver told me in a friendly but firm manner not to eat on the bus. Apparently, he didn’t want me to waft the wonderful scent of delicious and spicy Thai seafood through the coach. By the way yes, that’s snacks ?.
The conscientious guy pulled out of the station two minutes later, heading for Bangkok’s Ekkamai bus terminal, and apart from me, there were only four other travelers on the minivan.
Heading for Bangkok and enjoying the ride
All passengers except me were Thai women and everyone was wearing a mask. The seats were comfy, and the AC’s temperature was just fine; I didn’t need a hoodie. If the air conditioning had been too cold, I could’ve closed the flap above me.
There was also no need to draw the curtains because it was cloudy, and I was pleased with the legroom. This was clearly not the smallest minibus I’d ever been on.
Nor Neane’s employee collected more and more Thai people at “unofficial” bus stations along the route until 16 seats were taken. I was wondering whether they’d do that for us foreigners too, and my partner confirmed, “Yes, they would. The thing is you just don’t know where those stops are.”
Even though the bus was near-full now, it was still quiet. No music was playing on the radio, and nobody spoke a word through their face masks, including me, whose pink spit diaper was arguably the most fashionable one.
The guy with his sporty driving style passed over groove patterns, generating that unmistakable “note” similar to rumble strips, and everybody was happy watching the green landscape, banana and coconut tree plantations as well as salt springs roll past.
Looking out the window, I marveled at the sight of a white bridge.
It was lovingly adorned with Ma Khi horses of the spirit, Thai dancer sculptures and religious statues to pay respect to His Majesty Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Just as fascinating as that bridge’s design were golden temples that caught my eye too.
I was not unhappy when the driver stopped at a gas station at 4:52 pm because I had to answer a call of nature. There was no time to grab a bite though; my girlfriend beckoned me to get back on the bus at 5:05 pm.
To my surprise, the driver wanted to see everybody’s ticket again. I was glad I hadn’t thrown it away and took a seat. Then, he counted the people and left only minutes later.
Riding along mesmerizing temples and houses for the spirit of the land, I reflected on Thais’ superstition and the afterlife. Eventually, green grass where buffaloes were lying around interrupted my thinking. I spared a thought for their idle lives, waited for the next highlight along the route, and didn’t have to be particularly patient.
Just a moment later, a jewel-encrusted temple or temple-like school glittered and sparkled in all its beauty, a sight for sore eyes I gaped at.
As we approached Bangkok, the dutiful guy decided it was great to drive on a bumpy dirt road with large potholes. He certainly meant well, and since I was sitting at the back of the bus, I was having extra fun. Just a pity that his dubious efforts to overtake the cars weren’t always effective.
In a bid to distract myself, I looked at one of Thailand’s 40,000+ temples and remembered the country’s famous mantra, “mai pen rai” (it doesn’t matter).
Due to heavy traffic near Bangkok, we reached Ekkamai with a delay of 1h 15 minutes at 7:25 pm. But yeah, mai pen rai indeed!
After all, I loved the sights along the way, and the trip had done its job. Walking to the BTS Skytrain station, I smiled and thought to myself, the laughing academy can wait until COVID-20 arrives.