Getting from A to B in Thailand couldn’t be easier. No wait, it can! To our delight, we found plenty of transport companies running the route from Bangkok to Koh Phangan via bus and ferry online. Bus and ferry are a great way to travel, as not only is it cheaper than flying, but it’s also a great way to see more of the country. We set the date, amount of people, and boom! The Bookaway screen was minimalist and simple to comprehend. A short list of 4-5 different companies with competitive prices and varying departure times and durations appeared. It also illustrates the available amenities such as toilets, A/C, reclining seats, and/or Wi-Fi. However, the prices are quoted in USD with no option to change into your local currency.
Now, the experience of booking our transport wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When we first surveyed the available transport option days in advance, we found the perfect package of bus + ferry, during the daytime. Regretfully, we didn’t book it then and there, and when it came around to booking it, that package was unavailable. So, we opted for an overnight bus, leaving Bangkok at 9 pm with an estimated arrival to Koh Phangan at 10:45 am the next day. This turned out great anyway, as traveling during the night, only meant we saved cash on a night’s stay at a hotel.
Getting to the station to leave Bangkok
The booking screen shows the location in which the bus leaves from, as well as in your booking confirmation email; so, make sure you choose a bus that’s relatively near your hotel. We headed down to the Lomprayah ticket office, located at 154 Khwaeng Talat Yot, with plenty of time to spare as we left the office to board the bus 15 minutes before it was scheduled to leave.
Getting to know fellow commuters on the bus
The bus was a double-decker. It had a toilet and reclining seats. We brushed through the crowds of young backpackers loading their bags onboard to get to our seats. It wasn’t long before we made some friends by asking the lads next to us “where are you from?” (our go-to icebreaker). Turns out, we were all from the same great city of Manchester. No matter how far we travel, we can never get away from other Mancunians!
The chats didn’t last long. By 11pm, everyone had reclined their seats and dozed off, due to the lack of scenery. Thankfully, the lights were turned off and the roads were smooth. Our only complaint was the poor amount of legroom once the seats in front had been reclined.
At 2am, we made a 30-minute pitstop at a huge restaurant and convenience store complex, alongside other coaches driving through the night. Expect to pay above the average for food and drink so decide for yourself if you want to buy snacks and drinks beforehand.
Arriving at Chumphon ferry port in the dead of night
The bright neon beam of the bus lights woke most people up. If it wasn’t the lights, it was the conductor shouting in Thai, followed by English once everyone was awake. It was 5am and we had arrived at the ferry port. It was still dark. We got out of the bus to find our bags already unloaded onto the ground.
The following message made us feel wearier. “The ferry will depart at 7am.” 2 hours we waited on a bench, watching the sun crack through the black clouds. We would have much preferred to have left Bangkok 2 hours later to avoid this pointless wait. Thankfully, there were toilets at the ferry port and a restaurant to grab a bite to eat.
Land and sea – from bus to boat
Bang on time, we were ferried onto the ferry. Most tourists chose to sit on the top deck, whereas we stayed below where it was quiet. The seats were leather and fixed in an up-right position making them rather uncomfortable to relax and enjoy the scenery of the sea. The journey took us first to Koh Tao to drop 80% of the occupants and to pick up onward travelers. By the time we reached Koh Phangan, we had been on board for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. This we know because we watched an impromptu movie on the laptop, which ended just in time to disembark.
Touchdown on sand
We were eagerly welcomed by taxi drivers touting for a fare. We paid 100 each for a motorbike taxi to just outside Haad Rin (Baan Kai). In hindsight, if we had walked to the road, we probably could have taken a shared taxi (Songthaew) for much cheaper.
Everything considered, the journey from Bangkok to Koh Phangan was a walk in the park, for Southeast Asia standards. Thailand has a humongous tourism industry, so I don’t doubt the service will improve year upon year. Traveling overnight has its benefits and drawbacks. You should do it at least once, and decide for yourself.