Bangkok is a big metropolis located roughly at the center of a very populated country. Thus it features an extensive network of buses connecting it with every corner of the kingdom. To avoid congesting its avenues even more, the buses use three terminals: Mo Chit serves northern and northeastern destinations, Ekamai serves the east and some northeastern destinations and Sai Tai serves the south and west. This last category includes popular destinations for travelers in the kingdom, including Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Damnoen Saduak, Hua Hin, Phuket, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Ranong, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Hat Yai, and others.
A New Terminal
In December 2007, a new Southern Bus Terminal was inaugurated in Bangkok. Located in the Taling Chan area of Bangkok, it is quite far from downtown Bangkok and the other bus and railway terminals.
The step could be understood: the older terminal was rather small and very close to the Grand Palace area (across the river from it, on the western side of the Pinklao Bridge).
One Little Detail
The new terminal follow the typical Thai design of such structures; it reminds very much of Mo Chit, though it is smaller. The air-conditioned top level features the ticket selling windows, fast-food restaurants, and various shops. The selling windows are organized per destinations and include an English description; electronic screens announce the departure times. At the ground level are the bus bays.
A really wonderful terminal, it provides everything a traveler expects, except for one little detail: a good location. Reaching it is difficult, especially during rush hours.
Reaching the Terminal
The new terminal can be reached with bus 4 from the Victory Monument, this bus resembles very much the classy shuttles operating from the airport and is very spacious and comfortable. However, the trip to the terminal costs a staggering thirty baht as compared to the regular seven baht fare; to that, the transport to the Victory Monument should be added. The Skytrain has a station at the Victory Monument. A cheaper option from there is the rather infrequent air-con bus 515.
Taxis will reach the terminal from anywhere in town, but they aren’t faster than the buses. During the rush hours it is worth remembering the taxis fares is based on the distance and time traveled, thus such a trip can get quite expensive. Moreover, being taken to the old terminal by a distracted taxi driver is a possibility. If the terminal looks old, crowded and is just next to an elevated highway, then it is the wrong one. The new one is very spacious and somewhat similar to the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal.
Travelers roaming Thailand may find themselves attempting to move from Mo Chit to Sai Tai – for example while traveling from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui. The best option in such a case is to take a taxi or the Skytrain from Mo Chit (note that the Mo Chit Skytrain Station is far from the Mo Chit Bus Terminal) to the Victory Monument and bus number 4 for the rest of the way.
No, Thank You
All this is extremely cumbersome. Another popular option with travelers are the private buses leaving from Khaosan Road. However, those are of significantly lower quality than the Thai public buses and several scams are known to take place in them.
Luckily, other options exist.
The old terminal – Sai Tai Mai ("mai" means "new" – the terminal moved several times) – still serves as a parking place for buses. In one occasion I spent the day in Bangkok Noi before traveling to Hua Hin. Instead of reaching the new terminal, I approached the old one. There I found a bus passing through Hua Hin and in its way to the new terminal. The driver didn’t look surprised at my boarding and I was able to pay for the ticket at the bus. It worked, but there are no guarantees for this approach.
Another option combines trains and buses. A train can be used for reaching nearby Hua Hin, and from there buses to the desired southern destination. If using this option, be ready to divide the trip in various segments: instead of expecting to find a direct bus connecting Hua Hin with Hat Yai, take one to Surat Thani and continue from there with a direct bus to the final destination.
However, trains have strict timetables and the traveler may be in a rush. In such a case, from the Victory Monument – the same departure location for the bus terminal – are minibuses to Nakhon Pathom. From this town it is possible to advance south- and westwards using local buses. Other similar options exist.