Tag Archives: Transportation

Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express

The bus ride from Tallinn to Riga on Lux Express  was a quick four-and-a-half hour trip in a modern, air-conditioned bus. It was kitted out with power points to charge your electronics and even had free wifi, although it was spotty for me.

I was surprised at the high quality of the bus, because the fare was extremely cheap when compared to train prices. The bus driver made announcements in several languages, including English, making it easy to understand what was going on. Also, the roads were in really good condition so it was smooth riding all the way to Riga.

The only negative aspect about traveling this way was the fullness of the bus. However, who can really blame people for using this transportation to get from city to city? With these prices, it made travel between countries very easy and affordable.

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Filed under Estonia, Latvia, Transportation

Overnight Bus to Ko Pha Ngan

After Marilyn left Bangkok, I took an overnight bus south to Ko Pha Ngan. Joy at U-baan Guesthouse, suggested it for a nice, quiet beach getaway. Now, most people familiar with Thailand know that Ko Pha Ngan is famous (or infamous) for its monthly Full Moon parties. However, she assured me that outside of these wild and crazy days, the island was peacefully serene.

Taking her word, I took a taxi to the southern bus terminal called Sai Tai Taling Chan. It was a bit nerve wracking because there were so many booths selling bus tickets for transport all over Thailand. Joy suggested I stick with the government-run bus company as they were more reliable. The ticket I purchased was a two-in-one that covered an overnight bus from Bangkok to Donsak Pier and a ferry transfer from the pier to Ko Pha Ngan.

As the afternoon turned into early evening, it was time to find my bus. It was large and somewhat spacious given the nature of its purpose. There were a few backpacker couples on board, but most of the passengers were local. I found a seat and was quite surprised when the bus rolled out on time. I got another surprise when a staff member passed out amenity packs to all the passengers that included a blanket, some food and a bottle of water. I was getting better service here than on all the airplanes I’d flown on so far!

During the night, the bus made several stops along the way and a few people disembarked. But, more often than not, people boarded and the bus quickly filled up. It was difficult to get a good night’s sleep because of all the stop and go happening. Sometime around midnight, the bus driver stopped for a 30-minute break at a roadside stop. I took this opportunity to relieve myself at the facilities, which was an experience in itself. Squat toilets with buckets of water and ladles lined the wall, but at least there were partitions and doors separating them all. Still, the smell was horrendous!

We finally arrived at Donsak Pier as the sun rose the following morning. We got there a bit early and had to wait for the ferry to arrive. The bus driver told us to board the ferry while he drove the bus on it. I was really uneasy with this as I’d heard so many stories about bags going missing. However, what else could I do?

In the end, everything went well. Most passengers on the ferry dozed on deck as the ride was slow and uneventful. There are several companies that run fast boats between the mainland and the islands, but the joint bus and boat ticket uses Seatran Discovery. These are larger boats and take a longer time to get across the Gulf of Thailand.

Despite being nervous about traveling alone on my first overnight bus, this little adventure turned out to be just fine. Nothing along the way triggered my “uh-oh” sensors, and I think all the bad stories you hear about this route may be exaggerated. The 12-hour journey wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but it wasn’t totally bad. It’s definitely worth it as the Thai islands are absolutely amazing.

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Filed under Thailand, Transportation

Ancient City of Ayutthaya

Marilyn and I were keen to visit Ayutthaya, an ancient city located north of Bangkok. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya gives visitors a peek at the historical remnants of one of the most influential cities in the region.

We began our journey by taking the BTS to Victory Monument in Bangkok. Then, we hopped into a minivan that took us directly to Ayutthaya. Along the way, it stopped to let people off or drop off goods, however, this didn’t take very long. Despite this, it still took us more than two hours to arrive at the ancient city.

When we arrived, I’m pretty sure we fell for one of these scams that locals pull everywhere in Thailand. According to several websites, the minivan will stop outside of the city and insist that foreign passengers get out. Then, tuk tuk drivers approach you and offer you rides to the city.

Even though we knew this, we felt pressured to get off with everyone else. The driver insisted that this was the city, but it didn’t look like anywhere near the center of town. Marilyn and I found a map and decided to walk into the city. The tuk tuk drivers continued to hound us about a ride, but we vehemently declined.

As we walked toward the middle of town, tuk tuk drivers circled us like vultures. Some followed along beside us trying to get us to get into their vehicle. This was seriously off-putting to me, especially after coming from Bali where this happened often. Marilyn, who is originally from India, took this all in stride. She told me that it was just like being at home again.

We walked for an hour and finally came to a small shop that rented out mopeds. I wasn’t about to drive one of those on my own because I’d never been on one before. Luckily, Marilyn was fully indoctrinated and was comfortable packing me on the back. We paid for the scooter rental and off we went to discover Ayutthaya.

To be honest, I probably lost a few years of my life being on the back of that moped. Marilyn was a good driver and there wasn’t too much traffic in Ayutthaya, but there’s just something very vulnerable about being on the back and letting all control fall into the hands of someone else. Perhaps it was a good lesson for me since I’m definitely a control freak in normal situations?

We visited several of the major sites within the ancient city including many interesting ruins and temples. Some of the sites were free, but most charged an entry fee. The temples we visited were open and active in Buddhist practices. We saw monks in their saffron-colored robes making offerings to their gods. Many visitors also participated in worship of some kind.

As the sun began to set, we quickly zipped back and returned the moped. Then we had to hurry and find a minivan back to Bangkok. People told us the last bus back left at 6 p.m., and we definitely didn’t want to miss it. After searching for a long time (with tuk tuk drivers still hovering around us), we finally found a minivan back to the city.

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Filed under Attraction, Culture, Thailand