April 9-10, 2016
Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Chiang Mai
Location: Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Ask any seasoned traveler and they'll tell you the most aggravating time when traveling is moving from city to city (packing and re-packing, long waits in bus stops, lugging heavy baggage, etc.). This difficulty is nothing compared to crossing international borders. You always have to be vigilant against scammers who see you as a lunch meal, not to mention delays and lugging heavy packs with you. And if you cross the border at night, good luck. I had a series of mishaps on this particular passage.
With my Cambodia visa expiring, I had to leave Cambodia and head for Thailand again (I came from Thailand before coming to Cambodia). From Siem Reap, I was off for Chiang Mai - a daunting 2-day trip. I thought I had myself covered enough - bought the bus ticket, researched on bus and train schedules, booked a room in Chiang Mai, even had a Plan B, etc. I felt confident, I even scheduled a lunch meet up in Rongklaur (Thailand border town) with my Thai friend, Kansuda. But life offers no guarantees despite prudent measures.
Well Laid Plans
From my research, I decided to take a bus from Siem Reap to Poipet ($6, 3 hours), cross the border on foot, meet Kansuda on the Thai side in Rongklaur and take the casino bus that would drop me off in Mo Chit in Bangkok ($200 Baht, 7 hours), where I board the #51 non-aircon sleeping train for Chiang Mai (Baht 271, 14 hours). In the remote chance I miss my train, I could stay at Adventure Hostel where I could use my room credit - this was my Plan B. I would wake up in Chiang Mai the following day - this saves me the cost of one night lodging. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai train station, I would then walk to the main road and hail a cab for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to my hotel which I booked online. Voila! I would be set for Chiang Mai. At least that was the laid-out plan.
The bus from Siem Reap to Poipet (Cambodian border town from Thailand) stopped at numerous hotels picking up passengers. This delayed my time schedule by an hour. At the border, there was a very long line at the Thai Immigration. This ate up 2 hours! By the time I crossed the border to meet Kansuda, it was already 2pm - I was 2 hours late and she wasn't there anymore. The whole time from Siem Reap, I met a Korean lady, Yoon, who was also heading to Mo Chit. We decided to travel together. We took the 2:15pm bus from Rongklaur to Mo Chit (B203, 7 hours). It stopped on all towns. By the time we got to Mo Chit, it was already 9pm! It was the longest Siem Reap - Bangkok ride I ever had!
Yoon and I separated at Mo Chit. I thought the bus would stop at the Mo Chit BTS train Station but that was not the case. Apparently, I still had to take another bus to get there. That curve ball took me for a panicked spin. I took the bus, then the MRT train for Bang Sue to get to the train station for Chiang Mai. Great! Or so I thought.
Fully Booked Train
The train ticketing office told me that the train was full because of the Songkram holidays. I could still ride the train but I would have to stand up the entire 14 hours all the way to Chiang Mai! No way. It was already 10pm, I had been on the road for 14 hours. I was tired and exhausted, and the last thing I wanted was to stand up another 14 hours on a train.
Getting the Luxury Train
Instead, I pre-purchased the train ticket for the following day, lest it be full again. But it was a luxury train (#7 Train) that was more expensive - B 638 (compared to the B 271 for the #51 train). At least I still had my Plan B - go to Adventure Hostel and sleep there using my hotel credit.
Fully Booked Hostel
As Murphy's Law would have it, hostel reception was closed - it closes at 10pm, and it was nearly midnight. Where do I sleep for the night? I had no internet and I didn't know any hotel in the area! As I was fumbling, the hostel receptionist, Zelong, miraculously showed up outside the hostel! Somehow, she had to do some odd shopping and had to come back to the hostel. Yeay...the day is saved! Not really. They were full, again, because of the holidays. Where do I sleep?
Zelong, my Good Samaritan
This is where Zelong went the extra mile for me. She called up a few hotels in the area until she found one - B 400 for a dorm bed at A Hostel! It was too pricey for me, but I was already desperate. I was only too glad there was a place I could rest my weary body for the night. Without Zelong's help, I would be clueless where I could have ended up that night. Not to leave things to chance, Zelong even walked me to A Hostel - close to a kilometer in the dead of night! Thank you Zelong! You are a life-saver! This will be my shameless plug - at Adventure Hostel, the staff go the distance for you!
A Hostel was modern with a chic-industrial flavor to it. The dorm bed was practically a private room with compartment for a full bed (not a bunk bed). Lodging included coffee/tea and water. They had an open roof deck for guests - dining, chilling, view, etc.
Chiang Mai Finally
Early the following day, I took the #7 train for Chiang Mai. The trip was supposed to take 10.5 hours, but it stopped for a long time on a few stations creating a 2 hour delay. It was already 9:30pm by the time we reached Chiang Mai. The transport option to reach my hotel was the red taxi at B100. I haggled to bring the price down to B50, on condition that I never tell the other passengers about it.
I reached my hotel at long last. I thought all the worries and problems were way behind me. I could now relax and take it easy. NOT! I realized I left my passport at A Hostel in Bangkok! I wanted to flush myself in the toilet. I was frantic and messaged the owner of Adventure Hostel, who has since become a friend. His next message was, "I have already secured your passport. It's with me now. Where do you want me to mail it to?". Yes, there is a God! And his name is Chainiwat!
This entire episode is classic Murphy's Law. What could possibly go wrong, did go wrong. It was odd. In Siem Reap, the abundance was outpouring. En route to Chiang Mai, it was the exact opposite. Was my benevolent universe giving me a message not to push through? Well, too late. I'm already here.
I would have gone crazy if not for the selfless assistance of Zelong and Chainiwat, both from Adventure Hostel. I cannot thank them enough for going the distance for me. If you ever visit Bangkok, you'll be in good hands if you stay at Adventure Hostel.
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Reader Comments:Adventure Hostel Bangkok
(Apr 18, 2016) Really appreciate it, Gigit - the blogger from thelonerider.com, for your mention about our staff in your blog. Hope to have a chance to welcome you at our hostel next time.
(Apr 3, 2016) Happy Songkran:)
(Apr 3, 2016) sounds good! and familiar. always very funny afterwards
(Apr 3, 2016) What an adventure!
(Apr 3, 2016) Let me know what you end up doing in Chang Mai. We'll be visiting during out Thailand trip in September. smile emoticon
(Apr 3, 2016) Careful wth ur cash wen u hop on the night bus going to bkk... they're sooo good at it..
Next stop: Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai International Airport
Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily
Arun Dara Villa - 7 exclusive rooms, 1 swimming pool for every room, grand opening
Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big rooms, high ceiling, salt-water pool, restaurant, cafe
Nawa Saraan Hotel - low density (4 spacious rooms), stone garden setting, Koi fish pond, Old City location
La Pizza Chiang Mai - Italian pizza, pasta, wine, dessert, coffee
Natural Bird Nest by Burapa - authentic bird's nest soup
ITM - International Training Massage School - Chiang Mai's most prestigious massage school
Float Chiang Mai - sensory deprivation float pod
Zira Spa - upscale authentic Thai massage and spa treatment
Tawan Bike - motorcycle rental | +66 91 635 2863 | Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Top Thailand Adventure Tour - bicycle rental
Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
- crop-burning season in Chiang Mai is between late Feb to early April. But laws change everytime. This year, 2019, there is a 61-day ban on burning so the farmers started burning early. When my plane was approaching Chiang Mai on Jan 24, 2019, there was already a thick blanket of smog covering the entire city (and beyond). But within the city itself, you won't feel it (but that doesn't mean the air is healthy). To monitor air conditions in real time, refer to site: Chiang Mai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
- hot season begins March and lasts until June
- wet season begins July and lasts until September
- best time to visit Chiang Mai is mid-September to mid-February
- visit Chiang Mai between October and April - best time, without the monsoon rains
- you have to try Khao Soi, this is north Thailand's culinary staple
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
- to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
- get a red cab (songthao) outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
- shared red taxi (songthao) - B30 standard fare plying all over Old City
- for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
- FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
- North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session, Blues on Sundays by the 11pm band
- Road House - in front of Porn Ping Hotel
- Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar
Chiang Mai Cost Index
- B60 Chiang beer
- B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
- B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
- B50 noodle soup with meat
- B50 coffee
- B40 pad thai
- B30/kilo wash-only laundry
- B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
- B100-150 dorm bed/night
- B250 fan room/night
- B30 internet cafe/hour
- B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
- B130-150 Movies weekdays
- B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
- B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
- B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
- B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
- B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)
- B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
- B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
- B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
- B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
- B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
- B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B638 #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- B50 red taxi fare from point to point
- B100 red taxi fare from train terminal to city
- B2000 full day elephant sanctuary
- B750 Chiang Rai one-day tour
- B1500 mountain biking scenic ride
How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by Train from Bang Sue Train Station
For more train info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains - departing from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)
(I'm using Bang Sue as a starting point because I was closer to it, but you may be closer to the Hua Lamphong station)
- take the MRT train to Bang Sue Station. Take the #1 Exit to the north provincial trains
- Proceed to Counter 2. You will see an information booth, a train schedule chart and the ticket counter. Choose the train and pay at the ticket counter.
- daily train schedule:
- 8:48am - #7 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:30pm, not sleeper, B638
- 2:06pm - #109 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 4:05am, sleeper
- 6:31pm - #9 Premium Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:15am, sleeper, B938 upper deck, B1038 lower deck
- 7:56pm - #13 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 8:40am, sleeper, B768 upper deck, B838 lower deck
- 10:22pm - #51 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 12:10pm, sleeper, 3rd class B270 (non sleeper), 2nd class B438, B728 upper deck, B798 lower deck
Chiangmai Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Bruschetta: Nawa Saraan Style Apr 22, 2019
- Thai Cooking at Pra Nang Thai Cookery School Apr 20, 2019
- Movie Review: Hellboy (2019) Apr 15, 2019
- Bonding with the Elephants in Chiang Mai Apr 11, 2019
- Ziplining in Chiang Mai with Eagle Track Zipline Apr 10, 2019
- Movie Review: Shazam! (2019) Apr 4, 2019
- Movie Review: Captive State (2019) Mar 27, 2019
- Getting Thai Massage from Chiang Mai's Best (Lar Thanakrit Khamtanong) Mar 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Captain Marvel (2019) Mar 19, 2019
- Being the Soul of Nawa Saraan Hotel Mar 18, 2019
- Peoplescape of Chiang Mai Jan 24 - Mar 13, 2019
- Movie Review: Vox Lux (2018) Mar 2, 2019
- Movie Review: The Favourite (2018) Feb 25, 2019
- Curing Cancer with Yoga? Feb 21, 2019
- Movie Review: Alita Battle Angel Feb 19, 2019
- International Training Massage School (ITM): Level 1 Feb 11-15, 2019
- Movie Review: Spider-Man - Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Feb 3, 2018
- Movie Review: Green Book Jan 30, 2019
- Meditation in a Sensory Deprivation Tank at Float Chiang Mai Jan 29, 2019
- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Jan 27, 2019
- Movie Review: Aquaman Jan 26, 2019
- Reiki Share at the Mastermind Brain Spa Jan 26, 2019
- Resuming Life in Chiang Mai Jan 24, 2019
- 4 Days in Chiang Mai at Nawa Saraan Hotel Jan 2-6, 2019
- Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
- An Intimate Conversation with my Universe in Chiang Mai Aug 8, 2018
- Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
- Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
- Yoga Exploration at The Yoga Tree with Gernot Aug 1, 2018
- Yoga In The Park - Chiang Mai July 31, 2018
- Yoga with Adam at Hidden House Yoga, Chiang Mai July 29, 2018
- 2 Weeks in Chiang Mai July 25 - Aug 7, 2018
- A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
- Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
- Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
- Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Chiang Mai April 9-10, 2016
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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