I’m sitting in a Bangkok taxi listening to the drone of Thai Country music and I\’m hoping the traffic starts to move shortly. At least the air conditioning is whirring along happily. Phetchabun here we come.
It’s a typically hot morning and I’m going to Thailand’s largest bus station- Mo Chit to travel to Lom Sak and the peace and quiet of Phetchabun Province about 350 kms north.
Riding Thailand\’s massive bus system
Mo Chit bus terminal is huge and I’m dropped off out front to make my way into the busy and noisy departure hall. After searching the destination boards I find the gate number for my bus and I\’m threading my way through the crowds to the departure point.
The next bus to Lom Sak departs in 20 minutes and will take about 7 hours. It’s a full day of travel but in typical Thai style there will be restrooms and food breaks.
Climbing aboard early, I’m surprised at how comfortable and modern the coach is. I’m seated on the top floor right up front so the scenery will be excellent.
We roll out on time at 10 am exactly and slowly thread our way through the traffic in Bangkok’s northern suburbs. As we clear the city, the traffic lessens and we speed north. Although there are several pickup and drop off points along the way, it’s the food stop I’m looking forward to.
There are some interesting things about the bus that strike me. The air conditioning is blasting making it really really cold and if I didn\’t have a light jacket with me I\’d be freezing. The second is that most of the passengers appear to be asleep almost immediately and the curtains are pulled making it quite dark inside.
Time for food
Our lunch break is at Chai Badan about 3 hours from our departure. The bus pulls into a huge parking area with a large food court and it’s located in the middle of nowhere. As soon as the bus stops the passengers pour out and make a beeline for either the bathrooms or the food stalls.
It’s a 30-minute stop and I’m the last to wander off in the direction of food to find something I recognise that looks appetising. Pad krapow again! Delicious. I eat it quickly and I’m soon making my way back to the bus to board for the rest of our trip. I don’t want to be left behind.
We’ re on the road again, back to the arctic climate and sleep time and as we enter the Phetchabun province we pass through the quiet town of Wichian Buri which is famous for its barbecue chicken.
Sadly, the bus doesn’t stop long enough to taste this delicacy. If you’re driving through here by car, try it. It’s seriously good.
As we get into mid-afternoon the scenery becomes more interesting with mountains appearing through the haze on the horizon. Farms becoming more frequent and the country a deeper green.
We\’re driving up the broad valley of the Pa Sak river basin with mountain ranges on both sides. The Pa Sak joins with the Chao Phraya River south in Ayutthaya which flows through Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand.
Phetchabun – it\’s a really big farm
There are some really interesting farm machines- the strange tractors chugging along the sides of the road remind me of how rural this province is.
The towns are less frequent and six hours after leaving the bustling world of Bangkok behind, we’re driving sedately along the wide road into Phetchabun city.
It’s a pleasant country town. There are several good hotels to stay in. The one I’ve enjoyed in the past is the Kosit Hill which has comfortable rooms and an excellent restaurant.
This time however I’m continuing on to Lom Sak. A brief stop and within a few minutes, we’re on the last stage with only an hour to go.
Our arrival in Lom Sak coincides with the sun setting. I’m quickly retrieving my bag and boarding a samlor.
This is one of the most interesting forms of transport I’ve ever been on. Basically, it’s the front half of a motorcycle with two rear wheels. Passengers sit on a bench seat behind the driver. Consequently it\’s not comfortable, fast or particularly safe but it\’s quicker than walking.
Welcome to the Nattirat Grand Hotel
Within a few minutes, we’re pulling into the driveway at the Nattirat Grand Hotel.
In the dusk, the hotel looks impressive with bright lights showcasing the opulent exterior. I’m paying my 20 baht to the driver and carrying my bag inside.
The foyer is a little heavy and dated but the welcoming smiles at reception brighten the room. I’m staying on the fifth floor and enter my cool air conditioned room with a sigh of relief after a long day.
The Nattirat isn’t the Ritz but Lom Sak isn’t London and although the hotel has seen better times, it’s ok for a few days stay.
A quick freshen up and I’m walking into the balmy evening and across to the night market, a few minutes away.
Food time again
Up ahead I see the bright lights and smoke from the barbeques and soon I’m strolling amongst the most delicious street food. What to choose.
Because there are very few foreigners in this part of Thailand, people pause and stare at me but they are quick to smile when I say hello. I’m used to it.
Crispy pork, barbeque chicken, sticky rice and fried bananas accompanied by a cold bottle of “Beer Chang” is my choice. I join the locals at a long table to enjoy dinner. There is music playing in the background and everyone around me is chatting and eating. There is a great atmosphere, no one is in a hurry and the food is tasty.
I’m slowly unwinding and eventually I decide to call it a day. I wander back to the Nattirat for an early night.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to going up into the mountains of Khao Kho and visit the battlefields where the Thai Armed Forces fought the Communist Insurgents.