Getting to Koh Phangan from Bangkok, thru Surat Thani

posted by Russ, August 24 in thailand, travel with tags , , , ,


Entry #3 from Thailand Trip (see entries #1, #2, #4, #5 and #6)

Hualamphong Train Station, Bangkok

Hualamphong Train Station, Bangkok

We just barely made it to the train station in Bangkok for our overnight train to Surat Thani, but we were now finally aboard the train, ready to head south to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. We settled into our first class cabin, and as we pulled away from the station, we enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of the train after fighting with Bangkok traffic only hours earlier. The peace didn’t last long though, as there was a rowdy British group in the cabin next door, though this much was expected considering most of the passengers on the train were likely heading to the islands for the upcoming New Year’s celebrations.

There are a plenty of options for a trip like this, as there is quite a regular schedule of trains and buses that head to Surat Thani, the gateway to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Most trains offer 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class tickets, both with and without AC, but there are only two overnight trains, and I believe only one of those offers 1st class. Wanting to maximize our time in Bangkok and also to save a night of hotel cost, we opted for the overnight train with the 1st class cabin accomodations. If you opt for the same, I recommend booking ahead if you are travelling during a peak time like we were. During summer you can probably buy tickets at the station on the day of departure, but for a peak travel time like Christmas or New Year’s I’d recommend securing your tickets ahead of time. You can email the train station direct as I had tried to do, but based on my experience and other forums online, you won’t get a response. That leaves the options for booking ahead very small, so I turned to a travel agency. I was wary at first, but Traveller2000 seemed to have a good reputation online, which I can also now vouch for. The surcharge was minimal (a few dollars), and the tickets were delivered as expected to my hotel in Bangkok. This left our only task for departure night to get to the station on time, which we just barely did.

(By the way, probably one of the best resources online for help in planning a trip like this is Seat 61 and their Thailand page Also, this page discusses the trains and how to buy tickets.)

But now all that was settled, and we were slowly chugging out of the city, and as the lights faded we tried to get settled in to the cabin. A first class Thai cabin includs a sink (which makes washing simple), air conditioning, and a couch which somehow folds up and turns into two beds. To go to the bathroom however, you need to head to the squat toilet at the end of the train car. On this particular train there was no snack car, which meant the only options for food and drink were to either eat what we packed or buy the meals offered by the staff (and randoms) who walk through the car offering service. I first assumed this was unnecessary and went out seeking the snack cart, but realized the people walking through the cars were the only options. From time to time the calls of “Juice Juice” or “Beer!” were heard from the hall as men and women came through offering orange juice and buckets of beer. It seemed the only food option was when the steward came around during the first 30 minutes to get us settled in the cabin. So if you don’t buy anything at that time, you will go without.

Around 6AM I was awake and packed up and ready to hop off, knowing it was close to the expected arrival time in Suratthani. They do announce such things, but I can never understand what they say, even in the States, and so I just prepare myself around the scheduled time and am ready to jump off if it’s the correct station. As it turned out on this day though, we were several hours delayed, a fact which I didn’t actually figure out until it was too late to go back to sleep.

Getting on the boat bound for Koh Phangan

Getting on the boat bound for Koh Phangan

Prior to leaving, I had read up on the options in Surat Thani, and was well informed that the train station was a fair distance from any of the ports that ran ferries to the islands, so I knew we had to take a bus to one of them. My goal was to find the local bus, to avoid all the tourist riff raff, but that proved virtually impossible. We walked up and down the dusty street trying to find some office that wasn’t a private agency, and were followed the entire time by the local touts trying to sell us on their buses. They were not overly aggressive, but in general they were doing their best to tell me they were valid ticket sellers and they were my only option to get to the ferry port. Not wanting to waste the entire morning trying to save a few dollars and keep my pride in tact, and after seeing most of the buses fill up and leave with the rest of the train passengers, it seemed this was about the only option. The price wasn’t actually too bad, so we just got our tickets and hopped on. We didn’t know which of the ferry ports we were heading too (there is Raja, Songserm, and maybe one other), but at least we were moving again.

It turned out that we got delivered to the Raja ferry port, and also that the tickets we bought in Surat Thani were for both the bus and the ferry, so that was easy. At this point it was just a wait until ferry departure to Koh Phangan. We had some lunch in the terminal, hung around for a bit, and then finally got the call that the boat was ready. The ride was uneventful, but of course being that this was our first time in the Gulf of Thailand, we enjoyed taking in the beautiful scenery. If I recall it was a couple hour ride, and then we at last arrived at Koh Phangan in the late afternoon. Because of the holiday, we had a hotel all lined up for four nights at Haad Tian Beach Resort, so they provided free pick up at the terminal. I was happy to have the ride arranged, because after nearly 24 hours in transit, and rides on a train, bus, and boat, neither of us were in the mood to seek out a taxi or deal with the throngs of people and madness that occur when a large ferry arrives at a small island several days before New Year’s Eve.

Coming next, getting acquainted with Koh Phangan and our first New Year’s Eve Full Moon party celebration.

See all photos…

First class cabin, from Bangkok to Surat Thani
View of homes near train tracks
Gulf of Thailand

See all photos…

Originally posted on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 at 7:24 AM .

4 Responses to “Getting to Koh Phangan from Bangkok, thru Surat Thani”

  1. […] #5 from Thailand Trip (see entries #1, #2, #3, #4 and […]

  2. […] #2 from Thailand Trip (see entries #1, #3, #4, #5 and […]

  3. […] #1 from Thailand trip (see entries #2,#3, #4, #5 and […]

What do you think? Add your two cents below!


Subscribe to comments