Lotus Country Travel offers a nightmare !
Doing a web search I clicked into 'ThailandHighlight.com' and after paying an online deposit I received a confirmation email from 'Lotus Country Travel'. On Wednesday 21st Nov 2012, I set out from Chinatown for a full day trip. The tour was to 'Bridge on the River Kwai' and 'Tiger Temple'.
After picking-up people from a couple of other hotels a group of 9 (plus driver and tour-guide) finally left Bangkok city at 7.45 a.m headed to River Kwai. On the first section of the tour we had for company 2 people from France, a British lady, a Canadian lady, myself and 4 others (3 men, 1 woman). We travelled in a silver-grey minivan (Licence Plate 4043).
We had a 15 minutes stop outside Bangkok. The distance from Bangkok to River Kwai is approx.130 kms. After checking with other drivers and on the web we find that on average drivers travel at between 60 kph to 100 kph. Google Earth suggests this takes between 1h45mins to 2h15mins to reach the bridge from Bangkok.
On the Lotus Country Travel tour bus, we reached the bridge in 1 hour 10 minutes as the tour bus was going - for 80% of the time - at 100 kph to 130 kph. All this in heavy traffic and along narrow carriage ways. The driving was not only well over any speed limit but reckless. Weaving in and out of traffic, tail-gating, overtaking from left and right.......Clearly passenger comfort and safety did not matter to the driver.
It would all have been fine if not for 3 near-misses in One-Day.
At a U-turn the tour bus travelling at 120 kph suddenly braked heavily. Passengers were all thrown forward. Those asleep jumped wide awake. One lady wanted to vomit as she began to feel unwell. The Thai tour guide (a young lady) turned and explained it was the fault of the other driver. Passengers (who had not done so before) grabbed their seat-belts and buckled up. Nobody felt comfortable anymore since we were now all watching the road ahead anxiously. The Lotus Company mini-van continued to speed in heavy traffic and along narrow lanes at 120 kph.
Once at the River Kwai bridge, new groups were formed for the remaining part of the tour. We were now a group of 8 happy people mostly in age-group 20 to 30 - 2 Americans, 1 Brit, 3 Australians, Julie (from Canada) and myself (from Australia).
The Tiger Temple is 60 kms from the River Kwai bridge. Narrow roads and heavy traffic mean regular drivers take an hour or more to cross the distance. I confirmed this after talking to other drivers following our nightmare ride and checking Google Earth.
The tour bus took just 25 minutes “drive-time” from the Bridge to Tiger Temple. We had a break for lunch on a boat in-between. A man and lady driving slowly on a motorbike in front of our bus got tail-gated by our driver. The road was narrow and the motor-bike had little road-space to move to the side. This irritated our driver. Our driver proceeded to side-swipe the bike. A frightened motor bike driver lost his balance and braked sharply to avoid being pushed into the shallow ditch which ran at the side of the road. The passenger on the motor bike fell off. Our tour-guide (a Thai lady) put her head out of the window to make sure that “the bus was not damaged” whilst our driver happily sped away at 120 kph. We passengers on the tour bus watched in shock as we saw how the Lotus Company driver treated other road-users. It is not the gentle, smiling Thailand many were expecting. What should be a safe, enjoyable bus trip was turning to a nightmare. We wondered if the Lotus Company driver was on a suicide mission.
The over-speeding, tail-gating and immense lack of concern shown by the driver for the safety of passengers (and other road-users) continued on the way back to Bangkok.
By this time people on the mini-van began to softly refer to the driver as 'the driver from hell' . Some wished they had rented a private car / driver. Many never wanted to travel on a tour bus again. As a long time resident of Thailand I am lost for words.
Just as we thought there would be no more "near-misses" and no more “drama on the road” the Lotus Company mini-van braked heavily and lurched sideways. Our tour bus jumped across 2 lanes. This means that from the median lane (ie: the centre lane) it landed at the very edge of the road - all in 10 seconds.
The passengers were in shock. I asked the driver what was happening. The tour-guide explained that the driver had to "swerve sharply" quite suddenly to avoid a pot-hole which had appeared from nowhere. This meant that the mini-van jack-knifed across 2 lanes to reach the edge of the road in 10 seconds. Luckily for us passengers there was no traffic flowing in the other lanes or else the mini-van would have either:
1) hit vehicles travelling in the next lane OR
2) tipped on its side when it hit the pot hole at 120 kph.
Pot-holes are common on many Thai-roads especially in the provinces. That’s okay. For this reasons people drive at speeds of 60 kph to 100 kph......especially when carrying passengers on a relaxing day tour. None of us had paid for a High-Speed Road Race. Hence, for any driver to tell passengers that the "pot-hole" appeared from nowhere whilst speeding at 120 kph is simply not normal, not acceptable.
Three near-misses were too much even for me who live in Thailand. I told the driver and tour-guide that I will be writing to the office and expressing the views of passengers. At this the driver got upset. A few minutes later, the driver displayed his anger by turning off the air-con. After sitting for 15 minutes without an air-con, one of our fellow-passengers (Joanne, the British lady) requested the driver please switch on the air-con. We reached Bangkok at 5.30 p.m.
The drop-off to hotels
5.30 p.m. to 6.15 p.m:
The tour driver goes past Royal Palace & some other places of interest in Bangkok.
My 3 Australian friends are dropped off at their hotel.
Remaining on the bus are 5 people. We hope to be dropped off at hotels around Sathorn & Chinatown.
6.15 p.m. to 7.20 p.m.
Nobody gets dropped off. All this time, neither the tour guide nor the driver inform passengers who is going to be dropped off next or which hotel we are driving towards. We sit for over an hour patiently.
The 2 staff ie: driver & tour guide seem angry and upset after being told that I am writing to the office to express our concerns about the speeding and the total disregard for passenger safety.
Outside Pathumwan Institute of Technology the 5 passengers ask the driver to stop. We get off and ask help from a policeman who shows us the Skytrain station. We reach our various hotels using Skytrain.
All of us happy to be alive.
We are not sure if the tour company is aware of the risk to life (and to other road-users) posed by the over-speeding we witnessed firsthand.
We are not sure if the real reason is the pressure the tour company puts on drivers in designing the tour-schedule.
Customers have not signed up for a high-speed shock-and-awe adventure on the roads. Living in Thailand I can assure you that the driving style I witnessed is not normal, even for a tour company trying to squeeze a lot of trips in one-run. Having 3 near-misses (all in One Day) on the roads is also not normal for Thailand.
Friends who did the same trip by private car only last month left Bangkok at 7 a.m. Reached River Kwai at 10.30 a.m. They drove at 12 noon from River Kwai and reached the Tiger Temple at 1.15 p.m. Leaving Tiger Temple about 3 p.m. they were in Chinatown at 7 p.m. If you compare the drive-time’s and distance of this with your tour bus you will notice the big difference.Related to:
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The MRT is new to Bangkok and is still relatively cheap. I seldom used the MRT as the BTS did the job for getting from place to place but i will probably explore it sometime soon. I would sometimes get the MRT back from Chatuchak station where the weekend market is and get off at the Petchburi stop where the main Petchburi road passes.Related to:
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Air Asia is a cheap flight network which gets you to and around Thailand and Asia. If you book a week in advance for trips you are likely to get flights to most places for £15 (1000baht) and under. We got a number of flights to Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for half the price of other airlines.
Another cheap airline is Nok air but does not serve as many areas and i dont think any outside Thailand.Related to:
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Taking the Daily Standard Express Boats is the best way to get around Bangkok. Not only are they efficient but they get you away from the polluted and crowded Bangkok streets. The boats run every 20 minutes from 6:00-18:40. It is so cheap and the fare depends on the distance travelled(betwee 4 - 10 baht). The BTS station connects with the boats at Saphan Taksim, the end of the Silom line.Related to:
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Trin times, Bangkok to Nong Khai
Bangkok ► Nong Khai (for Vientiane)
Train number: 137 * 133 77 69 *
Depart Bangkok (Hualamphong)
05:50 18:30 20:00 20:45
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07:26 20:11 21:21 22:11
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Chao Phraya Tourist Boat
You can visit some of Bangkok's most charming riverside attractions by Chao Phraya Tourist Boat...It's special boat service to travel unlimited trips along the Chao Phraya River with boat guide who gives the information of piers and attraction places ...This trip'll begin at the Sathorn Pier near the Saphan Taksin Station and proceeds up the river to Phra Arthit Pier...and stopping at 10 major piers such as Visit the Grand Palace across from Chang Pier....(Ticket price ::: 100 Baht)
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A fare between two stations was 10B in April 2005.Related to:
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Don Muang International Airport is about 24km north of downtown Bangkok, using the toll expressway or the Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road...
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~~ PSC @ BKK ~~
As a non-transfer passenger above 2 years of age intending to depart the country by an airplane one has to pay a government fee for of 500 Baht or 11 US$ in cash.
The problem I have with it are the travel agencies who sell you a ticket with an air fare "including all fees and taxes" which is not true and turns out upon departure in BKK. There are even some agencies around, who rise the tax to a fictional amount to earn some extra bucks. Compare the fares and conditions. If the agency tells you that all fees and taxes are included then demand a sales contract with that term and upon reception of the ticket ask about the 500 THB. Since there aren't any possibilities for a voucher or an explicit entry on the ticket he has to refund your 11 bucks (except he's purchasing a receipt from the Airport Autority directly and get it via mail) . OK it is not much money but some people don't want to work 2 hours for nothing but an empty promise and/or some people just don't want to get cheated...
If you understand German, check my page about that topics.
Getting out of Bangkok, to where the sunshine is..
Good customer service,
or an understanding when
communicating in English
isn’t always an easy situation to find
in many of the travel agencies in Bangkok.
I was able to find a few travel agencies
that were more willing to help
and informed me of travel possibilities.
The first one I visited,
does most international and national air carriers,
along with hotels in various parts of Thailand.
The English spoken there was good.
And so was the hospitality.
Ask for Saranya Mahamad.
Tevee Travel Airtour
16/3 Soi3 Sukhumvit Rd.
Klongtoey nua, Wattana
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The Bangkok Subway - now open!
The new Bangkok subway is now open! After an official ceremony, it was opened to the public at just after 7pm on July 3rd, 2004.
The subway is just a single line to start with, running from Hua Lamphong (close to Chinatown) to Bangsue (near Chatuchak) via Ratchadaphisek road, but there are plans for the addition of additional lines in the future. It's operated by the BMCL (Bangkok Metro Public Company Ltd) and regulated by the MRTA (Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority). There is a reasonable routemap on the official MRTA site, or the BMCL has a downloadable PDF map here.
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Here's a picture of one of the Sukhumvit station entrances - taken in February 2004, when they still had some work to do on it.
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