Northern Thailand to The Mentawais: Travel Guide

Northern Thailand to The Mentawais: Travel Guide
September 1, 2014 Toni

From the Mountains to the Waves….

River crossing

In need of an epic adventure? Here are some tips and travel advice on how to get from Northern Thailand to Indonesia. Including visa info, accommodation recommendations, transportation and how to cross the borders…

Grab your backpack, and have an amazing journey!

~life is to short to be living in one place~

Chiang Mai

Where to sleep??? Giant Backpacker – 120B per double room with fan. Situated in the center of the old city, close to beautiful temples and picturesque parks. Walking distance to the Sunday market.

Click here for a guide to the Markets in Chiang Mai ~ a must see!

Chiang Mai must do: Lady Boy Cabaret at the Anchan Market (Night Bazaar), Sunday Night Market, and a hike up Doi Suthep :)

Chiang Mai to Bangkok: Overnight bus! I would suggest getting the 8 or 9 pm bus, as you will then get a good night sleep. This is a great way to save money on accomodation, and a cheap way to travel. Nakhonchai Air Bus: 648B one way per person for a VIP ticket, including dinner and a snack! Buy your ticket online or at the ticket office at the Bus Terminal, (Directions to the bus terminal)  and hop onto a red truck – the trip to the station shouldn’t cost more than 120B a person.


Arrive in Bangkok at approximately 5.30am, at the Mochit bus terminal, which is the northern bus station in Bangkok. The only way, it seemed to get anywhere from the bus terminal is by taxi. A word of advice: make sure the taxi is metered, and make sure he doesn’t take the high way! You will be charged the toll road fees if he goes this way. At 5.30am, there is not much traffic, so getting anywhere will not take very long.

Where to sleep, have a quick shower and start your day’s activities??? Here are my recommended options:

– As a backpacker: Take a taxi from the bus terminal to Phra Athit Ferry [it should cost around 230-250B for the taxi]. At the ferry, get out of the taxi and walk about 100m. On your left there will be a 7/11 store on the corner of a small Soi called Chana Songkhram Alley. Go down that road and you will see New Siam Guest House on your left hand side. There are many places to stay in this area, however, New Siam has great rooms – 600B per aircon double en suite room; 350B per double fan room.  They are situated out of the noisy street, but still great location, with tasty food stalls and coffee shops a short distance away.

– As a flashpacker: Take a taxi from the bus terminal directly to New Siam Riverside. New Siam Riverside is part of the New Siam group, but is targeted at those who would like more comfort and luxury. The prices range from 1500-4000B depending on the time of year, and whether you’d like a balcony or not.

What to do in Bangkok?!  Top 10 things to do in Bangkok!


Heading south: had enough of the city lights, exhaust fumes, and crazy amounts of people?! You need the beach… Head down to Koh Lanta via Krabi.

Book your bus trip on 12GO.Asia   from Bangkok to Krabi. Expect to find great deals including a meal as well as aircon! Be sure to take a warm top with, as well as socks – the aircon can be a lot more harsh than you think… I’d suggest the night bus, to save on a night’s accommodation as well as snacks. If you take the 7.40pm bus, you’ll arrive around 6.30am in Krabi (approx. 11 hour trip).

Koh Lanta

My suggestion is to head straight to Koh Lanta… Get to the island vibes as soon as possible. A place to relax and forget about work stress!

At the Krabi bus station, there are many mini bus taxi’s leaving every hour, starting from around 9am. They charge 300B per person to get to Koh Lanta, which includes the ferry ride, and they drop you at the place where you are staying! We went out of season, so didn’t need to book accommodation in advance. However, if you decide booking in advance is the right thing to do, do it via Apple Travel. Apple Travel was such a great help. They gave us maps and advice on what to do and where to go whilst in Koh Lanta, as well as helping us with our trip to Malaysia. They have an office in the main road of Koh Lanta.

Where to stay?? Ozone bungalow was so great! It cost us 300B per bungalow with a fan. The bungalows are on the beach, about 50m from the water’s edge. Absolute paradise. Rent a motorcycle for 150B per day and explore the island. Visit local artists, eat amazing Southern Thai food, snorkel in the exquisite blue sea or simply relax on the beach with a pampering traditional Thai massage. Need to relax? Koh Lanta is the place. One place to make a mission to is a place called Caoutchu (which means ‘rubber’ in French) situated on the edge of the island. If you’re needing to cool down during the hot Thai days, head to this spot. Its a challenge to find, but so rewarding once you’re there.

If you’re needing a Western meal, or a night out to watch the rugby on the big screen, head to the Irish Embassy. This pub has great beers, home cooked meals and a vibe like no other. The most popular bar on the Koh Lanta strip, is known by every local and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor.

Crossing the Southern Border of Thailand.

The South has some sort of pungency to it. No one wants to go there, and no one wants to give advice about it. I for one enjoy the South. I have had some of my greatest times in Hat Yai, Thailand. The food is amazing, the people are friendly, and there are not many foreigners…

Every guide book advises tourists not to cross the southern border into Malaysia. Nevertheless, this is what we did. We got a mini-bus taxi, organised by Apple Travel in Koh Lanta, and travelled from Koh Lanta to George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The entire trip cost us 1010B. 1000B for the mini-bus trip and 10B for the Visa on Arrival into Malaysia. The mini-bus collected us from Ozone, and took us to Hat Yai where we changed busses and headed off, across the border to Penang. Penang is an island just off main land Malaysia, connected by an incredible bridge. Bonus: the mini-bus took us directly to our hotel!

George Town, Penang

Where to stay??? D Mo Inn :)  Your host Lee is a great help. Anything you want to do or anywhere you want to go, Lee is your go-to-girl for help and information. We found a great deal on to stay here at D Mo Inn, for as little as 490B per en-suite aircon room. D Mo Inn is located on the busy Lebuh Chulia St, where all the tourists, foreigners and locals convene for evening festivities. D Mo Inn is within walking distance of Love Lane, Little India (amazing food and aromas) the famous street art of George Town as well as the free bus route which runs through Penang.

George Town is classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. If Science, Culture or Education is your thing, I wouldn’t miss out on a visit to this gem of a town.

The main reason for our visit to Penang was to apply for our 60 day Indonesian Tourist Visa. We had heard that the staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Penang were a lot friendlier than the staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The process was so quick and easy, we were out of there so fast, we had so much time to go sightseeing! Click here for a guide to the Indonesian Embassy in Penang, what you need for the application, and how to get there! Remember, you need RETURN FLIGHTS in and out of Indonesia in order to apply for the visa.

Kuala Lumpur

Getting to KL from Penang… its not as close as you may think… although it is definitely affordable!

We took the ferry across from Penang to Butterworth (mainland Malaysia). The ferry is free to get to mainland, but getting to Penang you have to pay MYR 1.20. The ferry goes straight to the Butterworth train station, where we then boarded the train from Butterworth to KL. This was a cost of MYR 42 per person. Your ticket includes your luggage as well as a proper bed! The trip is about 7 hours long, so there is enough time for a good night’s sleep. Bonus about the night train: you don’t need to pay for a night’s accommodation!

Staying in KL: if you’re wanting a vibey, loud and interesting place to stay, I would recommend staying in China Town. We stayed at a place called Ranting Guest House (not many good reviews on Trip Advisor, but it really wasnt that bad, if you’re up to roughing it a bit or you’re on a tight budget, it’s the place to go – UNLESS you have a bigger budget, I then suggest going somewhere else), conveniently located amongst all the stalls in the famous market of China Town, which are open between 11am and midnight. It costs MYR 48 per room with aircon. Malaysian food is delish! Dont forget to get a taste of the roasted chestnuts sold on the side of the street, or a local clay pot meal, it comes highly recommended. The Central Market is within walking distance, as well as the bus stop to the free bus service! One great thing to do whilst in KL is to go and see the Batu Caves. It is even nice to get a glimpse of the Petronis Twin Towers (even though they are a terrible company, doing horrible things to our planet). To get a view of those towers is definitely something incredible to see.

Nightlife, Bars, Parties and busy food streets: Bukit Bintang. To get to Bukit Bintang from China Town, take the GOKL Purple Line. This is a free bus service and runs from 6am until 11pm! Transport in KL is extremely convenient, and they definitely cater for the people.

Needing to go to an embassy in KL? The Thai, French, Netherlands, Saudi, Myanmar and Spanish Embassies are located on Jalan Ampang. Take the Free GOKL Purple Line from China Town to Bukit Bintang, get off there and take the Free GOKL Green Line to Jalan Ampang. If you have a bit of time (or just leave early) I would recommend this way of travelling if you’re on a budget. Paying for busses and taxi’s can be an expense you forget budget for…

If you’re wanting accommodation closer to the train station in order to get to the airport nice and early the next day, I would recommend staying at PODs The Backpackers Home. Here it cost us MYR 80 per double room, including a light breakfast. We were leaving very early the next morning (4.30am) to get to the airport on time, and their night staff made sure we had coffee and a snack before we left. They are great hosts, and love to give you a good service.

We took the KL express train to the airport for MYR 70 per person (most expensive form of travel besides the flights), but it’s totally worth it. Reliable, fast and efficient.

Padang (the port of the Mentawai)

Flying to Padang can be quite cheap. We managed to get return flights from KL through AirAsia for 1000B. If you are wanting to get a visa on arrival instead of a visa prior to arrival (this will give you 15 or 30 days, depending on where you are from) check out the Indonesian Immigration Website to find out whether you qualify.

We flew to Padang, and had a ‘backpacker – airport’ transfer organised with New House, the backpacker accommodation we stayed at. New House or Bridget House (both owned by Bridget and Bruno, a great French/Indo combination) are the places to stay when going to Padang, and further onto the Mentawai. It is extremely reasonably priced, with breakfasts included, they have airport as well as ferry transfers which they help you to organise, and they also help with further travel, eg the bus trip to South Sumatra, or up north to Medan. Bridget is the Go-To girl for all surfers/backpackers coming to Padang.


“The Mentawai Guide” for detailed and valuable information for your first trip to the Mentawais.

as well as

“Mentawais to Bali in 60 days”

Thailand – Malaysia – Indonesia 

Take your pic or do them all. No regrets, no plans. Take it as it comes.


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