Episode 11 - Transportation
Transportation is a huge factor when traveling abroad. Matt and Marilyn dedicate this podcast to transportation in the countries they've been to. In this podcast, they discuss transportation in:
- The US, specifically NYC
- Thailand and stories while traveling, like the minivan ride with a very high and violent gentleman
- South Korea, including the bullet train at 5 AM while intoxicated
- Vietnam: nothing but motorbikes and Uber! Oh, and constant pandemonium
- Japan, the oh-so-expensive Japan
- Taiwan, with its gorgeous views from luxurious train cars
- The Czech Republic, specifically Prague
- They also rank their least favorite to favorite countries simply based on their public transportation.
Check out the blog post below for more information and pictures!
Thank you so much for listening/reading! Cheers and happy travels!
Wine: Mas - Merlot (France)
Main mode of transportation: cars. We are not fans of cars because they're expensive and you constantly need to worry about them and driving them to and from places. And you can't just drink with your friends and then go home because you have to drive your car!
Of course it's not the case everywhere, but most places-- including a lot of cities-- you need a car to get around.
Modes of public transportation: taxis, tuk-tuks, song taos, minivans, and motorbike taxis.
These modes of transportation were everywhere, but the drivers would often attempt to rip off foreigners by just spewing random costs-- and we were certainly no exception!
In Bangkok, there is a train (BTS) that goes through most of the city and it's super clean, modern, cheap, and quick
For traveling through the country, the main modes of transportation we took were double-decker buses. They were cheap, comfortable, and had bathrooms, so they were great for those 12-hour rides!
In our small city of Chonburi, we mainly took motorbikes taxis and song taos to get around. Song Taos are basically pick-up trucks with a tin roof over the bed with two benches along the sides. Song taos usually come in different colors and people just somehow know where each one goes (even we eventually learned, but through lots of trial and error of course!). The convenient part of song taos was that when you see one driving near you and you want to hop on, you can just wave your hand and they will come pick you up. When you want to get off, you just hit a buzzer and they will pull over immediately and let you out. They were also ridiculously cheap-- 30 cents to go a decent distance!
However, they had their fair amount of downfalls. They had no air conditioning, obviously, so it was really hot during the day. Sometimes, they would have as many as twenty people crammed on one! That was never fun to deal with. They also stopped running whenever they pretty much felt like it, but usually around 6:00 at night, which was quite an inconvenient time to stop running.
We also got around often by minivans, especially to get to Bangkok. They were mainly used for 1-3 hours of travel.
1. We were going with a friend to Kanchanaburi (where Bridge over the River Kwai is) and we needed to take a minivan to get to Bangkok, and then a bus from there to our destination. During our minivan ride, there was this guy, who was clearly high on something or maybe everything, who was screaming at everyone in our packed minivan while allowing his cat on a string to wander around. The driver swerved and pulled over at one point, yelled at him, and forced him to get off in the middle of the highway. Quite a confusing and slightly terrifying moment, especially considering we had no idea what anyone was saying-- and it was definitely a heated argument, too!
2. We had to make a visa run to Laos, which was a 12-hour ride on a double-decker bus once again. During that ride, the bus driver insisted on blasting the air conditioner as high and strong as he could. We were all absolutely freezing! Everyone kept telling him to turn it off or lower it, but he just ignored everyone. We were so cold, that before making our way back to Thailand from Laos, we bought a blanket and that was one of the greatest decisions we ever made.
Word to the wise: be prepared for all temperatures on long bus rides in Thailand.
Main modes of public transportation: bikes, buses, trains, bullet trains, subways and taxis.
Wow-- what a difference from Thailand! In our city, we rode our bikes everywhere and would take buses to go to Deajeon, a more populous city nearby. However, the local bus system was a little difficult to figure out for us.
To get to Seoul from Sejong (our city), we would take large buses. They were very comfortable and cheap-- around $15-20 for a 2-3 hour ride! Quite the sweet deal, if you ask me. Only downfall: they never made stops and had no bathrooms. It's not a very long ride, of course, but we need to pee often, so that was not very comfortable for us!
The trains were awesome! We took the bullet train only once after a night out in Seoul. I (Marilyn) was the only one awake on the bullet train, but it was a seriously amazing ride. Even through my drunken haze, I could tell that the train was going significantly faster than usual when looking out the window, where there were beautiful landscapes in the morning sun. It was also relatively cheap-- around $30 one-way. Not too bad!
The best part of the public transportation there was that if you pre-pay a specific card at any convenience store, you can hop on any bus, train, subway, or even taxi and use that card. It's basically a universal card. Quite convenient!
Modes of public transportation: our legs, taxis, Uber, GrabCar, motorbike taxis, buses.
GrabCar is this amazing app in Vietnam. It's basically like Uber, but it's cheaper and has motorbike taxis as an option. It tells you the price beforehand, too, so they can't rip you off like some of the regular taxis. If you are in Vietnam, we highly recommend you download and use this app! We did and it was an excellent discovery.
There were no subways or trains in the cities, but there were some buses, which are hard to figure out if you don't speak Vietnamese.
Side note: motorbike taxis can be horrifying. You just ride on the back of a motorbike while holding on to the driver for dear life. But, it is the best way to get around there.
In Phu Quoc, an island off the Southern coast of Vietnam with a population of 103,000, we rode our own motorbike! We rented it from our AirBNB and cruised around the island on it. I (Marilyn) was mainly the driver because I'm the best and Matt just casually sat on the back, clutching onto me and the back of the motorbike. However, it was alarmingly dangerous. It was much heavier than it looked and it was difficult to balance-- and it didn't help that everyone around us rode their motorbikes with a death wish!
Modes of transportation: lots of walking, subways, trains, bullet trains, buses, taxis.
In Osaka specifically, the subways and trains could be confusing to navigate because the subways aren't always below ground. That, and the English maps for the subways are often well hidden.
Overall, the transportation was very modern, but very, very expensive. For example, to take a train from Osaka to Kyoto (about an hour train ride there and back) was $50 round-trip. Each. ...Insane. However, Japan is an overall expensive country, so it's necessary to take that into consideration.
We also took taxis a few times because the subways and trains don't run from 12:00am to 5:00 am in all of Japan...foolishly, in my opinion! We went out a few nights and were unfortunately stuck taking taxis home, which are outrageously expensive, too. That, and the drivers drive erratically, which is not fun when you're drunk. We once took it in Tokyo and a taxi ride was around $80 for about 30 minutes. Awful!
We didn't take the bullet trains in Tokyo because-- you guessed it!-- they're crazy expensive. A one-way bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo is around $140. So, we opted out of that and took planes for longer distances, such as to Tokyo and Okinawa. We are glad we did because to fly to and from Tokyo was cheaper than a one-way bullet train ticket! So, we recommend planes for long-distance travel in Japan, especially Peach airlines.
There are also many different rail passes available in Japan, we just didn't use any because we're fools.
Modes of transportation: our legs, trains, buses, bicycles, subways, taxis, Uber.
Just like Korea, Taiwan, especially in Taipei, also had pre-paid cards available for usage on all transportation. The transportation was also remarkably modern, clean, cheap, and easy to navigate. Everything was in English and a lot of people spoke English there, so that helped, too.
We traveled around Taiwan and we loved the long-distance trains. They were so comfortable, roomy, clean, affordable, and punctual. There was also a bathroom and snack carts! There were also gorgeous views throughout all of our train rides there.
We were too lazy to do this, but apparently, riding bikes around the country is a great way to see the country!
Piece of advice for hiking in Taroko Gorge: definitely start early because it's a huge national park and the buses take an eternity to drive you there from Hualien, around the park, and back to Hualien.
Prague, Czech Republic
Modes of transportation: subways (referred to as metros), trains, buses, taxis, Uber, trams.
We take the public transportation every single day and it's amazing. We bought transportation cards (for all transportation) for 3 months for $90, which is amazing! All of the modes of transportation are easy to navigate, cheap, clean, and efficient.
Interesting fact: there is no card swiping to get onto the public transportation here. You just walk on. It's just assumed that everyone who gets on the trams and metros has pre-paid cards to get on. The only way they check that is by randomly having officials check riders for their cards.
We haven't taken long-distance transportation yet, so we will have to see how that turns out! We do know that the buses are very cheap, though. $11 each to go to and from Poland! Crazy!
Ranking of Countries Based on Transportation
Matt's ranking (from least favorite to favorite):
6. United States
3. South Korea
1. Taiwan and Prague
6. United States
3. South Korea
1. Taiwan and Prague
Let us know what your favorite modes of transportation are and your favorite countries based on their transportation! Thanks for reading and/or listening!
Cheers and happy travels!
Wine: Mas - Merlot (France)