I’ve been traveling in most Asian countries. What I can tell you for sure TRY LOCAL TRANSPORT!
It’s adventurous, it’s much cheaper and this is the only possibility to see real people and life. There are thousands of transport companies nowdays in every Asian country. This is one of the most profitable business everywhere in Asia. Booking a bus ticket in any local agency and even gueshouses means you will travel with private bus company in a very comfortable coach. Which sometimes is very usefull when you need to travel over the night for many hours. I only used this convenient transport while traveling 10-15 hours in a sleeping bus.
But if you want to explore the surrounding area up to 50 km use the local transport.
1. First look for a local tourist information. I found it often even in very small cities. Usually they are able to tell you where is the local bus station and if you ask them to write the city names you want to travel to they will also do it. The ticket guy is usually in the bus so you pay after getting in. Watch how much money give local people to the ticket guy 😉 As i was asked much more sometimes than the ticket costs 😉
2. You can always ask about a local map in the local tourist information. If not go to the travel agencies, you may be asked to pay a little money but not always. Check the prices for any trip or trekking in few agencies. The same with sleeping bus ticket.
3. Find a local bus station. It might be a little far away from the city center. I noticed that and I think it has a puprose, they just don’t want you to find it and make use of it. I usually found the bus tickets much cheaper than from the agencies and sometimes it was increadibly cheap! The problem is that probably noone will speak English there, but if you just show the driver a map and point the city there’s always someone eager to help you. They are just a little shy or afraid that they don’t speak your language.