One of Chiang Mai highlights in tourist brochures are the waterfalls. Well... I must confess that they are photogenic but very common.
It's nice to walk in the wild, amidst bamboo and exotic plants, but, if your time is tight, you may skip them without sorrow.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Tour service at Central Duangtawan
Impossible to recomend this operator. Our morning tour was cut short by the guide to take us to their special gemstone sales. We insisted on returning to the tour and guide then stopped the tour and took us back the hotel, causing us to miss seeing the temples. On the return trip he tried dozens of sales pitches to get us to bite on any sort of sale. Back at the hotel the tour office people seemed completely indifferent to what had happened. We had scheduled an outing with a different service in the afternoon otherwise we could have stayed and argued our case.
Complaints to the staff at Central Duangtawan resulted in no action. One would think the hotel would screen their operators but it seems they are also indifferent and are short sighted enough to allow this to happen. The hotel Central Duangtawan is certainly remiss and I cannot recommend the Central Duangtawan as well.
Unique Suggestions: Under no circumstances would I recommend the Hotel Central Duangtawan or their tour operator.
Fun Alternatives: Stay at a reputable hotel
Tourism Authority of Thailand
If you think that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) can assist you in travel tips and direction, then you are wrong. When I step into their office, I notice many young girls cramming at the reception counter. When asked for simple advice in plain English, there was a serious communication breakdown. Both parties scratched their heads in understanding each other. It made us more confused before stepping into the office. Moreover, the free brochures on rack are mostly advertisements-related and provide very minimal information on travel tips.
Unique Suggestions: If you are still not sure of your next destination, step out of the office and hail a tuk-tuk. They are many surrounding TAT. Point to the driver the destination on your map (preferably the one with Thai language).
Fun Alternatives: For every destination that you are going to leave from your hotel, ask the concierge to write you the destination name in Thai words, better still the full address in Thai too. Show it to the driver to reach your destination without hassle.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Getting to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Getting to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep might be a bit of a headache if you go it alone. There are songthaews, Thai buses, that leave from in front of Chiang Mai University, but I had trouble getting finding that place. I ended up getting a songthaew near the University to take me up there, but the price was almost double. Plan well before setting off. Getting down is often not a problem since there are many songthaews waiting on top. Don’t get ripped off both ways. Some drivers may try to talk you into taking a private songthaew for a costly price, but just insist on a using a public songthaew.
Unique Suggestions: Get help from your hotel before you go. Find out the going rate for getting up there.
Fun Alternatives: If you are renting a taxi for the day, have them swing up there at the end of the day. Most day taxis expect to go up there, as it is a popular tourist spot, for Thais and foreigners alike.
If you visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep don’t fooled into think you can only get to the temple by paying to ride the elevator. There are steps, guarded by dragons that you can use for free and without waiting a half hour as well.
Unique Suggestions: The steps are an easy climb and shouldn't take a normal person more than a few minutes.
Long Neck Village
We signed up for the excursion to the long-neck village, wanting to get a glimpse of life of this tribe famous for their long-necked women.
However, the village itself turned out to be just a tiny market place with about 10 stalls run by these long-necked Karen tribes, which sell mainly their weavings and some small handicrafts. There were long-necked women alright, but nothing much else.
There was no guide to explain this unique culture, no insight into how they do it, and all in all, very disappointing.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Elephant Trek - Elephant Misery
Dare I include this in my Tourist Trap List?...why not!
Though Elephant Trek is one of my most memorable...once in a lifetime travel experiences...I might not have included this in my itinerary if I had known how cruel the handlers treat their elephants. At one point, our handler even struck the poor animal with the side of his bolo. And the other tourist in our group opted to walk back to our van because according to her...their handler uses marijuana and is agitating the elephants to do a certain tricks.
Unique Suggestions: If you have the opportunity, try reporting this to local authorities. I have not done it and I was feeling sorry.
Fun Alternatives: Since patronizing this kind of activity is a boost to Thai tourism...you might help them in other ways like watching the Elephant Shows done in special Elephant Camps. A friend told me this is something special and in no way harming the animal.Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Paying full price
Paying what they say to start with is never a good idea unless you have money to blow, everything is jacked up in price. So barter barter barter. Walking away is also a good idea they want to make the sale so they will drop the price the minute you turn your back
All over Chiang Mai are trips for around 200 baht that bring the visitors to San Kamphaeng stretch of factories that produce celadon, teak, silk, umbrellas and other Thai handicrafts. The products are overprized and are no cheaper than what you find at the ultimate rip-off night bazaar. To top it off, you would have wasted a perfectly good afternoon and 200 baht.
Unique Suggestions: Most of the factories would have an area to show how the products are made. It can be rather educational and interesting, and an okay experience so long as you are not for a moment tricked into thinking that these factories are bargain outlets.
Fun Alternatives: Serious shopping can be done at the Saturday evening market at Wualai Road, south of Chiang Mai Gate.
Paduang "Long Neck" Karen
There are certain places I recommend not to visit. The main one being to see the Paduang Long Neck Karen. This is one of the worst forms of tourism in Thailand. Any tour operator who does this tour has no consideration for the culture or the Karen People. Here is the real story.
The original custom is that only a girl born on a Wednesday during a full moon could wear the rings around her neck. Now because of the large number of tourists visiting these villages all the girls are wearing the rings as it is big money. A Photograph of 1 girls is as much as 500 baht.
Not only that but the villagers are kept in a compound surrounded by high walls so no one can see in. They are not allowed out of the camp so everyone just sits around waiting for the tourists. It costs at least 250 baht to get into the village which most goes to the tour operator.
Villagers have died in these compounds. These people deserve more than this. Here is a short article from the Nation newspaper on the seriousness of the problem.
MAE HONG SON- A provincial court in Mae Hong Son yesterday opened the trial of two Thai men on charges relating to the detention and death of a
long necked ethnic Padaung women, who, along with over 30 others of the same ethnicity ,was trafficked into Thailand from Burma two years ago.
Paduang- commonly known here as the long-necked hill people because the women normally wear brass necklaces,the number of which increases over the years-has been a strong tourist attraction in Mae Hong Son.
The group of detained Padaung had been lured and trafficked from their home village in northeastern Burma into Thailand by a Thai Karen agent, who had pledged to take them to visit their relatives in Mae Hong Son.
According to the rescued Padaung, the woman, a mother of two, died of exhaustion and heartbreak as she had been long separated from her children who remained in Burma.
Please boycott any agency that wants to take you to see the Paduang Long Neck Karen.
Fun Alternatives: A better alternative is visit a real hill tribe village. Many wonderful hill tribe villages can be accessed by vehicle or long tail boat instead of trekking. If your up for a good hike then trekking is for you.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
the airport. when you arrive at the airport, you will see booths with binders of photos of this place and that, and they will try to arrange a reservation for you at a "special" price. if you haven't got a package deal prior, you'll need a place to stay, and if you don't know where you want to stay, you'll find it convenient to do so. you'll pay at least twice as much as you need to, as well. strike out on your own, you'll fare better. speaking of fare, don't be conned into believing that you must take a taxi that is under contract to the airport. there's no such thing, and you'll also pay double. they do the same scam at the manila airport.
Unique Suggestions: take the number and location of the hotels that look good to you, get your bags, head out of the airport, and take a tuk-tuk or taxi to the hotel, walk-in and ask the rates. make your decision as you see fit. you might not save time, but you will save money. guaranteed.Related to:
- Budget Travel
24k Gold Plated Orchids
The Mae Rim Orchid & Butterfly Farm is really nothing more than another souvenir stall shop. Both the orchid and butterfly farms are really small and lack variety.
As expected, the end of the tour is concluded at its gift shop. In this case, the gift shop sells an assorted of either 24k gold plated or heavily lacquered items such as orchids and insects. Nice, but they are quite impractical. I did purchase a lacquered orchid brooch for my mom though.
When my private tour guide suggested to take my buddy and I to an "interesting" handicraft store near Mae Sa Snake Farm, I was somewhat irriated when it turned out to be a Kashmir handicraft shop. After all, Kashmir handicrafts, no matter how nice they are, certainly has absolutely nothing to do with Chiang Mai's culture.
So the next time, if your tour guide arrived a little too early at the Snake Farm, just hang around the place or visit their gardens first instead of taking up his or her suggestion to visit any stores nearby.
Fun Alternatives: If you really have quite a bit of time before the start of the show, then the elephant dung processing factory where the dung is made into paper is somewhat more interesting and has more relevance.
Hill Tribes Sales People During Bamboo Rafting
If you are going on a bamboo raft ride, do note that you may be blocked by a bunch of hill tribe sales peple selling who looks like "factory made" hill tribe items such as woven bracelets and bottle holders.
I am not sure if they are genuine hill tribe people, but they are usually children and they will just wade through the water following your raft till they make a sale. While this is not really an irritance, it still surprised me.
Unique Suggestions: The kids are really determined to make a sale and will really follow your raft for a really long distance. So to save the kid from walking such a long distance, you may want to just buy something cheap off them like the 10 baht woven bracelet if you are not interested in their wares.
The Human Zoo
When I heard that we would be going to a Karen village with these so called "long neck" women I was very interested in the prospects for such a trip. I've seen the real deal on National Geographic programs and I had imagined that it would be an intriguing encounter. I had it in my head that we would trek into some hidden village near the Burmese border and white man (me) would make friends with the indeginous folks. Well, it didn't go quite like that. We arrived in this pre-fabricated village, set at the bottom of a small canyon, with a dirth path lined with souvenier shops.. Sure, there were long necks but it was clear to me that they weren't from this "Universal Studio-esque" prop village. I was embarrassed to even be there & I felt so culturally insensitive. Yes, I took pictures of the people just like I would have taken pictures of the exhibits at the Los Angeles Zoo. I figured since I got suckered into going here I may as well take pictures of this terrible place.
Unique Suggestions: If you do end up here at least buy a few trinkets to hopefully help the inhabitants earn some money. The long neck women I encountered were very friendly and photogenic, but I'm sure they see hordes of camera totting tourists such as myself. We sat with one woman & her children for some time as I noticed she had Canadian flag pin on her shirt. A man, whom she met here, gave it to her as a gift. She said she was from Myanmar and came across the border into Thailand to work. She said she makes more money selling her trinkets in this faux village than she does back in Myanmar.
Fun Alternatives: Good luck finding a real village!Related to:
- Family Travel
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