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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.
Updated Aug 13, 2011
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
Written Aug 26, 2008
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.
Written Jan 8, 2008
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.
Written Feb 24, 2007
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.
Written Feb 24, 2007
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.
Written May 3, 2006
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.
Written Nov 15, 2005
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
Written Nov 8, 2005
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.
Written Nov 2, 2005
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.
Updated Jul 22, 2005
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