The name apparently means - 2 rows of seats - or thereabouts! - which is what is is! When in Chiang Mai, you must have a ride in one of these things - which is a sort of a canopied truck with bench seats - and carried more people in Thailand than ever allowable in Australia anyway. We saw kids going on school excursions in them, literally hanging off the back of them! Just imagine our kids being allowed to do that!
We took one up to Doi Suthep - and this is a real must do experience - the "exhaust emissions" from one's own vehicle have you arriving at your destination with a slightly black complexion! Must have been all the groaning to get up the uppy bits. You will feel much in need of a bath - and will not believe the grime that comes off you at the end of it all. Wouldn't have missed it for quids though!
The most common public transportation is "song thaew" which means the Red Taxi. Song Thaew is a pickup truck converted for carrying passengers and some cargo. These vehicles are regulated and licensed by the government. In Chiang Mai, red song thaews roam the city and are free to travel anywhere. Simply wave your hand, stop one, and ask told the driver where you ant to go before boarding. Fare within the city is nomally 10 Baht, to airport 20 Bhat. Prices negotiable for longer distances.
I wish I remembered our drivers name because he turned out to be a very kind man who took joy in showing us around Chiang Mai and its environs. He arranged several day trips for us and seemed to go above and beyond what you'd expect from an ordinary driver. Our hotel sent this driver to us to meet us at the airport and later we arranged to have him as our primary mode of transport in and around Chiang Mai. For $20 a day (divided between 5 of us) we got an air conditioned mini van and a driver that happily took us anywhere. The only problem was that he didn't speak english (not a problem considering we are in Thailand) but we were lucky enough that my wife is a Thai native and easily communicated with him. He made our stay there much easier! We hired our driver through the Lanna Resort and then arranged a deal with him on the side. If the resort gets in on the action then you'll pay more.
In my opinion, Song Thaew or also known as the Red Taxi is very easy and cheap to get around in the city, although it feels last exotic and special than Tuk-tuk, it's much safer and comfortable.
It's a van/pick up converted into a mini bus with 2 rolls of seats at the back and a shelter on top. some of them are well furnished at the back with well cushioned seats and walls, so to prevent the knockings when the road gets rough.
It moves around in the city, and some other colors might be seen in Chiang Mai city, like green.. etc. but the red one is the most common and they are meant to move within the city.
This transport system works like a public bus, people share them if the driver is going to the same direction, so don't be surprised if some stranger gets on to the transport. :)
Within city - 15baht/person
The price range from 10baht depending on situation. but the average basic price should be 15baht. try not to pay more than 20baht within the city, as it's really meant for foreigners. If you are not sure about the distance, but it's still in the city, you can still bargain for the price at 15baht if they ask for more. but usually if you dont ask it should be 15 baht, but we are not sure, so we always ask and confirm it's 15baht.
we've tried to bargain it down to 10baht/person (8 of us) to get from sunday market at Tha Phae Gate to our hotel Chiang Mai Plaza. Try to bargain for lower price if you have a lot of people and don't mind squeezing. You'll never know if you don't try. :)
For the locals it's 15baht and if the travelers who seem unsure, they will tend to jack the price to 20baht and so on. Our foot massage therapist who is local told us that it should be 15baht and nothing more than that.
If price is steep, just say thank you and walk away, there are a lot of them on the road. :)
We caught a bus to Chaing Mai from Chaing Rai. You don't need a reservation it was easy to catch a bus . The buses were clean and modern and pretty inexpensive. It's ashort trip and fairly scenic.
We also got a bus to Sukhothai when we left Chiang Mai. We caught a second class bus and for the 5 hour trip it was 200 bht . Not a huge difference between ist class and second class ( no snack) they stopped for a break half way.
(last date took the bus - Dec. 12, 2004)
Window # 5
a) Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai
b) Chiang Mai - Mae Sai
Fare - 95 Baht
Departure time - 11:30 a.m.
Arrived in Chiang Rai - 3:00 p.m.
Arrived in Mae Sai - 5:00 p.m.
You'll be able to find a red Songthaew pretty much anywhere in Chiang Mai. Flag one down and ask if the driver is on the way to your destination.
Quick tip: The base fare is 10 baht, although drivers may try to charge falangs (foreigners) more, especially if they're the only passengers. It's appropriate to pay more for distances more than a few kilometers or out of the way destinations, but on the whole, most places around Chiang Mai shouldn't cost more than 10 baht.....
So for relatively short distances, just pay and go; the driver may "object", but won't chase after you over a few baht.
To get to Chiang Mai is easy, very easy. You can go there by bus, train or plane. By bus, you can take the bus at the northern bus terminal. It takes 10 hours to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. By train, you take the train at The Central Station (Hua Lampong). If you want to go by plane, it will take only 1 hour to get there.
There are 2 main bus stations in Chiang Mai: Arcade - the main one east of the river towards the train station which tends to have the large blue air-con buses heading off for more distant destinations, though it also serves as the terminus for all stops in Mae Hong Son Province including Mae Sariang and Pai, and Chang Puak bus station serving all local destinations. I took a VIP bus from the Arcade bus station to Chiang Rai which left at 10.15am, took 3 hours and cost 280 baht. It was a lovely bus with reclining leather seats with leg-rests and miles of legroom and space, a/c and a piece of cake and bottle water thrown in for free. You'll pass by some lovely scenery on the way plus go over some big hills. I arrived in Chiang Rai at 1pm.
If you want to go somewhere in the city from somewhere in the city . Regular price is 20 Baht (0.5 USD) . Many bad driver 'll ask for more ,if you're sure that the route you take is less than 30 minutes walk , don't let them cheat you. Just say " I used to go there once. it's just 20 baht.
I hope it work!!!
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