Tuc Tuc & bikes, Chiang Mai
Like anywhere in Thailand, tuk-tuks are everywhere and are useful for getting around. All you need to do is wave them down (in a lot of cases they will actually ask you if you need a ride before you even consider it!) and tell them your destination. Very cheap way to get around and we negotiated a price before we left.
Pai is a beautiful small town nestled in a valley approximately 3 hours or 132 km northwest of Chiangers. It is a popular destination for those who want to enjoy the chilled atmosphere in more ways than one ... the high altitude makes it quite chilly at nights, esp November through February, and it is super laid-back, even compared to Chiang Mai.
Here's my tip: don't take the bus or mini-bus there -- ride there, if you're a competent rider.
From CM take the 107 north past Mae Rim, then left when you see the 1095 signpost to Mae Hong Son/Pai. 1095 is a buzz with 762 twists and turns before you reach Pai. Many are hairpin bends you'll need to slow to about 10 or 20km on.
The first section is deceptively flat, good road. About 55km from CHiang Mai, stop at the Pankled COffee House for refreshment (on the left at the turn off to the waterfall). Then you're into the hills. Twisting and turning, twisting and turning. Take time to stop at the scenic lookouts, they're always worthwhile for the views, the photo op, and the rest your weary bum.
There's another big and good food stop, rest centre around 80 mark from CHiang Mai. You'll be going up up up through beautiful forests all the way, then suddenly you'll know when it's down and it's all the way down into Pai. Just before the town you'll come across a big checkpoint: police and soldiers aplenty. This is near the Burmese border so the army is very active around here, but friendly -- they even let us play with their M-16s, and a group happily posed with my bike for a photo.
On the right just before Pai town is possibly the best view of the Pai Valley you'll enjoy, at a place called Coffee in Love. Stop there for a coffee and a photo.
I took my trusty BMW 650 which ate up the hills. If it had a tail it would 've been wagging. But I also passed lots of youngsters on rented scooters, happily tootling along from Chiang Mai. It's gotta be more fun than sitting bored on a bus.
About the timing: we allowed ourselves about 5 hours on the way up there, stopping and resting. On the way back I gave it plenty, and got home in 2.5 hours. So three would be about minimum average.
It's called The Samoeng Loop, and it's 100km path takes you from Chiang Mai, up to Mae Rim, across the Mae Sa Valley to Samoeng, then back down around the back of Doi Suthep to Chiang Mai.
In a word: FANTASTIC!!! The road conditions vary from good to excellent in parts, lots of beautiful windy corners for those who like to throw their bike around a bit, too.
Kicking off at Chiang Mai, take the Road 107 north from the city at Chang Puak Gate. This is a busy multi-laned road to Mae Rim. Don't forget to fill up with petrol before you set off or somewhere along this road. Soon you are in the countryside with horses and beautiful fields. Shortly after Mae Rim town, take the 1096 road left to Samoeng.
You are immediately into the best of Thai countryside, with banana trees, open fields, villages of wooden houses and any number of boutique resorts. Strongly suggest you take the turn off right to Tard Mork waterfall ... about 10km detour, but a very serene place to enjoy a drink or picnic next to the falls and stream. Entry is 50 baht per person, plus 20 for your motorbike, but ticket is then valid for ALL entrances and falls in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park on that day. (Mae Sa Falls is a series of 9 cascades, and worth the lovely bush walk to see them if you want to stretch your legs).
Back on the road to Samoeng, you'll be dazzled at the amount of adventure activities and other attractions and distractions on offer. X Centre, Thailand's biggest Orchid garden, Mae Sa elephant camp, handicraft galleries, and a number of great restaurants and coffee shops (and of course millions of typical road side stalls). Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens is stunning in flower, and there's a 4 km/ 2hr amble around there if that's your kind of thing.
By now, you're in low gear and climbing and snaking your way through the Mae Sa valley. Keep your eyes on the road (there's dogs, chickens, cyclists, even elephants that'll surprise you) but sneak a glance to your right to see the valley stretch out in shades of blue and green beside you. There's a lookout stop at Samoeng Forest -- great photo op.
From there, you climb down toward Samoeng itself, feeling the cooler air. At the T-junction, take a right toward Samoeng, with its charming tree avenues which completely cover over the road in parts. There's also stands of teak trees and bamboo groves.
Samoeng has loads of shops, a big petrol station, a hospital, and -- if you're there on a weekend -- you'll see games of football in play. There are lots of back streets, side streets and whatever to explore for a taste of real Thai small town life.
Then it's back to Chiang Mai. Take the same road back up as you came down on, but instead of turning left at the T-junction where you came down, just keep going straight (well, no, I mean follow the road which is curving left and right, but you know what I mean!) and head for Chiang Mai/ Hang Dong on the 1269. This section is exhilarating, with curve after curve and some nice straight bits to test your throttle.
Stop at the local fruit stalls for bananas, longuns, cool drinks. Locals will love to ask you where you from and where you go.
And then, all too soon, you suddenly hit the 121 Canal Road. You can turn left here if you're heading for north/west of Chiang Mai or keep on straight till the 108 and turn left if you're heading back to south/east Chiangers.
This is actually only a short ride, so best enjoyed by stopping every now and again and enjoying the scenery or the food and drinks or chatting with the locals to make a full and enjoyable day of it. Suggestion: pick up a copy of a map called Mae Sa Valley - the Samoeng Loop, published by GT Rider in bookstores in town. That'll give you all the detail you need to know about this route.
Just wanted to share a truly unique experience with anyone who might want a really good, honest tuk tuk driver in Chiang Mai.
I have used Paul Collins and found him to be honest, helpful and just loved the looks I got while riding in his tuk tuk. Paul is the only farang tuk tuk driver in all of Thailand! He is also a licensed TAT tour guide for the entire country! I had to laugh every time we drove past a group of tourists and got stunned looks (one man even told Paul he had better get out of the tuk tuk before the owner came back...and a group of back packers wanted to know where he stole the tuk tuk?) Paul can speak English, Thai and Northern Thai and he shares so many facts about his home town with you that you might never need to check your guide book the entire time your with him! You can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on his mobile 0849483315 or 0850484636 Hope this helps someone else truly enjoy seeing Chiang Mai from a local point of view. nannyre
These three-wheeled vehicles can be found parked all over the city. They can be hailed from the road too. You can hire them for a set time or use them to travel short distances. The price varied according to the distance, the most I paid was 100 Baht.
As you sit in the back you are open to the weather, the cities noise & traffic fumes. I found this added to the fun of riding in one, especially at night as you were surrounded by motorbikes.
A leisure bicycle is your best bet if you're on a shoestring budget.
Slow yet calorie-burning bike is a good way to go around the city and even cycling the nearby mountains. Stay on safe sides of the road though as drivers around there do not have much patience with a slow-moving vehicle.
Cost-effective and most guesthouses rent it for very minimal fee, and most of the time it's free when you are staying with them.
If you're staying for a long period and on a budget, you could also want to try the small motorbike.
It is easier to get around Ching Mai and through the crazy traffic with a small motorbike. Some people say it's a danger, well, I was at the back of a friend's bike most of the time and it was fine.
Rental per day is around 100baht not including gas, bargain for less if you're renting it for a week or more.
Tuk-Tuk or Duk-Duk or Tuc-Tuc, whatever, as long as it sounds like a double UK sound -- is the national mass transport of Thailand and it's the fastest and convenient way to move around Chiang Mai.
The local people pay less - from a minimum of 20baht, while foreign tourists pay from 50 upto 80 for the nearest destination. But when you get the hang of it, you get to start paying at least 40baht. It's fast and safe though you get to endure sometimes the smoke belchers around.
From my guesthouse near the Night Bazaar to my massage school near the Central Airport Plaza, I hired this good-mannered middle-aged man who charges me 60 baht one-way everyday for more than a week. Coming back from the school, a friend is taking me to the guesthouse at the back of her motorbike.
From inside the old city to the train station costs 80baht, but you could always bargain. They are also an "information" source of anything tourists or local.
Using a Tuk-Tuk is a good way of getting around Chiang Mai. It is best to decide on a price before you get in. I found the drivers to be quite honest and helpful, in contrast with those in Bangkok.
A trip around Central Chiang Mai was about 50 Baht, for an hour or two, about 150 Baht (March 2008).
Tuk tuks are motorised three-wheeled taxis, so named for the noise they make when traveling. Charges are according to distance and start at THB10 to THB30. Bargain for lower rates before you board. Fare around the town should not exceed THB100 per person.
Songthaews are converted pick-ups with wooden benches on either side. Traveling on regular routes with other passengers costs THB7 to THB15, depending on the number of passengers on board. They are spotted in red or blue depending on the route travelled.
As a tourist (or a non-thai-speaking person) the tuk-tuk drivers will charge you more. The people of thailand seemed to "adopt" my friends and I. They would help us get a tuk-tuk and the cost would be a fraction of the cost. If you are getting help from a local, and need to travel a bit of a distance, ask if they will help you get a tuk-tuk.
I've seen a T-Shirt saying:
"No, I don't want a f*cking tuk tuk, massage or suit. Thank You"
You will however, need a tuk tuk.
They will cost about 30-50 baht to get anywhere in Chiang Mai.
They are pretty cool and exotic but be prepared to swollow some fumes from te bus that just stopped infront of you.
The tuk tuk is a very common mode of transportation found in Thailand.
The tuk tuk is made famous with the James Bond advertisment in a credit card commercial.
The tuk tuk is a motorised rickshaw or bicycle where it could take 2 or upto 3 passengers.
The tuk tuk has a metal body and water proof canvas roof top. The tuk tuk rest on 3 small wheels and there is a small cabin for the driver in front and the passengers seats are in the rear. It can manoeuver well in traffic jams.
On our 1st day in Chiang Mai we were walking around the old city trying to get our bearings when a tuk tuk pulled up next to us and offered us a "3 temple tour" for only 30baht. Sounded like a great idea as long as the 3 of us could fit into the tuk tuk....we did, but only just!! Certainly better than walking in the afternoon heat.
It was the best move we made. Our lovely driver Thip, proved to be a very worthy guide. She's speaks good English, as well as Danish and Thai. She lived in Denmark for years so is quite "westernised" if that's the right thing to say.
She also organised a friend of hers to be our guide for our long day trip to the Golden Triangle. See my next tip about Ben.
Give her a call, I can highly recommend her.
A tuc-tuc from the centre of town to the airport should not cost more than about 80 baht. (i paid 60). If it's a busy time and the roads are a bit clogged, the rate fairly could be higher, but don't be had for double that (they get what they can when they can). The trip took around 15-20 minutes, so base any other trips on that rule of thumb as to what is a reasonable price.