As much as it is a exciting activity to do, if you do not have much biking experience prior to the trip, I would suggest giving it a miss. Or it would be best to leave it to the day before departure. The reason I'm saying this is because as a short Asian person(1.56 m), I was handed a standard-sized full suspension mountain bike that was too tall for me. The bike was working fine, but because of my size it was very hard to control it and when I stopped I could only tiptoe when staying on the bike. Extra effort had to be put in to control everything and going uphill was an extremely strenuous task. Even the caucasian people I was with(who were at least 1 head taller than me) found it hard. I fell quite a few times during the whole route and ended up with badly aching neck and back muscles and quite a few serious bruises. And it could have been worse. It takes a fast person about 2 hours to complete the route so if you fall and decide to take it slow, it could really turn into the longest day of your life(that's what I felt). You either complete or don't start at all.
The Hotel Room I stayed in didn't have a heater and they only provided me with one blanket.
I was pretty cold and uncomfortable during the night. I heard from some other foreigners staying
elsewhere that they had the same problem.
I am proud to say that THAILAND is one of the ONLY countries in the world where the AIDS rate is going DOWN. AIDS education is stressed in the schools. However, I should not speak so soon. AIDS is still a problem and the number one cause of death in Thailand. As substantial as these changes and HIV AIDS prevention programs are, one in every 100 Thais still has HIV AIDS. Chiang Mai, and areas in Thailand in general, are unfortunately notorious for prostitution. This is how AIDS spreads. Do not get involved with a prostitute; you are putting your life of the line!! Lets try and stop the spread of AIDS!!!!!!!!!!!
We were warned about this place. We were told to watch our money belts, watch ourselves our back packs and others in our group. We hid our money belts, put locks on our back packs and sometimes even carried them in front of us. People will pretend to bump into you and take money out of your pocket. Just be extremely careful, that would not make for a fun holiday to be robbed.
New picture from the Sept. 31, 2005 flood in Chiang Mai Thailand. Police wouldn't let us get any closer to town. In the picture the sign on the front of the jeep reads drive slowly. The center of the old city never floods. The night bazaar area water over your head.
Every few years the water in the Mae Ping River in the city comes out of it's banks. This causes many problems for local residents and tourists alike. The area most affected is near the famous night, which is just a few blocks from the river.
In August 2005 Chiang Mai suffered the worst flooding in the past 40 years. Today, Sept. 13, 2005 the river is about to flood the city again. Heavy rain is expected again today and the flooding to happen all over again.
Here are a few pictures I have taken this morning and will add new ones if things get worse.
The tour companies along and near khaosan Road offer very cheap bus tickets to Chiang Mai. The bus is fine however after the overnight ride they take you to a parking lot or field 10 Kilometers from Chiang Mai arriving around 6 AM. Here they have "songthaews", which are two bench covered pick up trucks waiting for you. They pile everyone in the songthaews and take you into the city but not where you want to go but to guest houses you no nothing about.
Once at the Guest House they tell you to leave your bags in the front room while they show you the rooms. Who know who is going through your bag during this time period. Then they sit you down at a table and the trekking guides give their sales pitch.
If you say I want to look around at other trekking operators before you make a decision the guide and staff will just abandon you and go on to the next table and talk with them. Thats OK just leave.
Guest Houses in Chiang Mai band together to get as many tourists as they can for trekking. This is where all the money is for them not room rentals or food. They contact a bus company in Bangkok and charter buses which are usualy full going in both directions. The tour companies in Bangkok also get a cut of the action.
The bus personel have been known to go through luggage and bags to take valuables while people were asleep on the bus. Some even have a person hidden away in the baggage compartment to go through every bag there.
Always take a bus from the Morchit bus station in Bangkok and the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai. These buses will take you to the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai and Morchit bus station in Bangkok.
Remember that most Guest Houses get their money from Treks not food or room rental and many will not rent you a room unless you do a trek with them.
I recommend that you pay a little bit more and get a 500 baht+ room in Chiang Mai where the staff will be glad to have you if you trek with them or not.
I really can't think of anything that's not already obvious to warn you about. When you go rafting on the Ping river, and if you have children with you, just be warned that they do not provide you with any life jackets.
As for other warnings I didn't experience anything that warrants a warning or precaution. Chiang Mai seems very safe if you use your common sense when getting around. As you can see in the photo life jackets aren't provided during your trip down the river.
There is no malaria in Chiang Mai, but there is evidence of it in Chiang Rai, golden triangle area as well as other places in Northern Thailand.
It is important to protect yourself when going into malaria infected areas, such as taking malaria medication. Important to bring bug spray with you. Malaria is an awful disease, which can be fatal if not treated.
Also, you should protect yourself with bug spray due to dengue fever-which occurs in southeast asia. Important to look at various websites on malaria and dengue fever before coming out here. Listed the usa's center for disease control (CDC) website below.
Songkram or the New Year celibration with throwing water on the streets towards eachother. Officially 3 days. It was this year 5 days....
After 2 days trowing and receiving water on the streets (i GOT A COLD) we got a little tired of the festival.
We had an appointment and this time we went with rainclothes through the city. Hoorible. And it can be dangerous if you drive a bike.
I'd try to stick away from all sorts of stray dogs. Many are mean and like to bite strangers as they walk by. Their lives are quite simple, and similar to some of Chiang Mai's prostitutes, lol! They have street sex and bite. I'm not sure if they can carry diseases, but I wouldn't want to be bit or chased by one again (it has happened in the past). So just look where you are walking and carry some extra food and in some drastic cases a stick (to through not to hit the dog and upset or hurt it).
The wildlife of Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai province is incredible, but some things should only be admired from a far. Here are some hints on how to tell of things are poisonous or not.
Snakes: there are tons of kinds of snakes in Chiang Mai. All poisonous snakes have large bulges on the sides of their heads, fangs, and a pointed snout. There are two kinds of green tree snakes, one poisonous and one not, to be safe don't bother any tree snakes. We do have king cobras but they are so rare that I have never seen one (besides in the Bangkok Dusit Zoo). Pythons are not poisonous!
Bugs: Boy do we have bugs, lol. Mosquitoes are always the most fatal because they can carry disease. Poisonous bugs include Thai tarantulas (big yellow bellied spiders), scorpions, and MagBhums (big grubs with white spikes that are poisonous to the touch). Caterpillars with white spikes are poisonous to the touch so don't touch any bug that looks like it has spikes and or while gooey/powder covering.
Just be vigilant!
I really can't stress this point enough: Thai fireworks are incredibly dangerous. Most of the world's fire works are made in factories here in Thailand, but the fireworks that the people get here are the cheapest and poorest in quality. DO NOT TOUCH OR GO NEAR ANY FIREWORKS HERE!!!!!!! I have personally witnessed a firecracker blow off in one of my friend's hands. The quality and safety of the fireworks are poor and extremely dangerous. My friend will never have full mobility in his hand again (not to mention he lost a finger and almost his thumb and ear drums). So STAY FAR FAR AWAY FROM FIREWORKS!!!
Opium is used in some mystic animistic hilltribe minority villages in the north of Chiang Mai. Opium, as all other drugs, is extremely dangerous and kills the brain and body. Stay away from opium. Most of the tribes are switching to tobacco, which is bad enough, because they even know that opium kills and stunts growth (you will see opium users are very small).
Not to mention that you will spend a very long time in a Thai jail if you are caught, you don't want that!
If you choose to be involved with drugs in Thailand, you will end up in a Thai prison. Period. I guess this is better than the alternative in Malaysia: DEATH
While you are in Chiang Mai, you may want to go to the prison and visit 'Tourist Prisoners.' Whether you condone or support what they've done, they would love to talk to you and hear about things on the outside. Bring shorts or t-shirts for them if possible. They will usually want cigarettes, but, well, I don't smoke.......
The climate in Thailand can be very hot, while hanging around remember to have a break for some drinks, can be cool smoothly in the city or just coconut in the jungle.