I have been in Chiang Mai since last November ,and the air quality, up untill mid- March, has been acceptable. But. Untill the Thai institute emission controals (at least get the vehicles blowing clouds of exuast smoke off the roads) any area with traffic will be unpleasent at best. When the burning of the stubble in the fields and the under brush in the forests starts;Get Out. I have a flight out day after tomorrow and will be outside as little as possable untill then. R
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Protect your stuff at Song Kran
You will get wet and pretty much stay wet during the Song Kran festival. What you need to do if you will be in Thailand during Song Kran is to invest in zip lock plastic bags to protect your personal items. If you can, leave them in your hotel.
Also, make sure that your zip lock bag is properly sealed. Mine wasn't and I lost my mobile phone and iPod to a watery grave. Unfortunate and expensive but avoidable with prior thinking.
Water in Song Kran
Be vigilent about protecting yourself from the water that is thrown in Song Kran. Firstly, the water comes from the local rivers (yuck) and secondly it can really hurt you!
Full buckets of water are thrown and a lot of the time in your face. If you wear glasses, don't wear them outside, wear contacts if you can. I lost mine out the back of the car (subsequently to be run over by a truck) and needed to fork out for a new pair.
Also, most people put huge blocks of ice in their water so the water is icey cold when it hits you - not nice even in 40 degree weather!
Have fun, but take care!
Mysterious deaths in Chang Mai
I recently read of now six people, American, British and New Zealanders who have died in Chang Mai under mysterious circumstances. The Thai police have not been able to accurately identify the source of the problem, calling the incidents 'coincidental'.....which is most probably a face-saving solution instead of admitting 'we don't know because we don't have the knowledge or skill to conduct a thorough investigation. At a press conference in Bangkok yesterday, Chiang Mai Governor Pannada Disakul said: "We have to admit that these deaths coming one after another are nothing more than coincidence.
"We have done and will continue to do our utmost to make tourists confident in our city."
Unfortunately he didn't say 'We have done and will continue to do our utmost to find the source of the problem and correct it before any more deaths occur'.
Clearly, until the matter is correctly identified, it is of grave danger to be travelling in Chang Mai at the moment without being aware of the deaths and possible food/water poisoning risk there so I implore you to be careful of what you drink and eat and where you stay if you need to visit Chang Mai.
Flooding in Chiang Mai
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.
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Pollution & Traffic Dangers.
There are two warnings that I have,as yet, not seen posted for Chiangmai. Neither one will be corrected any time in the near future so plan and act accordingly.
The first warning is that during the high tourist season (Nov.-Feb.) of each year the air quality in Chinagmai plummets to dangerously polluted levels. Visibility is halved and the usually beautiful city is rendered unsafe with warnings at times to stay inside. It is truly sad as the local government seems unable to affect a change. They wait for the rainy season to clear the air while , in the meantime , tourists not to mention the locals (myself included) suffer with red, burning eyes and negative effect on breathing. Very sad , indeed.
The second warning is ; be careful and aware of the traffic at all times. I have seen other countries that are in competition for "worst" but Thailand and Chiangmai are right there in the running. I have friends who have been hit by other vehicles while walking, riding their bikes, motorcycles (again, myself included) and in cars. One friend was killed as he was hit from behind by a car while riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane at 7:00 A.M. with a bicycle club. Driver fell asleep? at the wheel. Friend is still dead. In every case I have heard of , it was the victim who had done nothing wrong. Just be aware.
I'm surprised that this warning is not yet posted. Every cool season i.e. high tourist season , during the months of January through April Chiangmai is blanketed with the worst smog and polluted air imaginable. It is due to the open burning of the sorrounding fields and the exhaust-belching vehicles, red-buses in particular, that never see any emission control ckecks. It covers the entire northern section of Thailand all the way to the Mekong River.
You can read about it in the two local English language papers,The Nation and the Bangkok Post both available on line and running articles about the poluted air requently. Each year of the 5 years I have lived here the polution has been near twice the maximum safe allowable levels with the powers that be afraid to do anything about it and mystified each year that it occures again. Motorists, policeman and all wear face masks and try to choke-it-out until the rainy season comes. It is dusgusting that the tourist industry,whats left of it, and the medical community in particular aren't demanding that something be done about it immediately. If you are thinking of Chiangmai please be advised to read the local papers, contact a local friend who lives here or have a reliable travel agent check before hand. I feel sorry for the children who in the future will have respiratory problems as a direct result of the inaction of the of the city leaders currently in office. It is that bad; do your own research. Chiangmai is a beautiful place when the visibility allows.
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.
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Hotel rooms can be cold
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.
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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.......
SongThaews at the foot of Doi Suthep
I'd like to clarify that 400 thb is the standard rate for booking the whole vehicle up and down to Doi Suthep. You pay your driver at the end of the journey. You can also share the journey with other strangers but it would mean that you wait until the van is full before the driver starts off. And you might pay the per journey rate.
Taking a Taxi in Chiang Mai
Be aware that all Taxi in Chiang Mai does not want to use the meter . If you ask them to use it they are not willing to drive . They overcharge all the tourist even the thai people . Always bargain and try to take a cheaper one . The TAT does nothing .
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Western scam artists!
When my wife (who is Thai) and I walked near Old Town, we were approached by 2 enthusiastic Aussie men. They were handing out free scratch tickets where you could win prizes. I scratched the wax off my ticket and when one of the men saw I had 3 stars, he became very excited, as did his partner! According to them, we had won a week in an island hotel and just had to accompany them to the travel agency to claim our prize. Suspecting a scam or bait and switch of some sort, I declined. They then tried to appeal to my sympathy because they would receive 1000 baht just by bringing me to the agency!
Well, we didn't go, so I don't know what the plan was, but the moral is that all touts and scam artists are not necessarily Thais.
Songkram "Water festival"
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.
Remember to drink a lot.
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.
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