Recently I’ve been traveling around Thailand and it’s driving me batty because I’m such a homebody, but I love seeing new places, too. I know, I’m so complicated. And even though I no longer live in Chiang Mai, I’ve had to return there several times to go to Chiang Dao, Ubon Ratchathani, Lamphun and then I went to Bangkok. So, here’s this month’s “12 things” list.
1. Taxis in Chiang Mai are hella expensive. Normally, I would take a red truck or songthaew, but sometimes you just want to get to your destination without the hassle and believe me taking a red truck is a hassle most of the time. Unlike Chiang Rai or the rest of the planet, CM taxis charge a flat rate regardless of where you are going within the city. It’s 200 baht. Considering the meter starts at 30 baht, I find this obscene.
2. Getting around CM these days is a pain in the patience pocketbook. Traffic has bloomed (is bloomed the right word?) so you spend most of your time sitting in traffic. Unlike Bangkok where you have the saviors BTS and MRT, Chiang Mai relishes its gridlock fight over whether or not to even have subways, sky trains and other forms of traffic relief. Oh, boy.
3. If you do take a songthaew then remember the going rate is 20 baht. (This is expensive by Bangkok standards.) Although, the last time I used one, the driver told me 30 baht and I grudgingly gave it to him. I have no idea why I didn’t just give him the standard fare, he had already dropped me off, but I suppose it’s the American in me to comply. Bastards.
4. Is anyone up for using Kan Air? Because when I was checking out routes to Ubon, I stumbled upon this new airline company. They apparently do personal charter flights and fly from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Who knew, right? But when I was trying out all the airline ticket counters at Ubon’s airport, NOBODY used Kan Air. And when I originally tried to book a flight with them in CR, the travel agents could not get a hold of anyone. Not a good sign. But I’d honestly like to hear from someone who has used them!
5. When I arrived at Don Mueang Airport, I was told to cue up at Gate 8 for metered taxis. The lines were quite heavy, but I went to my happy place and magically chose the right line, as a group of women left the cue for some mysterious reason. (Do I smell?) It costs 50 baht on top of the meter starting at 30. Then the driver asked me if I wanted to take the toll to avoid traffic, so I paid an additional 50 baht for that. So getting to Sukhumvit that late afternoon was 300 baht.
6. However, a colleague suggested, next time heading to Departures to pick up a taxi. You’d avoid cues and the pickup fee, but you’ll have to take your chances with taxis dropping off customers. Although, this shouldn’t be a problem since at both Bangkok airports, taxis will want to have passengers both ways.
7. Unmetered taxis were trying to charge me 400 baht when I was trying to get to the airport. My backup plan was to take the BTS to Mo Chit and then hail a cab from there. That, of course, would have been the most economical route, but work was paying for my fare so I figured I deserved a taxi 😉
8. It cost less than 200 baht to take a metered taxi from Sukhumvit Soi 11 to Don Mueang Airport. I left in the late morning and we encountered traffic only when we were getting closer to the airport. So, I’d say it was about a 40 minute drive. (Here’s a link from the Ambassador Hotel where I stayed for the Thailand TESOL conference. It has a handy distances chart.)
9. Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports both have these taxi services, I think to prevent drivers from scamming customers, but don’t think they won’t try to be cute. Both of my taxis stopped for gas. One stopped the meter and the other did not. But since it only racked up a few baht, I didn’t make a fuss.
I am curious though, if anyone can explain why Bangkok taxis don’t use the gas tank that comes with the cars. Seriously. One taxi had the tank in the trunk and the other in the hood by the engine, which seems like a bad idea.
10. When traveling through the airports or within Bangkok, give yourself plenty of time. Every flight I took these past 2 months was delayed. And Bangkok always seems to have traffic – somewhere, so I can imagine trying to make a flight or something and panicking because you are sitting in traffic.
11. Sometime between here and ago, I’ve lost my love for the City of Angels. Bangkok around the Sukhumvit area was dirty (in more ways than one) and depressing. There was good food though, Dosa King for vegetarian Indian and Coyote for Mexican. But, I don’t remember all the sex toys and drugs being sold, then again, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to this area of Bangkok.
So much of where you go, depends on where you go, eh?
Usually, I stay in the Siam Square area. I love the shopping district, but I suppose it was good for me to see a seedier side. Although, I’m sure it was rather tame by certain people’s standards. Fine by me. Call me a prude.
12. I hate to begin and end on a negative note, but I have to say, watch out, things do get stolen. When I was attending a friend’s wedding, my camera was lifted. I’ve gotten so used to Thailand being a safe “not that kind of place” country that I forgot that these things still happen. The upside is I get to buy a newer and better camera. The downside was – it was stolen during a happy occasion and I felt a little selfish for feeling bummed about it because the weekend wasn’t about me.
In any case, I didn’t lose any photos, the camera had a spot on the lens I could NEVER get out and I learned a lesson in trusting my surrounds.
What have you learned through your travels around Thailand? Any tips and tricks you’d like to share?