12 things I’ve learned from traveling around Thailand

Bangkok wires
A bundle of joy [Bangkok, 2015]
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.

Kad Suan Kaew [Chiang Mai, 2009]
Red trucks or songthaews abound. Kad Suan Kaew [Chiang Mai, 2009]
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.

Hua Hin boats
Maybe next time I’ll just take a boat. [Hua Hin, 2007]
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.

Air Asia
Work kept on insisting I use Air Asia….anyone watch the news lately?

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!

The unbridled joy of travel. [Don Mueang Airport, 2015]
The unbridled joy of travel. [Don Mueang Airport, 2015]
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.

sukhumvit
The infamous Sukhumvit…it’s a long road. (400km)

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.

near MBK [Bangkok, 2007]
Near MBK [Bangkok, 2007]
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 😉

BKK monitor lizard
These monitor lizards live in Lumphini Park and if you call someone a monitor lizard in Thai, it’s extremely insulting. Attracted to politicians and cheating taxi drivers. [Bangkok, 2007]
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.)

Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok
Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok

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.

[Lamphun train station, 2007]
Another alternative, the trains. [Lamphun’s train station, 2007]
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.

Of course, you could always try riding a buffalo like Holly...[Chiang Mai, 2009]
Of course, you could always try riding a buffalo like Holly…[Chiang Mai, 2009]
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.

Spirit house at Siam Square. [Bangkok, 2013]
Spirit house at Siam Square. [Bangkok, 2013]
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?

25 thoughts on “12 things I’ve learned from traveling around Thailand

  1. Be careful with Air Asia! In all seriousness, it’s still safest form of travel.

    Can’t be too streetsmart when it comes to holding on to your wallet.

    Hey we have those bundles of unregulated wirings in Chinese urban villages as well… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ms. Prude 🙂

    I live very near your hotel when I’m in BKK. There are many good (non-Thai) food on Sukhumvit 11 (I like Oskar and Limoncello). I always wanted to try Dosa King but can’t get any of my Thai friends to try Indian food!!! Coyote is relatively new Mexican place (former home of Angel City Diner) – I will try it next weekend when I’m back in BKK.

    Lower Sukhumvit, in night time, is still seedy although I’ve seen it worst. Once upon a time (early Y2k), there was another gogo arena (Clinton Plaza) where Sofitel hotel stands between Sukhumvit 13 and 15 and beer bar area between Sumhumvit 8 and 10 (now Chuwit park).

    While I no longer hangout at Nana or Cowboy, I still love lower Suk as most places I eat and hangout are there.

    Many BKK taxis run on LPG so that’s probably why you are seeing tanks in non traditional place (and why these taxis don’t have much room in trunk/boot). I’ve never had a taxi that stops for gas in mid trip but these days, I am perfectly happy to take Airport Link/BTS coming and going to Suvarnabhumi.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t aware that the BTS Airport link was open! Ahh, here according to the Wiki: “As of September 2014, all Express services have been suspended until further notice due to a shortage of rolling stock availability.”

      But thank you for clearing up the taxi fuel question. I had no idea what LPG was…educational!

      Yeah, Suk is a unique place, BKK gets under your skin. I had to go to the mall here in CR for some shopping and I found myself missing BKK’s malls…good grief, can a girl ever be satisfied? (Don’t answer that)

      I went to Dosa King back in 2007/09 and when 2x when I was just there. Still great food. Cheers!

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      1. Yes, the EXPRESS trains (direct connection no stop to/from Suvarnabhumi to either Phaya Thai or Makkasan stations) appears to have been shut down. HOWEVER, they still run City Line (5 stops to Makkasan or 7 stops to Phaya Thai).. It’s WAY cheaper than express and many Thai people use this to get to the center of the city.

        I normally take the airport link to Phaya Thai (45 baht) and then take BTS to Nana station and walk home. It certainly is cheaper than taxi; more importantly for me, it’s much more peaceful and, perhaps, even faster than dealing with BKK traffic. This mode of transportation is fine except for rush hours when BTS can get very crowded so I usually fly in after 8pm (or before 3pm).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I never really got into going around by taxi till my China trips. I think it might be due to the high prices in Europe when it comes to taxis. In Finland the starting fare is minimum 8 euros which equals about 300baht! Going from the helsinki Aiport to our home back then by taxi costs nearly 50 euros about 1800baht for a mere 10-15min trip, just insane.
    This resulted that I who evrywhere by taxi in China, always feels like that it is nearly for free as I am used to such horrendous prices (Finnish prices are from a couple of years ago so it is very likely that the starting fare reached already ten euros…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, back home taking a taxi was just too dear to contemplate. Taxis in Ecuador were necessary for safety reasons and here they are fairly affordable so I do prefer them over the smelly tuktuks and bleching songthaews. I’m lucky 😛

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  4. If I ever get to travel to Thailand, I’ll let you know. But before I do that, I will surely read all I can about traveling in Thailand from your blog 🙂

    Red trucks seem a bit like our jeepneys. Oh, and lizards or buwaya is also a term we attribute to politicians in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Taking a taxi sounds quite an adventure in Thailand. Like you, I’m wondering why that taxi has the gas thank near the hood. I mean…what? The gas tank better not have a hole in it. I don’t blame some of them for charging a flat rate before they take you for a drive. That way they are sure to make a buck. Then again, not going against the meter you’re likely to pay more than you really need to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I’ve learned about taking taxis frequently is by not using the meter, drivers are off the clock, so to speak. So, they pocket the fare as opposed to splitting it with the cab company. At least, that’s my educated guess.

      As far as the gas in the hood, I’ve since learned that they use LPG. Apparently it’s a popular form of fuel in Asia. *shrugs*

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      1. Lani, I think Taxi drivers rent the car at set price per shift. They keep whatever they make on the shift (less expenses e.g. taxi/fuel/police). The main reason for non-meter use is for them to quote a price that is higher than what meter charge will be (thus increasing their revenue).

        I do believe that BKK meter charge are very low (and too low, from taxi driver perspective). However, from customer perspective, there is inconsistent service provided by Taxis (main complaint being their refusal to go to a place requested by the customer followed by lack of road knowledge, politeness and safe driving). And bad services are not just to foreigners only as they treat Thais just as bad. Being able to speak some level of Thai helps to filter out grossly bad taxi drivers.

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      2. I don’t know. Here in Chiang Rai, they charge pretty much the same rate to go to a particular place as the meter…so that is why I came to that conclusion.

        I’ve also had the drivers who deliberately take a longer route (or make a big circle) just so they can get the meter cooking. Yes, some Thai helps, but they know when they are being dishonest and us busting them doens’t seem to make it any better.

        Taxi talk. What a discussion!!!

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      3. Yes, you are right. Why not make more money when you can on the job…I don’t think there are CCTV cameras in those taxis so they won’t get caught no going by the meter.

        I hear LPG is one of the cheaper fuels (and dirtier) around, maybe that’s why it’s that popular.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Lain I just love to hear how you get around, you take such great pictures, hope your new camera is just as good! I forget that getting around over there can be very challenging, unlike waiting in Maui on beach road to make a left turn! I will never complain again!
    You are just so good at going with the flow, which is what like is all about! I will be challenging my go with the flow as I am flying many times to help my Dad and sister in the next 3 weeks. You inspired me to take pictures in our 1100 mile drive to move my sister from Texas to Michigan. I pray for patience along my journey! Much love to you Lani!
    Hope to get your book before I go on a couple long flights!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are such a sweetie. Thank you. Yes, take pictures along your journeys. I would love to see them and I hope your family appreciates your help, too.

      “Waiting for a left turn on Maui” sounds like a good book 😀 Hahahaha. Safe travels, much love and light.

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      1. That would be a funny book…waiting for a left turn on Maui..just do it….I will get some pictures of the snow…Burrr…It will be a fun adventure though! Much love to you Lani , Robyn

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Lani!! Very interesting post and I learned so much about Thailand!

    It’s crazy how taxi fares can differ so much according to city. I remember taxi fares in Phuket were like highway robbery compared to Bangkok. I think to just ride a van to a bus stop 10 minutes away they charged me 300 baht, it was nuts!

    I had no idea Chang Mai was such a huge city. People were telling me about how it’s more of a “rustic” Thailand but maybe that’s not the cas anymore?

    Either way, sounds like you’re traveling a lot!! You must be pooped!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m recovering, but I just booked another ticket – I’ll make an annoucement later 😉

      Yes, taxis are notorious for overcharinging. I think an honest taxi driver made the news recently – seriously and sad, eh?

      CM is not rustic. Hahahaha. Yes, 10 years ago, sure. But it’s a little Bangkok and traffic jam monster on the rise.

      Like

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