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BKK + Chiang Mai or ?

BKK + Chiang Mai or ?

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Old Nov 1, 03, 2:33 pm
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BKK + Chiang Mai or ?

It looks like I'll have 5.5 days in Thailand (Jan. 21-27/2004), so I'd like to see the country outside BKK. How about renting a car one-way to Chiang Mai, then flying back to BKK on TG for US$76.50 in J to connect to a flight to HKG?
Or how about somewhere in mainland China or in Taiwan before HKG?

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Old Nov 2, 03, 12:22 pm
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I see nothing wrong with your plan as long as you are comfortable driving on the English side of the road and are a what I term an aggressive/defensive driver. Personally, I have driven a circle from Chiang Mai thru the hills and golden triangle. Have also driven from Phuket to Chumphon and back.

Main road signage is a combination of Thai and English. Small roads have only Thai signage. The most difficult part of your drive will be in the vicinity of Don Muang airport. If available, I strongly advise that you get on the expressway until you are away from the congestion of Bangkok. A good map is a must since most road signs name a town and not always a route number. A trick to keeping on course is to make note of the kilometer markers on the side of the road. They normally have the kilometers to the next major town and the name of the town in Thai only. If they disappear for a period of time this is an indication that you got off track (but not always).

People will be surprised for the most part by a Westerner driving in Thailand, but it is no more difficult than in many other parts of the world. I include Manhattan as part of that world. Away from the towns and cities there is comparatively little traffic. Be aware that mopeds, scooters, and motor-bikes are a part of the scene everywhere. Be always alert. Don't be surprised to see 3 or 4 people on a single moped. Also don't be surprised to see a song-tao (pickup truck used as a bus) with people hanging out the sides and off the back. Also don't be surprised to be following the local egg man's Toyota pickup with the entire bed loaded higher than the cab roof with eggs. They tend to drive quite slowly. Give way for bigger things. They appreciate it and rarely give you the same courtesy. For the most part, I found Thai drivers to courteous, the amount of courtesy is inversely proportional to the amount of congestion. Don't be surprised by passing behaviour and two lane roads being used as two lanes in each direction. 4w.d. pickups rule in the countryside. They tend to be among the more aggressive-stay alert.

The most difficult thing about Chiang Mai was finding the road north from the airport and finding the airport upon return.

Avis and Budget allow one-way rentals and they are not difficult to arrange. They can be done on-line. I rented from Avis in January and they were fine. I have Budget rentals this month both in Chiang Mai (just for local travel) and a one-way from Phuket-Bangkok.

The main roads are quite good and compare favorably with those found in the Northwest U.S. The minor roads range from excellent to abysmal. Minor road signage is often non-existent.

Maps:

Periplus travel maps have Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. The Chiang Mai includes the Goden Triangle, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. A note on Chiang Rai, I suggest the Dusit Island Resort. BTW: some lesser roads are shown on these.

Nelles "Bangok" map is pretty good.

Bartholomew "Thailand" is good for main roads.

There supposedly is a Bangkok expressway map that is helpful. Amazon has mine on back-order so I hope to find one in Bangkok.

Your plan to fly "C" on the return may not be worth it since the flight is 1hr and 10 minutes. Coach on Thai is fine and exit row aisle seating can be requested (and normally obtained) at check-in. You can also e-ticket your return ticked on thaiairways.com from the U.S. charged to your credit card. Just request an e-ticket rather than in-country pickup. One way CNG-BKK should be about $52 U.S.
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Old Nov 2, 03, 2:33 pm
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From what I was told by a friend of mine who lives in BKK 6 months a year, it's better to fly to Chiang Mai than drive. Drive time roughly half a day, in spite of the seemingly short distance (think road to Hana on Maui).

We spent 3 days in Chiang Mai this summer. It was great. CM is Thailands 2nd largest city. The folks that live there say to go to Chiang Rai for an even better flavor of Thailand. Less congestion. That's roughly 4 hours by car. You can even book overnight tours to C.R. for hardly any $$$.

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Old Nov 3, 03, 5:49 am
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I think you're both mad-- wouldn't catch me driving!!
opus- what do you do when a bus is coming 100km/h at you when using the wrong side of the road? As is the Thai road law of bigger has the right of way??
i would s**t myself..
lol
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Old Nov 3, 03, 6:41 am
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Fly there and back.

When in Chiang Mai, haggle with a taxi driver to take you to the sights you want to see.

With no haggling we hired the Chiang Mai Westin Hotel driver and the hotel's BMW for $6-7per hour, took us all over for a day. A taxi will be 1/2 that easily as that is what their initial offering to me was.

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Old Nov 3, 03, 3:29 pm
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"opus- what do you do when a bus is coming 100km/h at you when using the wrong side of the road?"

Same thing that I would do in Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Costa Rica, Northern New Jersey and London. Hit the brakes and pull over to the shoulder if there is one. I guess that I have been lucky in 44 years of licensed driving and have never ended up imbeded in the front of either a speeding bus or a speeding truck. One must drive defensively and look ahead to foresee problems. I, however, was rear-ended in NYC three times in the six months I lived there. It pays to look to the rear and not stop for pedestrians there!
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Old Nov 3, 03, 4:48 pm
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OK, How about flying to Chiang Mai & out of Chiang Rai with a drive or bus ride between the 2, perhaps with an extra day? Or should I see Phuket?

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Old Nov 3, 03, 5:29 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Brendan:
Or should I see Phuket?</font>
Phuket is for kicking back, not really seeing.

Do the north.

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Old Nov 3, 03, 7:34 pm
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I would fly to Chiang Mai and do the loop up to Chiang Rai. Take the road thru Fong rather than the more direct route. It is an interesting drive, as is the drive to the Myanmar border straight north from Chiang Rai. You can also do the Golden Triange route in one day including a long tail boat to Dao island in Laos. Cost approximately 500 baht and 10 baht landing fee (little stamp on a piece of paper).

I have done all of this (2 days) and then flew out of Chiang Mai at 11a.m. If you can get a one-way rental to Chiang Rai, fly directly back to BKK from there.

I would not do Phuket as a destination unless you want to sit on the beach, drink copious quantities of booze and play with the girls. Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are interesting. The night market is a kick.

The scenery North of Phuket is spectacular along the Andaman Sea coast. The problem is that you have to stay in Phuket unless you drive 180 miles to Ranong and stay at the Royal Princess (located unfortunately in an abandoned industrial site-staff is great, hotel is marginal) or perhaps, The Jansom, if it is open-was not in January.

The other choice north is Chumphon with basically a Jansom. We are doing the South route in two weeks Krabi, Surat Thani, Chumphon, Hua Hin and back to BKK.

My suggestion is take the northern drive because of better facilities and their locations.
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Old Nov 5, 03, 5:55 am
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Driving does have a more than a few disadvantages. As a foreigner you are likely to pick up 'fines' from the police for an imaginary 'traffic offence'. Also not too may Thais have insurance and if you were unlucky enough to be involved in a traffic accident, you would be the 'guilty party'.
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Old Nov 11, 03, 2:17 pm
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I think that I shall see enough palaces & temples in Bangkok to keep me busy, so I intend to scratch the North after all. If I feel a need to see the countryside, I suppose I can rent a car to drive 100-150 km or so out of Bangkok, then return.
Thanks for your help.

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Old Nov 11, 03, 7:43 pm
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Personally, I could spend 5 weeks in BKK and still not see it all. If you get bored in BKK or decide that it's your cup of tea then you can always go to Chiang Mai on a whim.
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