This Chiang Mai Travel system will hopefully provide you with ample assistance when touring one of the most charming and friendly cities of northern Thailand. Why! You could even, in some parts, travel overland atop an elephant through the beautiful and bewildering evergreen countryside, if you so wish. Apart from the usual airway connections and bus and train services to Chiang Mai, there are also several extremely convenient local public support setups to choose.
You can reach Chiang Mai with Thai Air International or Bangkok Airways from the now domestic Don Muang airport in Bangkok. Together they operate twenty eight daily round trips lasting approximately one hour and ten minutes each way.
There are also daily flights from other domestic and international airports around the country, including the far northern cities of Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. And flights from Phuket and Koh Samui stop over in Bangkok before heading north.
An alternative to flying would be to embark on an adventurous journey by train from the city of Bangkok which will then take you all the way to Chiang Mai. Tickets can be purchased directly from Hua Lamphong Railway Station, the main railway station in Bangkok.
are fourteen trains leaving for Chiang Mai daily with most of them
being overnight trips lasting between twelve to fifteen hours one way.
You can book private cabins in the first-class section for a more
comfortable ride or you can opt to travel second-class which offers
seats that fold out into sleeping berths. Because the journey is a
rather long one, I would avoid the third-class seats.
As there are no trains going to Chiang Rai near the northern border of Bruma and the north-eastern border of Laos or for that matter, Mae Hong Son near the northwestern border of Burma, you'd have to take the bus or a plane should you wish to visit these cities. Touring by car would also be an ideal way to go.
There are several bus stations around Chiang Mai linking the city to various long distance routes, not only to Bangkok, but also to the central and northern areas of the country. Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal is the main station situated northeast of the city. You can also take the ten to twelve hour bus ride to Bangkok from here.
There are a number of shorter rides to places like Phitsanulok and Ayutthaya in central Thailand. You'd need to hop on one of the Songthaew or tuk tuk's to get here though. You could even take a Samlor ride if you can find one. If you want to take a bus trip within the Chiang Mai region, then you would have to go from the Central Chang Pheuak Bus Terminal north of Chiang Puak Gate.
Unfortunately, the city of Chiang Mai lacks a public rapid transit transport infrastructure such as the setup you find in Bangkok, which has the Bangkok Skytrain transit system and the underground Bangkok Metro. The local bus service in Chiang Mai serves its routes far less frequently than you'd expect from a city of this size.
Many of the local Chiang Mai Travel solutions are provided in the form of Metered Taxis, Motorcycles, Songthaews, Tuk Tuks and Samlors.
Songthaews are basically converted pick-up trucks that can easily carry a fair amount of passengers around the city. You simply hop on at one spot and hop off at another. They usually have a hard canopy connected to a metal frame to keep the sun at bay and plastic sidewalls which roll up and down to keep out the rain if it comes down. At the back they have bench type seats on either side on which you can sit. In order for the driver to stop at the destination of your choice, simply press one of the buzzers attached to the canopy crossbar.
The driver will then acknowledge your request to
disembark. Songthaew fares are in the region of 20 to 50 Baht per
person depending on the length of the trip and they usually operate from
early in the morning until around midnight.
Tuk Tuks are great little three-wheeler taxis that whizz in and out of congested traffic with relative ease. You will find them all over the city and at times difficult to ignore. Tuk Tuk drivers are often seen waiting for potential customers outside hotels, shopping malls, night bazaars and many other places of interest.
Chiang Mai Tuk Tuks usually operate from early in the morning until past midnight with fares starting around 50 Baht for a short trip and ever increasing in price the further you wish to travel. You may be able to find one or two Tuk Tuks after hours, but the prices would be somewhat more expensive. I'll leave it up to you.
They comfortably accommodate two passengers with ease, but often are a lot of fun to travel with, even if you squeeze in up to four people. You need to negotiable an equitable fare with the driver before boarding to avoid any altercation later. I have seen newcomers engaging in huge disputes because they were completely unaware that any sort of a confrontation would result in subsequent bickering.
Metered Taxis are fairly self explanatory and are abundant throughout the city with the added advantage of being air-conditioned, which is a blessing from the heat of the day or night. They are also available from Chiang Mai airport with a 50 Baht airport fee paid upfront at one of the counters there. Metered charges start at around 35 Baht so a short trip to the city center will cost you around 60 to 70 Baht depending on the traffic at the time. No need to tip the driver.
Motorcycle Taxis can be a great alternative if you want to get anywhere in a hurry, but drivers are not always available on call when you most need them. You will recognize motorcycle taxi drivers by their often brightly coloured waistcoats. If you should be visiting Chiang Mai for a more lengthy period, then perhaps hiring a motorbike could be a rather efficient way to see the city and surrounding area.
Samlors are best known as three-wheeled bicycles or a type of rickshaw. This legendary transport mode has been around Thailand for the last six decades, so if you'd like to get around nowhere slowly, then there would be nothing quite like a quiet comfy ride through the surrounding country-side and villages of Chaing Mai.
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