HOT INFO On The Road

Margaret and Keel's Asian Adventure
Riding Tigers: REPORT #8
October 28, 1999, Chiang Mai, Thailand

39 Bahts = 1 U.S.$

Have arrived in Chang Mai after 10 hour bus ride from Bangkok. Private Bus is not much different than Government Bus. Best advice is use a reliable travel service if you want to go on a private bus. The travel service at the Atlanta Hotel made these arrangements for us. Good food on the bus and the price of the ticket included a lunch as well as picking us up and our hotel and picking us up from the bus station in Chang Mai and delivering us to our guest house. An O.K. deal.

Chang Mai is certainly a nice place but a little too touristy for my taste. Everyone speaks English and American breakfast and American food is available everywhere. I did not fly half way around the world to get eggs and bacon at a more expensive price than U.S. So I go looking for the Thai places...my favorite breakfast is rice congee or locally known as jok, pronounced like "joke". Its a rice porridge that has chicken, ginger, and
cilantro, it is really quite good and very filling. also very cheap, you can have breakfast for .50 cents. Chang Mai is the hub of northern Thailand and the jumping off point for trekking into the hill tribe regions. Everywhere is a company offering to take you trekking. Too many to choose from, i am looking to go longer than the average tourist trek which only last a couple of days. I want to go for one week and will have to hunt to find such a trip. I will report back on what i find and how it turns out.

Chang mai is certainly cheap in some regards. There are so many guesthouses that the competition keeps the price down. I did an extensive search of guesthouses and looked at many places. The one place that I recommend and am currently staying is

the Thong Koon House: 27/5 Moon muang rd. Soi 9, Chang Mai Tel: 053-418174

This place is not listed in the lonely planet guide book but it is very clean. A room with double bed, private bath with hot shower and fan is 160 bahts. That's 4.00 US per night...There are so many places to choose from in Chang Mai but you cant go wrong here.

Another note, the taxi or tuk tuk ride in from the airport or the bus station should be around 30 bahts. If you ask how much to the taxi driver they will start at 100 bahts and will not bargain down. Here you must state what you will pay and they will say o.k. or no. I met some people who paid 500 bahts for this same trip...ouch...certainly one of the down sides of a heavily tourist area...if you let them take you they will. but don't get me wrong the people are as pleasant and nice and anywhere in Thailand.

I want to give folks an idea of a typical budget day in Chang mai to show those who may think this kind of travel is cost prohibitive. This budget is for two people and is what we spent yesterday

guesthouse - 160 bahts
breakfast - 80
lunch - 60
Dinner, beer 220
taxi to Wat 100
fruit Shake 30

total 650 bahts which is approximately 16.00$ U.S. this means we are spending 8.00 per person for this day...not too bad

Now this is a pretty tame day as we did not hire any guides or drink many beers. beer drinking can really run up the budget. Also if you buy souveniers or pay entrance fees to museums etc your price will go up. However, you can see that on a budget of 25.00 dollars per day you can do quite well in Asia, an Thailand is considered an expensive country in Asia. There have obviously been days where we blew the budget all to hell but sometimes you got to splurge.

Went to see Thai kick boxing at Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok before heading north. I highly recommend this activity. I was luck as I went with my Thai friend who was able to take care of the arrangements. However, this is a must see! I wish some Thai kick boxer would kick Mike Tyson butt, he is such a looser ...anyway the betting was quite heavy and if we had not won it could have been an expensive evening. Ringside seats cost 1000 bahts (20.00) each. We bet usually 2000 bahts per event and eventually bet 4000 bahts on the last event. To put it short, we paid for our tickets, paid for our beers and tip our bookie 1000 bahts for his service. You see although the betting is going fast and furious it is technically illegal. Unless you are with a Thai who knows the language and the ins and outs you should not bet. many people in the audience are flashing false signals and incorrect odds, which are changing constantly. I was so fortunate to experience this with a local Thai...you should however just go and watch it is quite and event, even Buddhism is prevalent at this venue...

One last tip before signing off...don't give to small children who are begging on the street. quite a lot of them in Chang Mai. They are actually working for gangs who have rented them from the orphanages. Most of the money goes to the gangs and maybe a few pennies goes to the children. it is a sad fact and one of the dark sides of Asia. Best to buy them a plate of rice if you want to do something but do not fall prey to their innocent looks. Its a hard heart that can turn away from a six year old who is wandering the street at 11;00 pm begging for money, but once you know the real story behind it, its a little easier...Don't give ...this has been related to me by the local Thais so I just didn't make this up...

Got to run for now, thanks for stopping by, I will let you know how the hill trib trekking works out...Sawat dee Kap...keel

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