Many guide books on Thailand only partially cover the subject of
health and well-being while travelling in the country, so I would like to give you some
advice about transportation, protocol, health and the law.
Hopefully it will help you to enjoy your travels in Northern Thailand.
When you arrive in Chiangmai, it helps to know a bit about
transportation within the city.
At the airport, train station, or bus station, you will probably be
met by the representatives of various guesthouses and hotels and tour operators. If you
have a specific place in mind and you don't see the specific signboard, you can always
call the place to have someone pick you up from the train station, airport, or bus arcade
Taxis are available at Chiang Mai
International Airport, for around 150 baht to most destinations.
The common vehicles of public transportation around Chiangmai are
more varied than public buses.
The terms 'dtoog dtoog' and 'sarmlor' are open-air, three-wheel
vehicles, and 'zeelor' and 'songthaew' describe vehicles with four wheels.
Whenever you get in a 'dtoog dtoog', 'zeelor', or 'samlor', you should
make sure that they take you where you want to go. Often the drivers work on commission
and may tell you that the place you want to go is dirty, closed, or full; if they don't
have a previous agreement with the place you have in mind.
Always negotiate the price before you get in a dtoog dtoog or samlor.
A zeelor ride should cost 15 Baht on a regular route, more if you hire it out to go
somewhere out of the way.
The best way to get around Chiangmai is by 'songthaew'.
These are covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back;
'Songthaew' means 'two benches' in Thai.
Travelling Around by Songthaew - � Randy Gaudet
You will see them everywhere and it's easy to get them to pick you up.
All you need to do is to put your arm out and look at the driver and they will stop. Then
tell the driver which street you want to go to and, if he is going that way, he will shake
his head for 'yes'; if not, he will say "no" and go on.
Don't worry, there will be another one right behind him.
When the driver turns down the street you want, start looking for
where you need to get off and press the switch located on the roof of the cab. The driver
will pull over, let you out, and then you pay him. The fare should be 20 Thai baht or less
(around 50 cents).
If you tell the driver the name of a hotel or establishment, he will
think you want to hire him for a private trip and the price will be much more. Negotiate
any price beforehand if you want to go to somewhere particular.
Meeting and making friends with different people is an exciting
part of travel anywhere.
In Northern Thailand, it helps to know a bit of the language and
something about the protocol. To say "hello", say "Sawasdee Krup" for
men and "Sawasdee Kha" for women.
To learn more Thai before you come, an excellent free teaching website
can be found at Learning Thai. You will gain
loads of respect from the Thai people if you learn some basics of the Thai language.
The Thais put a lot of emphasis on manners, so it's a good idea to
learn to say "Thank you".
In Thai, it's "Kob Khun", followed by "Krup" or
"Kha" for women.
Thai Wai - � Randy Gaudet
The 'wai', made by placing your palms together in front of the upper
chest, is the traditional Thai gesture of greeting or respect and the gesture is always
The custom is that younger people 'wai' elders first, so let the
children and persons you think are younger than you 'wai' before you 'wai' them.
The Thai people have several customs that are important to
remember to avoid causing offence.
Never touch the head, because it is the most sacred part of the body.
The feet are the lowliest part, so don't point them at others or rest them above ground
level. Never stop a rolling Thai Baht coin or any type of Thai currency with your foot, as
the money here has a picture of the king on it.
Respect for the king and religious customs is another important part
of Thai protocol. They have great respect for the royal family, the flag, and anything
with an image of the king; including the money.
When you visit a Buddhist temple, you should always remove your shoes
before entering any buildings. Men should wear long trousers and women should wear
knee-length, or longer skirts.
Women are not allowed to touch monks or make prolonged eye contact
with them. Do not sit on the walls surrounding the jedee, which contains the temple's
sacred relics of the Buddha.
Don't display your anger, because the Thais will think you're
uncultured. Smile and think 'no problem'. Thais do not like confrontation, so getting
angry will get you nowhere in Thailand.
Here is an example:
Let's say you arrive at your hotel and want a nice, hot shower or
bath. You turn on the tap and find the hot water is not working. What most people would do
is call the front desk and complain and, if you are tired, you might raise your voice a
little, saying, "The hot water doesn't work, what's the problem?"
With this attitude, it might take a long time before someone comes to
check it out, if at all.
What you should say, is: "I don't know how to get the hot water
turned on in my room; would you please have someone show me?"
Someone will come to your room within a minute or two to check it out.
Thailand is a country of gourmands. Eating out is one the nation's
favorite activities, and knowing a bit of table manners will help you appear more
Waiters and waitresses in Thailand are trained to take your entire
order. When they take the order, they will often ask "one", which is their way
of asking whether they got it correctly or not.
The entire meal is customarily served at the same time, but the empty
dishes are removed one by one.
Some street-side restaurants will not remove any dishes or bottles
until you finish your meal. This is because they do not write down your order. They shout
your order to the cook and, after the meal, they will count the plates and bottles and
figure out the bill then.
Chiangmai and the north have plenty of night entertainment
It runs the gamut from restaurants to nightclubs, discos, or video
Thai people are often as interested in meeting you as you might be in
meeting them, but one should exercise discretion and sometimes a bit of caution;
especially in matters of the heart.
In romantic situations, Westerners and Thais both occasionally get
hurt. The best advice is to think with your head AND your heart. Enjoy yourself, but be
very adult about any given situation.
Many visitors to Chiangmai enjoy taking trips outside the city.
We recommend these trips highly but don't forget to bring a few extras
in case of emergency.
Flashlights and extra batteries, as well as film and camera batteries,
are recommended, as are matches or a lighter.
Jackets may be needed for the cold evenings and don't forget a
first-aid kit, or the ever-important toilet paper for emergencies
Ear plugs are a good idea if staying overnight in a hill tribe
village, as the roosters can be very loud at 3am.
Keeping healthy on holiday is essential.
If you feel ill, it's probably a good idea to see a doctor in one of
Chiangmai's clinics or hospitals.
If you are worried that you may have come down with malaria, Chiangmai
has an excellent malaria clinic. There you can get a 30-minute test.
For more information, call the Regional Center at 222275.
Whatever you do, don't take chances with your health while traveling
away from home.
While Chiangmai is a great place to visit, just like any other
city, crime is never on holiday when you are.
Theft seems to be the most common tourist-targeted crime and this
includes credit cards and passports.
How about carrying half your cash in a body money belt?
If you must leave your passport or credit cards anywhere for
safekeeping, we recommend using a safety deposit box in one of the local banks or your
hotel. Do not give anyone valuables to put in a safe. Make sure you both have a key to the
safety box and a list of items that you put in.
When you go trekking, the Tourism
Authority of Thailand (TAT) suggests that a photocopy of your passport is acceptable
identification to carry on the trek.
Every visitor should be well-informed about Thailand's laws on
Drugs that are illegal in your home country are just as illegal in
There are no 'recreational' drugs in Thailand. The list of banned
substances includes marijuana and hashish, as well as opium, heroine and cocaine.$
Unfortunately, some people come to Northern Thailand with the
impression that the use of some drugs is okay.
This is a misguided and very wrong impression. There are now
undercover police in hill tribe villages and you will get caught.
Naivet� is not an excuse in court. There is extreme danger in buying
or using drugs in Northern Thailand and we hope all visitors will keep this in mind. The
laws are very strict, and the punishment is not pleasant.
The advice given in this article is by no means comprehensive, but it
presents many of the fundamental cautions that will help you get the most out of your trip
to this beautiful country.
If you would like more detailed medical or health information, please
speak with a doctor or other trained professional.
For legal or travel safety information, contact the Chiangmai
By Randy Gaudet.
North Thailand Adventures:
If you don't have much time and want to go elephant riding, do a little rafting and spend
the night in a traditional hill tribe village; this is the program for you.
Bangkok is often the starting point for travel to Thailand, unless you are overlanding up
from Malaysia. Find out more about Thailand @ Travel Notes.
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