Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tribal Museum

Located just north of Chiang Mai next to Ratchamangkla Park is Chiang Mai Tribal Museum. For those not intending to do a few days trekking north of Chiang Mai this is the best place to experience something of the rich hill tribe culture found in the north of Thailand.

Over centuries the north of Thailand has seen migrations of tribal people from China, Tibet and South East Asia. North Thailand is a fascinating place for those keen to see ancient ways of living; it is also an integral part of most trekking trips sold in Chiang Mai.

I remember many years ago my girlfriend and I did a trek with a bloke who styled himself ‘coconut Dundee’. It was a 3 day trek complete with opium pipes. One the first night we stayed in a tribal village. It was fascinating walking around the village seeing how things were done. The kids were friendly and the adults generally just smiled and got on with whatever they were up to. I remember the following morning I heard something that sounded like church singing. I went off to explore by myself and found a religious gathering. They were singing a standard church hymn but in their own language. I slipped off my shoes and sat at the back. The singing was beautiful as was the atmosphere. It was a magical moment for me; nearly as good as the pipes the night before.

Anyway to learn something about the Karen (famous for the ‘long necks’ created by multiple gold rings), the Akha, Lisu and Hmong hill tribes a trip to the Tribal Museum is an excellent option. Those tribal people that stay in the village next to the museum are dressed in their traditional costumes.

The museum site is fairly small but contains plenty to see. There is an information area with information about calendar activities for the tribes focused around agriculture. There are also model villages to give you an idea about traditional hill tribe architecture. Each visitor also sees a 15-minute video about hill tribes.

A taxi to the hill tribe museum takes about 40 minutes.

When I went to the Tribal Museum we saw hill tribal people in their full regalia. However, others complain that they missed this.

Essential Information

Opening Hours: 9am to 4pm

Cost: 50 to 100 Thai Baht

Address: Chiang Mai Tribal Museum, Chotana Road Rd., Chang Phueak, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand

Phone number: +66 (0) 5321 0872


Reviews on Trip Advisor are mixed for the Tribal Museum. They had a fire in 2013 and it appears that the museum is sometimes closed, or just looks closed. Some reviewers praise the museum and the director who shows some visitors around. Others complain that they didn’t get to see any hill tribe people. It might be best to phone the museum before heading out there to make sure they are open, and whether there are any hill tribe people to see.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Chiang Mai Airport

Chiang Mai has a very good airport. It is not so big or so small as to cause major inconveniences. Moreover the airport is located relatively close to the centre of Chiang Mai. The experience of using Chiang Mai Airport is very different to the experience of using Suvarnabhumi Airport. These are good reasons to consider using Chiang Mai Airport rather than catching a bus or train to the northern Thai travel hub.

Chiang Mai has an international airport. Currently it has flights to and from China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Taiwan. There are also plenty of domestic scheduled flights that use Chiang Mai Airport. There are 130 flights to Bangkok every week. You can fly from Udon Thani, Udon Ratchethani, Mae Hong Son, Krabi and Surat Thani to Chiang Mai. Despite these scheduled flights many people will find that they cannot fly directly to Chiang Mai either because of price, bad connections or availability. Often it is necessary to spend at least one night in a Bangkok hotel. You can find a good list of budget Bangkok hotels here –

The airport at Chiang Mai is a 2 storey building with plenty of parking at the front. It is usually quick to get through customs and also passport control if you are arriving from outside Thailand. The airport is less congested and the experience of getting through the formalities is a lot more positive. For those who want to avoid the long queues and possible interrogations involved with landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chiang Mai Airport is the obvious choice.

Outside the airport you can catch a pre-paid taxi or tuk tuk to the centre of town. It takes about 10 minutes to get from the airport to the old walled city of Chiang Mai. This is where many of the best guest houses are located and has traditionally been where backpackers prefer to stay since it is near the historic sites of the city.

In terms of cost, internal flights to Chiang Mai are very reasonably priced especially if you have flexibility in your itinerary. For just 2,000 Thai Baht you can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. This is great value since the bus or train costs around 1,000 Thai Baht. The fact that the flight takes just a couple of hours rather than overnight on a bus or train is another strong argument for flying to Chiang Mai.

At the moment Thailand is going through a budget carrier boom making it possible to travel the Kingdom quickly and cheaply. The trains are state owned and the prices fixed. The logistics of bus travel make it impossible for coach companies to lower their prices significantly. Another consideration is that flying is a safer form of transport than travel on the road. This is because of the high prevalence of drunk driving and the lack of enforcement of road regulations.

When you arrive at Chiang Mai Airport your main concern might be to just get to your hotel. The chances are, however, that once you are safely ensconced in your hotel you will look back on your journey and conclude that flying to Chiang Mai was a good idea.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Why Take the Train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok

There are 13 flights per day going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Thai Lion Air and Bangkok Airways both offer services. A typical one way ticket costs 1,200 Thai Baht. In contrast there are just 6 trains running daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. An average price for a second class sleeper on the train is just over 1,000 Thai Baht. The flight takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. The train journey takes between 12 to 14 hours. So flying is cheaper and quicker. Why take the train between Chiang Mai and Bangkok?

For a start the money comparison is a little over-simplified because there is the extra expense of getting to and from an airport. Don Muang airport doesn’t have a rail link and a taxi into town costs 500 Thai Baht. From Chiang Mai centre to the airport costs about 120 THB. In comparison you can walk from Chiang Mai Train Station to the old town. You can catch the MRT from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok to Sukhumvit for 130 Thai Baht per person.

The different additional costs of getting to and from a travel hub make the train and the plane journey about the same price.

Obviously in terms of time the airplane option wins hands down. Even if you have to wait around in airports, get searched and scrutinised and all the other palaver that goes with modern air travel. So again, why take the train?

My main argument is that it is nicer. There is still a small amount of romance left about train travel, even with Thai characteristics. You get leg room and even a bed if you travel over night. You can get up and walk around with getting in everyone’s way. You don’t feel hemmed in like transported livestock in economy class on a plane.

As many people have commented in the past – train travel is more civilised. You can bring your own food and drink, you can go to the dining car for something or you can catch the attention of one of the hawkers going up and down the train. You can go to the end of the carriage for a crafty cigarette. And best of all you can look out the window and see something of the Thai countryside rather than just clouds.

Train travel in Thailand is straight forward. It is not hard to find your platform. The trains aren’t running an exact schedule like their Japanese counterparts but they are fairly reliable. You can get tickets the day before normally. You can even buy Chiang Mai to Bangkok train tickets online if you get them 3 days in advance. Click the book button below to check availability and buy a ticket, or use the ticket search engine at the top of the right hand column.

Finally, what is the rush? There is much to explore between major tourist destinations in Thailand. People often have the mind-set that only a handful of places are worth spending any time in. That is not true. Thailand is a diverse Kingdom with many hidden gems. Tourists are missing out. For example between Chiang Mai and Bangkok is Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Both are former capitals and full of ancient temples and palaces. Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage spot. Trains give you the freedom to make stops on the way and discover a bit about Thailand.

It might not be the most convincing of arguments for people who hate being on transport but it shouldn’t be forgotten that in travel, as in life, it is the journey not the arriving that teaches you more.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

THC Roof Top Bar

The THC Roof Top Bar just outside Tapae Gate has gone from cool obscurity to backpacker fame. For this reason many people come to the bar and feel disappointed as THC was billed as something amazing.

It isn’t really. But it is a great bar with club atmosphere. It is a great location on top of a tall building. You go up several flights of rickety stairs. The walls are decorated in glow art and weird decorations. You immerge to a large roof top bar. All the seating is on mats on the floor with low tables.

It is open top with girders above. The feel of the bar is quite unique, and very much enhanced with lovingly strange décor. It is partly acid party and partly reggae bar in Haad Rin. Indeed there is a Koh Phangan feel to the place. That feeling comes from the loud music. For many it feels like a jarring contradiction – a chilled roof top bar with a name that references weed with Bob Marley pictures but playing loud house music. It might be a perfect place for a reggae bar but the problem is that Chiang Mai isn’t a remote beach in Koh Phangan where they smoke weed. Reggae would be soporific in the urban context of Chiang Mai. Much more ‘Saturday night’ is a banging house soundtrack to the night.

Another Koh Phangan echo is the house music. The DJs are often really good at THC Roof Top Bar. They mix with care and verve and come up with plenty of surprising tunes. This reminds you of Koh Phangan were the quality of DJing is very high.

THC is one of those bars where on occasion people get in the mood and dance a bit. The views are great and it makes a good spot for a couple of drinks on a big night out. The only downer is that the drinks are a little pricey. For the same price you could go to a bigger club, but then you would lose the intimate and funky atmosphere.


If you aren’t keen on sitting on the floor where cockroaches and rats might be scurrying then this probably isn’t the bar for you. You just can’t stop nature in Thailand.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wat Lok Molee

Wat Lok Molee (also spelt Wat Lok Moli) is one of the first temples many visitors to Chiang Mai encounter because it is near several popular hotels. It is also near Chang Puak City Gate.

It is not known when the temple was built. It is first mentioned in 1367 AD. The temple was home to Burmese monks invited by the Siamese King to teach Theravada Buddhism.

It is a plain temple. The chedis have not received new stucco. Of note are the wooden façade and beautifully sculptured snakes or naga. The Vimarn, or hall, in front of the chedis is worth a look inside.

It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to take in this temple. If you are staying near the centre or in the old city it is easy to walk to the temple.

Wat Lok Molee is a working temple so you will see monks wandering about. As always it should be mentioned, to respect Thai culture and to dress modestly inside the temple compound. Entry is free.

Just outside the entrance to the temple there is a small shop selling drinks.

Many people comment on Trip Advisor and elsewhere that they liked Wat Lok Molee because it is a peaceful location not teaming with tourists. You can get in touch with the serenity which is at the heart of Buddhism, and which is in complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Thailand’s second city.