Sunday, 11 June 2017

Should I Travel by Day or by Night from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by Bus?

The bus trip from Chiang Mai to Bangkok is one of the most used travel routes in Thailand. The journey is 360 miles as the bird flies. Naturally roads, even Roman ones, don't dissect maps in straight lines. However, if you were to draw a straight line from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and overlaid the actual road route you would see the two are fairly close. Indeed by road the journey is 425 miles.

In a car the trip can be done in just under 9 hours. By bus the journey takes 11 hours. The bus doesn't stop all the time to pick up and drop off passengers. There is usually one stop of 40 minutes or so to get food, stretch the legs and go to the toilet.

There are a number of bus companies that cover the bus route from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. They all have air-con and toilets at the back of the bus. Many of them have video players that show movies during the trip, except at night.

For the backpacker, travelling by night has 2 major advantages. The first is that you save a night's accommodation cost. The ticket costs about 600 Thai Baht. The cost of a cheap room in Bangkok is about the same. Another plus is that you arrive at 7 am. You have all day to find your room in Bangkok.

The disadvantages are that you cannot see any scenery travelling at night. You miss the Thai countryside. Also you cannot lie down in the bus. The seats recline a bit but as you go back so the person in front of you does the same and you feel just as confined as before. It is hard to sleep sitting up. Moreover, the air-con cannot be turned down. It is essential to bring a blanket or a sweater as you get cold at night.

It might be best to try both day travel and night travel in Thailand to see which you prefer. I find the experience of travelling such a long distance tends to jade me for several hours after disembarking at the destination.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Yoga in Chiang Mai

Over the last few years there has been a resurgence in interest in practising yoga. It has become something similar to diving in the sense that it is an industry that draws in many of its new punters with the lure of getting a qualification that will lead to employment in Thailand, thus making the dream of living and working in Thailand come true. Here is a brief guide to doing yoga in Chiang Mai.

Wild Rose Yoga Studio The main man is Lek. He studied in India and also under Victor Chng who taught him Yin Yoga.

Yoga Mind Yoga Body This is the name for Gernot Huber's classes. He does private classes at his small studio. He also gives drop in classes at Wild Rose Yoga Studio and The Yoga Tree. Gernot does Anusara and Iyengar yoga techniques, and touches on the philosophy behind yoga.

Blue Garden Yoga and Massage Training There is a medicinal aspect to this yoga school. The founder combines Thai massage, Chinese chi manipulation and yoga to help people with their ailments. Daily lessons cost 200 THB.

The Yoga Tree This is a space for yoga, dance and creative wellness or so the strap line says. Awaken your inner dancer. This is a busy yoga centre. Gernot teaches here. They have classes every day and often from 9am to 6pm. Some classes are fixed price, others are donation based. They also do Qi Gong classes.

The Yoga Room The Yoga Room can only manage a free wordpress site. They do Ashtanga Yoga and have yoga teacher training with certification by IYC Japan. The main man is Ken Harakuma who has a lot of the ubermensch about him.

Yoga Kuukan Yoga school run by Rose ('an old soul') and also featuring Tomer from Germany. They do yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. They claim to be un-dogmatic and to not follow any guru. Yoga Kuukan has workshops and classes most days of the week. See their schedule for more details. This list of yoga schools is not exhaustive. It is a growing area. As with the yoga scene in Srithanu in Koh Phangan, it is a side of tourism that is rapidly expanding. Indeed I would hazard a guess that new yoga schools are appearing quicker than new brothels. That must be good for the city.


Wild Rose Yoga
Yoga Mind Yoga Body
Blue Garden Yoga
The Yoga Tree
The Yoga Room
Yoga Kuukan

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Loi Kroh Road

In Thai 'Loi Kroh' means 'wash your bad luck away'. There is a book on this very subject. Loi Kroh Road is the place that all locals and expats in Chiang Mai have heard about. It is a small area full of bars and eateries as well as go go bars. If Chiang Mai has a red light district it is Loi Kroh Road. The irony of the road name is obvious - for many naive tourists the bad luck begins with falling for a working girl.

It is hard to be prudish when writing about a place in Thailand. There are red light districts in Bangkok (Soi Cowboy and Patpong), Pattaya (Walking Street), Phuket (Bangla Road). Koh Samui has hundreds of working girls in Chaweng and Lamai. Even the hippy island of Koh Phangan has a mile stretch of sordid beer bar places. Prostitution is common in Thailand and attracts both sexpats, sex tourists and Thai men. In this way, Chiang Mai is no different.

On Loi Kroh Road you will find bars where you buy the girl a drink and she will sit with you. Then of course after pleasantries there is the option to pay a bar fine to release the girl for however long it takes for the customer to gain his satisfaction. There are both go go bars where the girls dance and beer bars where the girls stalk the bar looking for a friendly response from newly arrived clients.

The street also have massage parlours. The girls are often outside trying to drum up trade by claiming passing by men are 'handsome'.

Those really into such sex enclaves will be happy with the cheap prices for drinks, fines and girls but perhaps less so with the quality and quantity . Loi Kroh Road is a small red light district and numerous 'stickboy' types moan about the age and prettiness of the girls. Bar fines range from 300 to 500 Thai Baht.

For those just curious about Loi Kroh Road there are bars and cafes on the street which focus more on food and drink rather than on the skin trade. There is often a lively night scene in this area and many people like to be on the fringe of the sex industry enjoying the free atmosphere, the plentiful supply of eye candy and the possibility of watching some sordid drama play out in public.

Yes, the best and worst that Thailand has to offer.


Loi Kroh Road is outside the walled old city and not far from the river. See the map below.

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.

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 d├ęcor. 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.