Getting Around

The samlor tricycle is still to be found throughout Thailand. Frequently stationary, or as good as, although I have it on good authority that despite appearances, samlor drivers are as strong as buffalos. A local expat restaurant owner here in Chiang Mai uses one regularly to transport his not inconsiderable bulk to the market, then to return with an extra 90 kilos of potatoes ...

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Samlor driver catching 40 winks. A Thai wink can last hours ... (click for big pic)

click for big picSamlor outside the Bpra Dtuu market, Chiang Mai Thailand. These machines have the advantage of very low running costs... upholstery renewed and driver replaced once every few decades, etc (click for big pic)

The tuk-tuk / song taew (baht bus) wars are soon apparent to tourists in a rather disconcerting way. Song taew (a small pick-up with a roof and two bench seats running the length of the bed) drivers seem to have a general disregard for most other road users, but the noisy LPG-powered tuk-tuks - their main competitors - are the principle target (literally). This manifests itself in a very Thai way -road rage is an alien concept in Thailand.

click for big picThe song taew - red baht buses operate within city limits, yellow and white buses to destinations outside of town (click for big pic)

Song taew
drivers simply pretend not to see the onrushing entirely unstable three wheel death-trap otherwise known as a tuk-tuk when they deliberately pull out from a side road in front of you, regardless of right of way. (Your fault, foolish farang... you should have taken a song taew in the first place). So thundering round the moat road in central Chiang Mai can be something of a white knuckle ride. Tuk-tuk drivers play the bluff game, but are on a loser, of course - the slightest contact and this vastly more dangerous version of the Reliant Robin (minus doors, solid top, safety belts and anything to cling on to) would be on its soft and very crushable roof. So pick your tuk-tuk driver with care - particularly after noon. If you should spot one emerging from a bar (a not infrequent occurrence amongst taxi drivers in Thailand), bear in mind that his bravado quotient will have increased roughly in proportion to the number of Leo beers he has consumed, whilst his reactions and vision are likely to have been impaired by a similar ratio.

Tuk-tuk lines - playing checkers (click to see big pic)tuk-tuks preparing for the next engagement - checkers instead of bowls (click for big pic)

Central Chiang Mai tuk-tuk journeys vary between 40 and 60 baht (about 1 pound sterling, slightly more than a euro, roughly 1.50 USD) at present, longer trips towards the edge of town between 80 and 100 baht. Good value, especially when there are three passengers (can't really squeeze more in). On your own though you can't beat the song taews at 20 baht a trip, anywhere within city limits.

the Sky Lab, outside the Chiang Mai No.1 Bar - click for big pic)The Sky Lab is petrol-powered (here a 125cc), and has the advantage of being able to carry up to nine passengers... (click for big pic)

A mention for a rare sight in Chiang Mai, although commonly seen in the province of Isaan, as well as Myanmar, Cambodia; the sky lab. Why the sky lab? The rather boring and obvious reason is that it appeared at roughly the same time as the American space station, and the sky lab inventor could think of nothing more original for this new, more down to earth, means of transportation. A more fun explanation is that it is so-called because of its handling abilities, roughly equivalent to those witnessed during the rather undignified return journey of the original sky lab to earth at the end of its time in orbit...

click for big picThis magnificent beast (the machine, not the driver), known as the Silver Bullet, can be seen around the streets of Chiang Mai. Here spotted with its lady driver (an American resident) (click for big pic)

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