About our Thailand Tour Company All Thailand Experiences and Founder Mr. Randy Gaudet
I first came to Thailand in 1968 while in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Udorn Thani in east Thailand. I was stationed here for 2 years before being stationed in Japan and Korea. I Loved Thailand so much I cried when I left and promised myself I would return.
In 1989 I had the offer to volunteer at Payap University in Chiang Mai Thailand for 2 years and accepted. Here I was supervisor of the communications department at Christian Communication Institute at the university where I supervised installing and training staff of the audio and video studio at CCI. While at the university I took the opportunity to take Thai language and Lanna Thai (North Thailand) history, culture and music classes.
After my commitment was finsihed at Payap University I lived in a remote area of north Thailand at Wat Thaton temple in the town of Thaton on the Myanmar border for more than 3 years. I taught English to Monks, novices, high school students, the Thai Army, local and tourist police. I also did hill tribe programs by taking a small number of tourists to hill tribe villages to spend the evening. All the money for the trek went to the villagers. I bought clothes for the children, medicines and blankets for the families I paid the villagers to build a bamboo schoolhouse and paid a teacher to teach Thai at the school who could speak their language. I taught them how to dispose of waste properly, keep the children and village clean and to use spoons instead of their fingers when eating which was a big source of their health problems. I provided seeds and Logan and lychee fruit trees for planting.
This was fine until I left the temple then the school stopped and the health problems returned. I talked with the Abbot of the temple and he now has a school for the children at the temple. He has a nurse looking after the children and takes those to the clinics that have problems.
While I was there I help start a guest home where travelers could stay in a Lisu hill tribe village and go trekking in the jungle and visit primitive hill tribe villages in the area. This was not easy, as the villages we visited didn’t want visitors as they wanted to maintain their lifestyle and culture. They have seen other villages who accept tourist turn into a village without harmony and lost their culture. These villagers were farmers and didn’t want to look at tourism as a source of income. I understood the problem as I have seen what a tour operator can do to a village. To them money is first and they don’t care about the hill tribe people or their way of life.
I stayed in these villages and met with the village headmen many times. I learned about their culture, way of life, religion, and do’s and don’ts. We then came up with a plan that worked out well for the villagers and our clients.
We can only stay in a village 1 night per week and no more than 6 persons. There are 35 villages in this area so we always have a village to take our clients. Nothing is allowed to be given to a villager directly by the visitor. It must be given to the guide who then gives it to the villager. No candy for the children and no photographs without permission. No money is allowed to be given for a photograph. The guide must be from the local area and must also be hill tribe and speak the language of the village.
I then trained 3 hill tribe men from the local area who speak English to be our guides. None of these men drink or smoke and their families are very well respected by all the villages.
For the Jungle portion of the trek I had to teach the guides to use a different trails so it could grow back. They make a hut out of bamboo and banana leaves for sleeping and I taught them not to clear cut and not to return to an area for at least two months. No more hunting of birds or wild animals.
Without the local culture we would not be able to give our clients the experience they are looking for. We also encourage our clients in helping the local people we visit.
Most of our clients want to help the poor villagers that they visit. We take them to a market here in Chiangmai to buy shirts and pants for the children before we visit. Shirts or pants can be purchased for a little as $1 USD, blankets for about $3 USD. We have had groups including one from Singapore who stayed at 3 different hill tribe villages. They brought medicines, blankets and clothes. They repaired playground equipment and repainted the school. We follow God’s word in Isiah 58: 7 “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”.
Our company buys clothes and blankets every year when cold season arrives to give to needy villagers. We also help orphan and abandoned children in 3 different children homes here in north Thailand.
We have trained and employed hill tribe people and families to be guides for us and host our clients. We helped Asa, a Lisu Hill Tribe man who has the guest home, photo right, get started and now has a very successful business. He handles all our treks for us along with other guides and porters he has hired. He used to get only 50 baht per day per group and now gets more than 1800 baht per person for taking our clients. We have a loving relationship with all the people that work with us and those we visit. To us they are family and our clients notice this and is mentioned often.
There are hundreds of tour operators in Thailand and most take their clients to the same areas and places. Most of these areas have more tourists than Thai people so there is no cultural experience to speak of. We won’t do that to our clients. We want them to enjoy a wonderful experience they will remember for a lifetime.
We specialize in quality and service with as much interaction with nature and culture as possible. I have been living in Thailand since 1989. I have traveled extensively throughout the Kingdom and wanted to share my wonderful experiences of Thailand with others. I talked with many travelers here in Thailand and saw a need to take visitors away from the normal tourist areas filled with large tour buses and groups. The biggest complaint I heard from visitors is “there is no real Thai culture”. “Everything is staged for the tourists”. This is because they keep following each other around using their guide books.
It took about 2 years of research to find the areas that were safe and could handle visitors. I spoke with village headmen, temple Monks, Hill Tribe villagers, National Park officials and local bird experts. I then had to train a staff that would take care of our clients with excellent service and provide correct information about Thai and hilltribe culture, Thai food, Buddhism, birds of Thailand, etc.
All our guides are registered with the Tourism Authority but that is not enough. Our training program is by far the best in the Kingdom. They must not only study the subjects but also go to each area, town or village and learn first hand about the people their culture, birds and animals of the region along with any festival or event and when it takes place.
Our main and only goal is to provide a great experience our clients could not enjoy with any other guide or tour operator. From the comments in our “Guest Book” at our web site, email from previous clients and the large number of referrals we are meeting our goal. What we all enjoy is when our clients finish their tour they tell us “It was one of the best holidays we ever had and thank you so much”. “I will surely recommend your services to others”.
To us conservation is more than the natural environment. We take many clients to very cultural sensitive hill tribe villages. This is a very difficult balance of very different cultures but can be maintained. We follow 4 basic rules to maintain harmony in the villages and help the environment
Since we do only private custom excursions we want to know the needs of our clients. We then email back to them what we will and will not do for them. Most of our clients know only what they read from agent brochures about what to do in Thailand and these tours might not be the best for them. We explain to them that we do not go to these places and why.
We send several email messages back and forth asking and answering questions before an itinerary is approved. We then do many follow up email messages about what they will experience, cultural do’s and don’ts, and answer any question they may have. By the time they arrive they have an excellent knowledge of all aspects of their journey with us.
Many of our clients are families and have special needs. We ask many questions about the children such as favorite foods and their interests as we want them to enjoy their holiday also. We want to know if anyone in the group is having a birthday or anniversary while they are with us so that we can make their day special.
Once our clients arrive we are on call 24 hours a day for them. They can telephone us anytime about any questions they may have. From the time they arrive at the airport to the time of departure back to their home we are there for them.
After they return home most of our clients stay in contact with us. Not only do they thank us for a wonderful time but they ask about the people they made friends with while with us. I am happy to say we have made many good friends from all over the world with those who have been with us.
I have talked with other tour operators and the Tourism Authority of Thailand about being responsible in maintaining hill tribe culture. No one seams to care, as money is the bottom line. Exploitation of the hill tribe people and their way of life are common here. I have been able to give lectures at guide classes for the TAT. I try to teach them about being responsible for maintaining the hill tribe culture. After all it is the guides who are in contact with the villagers and clients not the tour operators.
Randy Gaudet Founder/Director All Thailand Experiences
Here are our short streaming Videos of Festivals in Chiang Mai Thailand.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
This is the Thailand version of the Rose Bowl Parade in the USA. Colorful floats made with colorful flowers, orchids and seeds are used. Read more about the Chiang Mai Flower festival The festival is always the first weekend in February.
In this part of the Chiang Mai Thailand Flower festival video we look at the different flowers on display and close up look at the floats.Read more about the Chiang Mai Flower festival The festival is always the first weekend in February.
Songkran or Thai New Year. “The largest water fight on the planet”
Songkran or Thai New Year is the largest water fight on the planet. However, it is much more than that to the Thai people. The celebrations in North Thailand lasts about 5 days. Each day has a different ritual the locals perform. Here are the events of the Thai New Year festival.
All Thailand Experiences changing lives in Thailand for 30 years.
Changing lives in Thailand with the Grace of Christ
Hello again, I’m Randy Gaudet, founder and director of All Thailand Experiences. Those who have read my profile know how I first came to Thailand and my association with missions and churches since 1989. I am now staying in Laos and have been here since Feb. 2020. The last tour we had was early Feb. last year so we have completely ran out of funds.
I came here to Savannakhet Laos in Feb. 2020 to get a new Thailand visa when they closed the border because of Covid-19. At that time my mission objective was to move to Muang Gnam 20 kilometers east of Thaton in Mae AI district of Chiang Mai. My good friend Pastor Daom who I have known for more than 25 years asked me to move there and help him in his ministry.
Pastor Daom is Karen hill tribe. He speaks all the hill tribe languages for the area plus reads, writes and speaks English perfectly. He was trained as a Baptist minister more than 30 years ago and now wants to study about God’s Grace and preach the good news of the Holy Trinity to his congregation. A Christian group from Korea just built him a new church that can hold more than 100 persons but he only has about 12 members. He wants me to teach him more about God’s Grace and how to reach more persons for Christ.
There are about 35 different villages in the area and they all know me as I have tours and helped several villages in this area. We planned to have Sunday evening church service with a meal. We will show videos of Abundant Grace Church service (scroll down to see videos) and give out New Testament written in Thai.
How the All Thailand Experiences Mission started.
After my first mission trip to Thailand from 1989 to 1991 the Lord placed upon my heart to help the needy and orphans in Thailand. At that time my position was audio and video supervisor at Christian Communication Institute, Payap University in Chiang Mai Thailand. I traveled all over north Thailand taking video of baptisms, church events, Christian events, revivals, orphanage homes, etc.
I attended many church services from well-established churches in big cities to small hill tribe village bamboo churches. I met and had conversations with the church pastors several times, Christian mission leaders, Christian organization representatives big and small. What I saw, heard, was told and experienced to me did not represent the kingdom of God at all. What I felt in my heart was these pastors and missionaries were not in Love with God. To me it seemed for them it was just a job. Never did I hear any new covenant teaching or preaching.
Thailand is one of the most unsaved areas of the world. Less than 3% of the population in Thailand professes faith in Christ although Christian missionaries have been visiting since1518. These populations thrive on Buddhism, which denies a personal God, promotes benevolent works, and emphasizes reason and enlightenment as a means to salvation. Spirit worship and traditional religion have taken an enormous toll on the spiritual well-being of the Thai people, promoting a culture of fear and power. , the majority of the Thai people feel that to be truly Thai means to be Buddhist. Consequently when someone becomes a Christian, or embraces another religion, he usually experiences considerable family pressure and village opposition
The main problem at the time was most pastors and missionaries in Thailand preach the Law and not Grace. They are teaching fear and God’s wrath rather than Love and Grace because of Jesus Christ. Who wants to receive Christ and then fear God’s wrath and trying to make God happy day after day by following an impossible law? Teaching legalism does not work.
One example is I was visiting a large Christian orphanage home for their church service one Sunday near Chiang Mai. They had a visiting missionary there from the Philippines who were preaching in English and a Thai pastor was translating. He was telling these young children that God will punish them if they break the law of the commandments. I was in shock as he shouted the commandments at the children from the pulpit.
After the service I was invited to eat lunch with the staff where I confronted the missionary about his preaching. Using the bible I tried to show him that we are now under Grace not the law because of Jesus. He then gave me a mouth full if insults telling me I don’t know anything.
The pastor who is also the caretaker of the orphanage walked me to my vehicle and told me I was not welcome to return any more. He told me the missionary who preached that day is from a church in the Philippines that donates lots of money to the orphanage so he has to let him preach and doesn’t want me there anymore. Oh, OK?
Most churches that I visited back then were more like going to a funeral instead of rejoicing, praising God and listening to the good news of the Gospel. The old hymns of the sweet by and by or the glorious Heaven are being sung in Thai. Preachers are telling their congregation how their suffering and troubles are because they are carrying their cross for Jesus and God is responsible for both the good and bad in their lives, so sad. Thais are spiritual people. If you explain the Holy Spirit, Grace, Jesus resurrection and why to them using scripture they will want to know more.
This is not what I expected I thought people were going to accept Jesus Christ because of the good news of Grace and Love, instead the old covenant law was being taught and that Grace was not available to you if you break the law. I prayed about all this and asked God to lead me and the Holy Spirit to show me on how I can reach these people into God’s peace, love and grace. I was so discouraged I prayed about it and the Holy Spirit led me back home to Texas after 2 years with CCI was finished although they wanted me to stay longer. At the time I didn’t know the Lord would send me back to Thailand. This time to spread the Good News of the Holy Trinity, Love and Grace because of Jesus Christ and to tell Christians they are free from the Law, sin and death.
While in Texas I had a job working at a ranch. I lived in a small trailer by myself and had a truck I could use whenever I needed. When not working I spent most of my time at our church and studying the bible. I had many conversations with my pastor and deacon about me returning to Thailand to continue my mission. I attend a spirit filled church that teaches the Grace of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit so they understood my concerns about some of the Christian churches and missions in Thailand.
I wanted to start my own mission but to do that I needed support. My pastor and other church pastors I approached for support told me I need a degree in theology plus mission training which would take at least 3 years and cost money I did not have. I then prayed for months for the Holy Spirit to show me a way to do my mission. A few months later I walked into church for Wednesday night service and bible study and my pastor took me aside with one of the deacons. They told me “Do tours in Thailand, this will support you and your mission.”
For the next couple of months I looked at doing tours in Thailand. I had worked with a river cruise company here in Texas for several years just before my mission to Thailand in 1989. We started with 1 small deck boat that held 6 persons and in three years grew the river cruise to hundreds of tourists a day with 2 boats holding 70 person each. I worked every position from boat captain to guide and promotion and marketing so I had the experience.
About six months later with prayer and enough money to last about 1 month in Thailand, a visa and a 1 way ticket I returned to Chiang Mai Thailand in May of 1992. While at Payap University 2 years earlier I learned the Thai language so I could travel anywhere and speak with anyone in the Thai Kingdom. I rented a motorbike for a month and traveled all around north Thailand visiting and staying in small towns and remote villages. If there was a road my motorbike could ride on I took it.
One of my stops was in the village of Thaton where I visited Wat Thaton Buddhist temple on top of a mountain which has spectacular views of the Me Kok River and the Fang valley below. While enjoying the view a well-dressed Thai gentleman about 35 years old came up to me and introduced himself in English as the secretary for the temple. He asked me a few questions and I answered him in Thai about my history living in Thailand. He then asked me if I could teach English at the temple and that they would pay me 4000 Thai baht a month plus food and a bungalow to live in.
I told him I was a Christian and not a Buddhist. He answered that’s OK. I then said I will let him know in about a week. I want back to Chiang Mai and prayed about it. I called my pastor in Texas and asked him what I should do. He said if God is calling me to go ten go. I was also almost out of money so I had to do something. A week later I took the bus to Thaton and wound up saying there for more than 2 years.
While at the temple I taught English to Monks, novices, high school students, the Thai Army, local and tourist police. I also did hill tribe programs by taking a small number of tourists to hill tribe villages to spend the evening. All the money for the trek went to the villagers. I bought clothes for the children, medicines and blankets for the families. I paid the villagers to build a bamboo schoolhouse and paid a teacher to teach Thai at the school who could speak their language.
. While I was there I help start a guest home where travelers could stay in a Lisu hill tribe village and go trekking in the jungle and visit primitive hill tribe villages in the area. This was not easy, as the villages we visited didn’t want visitors as they wanted to maintain their lifestyle and culture. They have seen other villages who accept tourist turn into a village without harmony and lost their culture. These villagers were farmers and didn’t want to look at tourism as a source of income.
I understood the problem as I have seen what a tour operator can do to a village. To them money is first and they don’t care about the hill tribe people or their way of life.
I stayed in these villages and met with the village headmen many times. I learned about their culture, way of life, religion, and do’s and don’ts. We then came up with a plan that worked out well for the villagers and our clients.
I had to follow God’s word in Isaiah 58: 7 “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”
As I was helping these villagers one question kept coming up. The villagers kept asking me “Who is your spirit?” Now I had to be careful as the temple where I was staying at and was paying me told me do not try to convert villagers to Christianity. I told the villagers a little about the Holy Spirit and Jesus but I could not speak their hill tribe languages. What I did was telephone a hill tribe pastor working and living in Chiang Mai. I told him about the village and he would send a hill tribe pastor to their village to explain to them about God and Jesus I had to stay out of the evangelism process however this was working out well.
I was able to use the computer at the temple so I bought the URL All Thailand Experiences.com. Taught myself the HTM language so I could make my own web site. I made the web site, put it on line and now I could do tours to help those in need and orphan children.
For the tours I was conducting we can only stay in a village 1 night per week and no more than 6 persons. There are 35 villages in this area so we always have a village to take our clients. Nothing is allowed to be given to a villager directly by the visitor. It must be given to the guide who then gives it to the villager. No candy for the children and no photographs without permission. No money is allowed to be given for a photograph. The guide must be from the local area and must also be hill tribe and speak the language of the village.
I then trained 3 hill tribe men from the local area who speak English to be our guides. None of these men drink or smoke and their families are very well respected by all the villages. For the Jungle portion of the trek I had to teach the guides to use a different trails so it could grow back. They make a hut out of bamboo and banana leaves for sleeping and I taught them not to clear cut and not to return to an area for at least two months. No more hunting of birds or wild animals.
Without the local culture we would not be able to give our clients the experience they are looking for. We also encourage our clients in helping the local people we visit.
Many of our clients want to help the poor villagers that they visit. We take them to a market here in Chiang Mai to buy shirts and pants for the children before we visit. Shirts or pants can be purchased for a little as $1 USD, blankets for about $3 USD. We have had groups including one from Singapore who stayed at 3 different hill tribe villages. They brought medicines, blankets and clothes. They repaired playground equipment and repainted the school.
Everything I set up in the Thaton area was doing well including churches being built in Lahu and Akha hill tribe villages that we help and visit. The hill tribe speaking pastors from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and now preaching in the villages and training new pastors so I moved back to Chiang Mai in 1996.
I then concentrated on Doi Inthanon National Park where there are 7 hill tribe villages both Karen and Hmong. Here I trained 2 guides for trekking and home stay and 1 for bird watching. I helpa1 family build a coffee and waffle shop. I loaned them the money then designed the shop, purchased the equipment and make everything. 2 years later they paid me back. The real good news is there is a church in their village and they accepted the Lord and were baptized.
At the same time I was trying to reach the lost in Chiang Mai by talking about the Lord Jesus and giving free new testaments in Thai and English that were available from Payap University. I would give them my phone number so that if they needed anything or more information to call me. No one ever called me but I prayed that someone was touched by the Lord while reading their new testament I gave them.
All this was about to change in about 2005 mainly because of two new churches in the Chiang Mai Area that were and still are growing rapidly.
I heard about a church that was meeting at a hotel in Chiang Mai so one Sunday I decided to attend. I went early so I could meet the pastor. The pastor’s name is Jonathan and Judy Vickers from Australia and the church is House of Praise. Talking with Jonathan he also had a mission called Christian Outreach Center and Haven Children’s Homes.
I settled in for the service and was blown away. The worship music was upbeat at times with modern songs. The preaching was about the Grace of God using scripture with examples of how God’s Love can change our life in everyday circumstances. You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during worship. Praise God I found a church that I could take people to and receive blessing. Several locals that I brought to House of Praise Church excepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and was Baptized including a family of 5. Praise God
House of Praise had a 10 AM service in English then a 1 PM Thai service in the afternoon. They were having a problem with the sound during service so I volunteered my engineering service to help every Sunday. When they purchased their new church building about a year later I gave advice in what sound equipment to purchase and I helped install it. I also taught the Thai staff n how to work the sound system. After 3 months or so my help was not needed any longer.
While talking to Pastor Jonathan I learned a lot about Havens Home for children. I asked him if they needed anything and he said always and whatever I good give would be greatly appreciated and Blessed. A week later I loaded my pick up with everything from meet to milk, vegetables to cookies and took them to Havens Homes. actually they had 2 homes close together, one for the guys and one for the girls. Every time our company, All Thailand Experiences, was making money we would telephone the care takers of the Haven Homes which were 2 couples with children and ask what they needed and we would supply whatever they needed when we could.
It was about 3 years later I heard of another new church that was meeting at a hotel in Chiang Mai every Sunday at 10 AM called Abundant Grace Church. The big difference was the service was in English and Thai at the same Time. I waited outside the meeting room as the doors were closed and was very surprised on how many Thai people were showing up and some young missionaries. Looking around I saw they had a room for the children’s church.
They opened the doors and I walked in and was greeted by very friendly locals handing out communion cups and crackers. The room was large and could hold at least 300 or so persons. There was a large projector screen on the back of the stage and 2 large screen monitor on the sides of the room. Everyone will be able to see the stage no matter where they sit.
The praise and worship music during the service was modern with some upbeat songs and some songs the worship team wrote by themselves. The team would go through the songs in English and Thai and the words were put on the screens. The preaching was in English and Thai. The pastor Nathan Gonmei would preach a sentence in English then his wife Salila would say the sentence in Thai. They preached with excitement and vigor with shouts of Amen from the congregation. Now this is a spirit filled church. This is the church I belong to today.
We were blessed by Stephanie and Gary sellers who did a bird watching tour with us and wanted to help. They provided new testaments in Thai and English to Abundant Grace Church to give out. Now new converts and those wanting to know more about Jesus Christ can get a New Testament free. Today Abundant Grace Church has campuses in Chiang, Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok and Nakon Sawan. Stephanie and Gary also help me financially at times when needed. I am so blessed knowing them.
I am writing this as we need your temporary help until the border to Thailand is open again and tourists start returning. We have gone through bird flu, SCARS, Tsunami, riots, coups in the past here in Thailand and never needed help. Covid-19 has gone on now for about 16 months and no mission without some financial support can last.
I am asking to receive $500 USD a month so I can stay in Laos until the border to Thailand opens, tourists can return to Thailand and I can resume the mission given to me by God. We already have several clients that want to go bird watching with us at All Thailand Experiences in Feb. 2022 and others just waiting to book other tours with us when they can come.
Five examples and teachings from the Old and New Testaments about the validity of God’s ministers being supported by others:
The example of the Levites (Numbers 18:24)- The Jews gave their tithe to the priests for support.
The example of Jesus (Luke 8:2,3)- Many people supported Jesus and the disciples.
The teaching of Jesus (Mt. 10:9,10)- A Kingdom worker is worthy of his support.
The example of Paul (Acts 18:4,5)- He stopped tentmaking to preach full time on support.
The teaching of Paul (1 Cor. 9:1-18)- He had the right to be supported by the churches.
If the Lord is touching your heart and His Holy Spirit is guiding you to give pleaee use the form below to contact me. Please keep me in your prayers and God Bless you. with Jesus Love Randy Gaudet
One of the most enjoyable things to do while visiting Northern Thailand is to take a “Long-Tail” boat ride. The most popular ride is on the Mae Kok river from Thaton, in far north Chiang Mai province, to Chiang Rai.
Most ride the local bus from the Chang Puak bus station departing at 7 and 9 am for the 3 1/2 hour bus journey to Thaton. It’s much better to take your time and stay in Thaton for the evening. The reason is 95% of the people riding the boats start in Thaton
Most of the boats from Chiang Rai go only as far as the touristy village of Rhummit just a 30 minute boat ride away for elephant riding. For this reason most boat drivers cannot go all the way to the villages and Thaton because they do not know the area farther up river with rapids. Only the boats from Thaton and up river villages can make the full journey. Local hill tribe people who live along the river also take this boat as it will stop for them if they wave it down. The boats from Thaton filled with tourists going to Chiang Rai won’t stop but those who live along the river with boats and provide a ferry service to Chiang Rai do.
NOTICE: There are no longer river taxis. You have to hire a private long tail boat and find others to join you to keep the price down. This should not be difficult as most who are on Thaton want to take the boat to Chiang Rai. Another thing you can do is to take the 1 day guided tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai that includes the boat ride and visiting hill tribe villages with local English speaking guide who knows the area well.
Another possibility is you can charter a boat and spend the evening on the river at the hot springs next to an Akha hill tribe village before going on to Thaton. This is a great way to enjoy the river for a group of two to four persons. This will require a local English speaking guide as the boat drivers do not speak English.
Good food can be had just across the river from the hot springs at the Karen village of Rhummit where you can also arrange for riding elephants. Your guide and boat driver will take you there when you want to eat.
The boat trip from Thaton to Chiang Rai takes around 3 hours. On our 1 day boat trip we start further down the river at the start of the mountain canyons which shortens the trip to 2 hours. We start the trip by picking you up in Chiang Mai then visit Chiang Dao Cave Shrine. We then visit a primitive Lahu hill tribe village then Wat Thaton temple with a magnificent view of the Fang valley and Mae Kok river below. We have lunch and visit a Shan hill tribe village famous for cotton weaving then board the long tail boat to Chiang Rai. We will then transport you to your hotei or guest house or you can ride with us in the air conditioned van back to Chiang Mai.
If you don’t speak Thai it is best to arrange for a guide from one of the tour companies or your guest house in Chiang Rai. They can also provide things like blankets or sleeping bags and food if you would rather eat by campfire. Sleeping is aboard the boat which has plenty of room and comfortable. The hot springs has toilets and showers along with a small store. The springs run into the river which is a good place to take a refreshing bath as the water is not too hot. The Akha hill tribe village next to the hot springs is very authentic with most dressed in their traditional costumes and all living in Bamboo houses. Not many tourists visit the village as most go to Rhummit to do elephant riding and trekking which leaves this area peaceful and mostly unspoiled.
In this video (Above) we visit our hill tribe friends in Chiang Mai Province away from the normal tourist route including Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Karen.
The last bus from Thaton to Chiang Mai leaves at 2:25 in the afternoon. Don’t be in a hurry to leave as Thaton has many things to see and do along with accommodations from 60 to 2000 baht. The Tourist Police in Thaton will help you with any information you may need. They are located along the river not far from the boat landing.
Hundreds of people each day during the busy season ride to boats from Thaton to Chiang Rai. They all leave about the same time in a large convoy one behind the other. For a better experience be different and see the river in the opposite direction. When you see the boats full of people passing just smile and wave from your uncrowded boat as they are sure to be envious.
There are many Thai words in this blog so if you are listening to the Podcast the pronunciation of some words might not be correct. We apologize.
This city landmark should be the first place on any visitor’s itinerary. It is a huge compound on Na Phra Lan Road surrounded by high white walls and occupies an area of about a square mile. The Royal Palace, begun in 1782 when Bangkok was founded as the capital of Thailand, consists of several buildings with highly decorated architectural designs.
The royal chapel or Wat Phra Kaeo, situated in the same compound, enshrines the sacred Emerald Buddha image and is noted for its very beautiful architecture and decorative elements.
On the right hand side, before entering the palace’s inner gate is the Royal Thai Decorations and Coin Pavilion which displays coins and other monetary exchange units used in Thailand since the early 11th century AD, as well as Royal regalia, decorations and medals used in the former royal courts.
The complex is open daily from 8.30 a.m.-3.30 p.m. Admission fee is 125 baht. (including a ticket to Vimanmek Royal Mansion). Proper attire is essential.
Construction of the Royal Palace began in 1782 and was completed in time for the coronation of Rama 1. The original living quarters were temporary and made of wood and thatch and the walls surrounding the palace were made of wood palisades. After the coronation the King moved into a mansion built of permanent materials. The only other building of permanent material at the time was Wat Phra Si Rattanasatsadaram (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the forts along the walls.
The plan of this new Royal Palace follow that of the Ayutthaya period. Only the central building seen today was missing until constructed as the Chakri Maha Prasat during the reign of King Rama 5. The area of the original palace was about 51 acres. King Rama 2 expanded the area to todays size of about 60 acres. The Royal Palace contains a number of halls, residences, and other buildings constructed by King Rama 1. Later monarchs altered some and renovated others while still others were enlarged or torn down to make way for newer buildings. All the buildings are not listed here but the most important ones are. The buildings are listed in groups according to their location inside the palace walls. A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without visiting the Royal Grand Palace.
Entrance to Chakraphat Phiman Phra-Thinang Chakradhat Phiman
The Phra Maha Monthain Group
This group of buildings is located in the central part of the Grand Palace toward the eastern side. It was the first group of buildings constructed by King Rama 1 and his own residence. He also used it for his coronation and has been used for coronations of all monarchs of the Chakri This is the main building of the group and is a living apartment containing the Royal bed chamber and a large sitting room which now houses the Royal Regalia. It is the custom for the newly crowned King to spend a night in this palace to indicate that he has assumed the responsibilities for and power over the realm. the first few monarchs used this building as their living quarters but the Kings of later times built their own residences. They come here only to spend the night of their coronation in accordance with tradition.
Entrance to Phaisan-thaksin Audience HallPhra Thinang Phaisan-Thaksin
An important part of the coronation takes place here. On an octagonal throne the King receives the invitation from the representatives of the people to rule over the Kingdom. He also receives the Royal Regalia including the crown and the nine-tiered white umbrella from the chief of the Court Brahmin. In the middle of the hall is an alter where the symbolic guardian figure of Siam “Phra Siam Devadhiraj” was placed.
Entrance to Amarintha-Winitchai audience hall – Phra Thinang Amarintha-Winitchai Audience Hall
There are two things in this hall which were made during the reign of King Rama 1. The upper throne is in the shape of a boat which is now used as an altar and another in front of it which is surmounted by a nine-tiered umbrella. In the olden days this building was used as the formal audience hall where the King met with his officials to discuss state affairs. This audience hall is used for many ceremonies such as their majesties birthday rites and merit making ceremonies. The King also received the credentials of foreign envoys in this hall.
Dusidaphirom PavilionPhra Thinang Dusida Phirom
This Pavilion was built in the time of King Rama 1 and originally made of wood. Bricks and mortar were added during the reign of King Rama 3. This building was the robing chamber for the arriving or departing king by Palanquin or elephant.
Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat Group
This group was built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5) and in the beginning consisted of 11 buildings but only three remain today.
Chakri Maha Prasat This building was constructed by King Rama 5 to commemorate the centenary of the Chakri Dynasty. It was designed by a British architect in the European style with a pure Thai Style roof. Construction took six years from 1876 to 1882.
Chakri Maha Prasat On the top floor of the central mansion are kept the royal ashes and the king gives public audiences from the front projection. The second floor serves as an audience hall and the ground floor is the office of the royal guards.
On the top floor of the eastern wing religious objects are kept. the middle floor serves as a reception hall for royal guests. the lower floor serves as a guest waiting room.
On the top floor of the western wing ashes are kept of the royal queens and high ranking princes and princesses. The middle floor is the guest chambers and the lower floor serves as a library.
Two galleries join the central portion to both the east and west wing. The eastern portion also has a reception room where portraits of the kings of the Chakri dynasty from Rama 1 to Rama 7 are displayed. In the west portion is a hall where portraits of the queens of Rama 4, Rama 5, and Rama 7 are displayed.
The Throne Room
In the rear center of the Chakri Maha Prasat is the Chakri Throne Room. Here the King receives ambassadors on the occasion of the presentation of their credentials. The emblem of the Chakri dynasty is depicted on the wall behind the throne.
Borophiman Mansion and Siwalai Garden Group
When King Rama 2 had the palace precincts expanded he ordered three golden halls and many European and Chinese style building to be constructed. Later King Rama 3 had these buildings pulled down to make room for temples to be constructed dedicated to his late father. King Mongkut (Rama 3) ordered a residence also be constructed and stayed there until the end of his life.
Siwalai Maha Prasat, Phra-Thinang Siwalai Maha Prasat
This building was built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama 5) to enshrine the statues of the four previous kings in the Chakri dynasty in 1869. Later King Rama 6 had the statues moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Since then Siwalai Maha Prasat has been left vacant.
Sitalaphirom Pavilion, Phra-Thinang Sitalaphirom
This small pavilion made of wood was built by King Rama 6 as a place for his private repose and as a seat during open air parties. At present the King sits there when he gives a garden party or on his birthday for high ranking government officials.
Phra Phuttha Rattanasathan
This building was built by King Rama 4 to install the Buddha image called Phra Buddha Butsavarat which was brought from Champasak in Laos. The building has been used by the king for some Buddhist rituals including ordination ceremonies.
Boromphiman Mansionm, Phra-Thinang Boromphiman
This European style building was built by King Rama 5 who planned to give it to the crown prince, H.R.H. prince Maha Vajirunahis who died before it was completed. Prior to his coronation King Rama 7 stayed here for sometime. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama 8) took residence here together with his younger brother and mother when they returned from Europe in 1945. King Rama 8 passed away in this mansion. It now serves as a guest house for visiting royalty and heads of state.
Originally a wood structure without any roof decorations built by King Rama 1 to watch parades and the training of elephants. King Rama 3 had it replaced as it is today. It is used to receive public audience from the balcony.
The complex is open daily from 8.30 a.m.-3.30 p.m. Admission fee is 125 baht. (including a ticket to Vimanmek Royal Mansion). Proper attire is essential.
Chiang Mai Thailand’s Ancient City of Wiang Kum Kam
Located just few Kilometers south of the city of Chiang Mai is Wiang Kum Kam.
Wiang Kum Kam was founded in 1286 before King Mengrai established Chiang Mai in 1292.
In 1558 floods ravished Waing Kum Kam and the town was deserted and little was known about the settlement until ruins were found by villagers plowing their fields in 1984.
With the exception of the odd temple standing on higher ground, the entire township had been buried under at least two meters of silt, gravel and debris from the flood. And so it remained for centuries. Talk of the place continued for years but slowly the knowledge of Wiang Kum Kam drifted from people’s memories leaving only some mention in chronicles of that time. The soil, which now covered Wiang Kum Kam, settled, dried and was eventually used for agricultural purposes rice paddies, fruit orchards and many residential homes were built atop the buried city.
The name had been mentioned in chronicles of long ago but, aside from that, not a lot was known. The name was originated from the term of Kum Kum, Kum means Royal Residence meanwhile Kam means area or territory. And so it might have remained had not the Fine Arts Department (responsible for archeology) started digging in and around Chiangmai during the mid 1980’s. Thanks to a lot of research, hard work and effort the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is, once again, enjoying the light of day and a tremendous amount of archeological and religious interest.
Mengrai was a Shan Prince of the Tai people; he became King of Lanna in 1259. Lanna at the time included Yunnan China up to what now the city of Khunming, western Laos and eastern Burma (Myanmar). King Mengrai was both a warrior and a wanderer; he made a point of building fortified towns to consolidate and protect his kingdom. The cities of Chiang Saen (on the Mekhong River) and Chiang Rai were both settled by King Mengrai and pre-date the founding of Chiangmai. King Mengrai had taken Lamphun (the Old Kingdom of Hariphunchai) in 1281 but, after spending a few years there, he wanted a “New City” (Chiangmai) on the rich, fertile flood plain of the River Ping. He moved north from Lamphun and established a fortified settlement on a river-bend which would give protection on two sides and flood a moat dug around the remaining two sides. This was Wiang Kum Kam and the year was 1286.
The Lanna Kingdom was mainly ruled by the Mangrai Dynasty, and can be divided in to 3 periods which are the Early Kingdom (1259-1355), The Golden Periods–of art, culture, power and economy (1355-1525) and the Decline and Fall of the Kingdom (1525-1558).
The ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is quiet and peaceful. Narrow roads wiht small strams and old houses dot most of the area along with 2 temples used today. So far 34 ancient sites have been identified and unearthed. Archeologists are confident that more will follow.
To visit Wiang Kum Kam on a weekend you can partake in making local handicrafts, taste local food or get a traditionl massage. You can lso visit a home constructed just as it would have been during the period of King Mengrai. There are trams to tke you to the mny ruins or you can hire a horse driven carriage.
The best way to tour Wiang Kum Kam is by horse and buggy with your guide or by bicycle. You can rent the horse and buggy with driver at Wat Mengrai and Wat Nan Chang at Wiang Kum Kam.
The markets on Wualai Road on Saturday and Rajdumnern Road on Sunday are much different than the Night Bazaar.
While the Night Bazaar has it’s flashing neon signs advertising the western food chains and merchandise, crowded narrow walkways crammed with hawkers and tourists, the Weekend Bazaars offer a more relaxing experience.
Large wide avenues are blocked off from vehicle traffic at 4 PM until 11 PM. Talented craft persons and northern Thai fresh food vendors politely sell they wares along the sidewalks and on colorful temple grounds. Both weekend walking markets are excellent however each is different in the types of wares sold, atmosphere and experiences.
The Saturday Bazaar on Wualai Road is the old city silver-making district and even today you can still hear the tapping of hammers as the silversmiths sculpture beautiful designs on bowls, cups, bracelets, rings and wall murals. You can watch them make their beautiful creations as they sit on the street in front of their shops.
There are several silver shops on Wualai Road so look at all of them before deciding on a purchase. Plenty of food and drink vendors along the street and small restaurants where you can take a rest and take in the surroundings so no need to rush.
The Sunday Bazaar on Rajdumnern Road begins at Thapae Gate and ends at the city police station about 6 bocks west. About half way up, at Prapokklao Road, the Bazaar continues south past Wat Chedi Luang for another block and north to the 3 kings statue and the old Provincial Hall, which is now the Chiang Mai City Museum. A stage is set up on the grounds of the museum where northern Thai musicians and dancers in traditional costumes give live performances starting around 7 PM.
Rajdumnern Road seams to have one temple after another. The temple grounds are where almost all the food stalls are set up. Here they have tables and chairs where you can sit and have everything from French Fries to Papaya Salad, soups and grilled Thai dishes. Lots of different foods and deserts you probably have never seen before are available. Soft Thai music is usually played on the temple sound system to add to the eating experience.
Both Bazaars are lots of fun and several hours can be spent here enjoying the culture, food, people and atmosphere. Unlike the Night Bazaar with its copied brand products, fake jewelry and handicrafts made in China or Burma both weekend markets have real handcraft persons selling their goods.
The real fun is not the shopping but the ambience. Every block has traditional Thai Music being played by elders and children. The rich colors of the surrounding temples, the smell of garlic, grilled fish, sausages and chilies being cooked and roasted. People are eating smiling and just having a good time. Oh, one more thing. Get your snack and cold drink and take it to one of the many foot massage operations set up on the sidewalk. Sit back in the comfortable cushioned reclining chair and just watch, listen and take it all in.
This season The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is Feb. 4 – 6, 2022.
Every year during the first weekend in February is the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The city is awash with vibrant colors ranging from the electric orange and lilac colors of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Years, is echoed by beds of scarlet Salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colorful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of color that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiangmai aptly gives the city its name “Rose of the North”.
On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Suan Buak Haad near the city center. Every type of flower, miniature tree and orchid is put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers.
The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. This is when we load our lawn chairs and ice chest in the pick-up and head to D.K. Bookstore along the moat in the city center. We go there because there is plenty of parking and excellent coffee and pastry shops.
On the way we passed the flower covered floats, Hill Tribes and Thais in their traditional dress and uniformed marching bands all getting in line to start the parade. We had to leave the house before 8 AM as the parade start around 9 AM. Although it would not be until 10 AM until the parade reached us we had lots of fun eating food from local vendors, relaxing in our lawn chairs at curbside and watching the world go by.
The parade lines up from the train station to Narawatt bridge so the police close most of Jarenmuang Road around 8 AM. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiangmai Governor’s home. The Parade route goes down Thapae Road to the Gate and turns left and follows the moat to Suan Buak Haad City Park.
The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colorful floats, pretty girls and hill tribe people in costume. The people in the parade hand out roses to spectators lining the road.
When the parade finishes everyone heads to Suan Buak Haad where all the floats, award winning flower growers and landscapers projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls located in the park and in late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen is chosen.
If you are intersted in viewing flowers from all around the world a trip to the International Ratchaphruek Flower Gardens should be in your itinerary. Also a trip to Inthanon National Park for bird watching where all the trees are in full bloom should not be missed.
This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
There is a wonderful, scenic, and peaceful place away from the normal tourist crowds that believes in keeping its culture intact. This little known gem is the community of Ban Thaton in Mae Ai district and Chiang Mai Province.
The spectacular scenery with the Mae Kok river snaking its way through the fertile Fang valley disappearing into tree covered mountains is a photographer’s dream. The brief rain showers keep the air fresh and clean to offer unlimited visibility of this strikingly beautiful area. Big puffy white clouds decorating the mountain tops against a rich blue sky with numerous rainbows occur only during the rainy season. Colorful hilltribe people working in corn fields set on almost vertical slopes surrounded by many shades of green from the lush vegetation complete the picture.
You will be equally impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of the Thaton people. The area is a unique cultural mixture of Thai, Chinese, and hill tribe people who welcome western visitors but do not change traditions to please them.
The first place to visit is Wat Thaton. The temple grounds consisting of over 400 rai of land is famous for it large Buddha statues over looking the town. The breath taking vistas from the upper temple grounds are unmatched anywhere in Thailand. The temple is a perfect place for meditation and study because of its quiet tree covered grounds and flower gardens. Contrary to popular belief, heavy rain showers only happen at night. Daytime showers occur only on the mountain tops. Between 5 and 7 p.m. the skies open up with torrent rain. These cool evening rains make it excellent for sleeping. The mornings are clean and clear with spectacular sun rise.
A popular mode of transportation in the area is bicycle. The paved country road which winds along the river and through mountain canyon is easy by bike. Its possible to enjoy a hot spring bath and visit Lahu, Yao, Lisu, Karen and Shan hill tribe villages in one day. Guest houses are located in a Karen and Lisu village for those wishing to stay with the hill tribe people of the area .
October through December is the best time of year for trekking. No need to worry about getting wet from brief mountain showers as your dry clothes are never far away at the guest house. Treks can last from a few hours to several days returning to the Lisu village or sleeping in a house built in the jungle or a different hilltribe village. The cool season is also the time of year for bamboo rafting from Baan Thaton to Chiangrai. The rain adds excitement and adventure to the the beautiful Mae Kok river.
For a wonderful experience making life long friendships and learning local culture and Hill Tribe Home Stay is a must. The best areas for a village home stay is Doi Inthanon National Park and the small village of Thaton, both away from the normal tourist crowds.
Although both are with Karen hill tribes they are much different in what is available to enjoy. At Doi Inthanon home stay you will experience hiking in the cloud forest, swim at the waterfalls, learn to roast coffee and enjoy village life. In the Thaton Home Stay You visit other hill tribe villages such as Lahu and Akha, learn to weave cotton, visit the local market, cook Thai food then a private long tail boat ride.
Both are at clean comforatble traditional homes in your own bedroom, clean toilets with showers and all bedding is provided. In both villages your guide speaks perfect English and in Thaton your guide speaks all the hill tribe languages.
The many rapids that seem a mere ripple during the dry season become white water thrills. The rafts are large, well built, and covered yet carefully designed to easily navigate the swift narrow rapids. Two experienced raft men guide you on this exciting journey packed with beautiful scenery, colorful hill tribe villages and friendly people.
Baan Thaton is regarded in most guide books only as a quick stopover before traveling to Chiangrai by long tail boat. Most visitors stay only a few hours waiting for the boat to depart at 12:30 p.m. to Chiangrai. The few that do stay in the area all comment that the Thaton area is the highlight of their Thailand journey. They are impressed with the friendliness of the people without the commercialism found in the heavily visited tourist area. Trekking seems the most popular attraction and the groups are small consisting of two to four persons.
Some rules and restrictions apply to maintain village harmony, custom and tradition. The Thaton area has much to offer the visitor in the way of accommodations. They have inexpensive guest houses to lush garden resorts and everything in between.
In summary, Thaton is a wonderful place. A quiet place that believes in keeping its culture intact. It enjoys western visitors but does not change traditions to please them. Because of the few visitors who stay in the area the hill tribe people are shy but friendly so making friends is easy. Talk with them, smile with them and enjoy their hospitality and friendship. Here you can experience a way of life that is lost in present day Thailand.
Chiang Mai Thailand Accommodations, Food, Night Life, Travel and Tour Advice.
About the Author: Mr. Randy Gaudet, founder and director of All Thailand Experiences has been living in Chiang Mai and north Thailand since 1989. Randy has written many informative blogs, articles and stories about his experiences in north Thailand.
Many guide books on Thailand only partially cover the real life experiences in Chiang Mai, I have been living here since 1989 so I would like to give you some advice about protocol, travel and accommodations in and around the city of Chiang Mai Thailand. Hopefully it will help you to enjoy your travels in Northern Thailand.
In the foot hills of the Himalayan Mountains 800 kilometers north of Bangkok is the culturally rich city of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is the longest continuously lived in settlement from the ancient days of Siam.
Chiang Mai could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant back trip until the nineteen twenties. Chiang Mai’s distinctive charm is still intact up to the present day.
When you arrive in Chiang Mai Thailand, 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 depot. Taxis are available at the airport, with a price of 150 baht to most destinations.
The common vehicles of public transportation are more varied than public buses. The terms ‘tuk tuk’ and ‘samlaw’ are open-air, three-wheel vehicles, and ‘zeelor’ and ‘songthaow’ describe vehicles with four wheels. Whenever you get in a ‘tuk tuk’, ‘zeelaw’, or ‘samlaw’, 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 tuk tuk or samlaw. A zeelaw 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 ‘songtaow’. These are covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back. “Songtaow” means “two benches” in Thai. 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 “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 want 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 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 an establishment.
Renting a motorbike or scooter:
There is a wide variety of two wheeled transportation available in Chiang Mai from loads of rental agencies. Price start from just a few dollars a day for a 100CC automatic scooter to large harley Davidson cycles, off road dirt motorbikes and every thing in between. It is important to know which type of motor bike works best for where you plan to ride.
IMPORTANT: Most people rent the automatic small scooters however this is very dangerous if you plan to travel into the mountain countryside or to Doi Suthep Temple on the mountain above the city. This is because when going downhill the scooter goes into neutral so you are free-wheeling and must use only your brakes to slow you down. If there are 2 of you on the scooter going downhill you could have a brake failure and find yourself in big trouble. The automatic scooters are made for riding in the city only not in the mountains.
If you are going to go into the mountains rent an automatic clutch motorbike or better so you can downshift when going downhill so the engine can help you slow down. A Honda Dream or Honda Wave is great for beginner riders and has an automatic clutch and a 4 speed transmission so you can downshift to help slow you down and also has a better power range when going uphill.
When you rent any form of transportation take photos from every angle of the vehicle to show the condition of the vehicle before you rent it. This will protect you from any rental agency trying to get you pay for damage that was there before you rented the vehicle.
Booking accommodations might be the biggest decision you will make while visiting Chiang Mai. I hear many visitors saying “Chiang Mai has no real culture as there are too many tourists”. If you stay in the city center inside the moat and city walls, tourists is all you will see. The Chiang Mai locals call this area “Tourist Town”
Since 2010 over 100 new guest houses, small boutique hotels, restaurants, tourist souvenir shops and pubs have been built within or near the moat and old city walls. The establishments have now claimed this area as “The Old City” which is far from the truth. The real “Old City” is the area of “Gatluang” near Wararot Market located along the Ping River where all the commerce, traders and craft persons worked and lived. Inside the city walls is where the Royal Family, temple monks, Royal staff and elite military resided. The citizens of Chiang Mai were only allowed inside the old city walls during festivals, Buddhist holidays and with Royal events.
Today most of the business and residents inside the old city walls and moat are owned and operated by people from Bangkok and expats. This area now is more like the heavy touristy Kaosan Road in Bangkok than the culturaly rich Chiang Mai.
Another popular place is Nimmanhemin road in The “Huay Khao” area. This part of the city is where most of the expats live with condos, coffee shops and shopping malls catering to the western lifestyle. Again most shops owned and operated by those from Bangkok or expats, not much Thai culture here and prices are rather high so Thai people cannot afford to go there.
You can avoid the large number of tourists and experience the real charm of Chiang Mai by staying only 2 or 3 kilometers from the city walls and moat, not only that but at a lower price. There are wonderful communities where you can visit local markets, temples and talk with locals in their shops and restaurants. Experience real Thai food and daily life of local communities. The guest houses and small boutique hotels are far apart and you can get a ride by “Songtaow” into the city center within minutes.
Some of these areas are “Sanpakhoi” just across the Ping River on the Narawat Birdge. This is the home of the first Christian church in Chiang Mai, the lively Sanpakhoi market and Kawila Boxing Stadium. “Waulai” Area is across the street and moat from Chiang Mai gate and home of several small silversmiths, The silver temple at Wat Si Suphan and the Saturday night walking market.
Try booking your guest house or small hotel east of the Ping River or the old silver making area north of town near Wualai road. Waulai road has the Saturday night Walking Night Bazaar and home of the beautiful Silver Temple “Wat Siri Suphan”.
The Thai people have several customs that are important to remember to avoid causing offense. 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 pants, 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.
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 “Sawatdee Krup” for men and “Sawatdee Kha” for women. To learn more Thai before you come, an excellent free teaching website can be found at http://www.learningthai.com/. You will gain loads of respect from the Thai people if you learn just the basics.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. The “why”, spelled W A I, 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 appreciated. The custom is that younger people “why:, elders first, so let the children and persons you think are younger than you “why” before you “why” them.
Whatever happens, though, don’t display your anger, because the Thais will think you uncultured, and ranting will get you nowhere. 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?” It might take a long time before someone comes to check it out, if at all. What you should do is say, “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.
Food and Entertainment:
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 civilized. 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.
In the evening it seems every neighborhood has pre-cooked food for sale to take home. This is Thai fast food at it’s best. See what precooked Thai food you can buy at the market. Here I bought a 3 course meal and rice for $1.20USD or 50 Thai baht. Why cook at home when you can buy excellent cooked food this cheap
Chiang Mai and the north have plenty of night entertainment available. It runs the gamut from restaurants to nightclubs, discos, or video bars. 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 Chiang Mai 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 camera batteries, are recommended, as are matches or a lighter. Jackets may be needed for the cold evenings, specially when visiting hill tribes high in the mountain, or Inthanon National Park. Don’t forget a first-aid kit and 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. To see what is available outside the city from trekking and adventures to visiting hill tribe villages and ancient ruins while on tour visit ourAll Thailand Experiences Main Page.