Tag - chiang mai

Google Street View Hits Thailand

Google Street View Khao San Road Bangkok Thailand
Google Street View Khao San Road Bangkok Thailand
Google Street View Khao San Road Bangkok Thailand

Google Street View launched in Thailand recently, the culmination of a six-month project that covers 95 per cent of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. The service provides “panoramic views” of the capital’s major arteries – Sukhumvit Road, Silom Road, many of the Bangkok’s surrounding areas, and of course it features Thailand’s leading backpacker and budget tourist destination – Khao San Road. Thailand is the second Southeast Asian country to be featured on Google Street View, after Singapore which launched at the end of 2009. According to Pornthip Kongchun, Head of Marketing for Google Thailand, Google Street View was launched with promoting Thailand’s tourism industry in mind.

“In Thailand, the next cities for Street View will be Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Lampang, Nakhon Phanom, Hat Yai and Nakhon Si Thammarat, and also Thailand’s World Heritage cities,” Khun Pornthip was reported as saying. Suraphon Svetasreni, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) added “The first priority is Thailand’s World Heritage. We plan to allow Google Thailand’s Street View team to collect images of the World Heritage sites started in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, as well as Sri Satchanalai”. 

As far as Khao San Road is concerned, it’s pretty decent coverage which includes surrounding areas like Rambuttri Road and Tani Road. Unfortunately, there aren’t any nighttime pictures (or if there are we missed them) and for many, they might only recognize Khao San Road at night! That’s not really the point of the service though.

The problem they are going to face on Khao San Road is the very “fluid” situation on the strip. New businesses open and close regularly, and it’s already clear that the current pictures were taken a couple of months ago.

Apparently you can request an update from Google if you find that pictures are over three years old, but if they post pictures that old you might find Khao San isn’t recognizable from Google Street View! That said, it’s all interesting stuff and great KSR is covered so well. Images can be accessed through the Thai version http://maps.google.co.th/maps and through the English version http://maps.google.com/maps. Check it out!

Phrae, Thailand

Phrae, Thailand
Phrae, Thailand

Welcome to Phrae, an old and important community in Northern Thailand. Phrae was founded shortly after Chiang Mai had been established as the capital of the Lanna Thai kingdom. The province has one of the largest reserves of teak forests in the country and is located on the banks of the Yom River, 555 kilometres from Bangkok.

Phrae has a slightly sleepy feel and is a great place to escape from the hustle and bustle of life for a day or two and simply relax. This is an area of intense natural beauty and there is plenty to explore if you’re feeling active.

Wiang Kosai National Park is a great showcase for the area’s nature. Another immense area of natural beauty is the Mae Yom National Park, which is situated around 48 kilometres from the town of Phrae. A popular feature of the park are the Kaeng Sua Ten rapids, a two-kilometre-long stretch of rock formations which is best visited during November-February when the weather is cool and scenery at its prettiest. Visitors are permitted to camp along the river banks, making this a great place to simply relax for a day or two.

Scattered around the province are some pretty sparkling waterfalls and haunting caves to explore. Take a trip to Tham Pha Nang Khoi 40 kilometres north of town, Namtok Huai Rong and Namtok Tat Mok.

The area’s temples offer an interesting insight into the traditional culture and style. Wat Luang is the oldest temple in Phrae and includes an interesting museum. Also look out for the 400-year-old chedi of Phra That Phra Lo, Wat Sa Bo Kaeo, Wat Phra That Chom Chaeng, Wat Phra That Cho Hae and Wat Phra Non, located near the old city wall.

An interesting day trip is Phae Muang Phi, which is located about 12 kilometres out of town. This is an unusual natural feature which subsidence and erosion of the soil has created rocks in the shapes of exotic-looking mushrooms.

Another interesting local feature is Vongburi House, which is a private museum. This teak house was the residence of the last Prince of Phrae. Another interesting old teak house can be found in the village of Ban Prathap Jai.

A good place to get a feel for the local culture is at the Folklore Museum, which is located three kilometres from town. Here you will see different types of wooden houses, which demonstrate the different status of the local people. There is also market and shop houses of the ancient traditional style.

When it comes to eating, a great place to get a good, cheap meal is at the town’s large night market.

Phrae province is well known for its lively and interesting festivals. The Phra that Cho Hae Fair is held around March and involves a procession to carry robes to cover the local chedi. The procession follows the Lanna style and all participants are decked out in traditional Lanna attire.

The Kin Salak Fair is an old Buddhist merit-making event. Villagers prepare offerings and carry them in a procession to present to the monks. The fair is held around September each year.

Pai, Thailand

Pai, Thailand
Pai, Thailand
Pai, Thailand

Pai, Thailand

Located halfway between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, Pai is an intimate little village which draws visitors from all over the world with its cool climate, friendly locals and stunning scenery, which includes mountains and waterfalls.

As soon as you arrive in Pai, the fresh mountain air and warm smiles make you feel at home and slow your pace a little. The absolutely stunning scenery is just waiting to be explored, and many people hire bicycles or motorbikes and ride out to the nearby hill tribe villages. The village of Ban Piang Luang makes a good day trip, and the local people are welcoming. Pai has a total population of less than 3,000 people, which gives a real feeling of community, a nice contrast after spending some time in one of Thailand’s bustling cities or busy beach areas.

There are many tiny hill tribe villages located around Pai and hill tribes include Karen, Hmong, Lisu and Lahu. Although usually quite used to tourists by now, many of the hill tribe villagers are shy and should be approached respectfully.

The village of Pai takes its name from the river that runs through the lush valley. There are a few local temples to explore, including the very pretty Wat Luang and Wat Klang and the beautiful forests make a great setting for a soak in the Tha Pai Hot Springs, where you can choose to bath in the incredibly hot water (which can reach scorching temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius) with friends, or treat yourself to a private pool.

Originally a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people, Pai has adapted to provide a haven for the road weary traveler.

The water in Pai is cool and clear, and the waters at Mo Paeng Waterfall are a good place to cool down after a walk through the countryside or a visit at one of the nearby elephant camps.

For shopping, check out the Wednesday Market, when colorful crowds of local villagers and tribal people from all around the Pai Valley gather to trade their wares.

But the main past time in Pai is simply chilling out. With a large variety of guest houses, restaurants, bars and cinema rooms, this is a perfect place to learn the art of relaxation.

Chiang Dao, Thailand

Chiang Dao, Thailand
Chiang Dao, Thailand
Chiang Dao, Thailand
Chiang Dao, Thailand

Chiang Dao means “City of Stars” in the Thai language, and this very pretty small city is located in Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand. Surrounded by intense natural beauty, this is a good area to go trekking and bird watching.

For many, top of the list is Chiang Dao National Park, which covers over 1000 square kilometres and features bamboo forests, sparkling mountain streams and waterfalls. Also in the park is the mighty mountain of Doi Chiang Dao, which is a colossal 2225 metres high and is said to be Thailand’s highest mountain and offers incredible views over the area from the top. Scattered around the park are a large number of many Lisu and Karen hill tribe villages, and a good way to see them and to really appreciate the lush nature of the park is to go trekking and stay overnight.

Another popular attraction is Tham Chiang Dao – Chiang Dao Cave. The extremely beautiful cave complex is cool and inviting and stretches for an impressive 12 kilometres, filled with sparkling stalactites. It is a good idea to hire a guide with a lantern for the chance to explore the caves fully.

Experienced hikers can embark on a two day mountain trip up Doi Luang Chiang Dao, which is a great way to see the area. Another good way to explore is to visit the Elephant Training Centre Chiang Dao and go on an elephant trek through the forest. The treks can last from between 30 minutes to half a day an offer an interesting view point of the beautiful scenery, seen at a leisurely pace.

Chiang Dao is also popular for river rafting, and many people chose to visit the area in order to shoot the rapids, whilst others choose to hire a motorbike and discover all that the area has to offer by themselves.

If you are looking to get in touch with your spiritual side, visit Samnak Song Tham Pha Plong, which is also known as the Tham Pha Plong Monastic Centre. Many monks travel to this very special area to meditate, and visitors can climb a long flight of steps, which lead up the mountain past limestone cliffs and forest to a large chedi. The view from the top of the steps and the general vibe of the area more than makes up for any hardship encountered on the climb.

The extremely vibrant Tuesday morning market is a good place to buy local produce and see the hilltribe people, who come to the market in order to trade their wares. The

market is open each week between 7 a.m. and 12 a.m. and is a great place to get a good, cheap meal. Don’t forget to use the bartering system to get the most for your money.

Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Mae Hong Son, Thailand

This beautiful Northern Province is located along the banks of the river Pai near the border with Burma.

Mae Hong Son, with a population of around 7,000 people, is also the name of the Province capital. The town can easily be reached from Chiang Mai or via Mae Hong Son Airport.

Mae Hong Son is surrounded by mountains and is much cooler than the rest of Thailand, making it a great place to visit in the scorching summer months. In fact, for most of the year the valley is shrouded by mist and fog, which adds a mystical quality to it.

For nature lovers, Mae Hong Son is the perfect destination. Here you will find sparkling waterfalls, glittering caves such as Tham Mae La Na and the beautiful Tham Pla National Park makes a great day trip.

Mae Hong Son Province is home to the Padaung Hill Tribe villages, also known as the ‘Long Neck Women’ tribes after the long coils the women wear around their necks, which can weight as much as 22kg!

Many people visit the province in order to go trekking and visit these intriguingly exotic hill tribes. The hill tribe village of Ban Ruam Thai is particularly welcoming to independent visitors, or travellers can opt to go on a trekking tour, where a guide will take you to several villages in the area.

After trekking, you may want to relax in the Pha Bang Hot Spring, or pay your respects at the many local temples. There are dozens of gleaming temples to explore, such as Wat Huang Wiang, Wat Jong Kham or the nearby Wat Si Bunruang.

For the adventurous, Mae Hong Son is a great place to go rafting, and all your retail needs can be met at the bustling night market.

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Situated in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai Province is full of natural beauty spots such as Doi-Suthep-Pui National Park, Thap Lan National Park, Buak Hat Park and dozens of inviting waterfalls, among which Huay Kaew falls, Mae Sa Waterfall and Wachiratharn Waterfall should not be missed. The area is also a great place for bird watching, so make sure you bring your binoculars.

The capital of Chiang Mai Province is Chiang Mai city, which is the second largest city in Thailand and forms the focus point for travel to the north. Thousands of people visit Chiang Mai every year, drawn by its rich culture, cool climate and wide range of entertainment options.

Chiang Mai boasts over 300 temples, of which Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, situated atop Doi Intanon – Thailand’s biggest mountain – is probably the most famous. Other temples worth seeing include the ancient Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and the tranquil forest temple of Wat U-Mong.

The city of Chiang Mai was founded by King Mengrai in 1296, and a tribute to the great king can be seen in the Three Kings Monument. Both the informative Chiang Mai City Art and Cultural Center and the nearby Chiang Saen National Museum are good places to discover more of the area’s interesting history and you can take a course or use the facilities at Chiang Mai University.

Often referred to as the ‘Rose of the North’, Chiang Mai is a great place to lose yourself for a week or two. The Old City is a great place to explore, where surprises wait around every corner, or why not go on a cycling tour with the Chiang Mai Cycle Club.

With prices often markedly less than in Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a great place to go shopping. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is world famous and definitely should not be missed. The quaint umbrella village of Bo Sang makes a great place for a day trip and Talat Warorot is a good place to buy local produce, with prices to match.

Chiang Mai is a good place for self improvement and there are numerous courses and classes available. This is a great place to cook up a storm in a cookery class, and meditation courses always prove popular, whilst the sporty can learn a new skill at the Muay Thai Boxing Camp.

The stunning local scenery also provides a good backdrop for a range of sports such as Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures, and both Chiang Mai Flying Club and Oriental Balloon Flights provide a new perspective on the area.

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand

There are 17 provinces in Northern Thailand, all featuring stunning scenery, grand temples and a range of activities and opportunities to engage in extreme sports. Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand and is certainly the largest and loudest, although all the provinces have something to offer the tourist with a sense strong of adventure and an interest in the diverse history of the region.

Northern Thailand displays heavy influences from the neighboring cultures of Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan (China). The kingdoms of Lanna and Sukhothai were the first historical Thai nations.

A series of Communist insurgencies and the effects from Myanmar’s drug battles and civil wars has meant that recently a large portion of northern Thailand was off limits. However, these problems have now been mostly resolved, and safe, easy travel is possible throughout the north.

Although standard Thai language is widely understood, the people of Northern Thailand have their own Thai dialect called Kham Meaung. The hilltribes also have their own languages, and if you wish to make extensive contact with them it may be a good idea to employ a translator/guide.

The main airport in Northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, which serves both domestic and international flights. There are also small domestic airports at Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai.

Spicy and bitter, Northern Thai food is quite different to that eaten in the rest of the country. There are dozens of local specialties and this is a great place to sample the traditional food of the hill tribes as well. A regional specialty is thick, slightly spicy sausages stuffed with raw garlic, the pride of Chiang Mai Province.

Other dishes to look out for include:

kaeng hang le – Burmese-style pork curry

khanom jiin naam ngiew – rice noodles with pork ribs and thick sauce

khao soi – a Burmese curry noodle soup served with shallots, lime and pickles to add as required.

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand

In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn’t really much that you can’t do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand’s temples – known as wats – are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai’s Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand’s charms will draw you back time and again.

Shopping in Thailand

Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand

Many items can be purchased inexpensively in Thailand, as long as you know where to look. Reasonable copies of Billabong shorts, Nike trainers and hundreds of other products can be bought for surprisingly low prices. However, quality varies widely, so have a close look before you buy.

Thailand operates under a bartering system, which means that goods sold by street vendors in markets or in some shops are flexibly priced and you can get a very good deal if you know how to haggle powerfully and politely. Like many aspects of Thai culture, bartering is an intricate system that is easy to underestimate. The trick is to let the vendor make the first offer then ask ‘Can you make a discount?’ A good benchmark is to offer half the quoted price. Be firm, but make sure that you smile and possibly make a joke – if you are seen as too pushy or aggressive you will not be taken seriously and many traders will refuse to deal with you. Remember not to start to bargain unless you’re serious about buying. Also remember that a difference of a few baht may not really make much difference to you, but it may be a big deal to the vendor.

The best bargains can usually be found at large markets. Chatuchak Market in Bangkok is a great place for bargain hunting, as is the night market in Chiang Mai.

Most towns have at least one large local market, where you can find everything from kitchen utensils, cheap clothes, bags and baubles at incredibly cheap prices.

Night markets are also a great place to shop. Usually opening around 5 pm and often packing up as late as 11 or 12 pm, these are also a great place to find a cheap meal, buy fruit and people watch.

Thailand’s Floating Markets are much photographed and provide an interesting appeal for tourists. The most visited floating market is Damnoen Saduak, which is also the largest. Most tour operators in and around Khaosan Road offer tours to Damnoen Saduak. However, these days the market is very crowded and sells mainly souvenirs and other tourist items. For a more authentic experience, head to the Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market, which is open daily from 04:00 and 07:00, or the Taling Chan Floating Market, which is open on weekends until around 2 pm.

If you’re looking for cheap technology, Panthip Plaza in Bangkok has it all. With 5 floors filled of every type of technological gadget and gismo you could possibly dream of, it is easy to spend half a day here. Remember to barter as most prices are negotiable and seem to be cheaper on the upper floors.

Siam Square in Bangkok is the place to go if you like large shopping centres. There are a wide range to choose from, including MBK, Paragon and Siam Discovery.

Big C is another shopping center chain and can be found all over Thailand in towns, cities and even quite small villages. As well as having its own store, which usually spans several floors, you can usually find dozens of other stores, including international stores such as Boots and The Body Shop.

Nightlife in Thailand

Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand

From fantastic costumes and gorgeous girls, pumping beats and delicious cocktails to simply relaxing under the stars, Thailand offers a wide range of entertainment options for those out and about in the evening.

Most of the more vibrant nightlife can be found in Bangkok, but there are also colourful options in Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and large towns. On the islands, wild beach parties and bar hopping form the main types of entertainment. It is worth remembering that most bars, restaurants and clubs have a 1 am curfew. However, there are usually one or two places around where you can continue drinking if you want.

Here is a rundown on some of the types of entertainment available.

Cabaret Shows can be found in the cities and large tourist areas. This is an extremely colourful affair where dozens of stunning women dance on stage in dazzling sequin covered outfits. Thailand also offers Tiffany Shows, a own unique twist on the traditional cabaret show. Now world famous, these transvestite or ‘lady boy’ shows are extremely entertaining. The performers are stunning and the shows contain comedy and dramatic displays as well as singing and dancing.

Bangkok is by far the best place to go clubbing in Thailand. There is an incredible variety of clubs where you can dance the night away, from the classy Bed Supperclub in Sukhumvit, to the male-orientated DJ Station in Silom. Another great option is Royal City Avenue (RCA), where there are dozens of clubs and bars playing everything from Thai disco music to hardcore Drum and Bass, Hip Hop and Techno. Expect to pay a cover charge at most clubs (300 baht+) and take a photocopy of your passport for identification.

Go-Go bars can be found in most cities and large towns, especially Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. They are generally located in special areas and can be easily identified by the flashy neon signs and scantily dressed women in the doorways. In Bangkok, head for Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza or Patpong.

Karaoke Bars can be found all over Thailand. Imported from Isaan, these bars specialise in loud Isaan music, flashing coloured lights and sexily dressed women crooning on stage. Many bars also have a selection of Western songs and Westerners are welcome to sing, although be aware that a charge for this is often included in your bill.

Full Moon Parties are another Thai speciality. The most famous of these can be found on Koh Phangan, where is it so popular that they now hold a half moon party as well. Other good places to party on the beach include Koh Phi Phi and Raleigh Beach. Bars usually play loud music until dawn and you can expect a selection of DJs, spectacular decorations and fire shows.

Alternatively, if you just want to take it easy, there are movie theatres all over Thailand. All show movies in English with Thai subtitles, even in small villages. When booking, make sure you ask for the ‘subtitle’ movie. A tribute to the king is played at the start of the movie, and you are expected to stand and show respect along with everyone else. The movie theatres are highly air conditioned and can be a bit chilly, so it is a good idea to take along a light jumper or jacket.