Many of the Top Gear bicycle riders have been using
handheld GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units to create maps of bicycle
trails around Chiang Mai for sharing and information.
They have recently begun collecting everyone’s track
information to make an accurate map of Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand,
down to 10m scale.
called the eTrex Vista. No, the name is not misspelled. Higher-end units
have color screens and external antennas. All of them can be connected to a
computer. You can use it to generate 3D maps, which helps a lot to plan bike
rides that won’t kill you too badly.
The group calls itself the Thai Garmin Map Makers, TGMM,
and they have formed a yahoo group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tgmm/
Members meet monthly at Top Gear Bicycle to discuss
mapping and how to best use our GPS units, which will also help novice GPS
users to better use this awesome tool.
The maps they produce are available for download off the
internet or, for those who aren’t familiar with some of the advanced
mapping software, they can go to Top Gear, where a Garmin GPS user can come
in and have any of the group’s maps uploaded to their GPS.
part of a Phuket map done by a group of GPS users down there. It’s created
by combining GPS data with Gtopo satellite data to create a wire-frame which
is then covered with the map textures.
GPS is old technology that is only now becoming available
and affordable to mainstream society. It’s free to use and requires no
licensing or fees other than the initial purchase of a GPS. Prices range
from 7,000 baht for a basic handheld unit suitable for bicycles,
motorcycles, cars, and hiking to advanced units which tell you when and
where to turn, for nearly 100,000 baht.
Maps are vector based and as such are zoom-able, from
hundreds of kilometers down to only a few meters without any loss in detail
at different scales.
a wire frame. You can rotate, zoom in, and look at these images from any
angle. It really helps to visualize the topography of the region.
The TGMM plan to have the Chiang Mai map accurate down to
five meters with every little soi and walkway shown. They are also creating
points of interest, which include local hotels, restaurants, government
offices, which will appear as a searchable, navigable database within a GPS.
This means you can ask the GPS to find a particular office or hotel for you
and it will guide you to get there.
It can also search by location to show you all the hotels
within five kilometers of your current location. All the user has to do is
choose and the GPS will guide you there.
GPS units are useable the entire world over at no cost,
with maps freely available from various Internet sites. GPS have an
incredible range and variety of uses. The most basic user can simply turn
one on and watch as they travel the GPS draws a line of where they go. It
will also show altitude profiles, and a very wide range of data relevant to
cyclists, drivers, parachutists, ultra-light pilots and others.
More advanced users can create their own maps of any
place they want, determine the area of lakes or land areas, and a whole lot
The success of the Thai mapping project really depends on
how many GPS users will get involved. With enough people it’s likely to
map the entire country of Thailand to a fantastic degree of detail. And with
digital maps a user can see and use as much or as little detail as they
need. Ultimately the goal is to provide a free and readily available
guidance resource for anyone who needs it.
Interested people can contact Top Gear Bicycle on Chang Mai Road, by
email: [email protected] for information or to have some hands-on time
with a GPS unit. Phone inquiries can be made to Tom at 01 883-3013 or email
Auke at koopmans @loxinfo.co.th