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The samlor, a once beloved mode of transport, faces extinction

Grand opening of Raffles LaSalle

The samlor, a once beloved mode of transport, faces extinction

Nopniwat Krailerg

The samlor, or tricycle, is to be phased out of the tourist scene in Chiang Mai and other northern provinces. For many years, the pedalled “samlor theep” was the main form of transport in town.

Por Visute, who owns the last samlor repair and rental business.

Today, there are only a few left as they have lost their popularity. However, you can still find a few at the morning market and some tourist spots, like those around the night bazaar.

Because of modernization and the growth of the city, they have been elbowed out by tuk-tuks, song taews (red mini-uses), motorcycles, private cars and other forms of transport, even though the authorities had provided lanes for bicycles and samlors.

A samlor operator reads the newspaper, waiting for his customers in the Chiang Mai marketplace.

However, there is one place left in town where for owners can repair their vehicles and where samlors can be rented. This is the Chong Charoen Samlor Services Shop, or Ban Samlor, located near Chiang Mai Dramatic Arts College on Rakaeng Road. It is run by 74-year-old Por Visute Chaimaimod who claims to have established the first samlor service shop in town, but he does not have anyone to take over his business.

Some old samlor spare parts.

“I started a small iced sweets (nam kaeng sai) business in front of the Suriyong movie theatre at that time, until I had enough money to buy a samlor to ferry people,” he said.

As he saved up more money, he bought more samlors which he rented out for 7-10 baht a day. He also opened his repair shop.

An air filling machine. It costs 1 baht to ‘fill up’.

At that time, there were about 150 registered samlors in public service in Chiang Mai. Registration cost 1,500. “Today, you don’t have to register samlors,” he said.

Then the yellow buses came into operation, and the demand for samlors dropped. As a result, daily rentals for samlors were decreased to 4 baht. In 1960, the song taew (red mini-buses) came into service, giving the public a greater choice of transportation in the city.

A samlor operator sleeps while waiting for passengers at the Chiang Mai market.

“However, samlors could still be seen roaming around the town. In 1969, when the Bangkok metropolitan authorities cancelled registration for samlors there, they moved up to Chiang Mai, making 3,000 samlors in the northern capital.”

As time went on, the number of samlor operators fell because people were studying and getting better paid jobs - and passengers turned to faster and more convenient modes of transport.

A part of a samlor designed as Phra Ram mascot, from Thai literature.

Samlors decreased in popularity and today they are used mainly by tourists to view the city at a leisurely pace. At present, there are between 200-300 samlors, scattered around marketplaces at Sanpakoi, Pratu (gate) Chiang Mai and Waroros where they wait for the vendors as their regular passengers.

A samlor mechanic doing repair and repaint work.

A samlor rider earns about 100 baht a day. They are unable to operate freely along the city’s roads, as these are too crowded, dangerous or unsafe.

The remaining samlor drivers still bring their vehicle to his shop for repairs, spare parts or to be repainted. Some sell off their old samlors to him, which he resells for 2,000-3,000 baht.

A samlor operator fills up with air.

“But after me, none of my family or relatives will carry this on and I don’t know about the future of the samlor,” he said.

Other former samlor repair shops have changed to cater for motorcycle spare parts sale and services. Por Visute knows the samlor’s days are numbered.

Samlor spare parts at the shop.

Repainting parts of the samlor seats.

The rear bumper.

The samlor seat says “Sawasdee”.


Grand opening of Raffles LaSalle

Elegance and flair by design

Marion and Michael Vogt

The grand opening of Raffles LaSalle was held at the Wangkhum Building on Soi Nimmanhemin last week. The trendy event was overflowing with students, art teachers from the different faculties and international schools around Chiang Mai, VIPs, artists and models amongst stylish flower arrangements.

Khun Rassamee, MD of Siam properties received flowers from Cheng Kwek Loong, for help and advice during the opening stages.

The reputation of Raffles LaSalle International Design School is known throughout Asia and to have an admission and consulting office in Chiang Mai is quite an honor. Cheng Kwek Loong, the vice dean of the Raffles LaSalle School in Bangkok, said he was overwhelmed to see so many interested people and excited faces around him. The staff in Chiang Mai have the expertise to help and advise and perhaps in the near future, Chiang Mai will have its own design school.

Another sophisticated trendy design which was modelled in a mini fashion show ‘through the crowds’ at Raffles LaSalle’s offices.

Suratep Tanprasert, from the private education commission of the Ministry of Education said, “After I visited the head office in Bangkok and saw the state of the art facilities, the expertise and the possibilities which these students are offered, I approved immediately. With a Raffles LaSalle college in Bangkok, the students who attend have a solid foundation for the future. With nine colleges in Singapore, Australia and China, they can exchange ideas and receive a global education. I am proud to be here today and hope that another design school can be added in the Thai market very soon.”

The evening proceeded with a show of the many things offered to the students of the design school. Multi media designs, fashion shows, graphic design and Raffles LaSalle’s designer Bamas Chan Po Yuan presented a fantastic parody on fashion and the changing catwalk of fashion models.

Bamas Chan Po Yuan, the fashion design lecturer of Raffles LaSalle danced and choreographed a ‘one man show’, a parody on fashion models throughout the centuries. He was creative director and choreographer for Christian Dior show presentations.

Living window models showcase creative student designs from Raffles LaSalle design school.

The Buddhist life prolonging ceremony was performed to bring all things auspicious to the school and good fortune for the staff. (Photo by Autsadaporn Kamthai)