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.
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.
samlor operator reads the newspaper, waiting for his customers in the Chiang
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.
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.
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.
samlor operator sleeps while waiting for passengers at the Chiang Mai
“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.
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
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.
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
spare parts at the shop.
parts of the samlor seats.
samlor seat says “Sawasdee”.