TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

SKAL members travel up North

Comedy of Errors

Chiang Mai hotels gear up to attract larger events

SKAL members travel up North

from left to right Wiwat (Vsign Media), Ann, Pakin (Oasis Spa), Anchalee (Skal President), Wanna (Wanna Tour) and Toby (Oasis Spa) spent the weekend at the Anantara Resort in Chiang Rai.


Comedy of Errors

Pratfalls from a week-end Up North on a budget

Mark Arar
Like many residents and visitors, I and my friends occasionally choose to make a “visa run” to the Burmese border town of Tachilek, roughly four hours’ ride north of Chiang Mai. On a recent occasion, we sought to enhance the trip by seeing a bit of the surrounding countryside, so we mapped out a route that would take us north to Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, and then back through Mae Chan, Thaton and Chiang Dao. Our idea was to spread the journey over three days and two nights, thereby keeping the hours en route to a manageable maximum of four hours per day.
Knowledgeable locals had told us that the most comfortable way of traveling to Mae Sai
(short of renting a car and driver, which was beyond our budget) was to take the VIP Green Bus out of the Arcade Bus Station, which makes the trip to Mae Sai in about five hours, stopping along the way in Chiang Rai.
Surprise #1: In order to get people in and out of Mae Sai in one day, the VIP bus leaves at 7:30 a.m., and returns to Chiang Mai by 6 p.m. Since we arrived at Arcade around 10 a.m., we only had a choice of non-VIP air-con and fan-equipped buses. These were fully booked until the 1:15 p.m. departure, so we had to sweat a few hours in the terminal to atone for our first mistake.
Surprise #2: Upon arrival in Chiang Rai, we asked to make a booking for 10:30 the following day, but were told that bookings out of Chiang Rai could only be made the day of departure. At 9:30 a.m. the next day, we were told that all seats to Mae Sai were booked out of Chiang Mai, leaving us to take the local, non air-con bus to Mae Sai and back to Mae Chan.
This bus is a real winner, packed to the gills with passengers, and it is painfully “local”, stopping at what seemed to be every block and therefore taking one and a half sweaty hours to the Mae Sai bus station (which, by the way, is 15 minutes’ ride outside of town, requiring a further song taew or motorcycle connection to reach the Immigration posts.)
After clearing Immigration, we made it to Mae Chan for our connection across the mountains to Thaton at about 3 p.m., at which point we encountered
Surprise #3: the songtaew drivers told us that they would take us half-way to Thaton for
about 60 baht, where we could connect with another songtaew that MIGHT take us to Thaton.
But, they warned, connecting service to Thaton stops around 4 p.m., so they couldn’t guarantee we wouldn’t be left in the middle of nowhere at the intersection point. Of course, they said if we wanted to avoid this fate, we could pay six hundred baht and be taken all the way to Thaton (a 75-minute drive). Reluctantly, we caved.
Surprise #4: After a pleasant evening in Thaton, we left at 9:30 the following morning for what should have been a 2-hour trip to Chiang Dao, where we planned a restful lunch at The Nest.
Instead, the non air-con bus took nearly 3 hours, stopped everywhere, including 20 minutes in Fang, and five minutes at a fruit stand so the driver (and later, the passengers) could buy lychees.
Final Surprise: The bus from Chiang Dao to Chiang Mai, which we boarded at 2:40 p.m., was packed with students returning to the city after a weekend at home. That assured maximum discomfort, which went over the top when the bus encountered a rain shower and the passengers quickly closed all the windows, making sure that everyone sweated happily for the remainder of the trip.
Ain’t budget traveling fun???


Chiang Mai hotels gear up to attract larger events

Chiang Mai’s functions, meetings and incentives scene is heating up with international hotel chains lining up to offer brand new, state-of-the-art function facilities.
All hotels are located in or near the central part of Chiang Mai town.
This September, Holiday Inn Chiang Mai, formerly a Sheraton-managed property, will unveil its newly-renovated public areas and façade, function facilities including two ballrooms with a combined area of 2,500m2 and 75 of its 526 guestrooms. The rest of the guestrooms will be renovated at a later date.
Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai general manager, Mr. Philip Dailey, said his 281-room hotel was scheduled to open in December. The hotel will feature a 1,400m2 grand ballroom, which can host up to 1,200 people banquet-style.
The 391-room Le Méridien Chiang Mai, which will open on April 1 next year, will have conference facilities for up to 400 people.
Meanwhile, the 75-room Sofitel Riverside Chiang Mai, which has just opened on July 1, also plans to attract incentive business by leveraging on its boutique concept. General Manager, Mr. Brendan Daly, said the hotel could accommodate an incentive group of 120 people at a time. TTG