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
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
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
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
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