To the Big Mango by train
Having fallen in love years ago with Thailand in general and Chiang Mai in
particular, I feel lucky to avoid The Big Mango most of the time. But last
week one of the odd migrations south could not be avoided.
NokAir looked brilliant at under 950 baht for a one way fare, but when you
took into account the more expensive return flight (it’s uphill all the way
of course) and the tax for this and the tax for that, the return trip for 2
would cost 7,000 baht. The EU will soon force airlines to state the accurate
fare to be paid on all their promos - and the sooner that happens here the
better. (read story Budget Airlines Under Scrutiny on this page)
So without hesitation I called the railway station and found that the same
journey on 2nd class overnight sleepers would cost less than half. Not being
in a hurry (happily, because both north and south trains arrived an hour
late) we had no regrets, except that the vintage rolling stock on the way
down was considerably noisier and bumpier than the return journey - in
Daewoo carriages from Korea labeled as recently as 1996.
Finding the underground train station at Hua Lumphong rail station is still
an un-signposted challenge - they are way over to the right through the exit
gates - but they and the skytrain will take you most places in comfy
air-con, and the noisy audible ads which caused such furor in the press a
month ago seem to have vanished.
However, don’t be shy of the metered taxis any more. The drivers apparently
have cleaned up their act. The meters are used, are accurate and not greedy.
For two people riding together outside rush hour jam; most journeys will
work out slightly cheaper than either set of rails. Reason? Good ole supply
and demand. There is now an over supply and brightly colored cabs cruising
everywhere looking for business.
Hotels? You pays yer money and yer takes yer choice, but we all know by now
to book in advance to avoid the horrendously high ‘walk-in rates.’ I
“Googled” a few familiar names in advance and decided on the Dynasty Inn on
Soi 4 (Soi Nana), Sukhumvit, very close to Nana Plaza if you like that sort
of thing; just opposite the Nana Hotel (which now has a long bar on the
roadside offering that sort of thing) and a short stumble from the excellent
Jools Bar if you like the western food sort of thing. I like all these sorts
of things, but as the wife was with me this trip I stay focused on the food.
The days of the Swire & Fletcher team at Jools (established 1988) are long
gone and their successor “Big Dave” has just gone, leaving this western nosh
n’gossip shop in the hands of Matt and Rung Tyrer whom, it seemed on my
brief visit, have happily changed very little indeed.
In this low season the Dynasty price for an air-con, en-suite double room
with TV, radio and mini bar is under 1,300 baht per night, which has got to
be a rare and brilliant Bangkok bargain. Smart, super-clean with great staff
and a skytrain station just around the corner on Sukhumvit, I for one could
ask for nothing more.
Except, being a confirmed northerner, the train back to Chiang Mai and home!