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Old 18th October 2015, 17:17   #1
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Default Thailand experienced by road & rail

It was Sunday night - day 3 of our trip to Thailand. We were in Chiang Mai. It was drizzling outside. Me and my family comprising of 5 adults and a kid were tucked in our spacious 3 bedroom penthouse on top of a 13 storey residential complex. And all I could do was roll on the bed and think if this is going to be the worst holiday of our lives. If I made a mistake by planning a trip to Thailand. Should I have just planned an extended vacation somewhere in India instead. The stakes were just too high. Our first international holiday. Our most expensive holiday ever.

We had landed in Bangkok on Friday and were supposed to be in Thailand for 8 nights - 3 nights in Chiang Mai, 3 in Hua Hin and 2 on the train (saved costs!) But before all this, on Thursday we started our journey to N.Delhi from Jalandhar - in our trusty Innova. Heavy traffic and prolonged stops ensured we finally reached our hotel at 10pm in the night - only to find out that ZO rooms couldn't provide us the room they promised and confirmed to us by means of a constant flurry of sms' and confirmatory calls throughout the day.

So 11pm in the night, car parked on the side of NH-8, with the whole family in tow I was busy searching various apps to find the cheapest good hotel around. Luckily I found one of my favorite hotels in Delhi - Avon Rooms (a hotel mostly catering to Japanese executives from Hitachi on MG Road) going cheap for 2200/- per room per night for 3 adults. Booked it. We reached the hotel at around 11.30pm. Now there was a matter of fitting two more adults. Me and my wife were happy (or miserable depending on who you asked the question) to call the Innova our room for the night. For others, we were comfortably booked in another room. This was among the ploys I devised throughout the trip to keep expenses in control. I succeeded in some and failed miserably in others.

Anyways we landed in Bangkok around noon on Friday and had to catch the train to Chiang Mai at 7pm. We were all tired from the extended car journey yesterday, the late night hotel check-in and the early morning flight. Now on top of it we had to wile away time before we caught the train. On hindsight I could have planned this much better. I wasn't also helped by the efficiency of the airport staff and better than expected infrastructure in Thailand. While I read reports that on arrival Visa takes about an hour, we obtained it in a matter of minutes. And while Google maps informed me that on a typical Friday afternoon it takes 1.5 to 2 hrs to get to the railway station from the airport. It took us just about 45- 50 minutes.

The Bangkok railway station was a good place to be in, though. Not European standard but definitely much more appealing than the best Indian railway station. It was clean, wasn't crowded and had a small market to keep us occupied. The train ride itself was definitely the high point of the day. We especially took a liking to the restaurant on the train. Good food combined with the cool and airy ambiance on the on-board restaurant provided the much needed relaxation. Overall, the clean trains, comfortable berths and a 'different' experience triggered our imagination about what lay ahead. The feeling was sinking in that we were on an international holiday and would get to witness all the good things that are associated with one. But of course things shaped up differently soon after we reached Chaing Mai.

The Bangkok railway station
Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_2149.jpg

The on-board restaurant
Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_1505.jpg

Scenic capture from the train
Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_1507.jpg

We crossed a number of such small and beautiful stations on the way
Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_1535.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 22nd October 2015 at 08:47.
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Old 18th October 2015, 22:08   #2
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Now Chiang Mai is the most important city in north Thailand. It is a cultural hub and is indeed a beautiful city. A moat in the center of the city lined with trees gives it a very alluring laid back feel. The Doi Suthep mountain which is always looming in the background adds to that feeling. This setting combined with vibrant night markets and the youthful nature due to the presence of a large student community ensures that Chiang Mai makes a deep connection with you.

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Unfortunately by the time we arrived in Chiang Mai on Saturday morning, my mother, daughter and very soon my wife were under the weather. It didn't help that it was cloudy and rains were almost always threatening to make an appearance.

Chiang Mai railway station
Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_1576.jpg

Saturday and Sunday were spent in visiting the night safari, driving to San Kamphaeng looking for handicrafts and visiting the weekend night markets. By Sunday night we were exhausted and were left wondering if we were really on a holiday. This was especially sad, given what I wrote above about Chiang Mai. It was almost hurting. I think a few factors were at play. We were acting touristy. We wanted to buy fun by just visiting the major attractions of the area. Secondly, we had booked our accommodation through airbnb. Now, while the place was fabulous we almost had to do all the chores ourselves, just like at home. This is a great way to live and inhale the atmosphere of a place but suddenly becomes a liability if a few of you are unwell, especially on whom you are more likely to depend while going through your daily tasks.

Alas as if to signal a change in our fortunes, the sun reared its head on Monday as we were speeding down the highway in a Nissan Sylphy. Now cars are a vital instrument for us to enjoy any holiday for the simple reason that it will allow us to explore. And we were guilt of under exploring for the last two days. It also helped that my mother, wife and daughter were all feeling much better. We were driving to a national park called Doi Inthanon. But that was just the name of a destination, because the fun really lied on the journey.

A magnificent temple on the way:

Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_0255.jpg

Stopped in the middle of the woods for a short picnic (eatables packed from a 7/11)

Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_0288.jpg

Soon afterwards stopped for a glimpse into Thai village life:

Thailand experienced by road & rail-img_0283.jpg

Shortly we took a diversion to arrive at the scene of this waterfall. Must say the whole area was very well maintained.

Thailand experienced by road & rail-waterfall.jpg

And all through we were driving on such scenic roads with almost no traffic. What more could one ask for?

Thailand experienced by road & rail-scenic-road.jpg

While I wished the road never ended, once it did, I wished I didn't have to return. Pics below from the nature trail:

Thailand experienced by road & rail-trail1.jpg
Thailand experienced by road & rail-trail2.jpg
Thailand experienced by road & rail-trail3.jpg
Thailand experienced by road & rail-trail4.jpg

From this day our Thai holiday truly started. The momentum gained was sustained till the end...well if you ask me I can't seem to take it out of my head. The reason I am writing this travelogue- my first - and immediately after returning home.

PS: Sorry for the poor shots. I know glorifying words accompanied by poor shots don't go along. Buts that is the best I could do.

Last edited by rrsteer : 20th October 2015 at 16:06.
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Old 20th October 2015, 14:07   #3
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Tuesday - our final day in Chiang Mai started by an early morning visit to the Doi Suthep temple, followed by aimless wandering to explore the Doi Suthep mountain area and culminated in a visit to the Chaing Mai Zoo for the sake of our 3 yr old daughter - which the adults ended up enjoying much more! By the way its the best zoo I have ever seen.

Doi Suthep temple:

Thailand experienced by road & rail-temple.jpg

A quaint village house:

Thailand experienced by road & rail-temple2.jpg

A charming waterfall:
Thailand experienced by road & rail-temple3.jpg

A poser from the Zoo:
Thailand experienced by road & rail-temple4.jpg

We had to catch the train back to Bangkok at 5pm and by the time we left the zoo it was already 2.15pm. Gross mismanagement on my part, landed us in a situation where we had to return to our flat from the zoo, exchange currency from the bank, return the rental car, wind up our stuff, thank our host and do a 30 minute taxi ride to the station in just over 2.5 hrs. And most of these were first time activities to be done by following unknown routes through the GPS. What followed were among the most exhilarating 2.5 hrs in my life.

As I look back I remember those few hours as a funny chase sequel from a Bollywood movie with a fast paced score running in the background. There were just too many things that went wrong altogether and then kept falling in place just at the last second, one after the other. And the ending scene was straight out of a Bollywood movie. Picture it. The final announcement of the departure of the train is being announced. And just as the operator is about to utter the last word, our Songthaew (name for Taxi in Chiang Mai) screeches to a halt at the entrance of the station. There is a mad scramble to collect and count the luggage amid all the din and selfies...inexplicably yes!..selfies!! And then one among us rushes to stop the train. The conductor stops the green flag right in the middle of its sweep and a number of people converge to help the large Indian family board the train along with their xl sized luggage and a plethora of accouterments!

If our train journey from Bangkok to Chaing Mai was relaxing and full of hope, our return journey was marked by unbridled excitement and a feeling of accomplishment.

Last edited by rrsteer : 20th October 2015 at 14:10.
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Old 20th October 2015, 14:40   #4
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On Wednesday morning around 7.am I was standing in front of the Hertz central Bangkok business station office deciding whether to choose a Fortuner or Isuzu MX7 as my car for the next three days. Aside, a big reason why I am in love with Thailand is the cars. Now pickups, SUVs are my type of cars. And Thais are just crazy about these...infact all cars. Almost every other car I saw was modded. They do not even spare the tuk tuks - which make an amazing sound while accelerating. I think Thailand has the maximum concentration of modded cars per capita in the planet.

Initially, I had booked a sedan - the Camry. But seeing SUVs were the trend, I asked to change my reservation to a SUV. Since the Fortuner was the old model and I anyway expect to buy a pre-owned Fortuner sooner than later, for variety I opted for the Isuzu. This thing was big and muscular and driving it around Bangkok was literally quite thrilling as I struggled to understand the directions blurted out by the Google lady in a strange Indian accent. From the Sylphy to MX7...what a contrast it was. Given the frames of reference, from exquisite handling and calm interiors to fearful torque and bluster. I was loving it!

The ride
Thailand experienced by road & rail-isuzu.jpg

Our destination was Hua Hin, where we were supposed to stay till Saturday morning. Now Hua Hin's basic claim to fame is that it is a nice, less crowded sea side location just a short drive away from Bangkok (230 kms). It is now a popular weekend getaway for people of Bangkok. In terms of natural beauty, it pales in comparison to more illustrious places down south like Krabi, Phuket etc or so I read. Shortage of time, and other constraints dictated that we choose between Bangkok and Hua Hin for the second part of our trip.

The drive to Hua Hin was a simple highway affair with no dramatic turn of nature on offer. Not knowing the speed limit, I tried to maintain a safe distance between the Isuzu and the next car that overtook me. This resulted in us cruising almost always above 110kmph and by 12pm we were on the outskirts of Hua Hin. The major part of the day was spent exploring some eateries and our residence, again arranged through airbnb and which had its own private beach and was quite simply quite fantastic.

The society which housed our flat:
Thailand experienced by road & rail-hh1.jpg

The day ended with a visit to Hua Hin night market and plans to drive to Khao Sam Roi Yot natural park the next day.

Night market:
Thailand experienced by road & rail-nigh-market.jpg

Last edited by rrsteer : 20th October 2015 at 16:12.
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Old 20th October 2015, 17:15   #5
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We started early on Thursday and in no time were on the road to Khao Sam Roi Yot park.

The first stop was a roadside eatery or a dhaba.
Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-dhaba-car.jpg

We had a tough time explaining to the cook what we wanted. We wanted the cook who probably had never cooked anything apart from a few Thai dishes to churn out customized variants of Thai cooking that were suited to Indian tastes! Pretty brave of us, I think, and best of all we succeeded to a large degree given the circumstances. We took recourse to Google translate. Seemingly, it understood and conveyed what we wanted in Thai. Actually Google was our 7th companion. It constantly interacted with us through various avatars like Google search, Google translate, Google maps (through a strange Indian accent), Google drive and not the least through Gmail.

Another shot of the pretty road side dhaba

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-dhaba.jpg

Meanwhile we were accompanied throughout with some wonderful scenery

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-scenery.jpg

Our fascination with villages and village houses too continued

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-village.jpg

Another beautiful scene

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-scencontinued.jpg

Sea fed village canal

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day21.jpg

Fishing boats

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day-1-boat.jpg

Finally we ended in a deserted beach, with absolutely no one around except for people who were running the shacks.

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-beach.jpg

We spent the rest of the day in the beach eating, talking and admiring God's creation.

Thailand experienced by road & rail-day1-beach-2.jpg

Last edited by rrsteer : 20th October 2015 at 17:19.
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Old 22nd October 2015, 09:23   #6
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 23rd October 2015, 12:39   #7
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Nice write up there.

In August 2015, I was supposed to visit Chiang Rai, Thailand for the Ford Everest media drive. Whomever (friends or family) I mentioned about the place, they all corrected me saying that I must be heading to Chiang Mai, so much so, that till the day of travel, I wasn't sure whether I was heading to Chiang Rai or Mai . After going through your travelogue, I can spot a lot of similarities between the two places.

One thing I can tell you from my visit, the traffic and road sense of the people there is something we should really look up to. Busy Bangkok aside, people have really good driving etiquette there, which I'm sure you would have noticed too. Could you confirm whether this was true in your case too or whether it was just me who noticed this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rrsteer View Post
Initially, I had booked a sedan - the Camry. But seeing SUVs were the trend, I asked to change my reservation to a SUV. Since the Fortuner was the old model and I anyway expect to buy a pre-owned Fortuner sooner than later, for variety I opted for the Isuzu. This thing was big and muscular and driving it around Bangkok was literally quite thrilling as I struggled to understand the directions blurted out by the Google lady in a strange Indian accent. From the Sylphy to MX7...what a contrast it was. Given the frames of reference, from exquisite handling and calm interiors to fearful torque and bluster. I was loving it!
Lastly, you have actually driven the recently launched Trailblazer in Thailand. Would suggest you to head to this thread (Chevrolet Trailblazer : Official Review) and share your driving experience there. What engine and transmission option did it have? Please tell us more.
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Old 23rd October 2015, 15:06   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post

One thing I can tell you from my visit, the traffic and road sense of the people there is something we should really look up to. Busy Bangkok aside, people have really good driving etiquette there, which I'm sure you would have noticed too. Could you confirm whether this was true in your case too or whether it was just me who noticed this?
Hi S2!!!, I agree with your observation. Three things that really stood out for me were :
1) Drivers voluntarily stop at cross sections and then decide to make a move
2) I heard absolutely no honking!
3) Drivers always maintained a healthy gap between two vehicles

Quote:
Lastly, you have actually driven the recently launched Trailblazer in Thailand. Would suggest you to head to this thread (Chevrolet Trailblazer : Official Review) and share your driving experience there. What engine and transmission option did it have? Please tell us more.
Yes I noticed that. Unfortunately the whole car manual was in Thai, which stopped from learning more about the car I was driving. But I think I noticed the variant I drove had much lower torque - about 380 NM if I remember correctly. And it had 4wd, which I did employ.

For somebody who gets to drive an Innova or an Etios only, you would appreciate my excitement in driving the MX7, but the car didn't impress me that much. I especially recall the rear passengers complaining from tiredness after some time, which I never heard before from them.

Last edited by rrsteer : 23rd October 2015 at 15:08.
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Old 23rd October 2015, 15:46   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rrsteer View Post
For somebody who gets to drive an Innova or an Etios only, you would appreciate my excitement in driving the MX7, but the car didn't impress me that much. I especially recall the rear passengers complaining from tiredness after some time, which I never heard before from them.
Haha. I am used to driving a Grand i10, now imagine my excitement when I drove the all-new Everest .

I'm guessing you drove the 2.5L Duramax diesel with 135 BHP and 320 Nm. For a massive 2-ton SUV, these figures are very ordinary. No wonder you didn't like it much. What was the reason your passengers complained? Excess vertical / lateral movement or some other reason? Anshuman's review does state that the high speed ride quality is quite poor.

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Old 23rd October 2015, 16:12   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
I'm guessing you drove the 2.5L Duramax diesel with 135 BHP and 320 Nm. For a massive 2-ton SUV, these figures are very ordinary. No wonder you didn't like it much. What was the reason your passengers complained? Excess vertical / lateral movement or some other reason? Anshuman's review does state that the high speed ride quality is quite poor.
I think I drove the 3.0 litre engine. Because one, I remember reading 177 and 380 next to the engine, which I thought must be the power and torque respectively and secondly, it did feel more than 320NM.

The reason the passengers complained was mainly due to the seats, which they felt were not supportive. In fairness, they are probably used to Innova which has very comfortable seats.
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