So, we’re back in Chiang Mai, which has become another one of our world homes. Over a year ago we rented an old Thai house and (somewhat) renovated it to be used as our mission base. It has truly served its purpose and the location is south of town; perfect. However, the distance makes us have to rethink transportation as we can’t walk everywhere here.
That’s where the motorcycles come in. Thailand (and most of Southeast Asia) is a motorcycle culture because cars are too expensive for the normal person. There are thousands of motorcycles buzzing about, dodging the bullying cars, squeezing between the ever present lines of stopped traffic. So we researched and rented a red Honda Dream motorcycle. We aren’t ready to buy one yet (we need a truck for the ministry first).
Now a warning. I have seen multiple people (foreign and Thai) laid out on the ground with their head busted wide open. If you are going to drive around on a motorcycle in Asia, learn how to drive one in a safe area with a good teacher, and for common sense sake, don’t drive around without your helmet just because the Thai’s do it. It’s dumb for them too. I’ve seen them dead on the side of the road as well. Wear it. Don’t drive faster than your angels can fly. Go slow and watch the traffic. The rule for us is whatever it is you don’t want the drivers around you to do, count on that being just what happens. Please, listen. We brought a team of five to Thailand once and ALL five AND their two leaders (Darlene and I) had small accidents. Nothing serious, thank God.
Okay, now for my advice on getting a bike in Chiang Mai.
We checked a few places, but in the end we settled on Mr. Som-Chai’s motorcycle stand on the inner east side of the moat. (Old Chiang Mai is a square with a moat and everything. Cool huh?) Just south of the Thai Pai Gate (where the Sunday walking market is) there are two 7-11s. Mr. Som-Chai is a nice old gentleman that sits at a wooden desk and rents out Bikes all day long. He has always been very kind to us, never tried to over-charge, and seems to take good care of his motorcycles.
Everytime we rent from Mr Som-Chai he goes through the same process. He will take your Passport (This spooked me at first, but after a year Mr. Som-Chai has never lost my passport.) He then will count out the days on his marked up calendar and get all your information. After you pay (price next section) he will give you a helmet and show you to your bike. He’ll show you how to lock the front wheel (ALWAYS). Then he will point you across the moat to a gas station. The bike’s are ALWAYS empty. So use all your gas before bringing it back.
As of late there is a price range of 80 THB (Thai Baht) to 150 THB per day. The 80 baht bikes are weaker and older, while the 100+ are stronger and more dependable. It’s up to you really. This is the best price I’ve found. Quite reasonable acutally. When you figure the numbers, to get anywhere in the city by Song Taow cost 20 baht, and Tuk Tuk 60 baht, you realize that in the end you will save money and have more freedom.
If you bring back the bike in good shape Mr. Som-Chai will be friendly. If you wreck it, offer to pay for the repairs. One of our team mates ran into a wall (yay Wesley ;-) ). Mr. Sum Chai was very friendly and fair with the damage cost. Also, always bring your bike back on time. If you want to extend come back on return day and renew.
Chang Mai RAM is a great hospital if you get in a jam. I pray you don’t, but it’s nice to know.
Okay. Now, go have a blast. It’s exhilarating learning to drive in a foreign nation, especially one as beautiful as Thailand. Stay on the right side of the road (meaning the left) and have fun.
Wanna go for a ride with us in Thailand… on a scooter? Yeah? Well, watch this.