Self-drive trip across Thailand (7 days, 2000 kms) : Part 1 – Dreams Delivered

What is it that a traveller feels after a wonderful trip – is it a déjà vu evolving around a sense of ending; is it exhilaration about new found memories; is it an overbearing desire for a next trip; is it a melancholy of coming out of a most sweet dream, trying to cling on to it knowing well that memories of dream are at the mercy of an infidel mind intent on erasing them sooner than later?

Memories are rejuvenating, rehabilitating – they are life-enhancing. They are what a human being is all about.

We returned loaded with special memories from our trip to Thailand; memories of a country, of a people and of our amazing experience being with them in close quarters. We visited Thailand in the later half of March this year.

[Agree, memories don’t have weight, in physical sense…in the sense of weighing scale at airport showing excessive readings on our return trip. The scale, of course, had nothing to do with gravity of memories, rather something more earthly – additional gravity caused by ladies dresses, sandals, decoration pieces, ladies dresses, make-up stuff, ladies dresses, Thai foodstuff…….and, did I mention ladies dresses? ]

The trip is also special because we, a family of three wanderers drove across the country for 7 days (out of 11 days stay) and 2000 kms. The drive enabled us to watch it closely – we got the first hand feel of ‘Amazing Thailand’ and the famed hospitality of ever-friendly Thais, the ‘Smiling people of a Smiling country’ while avoiding the hackneyed tourist spots since we charted our own itineraries and destinations.

The route


Soon after landing at Suvanrnabhumi airport, Bangkok we picked up the car and moved south to Bang Saen, a local beach-destination some 100 kms south of Bangkok. Thereafter, we drove to Chiang Mai in North Thailand, bypassing Bangkok (Bangkok to Chiang Mai is about 700 kms). After 7 days, we were back in Bangkok handing over the rental car and spending the last 4 days in Bangkok, before boarding the flight back home.
Truly Amazing…it was.

Welcome to Thailand

The idea of driving across Thailand occurred while planning another trip to another continent earlier this year. One thing led to other and soon we realised that driving a car across Thailand would not be a bad idea at all because –

    • 1.   Thailand follows left hand traffic on right handed vehicles (similar to India) – thus obviating any need for reorienting our inherent driving perceptions (right is right and left is wrong or right is wrong so left is right, but if right is wrong then ………and so on).
    • 2.   Rental charges are very reasonable. Our car, a Toyota Vios cost some 900 Bhats (approx 1500 `) per day excluding fuel and optional additional charges.
    • 3.   Fuel prices are similar to that in India – thus the fuel expenses are not overly pinching.
                  4.   Basic internet research indicated that road/ driving conditions are quite favourable (similar or superior to those in India).

Budhdham Sharanam Gachami

This was first time we were to drive on the roads beyond Indian frontiers. There was, naturally, trepidation before and during the venture. The ‘unknowns’ involved knowledge about permissibility/ licence/ destination/ driving condition/ security/ charting the itinerary and other intangibles which needed to be attended to before this distant objective could materialise.

Friendly

Booking.com

The posts in this series are aimed at highlighting info relevant to an Indian traveller, whether in self-driven car or otherwise. During my research about the country, very limited info appeared on the net in terms of driving, roads, rules/ procedural issues, experiences about such ventures etc. Moreover, almost entire info there is from western tourists, which at times differ widely from the way we look at things.

Amazing Thailand

There are two issues which I bring out here (and will be harping on them later) –

1.   Perception about Tourism in Thailand.    It is extremely Unfortunate, Deplorable and Ignorant of a majority in India (and elsewhere, if internet is anything to go by), who view tourism in Thailand to be oriented towards an unsavoury, ‘sleazy’ market. This is totally distorted, ill-informed and myopic view, as far from truth as it can get. The fact is that Thai people are highly traditional, religious, extremely friendly and courteous. The country in general is very safe. Thailand, for sure, is more family friendly and secure than many countries/ parts of Europe or US.

2.   ‘Do-ability’ and Economics.   Prices in Thailand are mostly at par and sometimes lower than India. Therefore, a trip across Thailand would cost similar to that incurred in India (for similar period of time or quality of stay), excluding the airfare. Airfares to Bangkok are quite competitive anyway.

Likes’ about the trip- There are so many….. sample these for the starters:-

A.  Thai Food    –    The world famous Thai cuisine is delectable, abundantly available and close to Indian palate.

Though sea-foodies    and non-veggies will have the better of it, sheer variety and affluence ensures that irrespective of

preferences,  everyone gets one’s fill more than adequately.

 

Street food

B.         Drive across Highways   –   Driving across long, smooth stretches at 120 kmph (speed limit on highways) is a wonderful

experience, despite the fact that it felt like going at the speed of sound (i.e. vis-a-vis other vehicles zooming past at speeds of

light – ‘CERN’ concerns notwithstanding).

 

Speed LimitC.

                                C.      Thai Shopping  –   Thailand in general and Bangkok in particular are shoppers’ paradise. Apart from usual format (street

shops and malls), there are some unique shopping formats such as –

Night Markets.

          • Floating Markets!

Railway Markets !!

Night market

D.     Thai Friendliness – Thais are called ‘smiling people’ – such an apt description! They are so very generous with their

smiles and friendliness; these are on offer anywhere you go.

Moving On

Friendly smiles, though, were less prominent in metros viz. Bangkok, in keeping with cosmopolitan metro culture world over.

Next part covers the preparations required for a driving trip in Thailand.

Thanks,

Auro

  • SilentSoul

    Aurojit… there had been very few travel stories here, where someone from India, toured a foreign country on a self driven car… so I think there will be quite interesting things to share.

    ” Basic internet research indicated that road/ driving conditions are quite favourable (similar or superior to those in India).”

    Hope their driving skills are not as dangerous and discourteous as we find in India, specially in Delhi

    Waiting for the great ride to chiang mai and Bangkok

    • AUROJIT

      Hi SilentSoul,

      Thanks for your comments – coming all the way from beyond Arctic Circle.

      Driving skills – westerners have begrudged driving conditions in Thailand whereas I found driving there less hazardous than that in our country. Well, you know best about the variation of condition and perception. Thanks ….

      Auro.

  • Surinder Sharma

    AUROJIT,
    Thanks a lot shareing your journey here. I like to visit Bangkok, but I read road are known with names there. Veggie food may be little difficult. Hope after reading your post I will have knowledge and can visit. Thanks and regards.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Surinderji,

      Thanks for reading my post. Thailand is very different from the way people think about it (and for good). Veggie food is not very difficult to come by there.

      The issue, as brought out by you are being covered in my subsequent posts.

      Do post your queries – would try to answer to my best.

      Thnaks,
      Auro.

  • Mahesh Semwal

    Its nice to see you after a long time Dada.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Mahesh,

      Thanks for going through the post and liking it.

      Auro.

  • D.L.Narayan

    We were waiting for a long time for a contribution from you, Auro, and it was well worth the wait. A long drive in a foreign country is an FOG, if I am not mistaken. It has all the makings of a fantastic series.

    I am sure positive this will be immensely useful for those planning to visit Thailand. As you have mentioned, there is much more to that beautiful country than the sleaziness associated with it. Great to know that vegetarian food is easily available everywhere.

    By 2016, a superhighway linking India to Thailand via Myanmar will make it feasible to drive to Thailand from India. I wonder if there is road connectivity from Thailand to neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam too.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi DL,

      Honoured to get your comments on my post.

      We are in love with that country and have this compulsive urge to go there again.

      Superhighway…do all Ghumkkars think the same way?

      Yes, it is feasible from Thailand to drive on to next countries subject to clearance on issues like passport & visa (not the connectivity).

      Thanks,
      Auro.

  • Long time Auro. We missed you!

    A very intriguing start to the series. I can’t wait for the next part. And as SS said, this is the first time we are going to read about a road trip by an Indian in a foreign country, so we are eager for the story to unfold.

    I have only seen the airport of Thailand but at least from above, the country seemed very inviting. And yes, yummm, Thai food. It is the only cuisine that can make me drive 40kms across Delhi to have a lonely lunch. And as you mention, it offers many veggie options too.

    I think the biggest mistake a Ghumakkar can make is to become prejudiced about a place without experiencing it themselves. So I agree that while many people associate traveling in Thailand with all the wrong things, at least Ghumakkars should know better. I am sure your post is going to enlighten us.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Vibha,

      Thanks for your generous comments. Road trip in a foreign country – this was our first and now we are determined to do it again.

      Thai food – we agree with all your nice words about it .

      Trying to cover all relevant info about the place

      Thanks,

      Auro.

  • Auro Dada, it is nice to share the wonderful self driven trip but at climax, it is to wait till next, O.K. no matter, impatiently waiting for. Those who had been there with some ‘tour & travels’ shower an unlilke messages. Pics are nice except Night Madrket perhaps due to lamps of the squatters.
    Thanks

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Tridev,

      Thanks for your encouragin comments.

      Auro.

  • venkatt

    Aurojit, self-driving through Thailand ?!This looks like the start of an amazing thread. I am hooked on to it.

  • AUROJIT

    Hi Venky,

    Self-drive was amazing, will try to make the thread so.

    Thanks for your encouraging words.

    Auro.

  • Great start Aurojit for this great trip. Looking forward for a delightful journey with you in coming posts.

  • AUROJIT

    Hi Deependra,

    The journey was really memorable.

    Hoping to bring out some of it in my posts.

    Thanks,
    Auro.

  • Sorry Auro for reaching here late.

    Even today, one can drive to Bangkok (technically) from Delhi/India. The Burma seen is much better than what it was before and after the super-highway comes into picture (My guess is that it would take another 20 years), may be folks would be able to do a long-run right from here.

    But till all of that happens, everyone (for next 20 years, he he) is going to read this log. The starters were yummy and I am ready for the main course. I was in the same boat of considering Thai as a casual-fun destination , to the extent that even after my wife visited it, I didn’t change my mind. But that changed in last couple of years and may be this driving-saga might push me to do something like this.

    • AUROJIT

      Hi Nandan,

      Thanks as ever.

      From Mizoram , you can drive east into Burma across Chhapai, without any passport formalities (to a lake called Rhi Dil, being revered by both sides). Proper documentation could well give access to roads beyond.

      I also remember reading about a car rally couple of years years back, where cars started from NE (probably Nagaland or was it Guwahati?, as the border post there is open for commerce purpose). The rally extended across Burma into Thailand and beyond unto Malaysia and probably Singapore.

      So yes, things are possible as on date (no ‘live till next 20 years’ clause). And it seems to be a great idea !

      Thanks for taking delight in starters. Will try to make the main course indulging enough.

      Perception about Thailand – I shared similar views till I started to find out more about it before the trip. And, what a find it was!

      Thanks,

      Auro.

  • Bidisha

    Hi Aurojit,

    Started reading your series late. Sorry for that. But the very decision to drive in a strange foreign country was thrilling enough to take me frantically through the rest of your series. It is good, in fact, that I started late. ‘Cause I did not have to wait much for the following installments. I have some lovely memories of Thailand when we visited it in 2007. Given a chance I would again plan any day. Bangkok beckons me. As lifetime members of RCI, we got to stay in RCI affiliated hotel. There the Volvo mini-van used to come to pick us up for each of the packed seven-day scheduled destinations. Even then, you cannot imagine how nervous I felt each time I stepped out into the streets. But your very informative and well-researched writing gives us the direction, courage and inspiration to do the same some day very soon. Thanks!

  • AUROJIT

    Hi Bidisha,

    I was equally apprehensive and nervous before the trip. But all that was worth it because the sheer experience of driving across that country for so many days – well, its divine.

    It is a sincere wish now, that my posts here help others to plan similar trips. And do I see the wish coming true here ? Well it is doable, economical and I am willing to provide any relevant details that you may need for planning.

    RCI membership sounds like a great idea :-)

    Thanks,

    Auro.

  • Dear Aurojit,

    I was out of ghumakkar for around a month when your series started. Wanted to read it but somehow couldn’t . But when today when your post is released. I thought to give a shot at your series.

    Nice start. It would be a really wonderful experience to drive in foreign countries like Thailand.

  • AUROJIT

    Hi Vishal,

    Thanks. Driving in Thailand is quite enjoyable and not much different from our pattern. We enjoyed it there.

    Thanks again,

    Auro.

  • SHIKHAR SAXENA

    Hi Aurojit,

    First and foremost, kudos to you for such detailed write-up of your mesmerising experience.

    We 4-5 couples with kids and are planning to drive from Bangkok to Krabi (leave car there and take flight back to Delhi) in summer vacations this years. Is is safe to drive with kids?

    Secondly is it necessary to pre book accommodation? Since we want to explore the place, we want to be at liberty of choosing where to spend time. Can one find accommodation like motels, guests houses etc easily along this way?

    b/r

  • Hi Shikhar,
    hi Auro
    firstly I thank Auro for writing such a detailed road journey experience.
    Shikhar if you plan in June end we can also go together as I am also a travel enthusias. That too with family