If you want to get around Thailand the Thai way, you’re going to have to rent a scooter.
Scooters and motorbikes are by far the most common vehicles on the streets of Thailand — on any average street, dozens trundle past every minute. One of those, dear reader, might have been mine. I’ve been traveling around Thailand on rented scooters for quite a while now, taking on anything that comes my way, and I’d recommend the experience to anyone. Here are four of the greatest adventures I’ve had on my scooter in Thailand, shared in detail so that you can try them, too.
Find great street eats!
Thailand is the best country for street food in the world. Singapore, Mexico, you all have the right to plead your case, but it’s hardly arguable; Thailand trumps all. When you’re in a new place, though, it can be difficult to gauge which places and tourist traps and which are really worth your baht, especially if you don’t speak the language. Of course, it’s best to have a guide; Thai people are passionate about food, so you can count on the quality of a place that’s popular with locals. This is where scooters come in. When you ride past an interesting spot, make note of the number of scooters and motorbikes that are parked outside at mealtime. Then park your own scooter outside the place creating the biggest traffic jam and get ready for a culinary revelation. One such traffic-stopping spot in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi Khun Yai, a great place for khao soi, the quintessentially northern Thai curry noodles dish.
Thai city life is dynamic and exciting, but sometimes you just need to get out in nature. Luckily, Chiang Mai is a city nestled among all the green acres the heart could desire. As soon as you reach the city limits, you’ll see rice paddies stretching to the horizon; past those are seemingly endless lush, mysterious forests. If you’re dependent on public transportation, though, you’ll have trouble getting to these places. The transport system is structured around people heading to and from work, so few tuk-tuks or songthaews are interested in making the hour-long drive to a secluded waterfall. But you, intrepid traveler, should definitely be interested in making the trip, and with a scooter you can do so. There are dozens of waterfalls scattered among the forests outside Chiang Mai, from Bua Thong Sticky Waterfall — so called because the surface is sticky enough to climb — to Mae Kampong Waterfall, a ways past the famous San Kamphaeng Hot Springs. My personal favorite is Monthathan Waterfall, just a five-minute ride outside of city center, because of its cool, clear swimming hole. It’s perfect for relaxing after a hot week in the city.
See an elephant!
Elephant rides are a cliche of Thailand tourism, one fraught with accusations of animal cruelty and exploitation. For a vegan version of the classic experience, ride your scooter over to Baan Jang Nak, a forty-year-old workshop where artists craft magnificent sculptures out of khi lek wood. Forty years of experience have made these artists incredibly skilled in working with the extremely hard wood, skilled enough to shape it into realistic, life-size depictions of Thailand’s national animal. If you want to take home one of the largest wooden elephants, you’ll need a million baht and something bigger than a scooter to transport it. You can look for free, though, and maybe even buy a smaller elephant that can fit in your backpack.
Examine strange artifacts!
Do you ever have Indiana Jones daydreams? You know, the ones where you’re traveling the world looking for hidden treasures in obscure locations? Well, you might not find the Ark of the Covenant anytime soon, but on a scooter you can see lots of other interesting artifacts around Chiang Mai. Trying heading to Wat Ket Karam, a temple complex on the east side of the Ping River, nearby several hip cafes and well-preserved old homes. The beautiful temple is one of the most frequently-visited places of worship among local devotees, and it’s also home to one of the most quirkily fascinating museums in the city. Wat Ket Karam Museum is a collection of all categories of stuff, à la the “cabinets of curiosities” that were popular in Renaissance Europe. Among the half-dozen dusty rooms you’ll find everything from old typewriters to yellowing photographs to music cassettes from the 1970s. Indy might not be interested, but a true aficionado of the obscure will love it.
If I’ve whet your appetite for a Thailand scooter adventure, let me suggest that you start your trip at the Happy Days rental shop.
Stop by today and see how great Thailand can be when you’re on a scooter.