You get a free ’30-day’ stamp on arrival at the airport.
Be careful! As of end of November 2008, if you enter via land (Lao, Burma, Cambodia), you only get 15 days. Otherwise you can apply for a 2-month visa.
We renewed our visa at the Burmese border in Mae Sai. A lot of agencies organise the visa run from Chiang Mai for about 700 bahts. We were about 10 in a mini van and it took a day. The Burmese customs charge 10$. It is better to pay in dollars rather than in bahts as the exchange rate is not great.
1 euro = 45 bahts
There are cash machines everywhere in big and medium-size cities. Some banks proved problematic but we were always successful with the Bank of Siam.
Bangkok: bike shop Bike Zone.
Amarin Plaza, 2nd floor, Outdoor Unlimited, BTS Chidlom.
Tel: 02-652-1559 ... www.bikezone.co.th
Fausto packed our bicycles with a lot of care and professionalism!
Road & Sleeping
Thailand is probably one of the easiest countries to cycle. You can find food everywhere even on the road and it’s so cheap you don’t need to cook or camp. As soon as you can, get on the smaller roads, they are in a very good state and quieter. We think the countryside is not really fitted for camping, a lot of snakes and not that many open spaces. But some of our friends did it.
Bangkok – Chiang Mai (950 km)
It is a great route to get in shape. The road is nearly all flat until Wang Chin.
30 km before Lampang, a slope of 8 km. At the crossroad after the downhill turn left (the main road goes up again) and then right (the road that goes straight is an old road, longer we were told).
30 km after Lampang: a slope of 5 km. After Lamphun, follow the river Ping up to Chiang Mai. The road is not easy to find but so peaceful.
Ayutthaya: Ayutthaya guesthouse, 400B for 3.
Lop Buri: Nett hotel, 400B for 3.
Tak Fa: at the rest area, on the other side of the road, 3 km before Tak Fa, 400B.
Bang Mun Nak: hôtel in the town centre (there is only one), 300B for 3.
Phitsanulok: Bon bon guesthouse, 350B for 3.
Sukhothai: TR guesthouse, beautiful wooden bungalows and very friendly owners. 400B for a bungalow (500B for 3). The green curry and the massamun curry are delicious.
Si Satchanalai: turn right at the crossroad of road 101 and road 104, in the north of the town. 200B for 3.
Wang Chin: resort at the entrance of the town, just before the bridge on the left, 350B for 3.
Chiang Mai: Wild Orchid guesthouse, 70 Loi Kroh road, 350B for a double room. Friendly guesthouse but we prefer to stay in the old city. The atmosphere is more ‘backpackers’ and less ‘girls, girls, girls’.
Chiang Mai – Chiang Saen (290 km)
Leaving Chiang Mai to the north, take the small road on the left of the river Ping for about 25 km. Then, ask people for the bridge in order to get back to the main road (alternatively, you can take the main road from Chiang Mai). If you cycle until the end of the road, you discover a waterlock and beautiful gardens. The road goes up and down but the slopes are never very long (a few km) and the downhills are great! There is an uphille of about 8 km between Chiang Dao and Fan.
Chiang Dao: Chiang Dao is very touristy and prices are fairly high compared to Chiang Mai. Malee’s Nature lovers bungalows (at the end of the road with all the guesthouses), 250B for a bungalow, shared bathroom.
Tha Ton: Tha Ton Garden Riverside, 300B for a twin room (we slept 3 for the same price). You can charter a boat through the owner to go to Chiang Rai. 2000B for 3 people, 3 bicycles and the luggage. Several stops on the way: a hill tribe village, an ‘elephant camp’ and some hot water springs. We found them all quite gloomy (tourist traps).
Chiang Rai: Janson house, 450B for a double room (550B for 3), breakfast included.
Chiang Saen: Chiang Saen guesthouse, 250B for 3. Very noisy place but there is much choice. On the bank of the Mekong, near the night stalls.
Chiang Saen – Chiang Khong (70 km)
Take the road along the Mekong and follow the sign ‘Youth hostel’. The location of the hotel is brilliant but it is too expensive to have lunch there. Cycle another 10 km and you will find a small restaurant on the left hand side (about 60 km from Chiang Saen). You could think a road that follows a river is flat … But it is all ups and downs with two slopes of less than 1 km at 14% (between 60 and 70 km after Chiang Saen). The reward is great views on the Mekong.
Chiang Khong: Reuan Thaï Sophaphan, beautiful teak house, 400B for 3. On the right hand side of the main road when coming from Chiang Saen.