I had a similar experience once getting from Pattaya to Bangkok airport. The taxi drivers are the picture of confidence when you ask them if they know where someplace is. And, after all, I was talking about the biggest airport in the country. "Sure, I know how to get there!" We got a two-hour tour of dirt roads and a brief chat with nearly a dozen people who all seemed to cheerfully point is opposing directions. Thailand is not a place to be in a hurry or to expect efficiency. Warts and all, it's still one of my favorite places on earth.
Chiang Mai: The city with no addresses
I’m not that intrigued by Chiang Mai, Thailand.
I was here for a few days in May 2012, and really enjoyed it for its slow pace. Coming from Bangkok, it’s the most mellow place on earth.
But the reason I came here again was that, I don’t see myself having a ton of distractions, and can get some work done! More on that later.
So yesterday was a travel day from Bangkok. I got a last minute flight to Chiang Mai for $65. I had no desire to spend 14 hours on a train that may or may not crash along the way, so took the 1 hour 15 minute flight instead. I booked a guest house for my first 2 nights since I didn’t want to have to deal with finding a place right away. I just found one on Agoda.com that had good reviews and was close to the area I wanted to be in and figured a taxi could get me there.
Everything looked promising when I got off the plane and saw that they have a taxi kiosk. I gave them the address and they wrote it down to give to my driver. He looked at it and seemed to know where it was.
The first problem is that the name of my guest house is Ban Kong Rao. My driver kept saying “Bung-a-low”. I thought maybe Ban Kong Rao just meant bungalow in Thai.
The second problem was, he pulled over, lost. He had to make a call, then asked someone on the side of the road. Then he found it, and pulled into a place called “Bungalow Guest House”. This IS southeast asia, and I’ve seen much crazier things than having an English name on the place and calling it something else online.
So I asked him, “you’re sure this is it?”
For some reason that was good enough for me, despite having my doubts. And…he drops me off and sure enough, this was not the place. Now I’m in an area of town I’m totally unfamiliar with.
After walking and stressing and talking to a bus driver who had no clue where my guest house was, I went out to a sort of main road. Tons of cars, no taxis! I finally saw a tuk tuk and flagged him down (BTW, you’re not supposed to wave in Thailand. I just found this out after probably offending hundreds of people the last two times here.) By this point, I had pulled up the address on my phone from Agoda, and I didn’t even notice this before but the address was written in Thai. So I showed it to the driver, he seemed to know exactly where it was, and charged 150 baht or about 5 bucks. No choice so I took it.
More trouble. As we get close, he obviously doesn’t know where it is. First he wanted to just drop me off and let me figure it out! Then he started asking random people on the street. Someone finally said it’s right here, and it was some sort of apartment building, obviously not it. But, there were people in there that seemed to know where it was, so I paid my driver and talked to these two Thais, one guy about 20 and an older woman, maybe late 50’s. Neither really spoke English, but the guy walked me around the neighborhood and asked several people where it is.
Nobody had a clue!
We went back and the woman decided she would drive me around on her motorbike! So I got on the back, looked pretty hilarious to have this little Thai woman driving me around. She stopped at several places to ask. “Ban Kong Roa?” Nobody knew. I kept hearing the word “farang” being spoken. That’s what Thais refer to white people as. I’m not sure if it’s offensive or not, but that was pretty irrelevant at this point, 2 hours after I left the airport and this cold/flu really taking shape in my body throughout the day.
After a few more stops, including the police station, we FINALLY found it! Actually the cop didn’t even know where it was, we just ended up right across the street from it randomly.
By the time I got in, I was completely exhausted. I went to bed at 6:30pm, flu like symptoms and ready for a nice sleep. Stayed in bed for 14 hours. Feeling a bit better today, but still getting my bearings and recovering.
Welcome to Chiang Mai, the city with no addresses.