The Dos and Don’ts of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai

Dos and Don'ts of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai
Dos and Don’ts of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting and charming cities in Asia and to experience it on the road will only broaden and enhance the experience. But their are some recommendations which you should invariably follow in order to ensure a safe and pleasant ride.

DOS

Do check your motorbike carefully before renting it

I recommend starting it and making sure it runs smoothly. Also photograph all scratches and visible defects. Also make sure they are all duly noted by the shop keeper.

Do wear a helmet, and a good one at that

Thailand is plagued by a huge number of road accidents and Chiang Mai is no exception. The motorbike shop will usually give you a little flimsy helmet, but a few more baht will get you a full face helmet. Enough said.

Do pay constant attention

Driving in Thailand is at times very unpredictable. Thais don’t signal their intentions as frequently as people from Europe, North America, Australia or Japan do. Driving can therefore be challenging. Car drivers will also sometime consider motor cyclists and cyclists as inferior on the road simply because they have much smaller vehicles, and won’t hesitate to cut you off.

Do get a regional map
The region surrounding Chiang Mai is beautiful. There are several interesting and charming spots just 30 or 40 minutes outside the city such as the San Kampheang hot spring. Or simply riding around the country side and eating with local farmers can be quite fun.

Do lock your motorbike

Chiang Mai is a very safe city but motorbike theft is relatively high. Try to bring your motorbike within the gates of your guesthouse or hotel and lock it. Also note that motorbikes can easily disappear from monitored parking lots at shopping malls.

DON’TS

Don’t drink and drive

Let’s face it : alcohol in Thailand is very cheap, and it’s extremely easy to loose awareness. Because of this, the roads in Chiang Mai at night are full of drivers who have had a little too much to drink, thus, making the road generally much more dangerous than during the daytime. An important recommendation would be to simply go out by foot ; Chiang Mai is a fairly small city and several drinking spots within walking distance of all guesthouse areas.

Don’t drive too quickly

Relax, you’re on holiday.

Don’t get upset

You will get cut off; this is just a fact. In fact, you will cut off 2 or 3 times per hour of riding. This is how drivers are in Thailand. Let it go.

Don’t leave any purse or bag in the front basket

This is an easy target. Although rare, this kind of theft does happen.

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3 Ways to Experience Buddhism in Chiang Mai

The west face of the main building of Wat Suandok
The west face of the main building of Wat Suandok

When visitors spend one or two weeks in Chiang Mai, they will normally visited a few temples and photographed some Buddhist monks. Here are ways to go deeper into this philosophy and start to practice and understand some Buddhist concepts.

1. Give alms

Each morning, all Buddhist monks get up before dawn and set to walk in and around their respective temples. The goal is to collect offerings in the form or food or even money. In exchange, the giver receives blessings in the form of a chant.

What to do: Put your offering in the monk’s alms bowl and kneel while bringing your hands in a praying position while lowering your head. The monk will chant for about 1 minute.

Where to do it: At any moment when you see a monk walk around between 4:30 and 7AM. The most popular place to do this in Chiang Mai is the at the Chiang Mai Gate Market near the South-East corner of the old city where dozens of monks gather every morning.

Child giving alms at Chiang Mai Gate Market in Chiang Mai
Child giving alms at Chiang Mai Gate Market in Chiang Mai

2. Attend a Dharma talk

A Dharma talk will give you the opportunity to directly discuss Buddhism with monks. You will be introduced to the basic principals of Buddhism such as karma and precepts, learn about daily life for a monk and even be allowed to ask questions.

Where to do this: Wat Suandok offers a 2 hour talk beginning at 17:00 Monday to Friday.

3. Learn to meditate

Meditation is at the center of Buddhism; this is the way the Buddha attained enlightenment. Contrary to popular beliefs, meditation is not practiced while listening to relaxing music. It’s a practice which takes time, regularity and discipline. There are several methods but the ones taught and practiced in Thailand are mostly Vipassana and walking meditation.

Where to do it: Wat Rampoeng (temple) offers a mini 10 meditation retreat. If you have more time, they also offer one of 26 days. These two retreats are considered very basic introduction but will give you a very strong basis for a life long practice which will change your life.

Wat Suandok offers a tiny 2 day retreat.

The historical Wat Umong also offers a retreats. We suggest that you show up a few days before you decide to begin your retreat.

Please be warned that you will need to obey the very strict rules which are a part of daily life in a Buddhist temple.

Biking Down Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai

I lived in the wonderful Thai city of Chiang Mai for three years. Immediately west of the city rises the infamous Doi Suthep, a small mountain which peaks at 1800 home to the stunning Lana style Boudhist temple of Suthep.

During my last stay in the city in January 2012, I filmed the decent of Doi Suthep from my perspective. The video is shaky at time as my Cannondale Badboy is completely rigid.

Stefan