Till date, our longest road trip was in Thailand, when we visited Chiang Mai in the second half of 1999, months before we returned to India from Thailand. We must have driven for more than 2000 KM in 4 days. It was very adventurous of us as Ranoo was a little over 6 months old at that point of time and Riya was just about 3 and half years old. The bigger aspect was that I had received my Driving License less than 1 month prior to this trip. Nevertheless, we completed this trip safely and thoroughly enjoy every aspect of this trip.
This journey would not have been possible if I had not learnt to Drive and got my Driving License in Thailand. How I got my driving license is also a story.
I had gone to the Police Station to get some signatures. When I presented my documents to the Inspector, he asked me as to how I had reached the Police Station. I told him that I had come by Taxi. To this, he asked me why I did not have a car. I told him that I did not know how to drive and thus did not have a car. He told me that he could teach me to drive. I was excited.
We made a deal that the Inspector would teach me to drive and I would pay him 3,500 bahts. As the work in my office was pretty less at that point of time, we agreed that we would have lessons every day between 5-6 PM.
He used to come everyday on time. Initially, we drove in small gullies for 3 days. On the 4th day, he made me drive on the busy Airport Road. From then onwards for 1 week, we drove on the main roads. Then, one day, he took me to the Road Transport Office. He showed me the place where they would take the test for Driving License. He made me practice the test about 3 times.
In the 3rd week, I applied for the Driving License. I passed the tests on my first appearance and got my Driving License.
After getting the Driving License, on one Sunday, I hired a car from Budget. I went to their office to pick up the car. Riya was with me. From there, Riya and I drove to Crocodile Farm. I felt confident about the drive.
So, the very next week, I planned the trip to Chiang Mai.
I do not remember what day of the week we started our trip. However, I had taken some leave. Again, I booked a car from Budget. I went to their office late in the evening to pick up the car. It was a Toyota Soluna. I brought the car to our residence at P&P Grand Residence.
Next morning, we started very early in the morning.
I drove along A1 Highway to Si Ayuthaya. However, the car was not moving very fast. I was not sure what the problem was. Then we were all getting some burning smell. So, on the A1 Highway, I stopped the car and called Budget office. They told me to check if the hand-brake was released or not. I found that the hand-brake was not released. So, I did that and then there was no problem in driving the car.
We reached the ruins of Si Ayuthaya. i parked the car and went around the ruins. When we got back, I found that a number of cars had parked around where we had parked. I became nervous as I did not know how to take the car out. Anyway, I got into the car alone and started trying. Seeing me struggle, a lot of Thais gathered around and started giving me directions.
Seeing me struggle, one Thai come over and told me come out of the car. HE then got into the car and took the car out of the jumble. Then we all got in the car and started on our journey once again.
We again drove along the A1 Highway. It was a very good road and driving the fully automatic car was like playing a video game. We had no problem till we reached Lampang. Here the road was under construction. So, we had to take diversion. Here, by mistake we entered into the Lampang city and got lost. We kept drifting for quite a while before we could catch the road to Chiang Mai.
Remember, at that time, I did not have SmartPhones and Google Maps.
We reached Chiang Mai at around 10 PM at night. We searched for a Hotel and soon found one. We parked our car and checked into the Hotel. We slept through the night.
Next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel. At around 11 AM, we started exploring Chiang Mai city.
After going around the city, we drove to the Elephant Camp. The Elephant Camp is quite a distance away from Chiang Mai.
There were lots of Elephants in the Elephant Camp. The Elephants did a number of activities. We saw them helping with logging. The Elephants made a painting also. Then, we also rode the Elephants through the jungle.
We spent nearly 4 hours at the Elephant Camp.
From here, we drove to Chiang Rai.
It was nearly 11 PM when we reached Chiang Rai. We, again, looked for a Hotel. We found a Hotel which had a number of cottages. We checked into one of the cottages. And slept for the night.
We woke up at around 9 AM. After breakfast, we started exploring Chiang Rai.
We drove to the Golden Triangle – a point where there is a border created by the Mekong River between Thailand on one side, Loas on one side and Burma on the third side.
From Golden Triangle, we headed for Mai Sa. Actually, it is called Ban Mai Sa.
In Thai language, “Village” is called “Ban”.
At Mai Sa, there is a border checkpoint between Thailand and Burma.
We reached Mai Sa around 4 PM.
At Mai Sa, while having lunch, we found out that we could enter Burma from here and go upto a village in Burma called Tachilek as long as we returned the same day.
So, we went to the CheckPoint and got our Passports stamped by the Thai Authorities. We also got the Passports stamped by the Burmese Authorities. As we were about to start, the Burma Army personnel stopped us and told us that a fight had broken out on the way. So, we should not proceed. So, we turned our car and returned to Thailand.
Then, we returned to Chiang Rai. We stayed in the same Hotel.
We woke up early in the morning. We had breakfast and started from Chiang Rai by 7 AM on our return to Bangkok. We reached Bangkok by around 12 Midnight.