Off Road In Thailand



Renting a car or a four wheel drive truck in Thailand is not that cheap when placed on comparison to other things like hotels, food, public service travel and the fuels that each type of transport drinks. Renting a car does however open a whole new world to visitors to Thailand and getting up country away from the tourist regions allows one to witness the relaxed way of life the rural population lives.

Driving off road can involve negotiating pot holes, snakes and the inevitable couple of cows or worse still a large herd of buffalo that gets you praying that the insurance covers all eventualities.

Country roadThailand’s main highways are of an excellent standard but once you leave the tarmac and hit the dirt track standards fall almost as deep as some of the potholes you encounter. The rainy season from June through to October makes driving conditions far worse and the roads deteriorate even further. During those wet months some country roads can resemble a carpet bombed jungle runway.

The heavily laden trucks that provide the materials for the continuing boom of modern day house builds in villages plough up the weather beaten dirt track roads reducing your speed to a crawl and turn the short cut into a more time consuming drive.

As the rainy season passes and endless sun filled days return the same heavy trucks once again crumble and flatten the dry roads into more passable routes and vehicles kick up red dust from the dried out dirt tracks that are like a descending red mist to the many motorcyclists forever passing to and fro.

Travelling through villages and vast fields of farmed countryside you pass temples, markets and get to see the everyday rural folk working the rice fields and other harvested crops. Wonderful Wi passed her driving test over two years ago and I like nothing better than to sit in the passenger seat taking in the magnificent views and snapping away with my camera. Occasionally something turns up that really catches your eye.

King Cobra

The grainy photo above was taken from the safety of our car and I am pretty sure it was a King Cobra that was blocking our route on a quiet country road when we were not too far from our village house in search of a puppy dog farm. The snake just sat there in the same exact position for a good two to three minutes and eventually with her eyes half closed Wi steered slightly off road and around the two and a half metre reptile.

Wilai and myself both have a massive fear of snakes and I think if our car had later run out of fuel along that road then only starvation and strong daylight would have forced us to exit our motor and go seek help. On our return to our village we showed the photo and were told in Thailand a snake that crosses in front of you is a sign of good luck. I’ve got my own opinion on that one.

Village vendor

Car rental will cost around 1000 – 1500 baht a day in Thailand for a decent four door modern saloon motor but the advantages away from the tourist spots make the extra layout to your holiday budget well worthwhile. Car hire allows Thailand to come to you and visiting some of the natural beauty spots, ancient temples and local markets in the smaller towns is a much more easier and comfortable option and seeing Thailand going about its everyday life is the thing I most enjoy. The picture above is a simplistic one but a sight I would never see back in the UK and one that reminds me of the rural life I miss so much. Car hire and off road travel really does bring real life Thailand into full view.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

18 Responses

  1. Talen says:

    I love the back roads. You get to see so much that you wouldn’t see otherwise. I love the shot of the motorcycle. Thai’s aren’t like westerners…they don’t believe in making 2 trips for anything they just pile it all on.

    Twice I have seen 2 men on a small motorcycle ferrying a 32 foot ladder around. The corners must be horrendous.

    The water buffalo are a usual sight as well. My last trip when we were working between fields we had a 20 minute wait coming back on the tractor because the buffalo wouldn’t get out of the road.

    I have to agree with you on the snake…might be good luck but someone else can have it.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Phucket Jet Ski Operator Blames Film Makers =-.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Talen how do I answer a comment like yours. I know you are very much an Isaan man and your comments say just that, you know the level of the ground and what a great equalizer of life rural Thailand is. I have a well paid job here in the UK, property, savings and a few marbles rolling around that I hope Nick Leeson won’t touch but living the simple Isaan life is what I want most of all. Buffallo, snakes, I’ll face it all but I just gotta get the timing right, I really don’t wanna return to England at the age of 60 broke and with no hope of ever seeing that simple life again. Thanks for a marvellous comment.

  3. Talen says:

    You and I have the same struggle at the moment. Timing is everything and, like you, I don’t want to return once I’ve moved there.

    Knowing I’d be living in Issan and everything is cheaper is a plus but still making sure and getting all the ducks in a row takes time and this damn economy isn’t helping.

    I look forward to a day in the future when we are talking about having moved to Thailand over a beer at some local dive in Issan…I mean fine dining establishment.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Phucket Jet Ski Operator Blames Film Makers =-.

  4. Mike says:

    Martyn you are so right. The lane from my house to the road is indeed like the Ho Chi Min trail after some US carpet bombing!

    I have had a few near misses with the local wildlife as well although the snakes I have seen are definitely not cobras.

    The last pic reminds me of the street vendor who arrives at 7am each day blasting her Honda 50cc horn (if thats possible), laden down with every conceivable food. In fact I was really surprised when I came here of how few Thais actually cook breakfast. I wonder if this might just be a local thing?
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Canon Thailand-55-25mm IS Lens. =-.

  5. Hoo Don says:

    Talen getting the noughts right is the thing to do although I will probably take a bit of a gamble before I actually reach that stage. My theory will be that if I have enough money to take me to near pension age then surely between those years I can at least earn some money somewhere, perhaps by setting up a small business with the young one at the helm. Lets hope that beer is in at least a two cat star establishment.

    Mike it’s the cows and buffalo that get me I half shut my eyes everytime we slowly pass through them because I know that any damage means that I will have to foot the bill to some degree. I included the vendor photo because I think it captures a lot of what rural life is all about, for once the Vivitar got it right. I am really looking forward to trying out my new Samsung camera in the LOS this time as I think it’s not too bad a piece of kit. Wilai and her mother nearly always eat the previous evenings leftovers for breakfast with sometimes a couple of small fish that Wilai fries.

  6. Catherine says:

    Snakes, cows and buffaloes… isn’t the the truth. But you can take the snakes. They are all yours 🙂

    The man of the house is a structural geologist, so I’ve seen my share of back roads in Thailand. Most in the scramble to get to some outcrop that can be seen from far away, but the closer we get, the more illusive it gets. And thank goodness for durable rental cars (and taxis even) as some of the roads are pretty hairy.

    Renting cars in Thailand is a bit of an odd business, isn’t it? There are deals where it is just as cheap to get a driver with the vehicle too. But my chosen way to run around is with my favourite taxi driver. He’s now added seat belts in the back, so the ride isn’t as hairy as before.

    Btw – what is it with Thai law and seat belts? They legally have to have them in the front, but not the back. As if those in the back can’t die.

    In France you see little prince and princesses being chauffeured around town. The dad acting as a driver, kid to his side, with the mom all alone in the back.

    But Thailand has no such cares. Those in the back seats are left to their fate.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners: Chris Baker =-.

  7. Martyn, I keep seeing that black snake at our place. It is quite long and fast, with a tiny head… During a heavy rain storm I watched one about the same size devour a frog (poisoned it first) I carefully saw it off by throwing several large stones at it, they are very quick to leg it if they see people……

    Not sure if they are a cobra, can anyone identify what they are?

    I have to admit, I am a ‘live and let live’ kinda person, but when I see these snakes now I’m thinking its better to kill them if poss (ie, run them over) Not sure what the feeling is on that, but I don’t want them biting my dogs etc
    .-= Ben Shingleton´s last blog ..Meeting other Thai Bloggers! =-.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I’ve had a few scary rides myself in the back of Thai taxi’s and most of them have been 550 km trips up to Udon. Everytime I still look for the rear seat belt and it’s very rare I find one.

    I didn’t know the man of the house was a structural geologist and so you have seen and sampled the pot holed country roads before, you’ll have seen a few snakes in your time I bet.

    As far as France goes then I’m no expert on the subject but your scenario sounds a bit like the richer parts of London.

    Ben the snake wasn’t actually black more a brown colour but I agree the head looks a little small for a cobra. The photo is still of a very poor quality and that is after I enhanced the colour which blackened the snake a bit. Ben I do worry about Wi’s dogs at our village home, can these soi type dogs live to a good old age or does something always get them.

  9. In my limited experience Martyn something usually gets them! … thats the main reason I want to identify the snake in your photo, looks remarkably similar to the ones we get here (in numbers), and one that I presume killed one of our dogs recently, it must have bitten her and she was dead within a few minutes….! I want to rid the earth of them now lol. but I dont know what they are. there is a picture at the bottom of an old blog post here:
    .-= Ben Shingleton´s last blog ..Meeting other Thai Bloggers! =-.

  10. Catherine says:


    Having seat belts in the backseat is important to me. I’ve even thought about creating a website devoted to getting BKK taxis to put them in (print outs in Thai and English to educate, etc).

    Whenever I find myself in a taxi with belts in the back, I double the tip and make sure they know why.

    But no matter how I explain, it is still total confusion. They just don’t understand why.

    Even my regular taxi driver thought I was being a bit over protective by insisting on seat belts. My Thai teacher calls it ‘Falang thinking’.

    France – when I was living there, it was the law. There were reports proving that the back seat had the higher deaths for small children so they passed a law that children under a certain age had to sit in the front (I believe it was 10).

    But Thailand does not understand the problem. No seat belts in the back means that anyone could easily go through that windshield. Dead.

    Maybe I will do that site…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Thai 101 Learners Series: Getting Personal =-.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine good luck with your site and your education of the Suvarnabhumi mafia. When Wi started driving she would only put on her seat belt if we were approaching a police roadblock but I learnt her clunk click every trip and now it is automatic with her. Thailand seems to be educating front seat drivers to put on their belts but that is only because of the threat of a fine. A safety campaign is needed that will shock them to their boots, lots of blood and gore. Perhaps then the message will spread and eventually reach the backseat…could be a few years yet.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Ben I checked your post and it’s hard to tell because of the poor quality of my photo so I’m still not sure if it is the same. Wi’s uncle has got a dog that is nearly eight years old and still going strong but I doubt many make it to 12 or 13. I do worry a bit about Wi’s two dogs because I know that them being young then they’ll liable to approach a snake out of curiosity and I don’t want to think about the outcome. I think you’d be safer leaving the snakes alone and joining Catherine’s seatbelts for backseats campaign.

  13. Adullamite says:

    Good post and it made me feel I was on the back roads there! Good stuff.
    .-= Adullamite´s last blog ..Sculpture on Buildings =-.

  14. Frances says:

    Wow! I would also have given the King Cobra a wide berth. It reminds me of driving in Kenya – pot holes, a flat tyre, high bumpy vomit-inducing speeds (by our ‘driver’) – it wasn’t nice. Your trip, however, sounds much more jolly! I wonder if you found the puppy farm? Hope all’s good with you!!
    .-= Frances´s last blog ..Being a Vegetarian in France =-.

  15. Hoo Don says:

    Frances when we got to the puppy farm it was shut. We had eventually found it by turning off the road we were on and down a very narrow earth beaten track with thick bushes either side. When we reached the locked gates of the puppy farm neither of us wanted to get out to check it out in case there was an even bigger snake about. Eventually we both got out together and discovered the farm had closed down.

    Adullamite now I know you’re not one to moan but I think even you would complain about some of the back roads. Thanks for dropping in and cheers for your comment.

  16. Jesse J says:

    It is amazing how different cultures can get so creative. I love the shot of the motorcycle with the groceries. Too funny!

  17. Hoo Don says:

    Jesse J thank you for your comment, the photo did pleasantly surprise me when I saw it.

  18. speed trap says:

    Awesome. I would really want to visit Thailand someday and I want to rent a car to see how beautiful Thailand is. I love the simple living they have. Thank you for sharing the photos and beautiful thoughts about Thailand.

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