Here are some basic ideas about preparation and equipment for camping in Thailand
A pickup truck is ideal. They are cheap, tough, roomy, and easily serviced throughout Thailand. My personal adventure machine is an Isuzu Dmax with a 4 cab and a carryboy at the back. 2 wheel drive is good enough for most places, except for bad roads in the rainy season, and who in their right mind wants to hit dirt roads and go camping in the rainy season? Der!! If you do enjoy that kind of masochism, then a 4wd is definitely the way to go, but make sure you don’t mind leeches sucking your blood!
Thailand is a horribly dangerous place to drive. There is no point in denying this, best to accept it and expect the unexpected. You get a Thai driving licence free with a packet of cornflakes, so do not expect your fellow road users to have more than a basic understanding of rules and regulations. The most obvious differences from driving in the west is that undertaking is the norm, so always check both mirrors before changing lanes. Police do stop you once in a while for “infractions”, but fragrant grease can usually be applied to the wound along with a suitably grovelling demeanour, and you will quickly be on your way. 100 baht up country goes a long way! (update: 200 baht after recent wage hikes)
Here is an equipment checklist:-
Equipment for camping in Thailand
- matress (inflateable or other)
- sleeping bag or blankets
- Pots, pans, mugs, knives/forks
- Salt, pepper condiments
- Beer/wine etc. Not sold in national parks.
- Charcoal barbecue
- mosquito repellant
- mosquito spray for tent
- Brush for tent
- gas/electric/kerosene lamps
- rope/string for luck
- Duck tape also for luck
- some dry wood / newspaper
- hammock, can’t do without it!
- Camping gas cylinder/cooker for coffee tea in morning, or mama noodles when things go pearshaped!
- Scotchbrite pad and washing liquid
- Proper bread, if you need it. Difficult to find up country.
- Rocket fuel: I carry a small bottle of 1 part petrol to 5 part diesel, to light fire quickly, in case things get wet unexpectedly. I know its cheating, but very handy on the odd occasion!
- Playing cards / yatze / etc.
- A squeeze of lime works very well for removing leeches if you like camping in the wet season
One of the best ways of keeping contents of the icebox cold is to freeze things like milk or any meat before departure, instead of loading up on ice. This way, you can easily have fresh / frozen icebox contents for as long as seven days if you are careful.
Making fires directly on the ground is not allowed in most national parks. However, making a fire in a charcoal stove, or barbecue raised off the ground is acceptable. This is for the sensible reason that the fire damages the grass, and most people don’t clean up after their stay. I use a low slung barbecue that douples as a fireplace, and this works perfectly, allowing us to burn even biggish logs as the night progresses and it gets cold.
Maps for camping in Thailand
By far my favourite map is the Michelin tourist and motoring atlas, which is in Thai and english, with the english script big enough that I do not need to get a magnifying glass every time I consult it. It is 1 cm = 10 km scale, but unfortunately the latest update is 2007. It is a magazine format, which works well when on location. Hopefully a new version will come out soon.
As a camper, Thailand has three seasons. Dry cool, (end nov-end feb) dry hot (feb-jun) and wet (July-oct. Route planning and preparation depend on the season. It is surprising how cold it can be in a tropical country at new year, and equally, how miserable camping can be in the wet. In general, late November to early march is the best camping season, with cool dry weather in most parts of Thailand. June/July can also be good, with the added advantage of greenery everywhere you look, but always the possibility of rain.
Snakes and creepy crawlies
There are snakes in Thailand, including poisonous ones. Having said that, my most poignant encounters with snakes have been in my back garden, and on Asoke Road in Central Bangkok during a flood rather than in the bush. I would never walk in thick undergrowth without a stick to beat the path ahead of me, nor would I venture too far at night in long grass. I always keep the tent zipped up when unoccupied, so that no unwelcome visitor decides to squat in your temporary home while you are away.
Here is a link about thai snakes http://www.thailandsnakes.com/snake-faq/
I always (superstitiously) shake my shoes if they have been left outside overnight, and always give firewood a good bang on the ground to shake out potential scorpions. Apart from that, I leave them alone, and they leave me alone.
What I would say, having camped in much of Africa and across Asia, including Thailand, is that you have already taken BY FAR the greatest risk to your wellbeing by getting behind the steering wheel of your car. And now you are in camp… safe and sound.
The annoying things are mosquitoes, ticks and leeches. Mosie repellant works well for the former, and keep your tent zipped during the day. Leeches are unfortunately quite common in some areas at certain times of the year(wet season), and it is almost impossible to avoid them when they are about. They do not hurt much, but they do cause an amazing amount of bleeding when they get you. On the bright side, the anti-coagulant properties of their intestinal juices may reduce your risk of heart attack. The best way to get rid of them is to squeeze lemon juice on them, which makes them curl up and drop off.
Ticks are around at certain times of the year when you walk in the jungle. They react to body heat and carbon dioxide in your breath, and drop on you from overhanging branches. They do not hurt much, but it is worth being aware of any funny wart like things after a jungle walk. Most of the time you can pull them off, making sure to grab their head, but sometimes they can cause infection that requires antibiotics. (tick fever)
I am particularly wary of waterfalls. Attractive as they are, a slip on a rock at the wrong place can end in disaster, especially with kids. I have heard of more accidents at waterfalls than anything to do with creepy crawlies! Think about it: slippery rocks, bang on the head, flush down the falls. Not good!!
It is also worth keeping an eye on the weather. If you see stormclouds in headwaters above a mountain stream, be aware of flash floods. People die every year from flash floods which happen in a flash.
I am no great fan of lightning either: maybe that is because of my catholic upbringing, but I avoid lightning on mountains and sea at all costs.