Chiang Mai on Three Wheels

Support the samlors of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai on Three Wheels is our project to support the samlor drivers of Chiang Mai and to preserve the samlor as a means of transportation in the city. It is a project that is very close to our hearts.

The samlor is a three-wheel passenger bicycle taxi. Samlor means “three wheels” in Thai. These kinds of bicycle taxis were prevalent in Southeast Asia. The spread of motorized vehicles has made them redundant, unfortunately. Bicycle taxis are slow and obstruct traffic. Fewer and fewer people were willing to power them, as well. Riding a bicycle taxi is not a popular profession anymore.

Tourist with samlor driver
Making new friends

Samlors, trishaws and cyclos

In Singapore, Hanoi and Hoi An bicycle taxis are now a tourist attraction. They exclusively drive tourists around, which is the only way this mode of transportation will survive. In Singapore a company called Trishaw Uncle offers tours by bicycle taxi for tourists. In Vietnam it seems to be more loosely organized but the cyclo in Hoi An and Hanoi is very much kept alive by tourists.

In Chiang Mai, we are not there yet. There are approximately 40 samlors left in Chiang Mai. You can find some of them at the Warorot Market. There are also some samlors at the San Pakoi and Nong Hoi markets. The drivers are elderly men who have been riding their samlor for many years.

Two bicycle taxis in an old town
Samlors passing an iron bridge with tourists

The future of the samlor in Chiang Mai

In 2016 we made a website for the samlor drivers under the name Chiang Mai on Three Wheels. Earlier this year we moved the content and the tours from this website to our other website Chiang Mai a la Carte. On this site we offer a several half-day tours by samlor and included samlor tours in day tours as well. 

The proceeds from these tours we reinvest in the project. Although exact numbers are not available, the drivers have made more tours than before the launch of our website. Many tour companies and guides approach the drivers directly for tours. There certainly has been a growing awareness of the importance of the preservation of the samlor as a means of transportation. There is a long way to go though before the younger generation will take over. In the meantime we support the remaining elderly drivers who have had a very hard time during the pandemic.

We promote cycling and bicycle taxis as ecofriendly and healthy modes of transportation. A bicycle ride a day keeps the doctor away. Cycling, walking, hiking and trekking are healthy activities that should be part of your daily routine.

Three bicycle taxis Chiang Mai on Three Wheels
Students supporting the samlors of Chiang Mai

Some great videos of our tours

Recently my old friend Jeroen Maduro of Global Travel Mate contacted me to make a video of a Green Trails tour. I suggested one of the samlor tours we have been doing for a long time: the market tour. His friend Chris Parker of the Youtube Channel Retired Working for You, joined him and made a video as well. Below is the video of Jeroen. 

Retired Working for You

Chris Parker of Retired Working for You made this great video: