Sometimes, one of our customers who has purchased a multi-day package asks us, “Those other companies have nice, fancy, air-conditioned vans to drive me to and from my guesthouse. Why does CMRCA use these open-air pickup trucks?” Our answer is simple: community. Like everything else we do, we believe that sharing revenue by hiring local drivers (rather than owning vans) is a more responsible and sustainable way for CMRCA to operate in Chiang Mai, develop a strong community, and support the local economy.
THE RED TRUCK
The red truck (rote daeng or songthaew in Thai) is the most important means of shared transportation in and around Chiang Mai. Over 3,000 red trucks cruise the city’s streets every day. Some trucks operate as shared taxis, others as private tour guides, and others still as public buses that run fixed routes. Red trucks provide affordable transportation to many students, teachers, professionals, vendors, and butchers, and are the iconic beginning and end to a weekday in Chiang Mai.
But in addition to being a cultural experience, red trucks provide a social atmosphere not present in those A/C minivans. Passengers in a songthaew sit in two rows, facing each other, which promotes lively conversation and allows for the facilitation of group activities during the ride.
Among the most important and unsung members of the CMRCA family is the small group of red truck drivers that work hard to take our students and climbers to Crazy Horse every day. The loungs (or “uncles”), as we call them, are full-time red truck drivers that CMRCA hires when we need to take people to Crazy Horse. Since the loungs own their own trucks, they can operate as taxis around Chiang Mai when not needed by CMRCA, and their combined work provides them with a good living wage.
We hold our loungs and their vehicles to high standards to ensure a safe and pleasurable ride for our clients, and in return we compensate them well and welcome them into the CMRCA family. Some of the loungs spend nearly every day at the crag with us, and when we all sit down to lunch together, we couldn’t imagine having anyone else drive us to Crazy Horse.
One loung in particular, Loung Nan, is perhaps the most valuable and irreplaceable member of the CMRCA staff. With several hours every day between roundtrip drives, Loung Nan volunteers his time to build huts, cut trails, maintain bathrooms, gather trash, and do all of the things that set Crazy Horse apart as the best-developed crag in the area. Read more about Loung Nan on his staff page.