I have always had a fascination with maps. I can sit for hours flipping through map books and atlases. Either planning trips or reminiscing where I have been. Whenever I go anyway, I always want to be able to locate it on a map. Even when I am not driving myself, I like to have an idea of my location. I always found it difficult going places with Thai people. Frustrating is probably a better word. Thai people never seem to appreciate the Westerner’s fascination with maps. Thai people just go and somehow turn up at the right place. However, most Westerners like to plan the route in great detail. Another thing I have noticed is that many Thai people I know just cannot read maps. They may know a place very well but they have difficulty locating it on a map. The same goes for taxi drivers. Don’t even try to show them a map. Even one in Thai. All this probably goes a little way to explaining why there are no really good map books of Thailand.
Today I want to review a collection of digital maps of Thailand which I find to be extremely useful in not only locating places but also planning road trips. The best computer maps are published by ThinkNet and cost around 299 baht. They are available from good book stores such as Se-Ed and B2S. The scale for the Thailand version is 1:1,200,000 . But regions such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi/Rayong, Phuket and Nakhon Nayok are 1:2,000. I have most of these installed on my computer. Fortunately they don’t need the CD-ROM in order to run the program. You can zoom in and out of the map as well as select a particular area to zoom in on. Just about everything you can think of is marked from schools and temples to tourist attractions and hotels. The maps are bilingual and you can change quickly between Thai and English. There is also a powerful search engine which you can use in both languages. This afternoon I was searching for a temple in Ratchaburi. However, I couldn’t remember the exact name. All I had to do was set the search engine to list all temples in that province. It found a total of 305 temples which it listed for me. I then scrolled down the list and then double clicked on the temple which I thought was correct. It then marked this location on the map.
Nothing on the map seems to be copy protected. So, you can add your own colour coded pins and captions on the map and then print it out. This helps a lot when it comes to planning trips which is what I am doing at the moment. There is also a copy button which enables you to paste the image in a graphics program. That is how I got the screen shot above. There is also a ruler which you can use to measure distances along different routes. It will tell you the distance for each step or the complete route you marked. Any favourites you added to the map are automatically saved. So, when you open the map again another day, you can easily look at these “bookmarks” and then zoom in on locations that you are interested in. At the moment I am planning a trip to Ratchaburi. So, as I am doing my research, I am marking these locations on the map with pins. Then, once I have finished, I can easily plan my route. My only complaint is that the Thailand map isn’t as detailed as I would like it to be. But, it has all local districts marked as well as most temples. So, it is a lot more useful than most map books. I will tell you about my favourite paper maps soon.