I have been getting reports (again) about this old trick the tour companies on Khaosan Road in Bangkok and the Guest Houses in Chiang Mai are doing. I thought the Tourist Police stopped this but they are back to their same old tricks, here's the story.
The tour companies along and near khaosan Road offer very cheap bus tickets to Chiang Mai. The bus is fine however after the overnight ride they take you to a parking lot or field 10 Kilometers from Chiang Mai arriving around 6 AM. Now you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with no tuk tuk or taxi. Here they have "songthaews", which are two bench covered pick up trucks waiting for you. They pile everyone in the songthaews and take you into the city but not where you want to go but to guest houses you no nothing about.
Once at the Guest House they tell you to leave your bags in the front room while they show you the rooms. Who know who is going through your bag during this time period. Then they sit you down at a table and the trekking guides give their sales pitch. The guide wants you to either leave right away on a trek this morning or the following day. You won't be able to order breakfast or anything until after the sales pitch.
If you say I want to look around at other trekking operators before you make a decision you are told to leave. The guide and staff will just abandon you and go on to the next table and talk with them. They will not be allowed to rent you a room or order food. Thats OK just leave.
The reason all this is going on is because some Guest Houses in Chiang Mai band together to get as many tourists as they can for trekking. This is where all the money is for them not room rentals or food. They contact a bus company in Bangkok and charter buses which are usualy full going in both directions. The tour companies in Bangkok also get a cut of the action. The seats on the bus are sold at cost to you and that is why it is so cheap.
The bus personel have been known to go through luggage and bags to take valuables while people were asleep on the bus. Some even have a person hidden away in the baggage compartment to go through every bag there.
If you want to take a bus get one from the Morchit bus station in Bangkok and the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai not Khaosan road or Guest Houses in Chiang Mai. These buses will take you to the Arcade bus station in Chiang Mai and Morchit bus station in Bangkok.
Remember that most Guest Houses get their money from Treks not food or room rental and many will not rent you a room unless you do a trek with them.
I recommend that you pay a little bit more and get a 500 baht+ room in Chiang Mai where the staff will be glad to have you if you trek with them or not.