Living in Chiang Mai?

We spent three weeks in Chiang Mai in 2018, with a view to checking out whether this could be a great place to live for a while each year.

Driven by future financial limitations, we’ve read how others have moved to Chiang Mai (Thailand) from Australia and are living a wonderful (and cheaper) life, so thought we’d see whether this was a real option. Greg booked accommodation for 3 weeks and off we went.

PRIORITIES

Given the cuisine is a big drawcard for us, these were our main priorities:

  • Food options and costs (given most food is cheap around the world compared to Australia)
  • Accommodation: rental types, costs, short and long term options, purchasing an apartment
  • Language & culture – ease and ability to communicate
  • Getting around – rentals, purchasing vehicles
  • Health options

There’s other priorities but I won’t go into details or I’ll bore you stupid. Here’s the main observations and experiences.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We arrived on late Saturday afternoon. It was hot and rather quiet at that time – everyone’s keeping out of the heat.

Greg liked the place immediately – chaotic, friendly, a bit of a mess but it had good vibes. I decided to defer judgement because my first impression wasn’t quite so favourable. Dilapidated, chaotic, hot and humid … disappointing actually.

We stayed in a really cheap hotel for a few nights before moving to the more upmarket AirBnB. The unit was a huge space with two massive industrial air conditioners. While the blasts of cold air were welcome, they blew so hard I caught a chill and ended up catching a nasty cold. Not an auspicious start.

The 3 seater lounge chair in the cheapie looked good until I tried to move it away from the wall out of the line of the industrial air con. The back fell off.

The shower worked but sprayed water over everything, necessitating extra towels to mop up the enormous puddles of water.

The hotel pool was mouldy on the edges and dozens of manky, tumour-ridden pigeons were drinking and bathing in it. No way did we ever put our heads under.

You get what you pay for.

THE FOOD

Wow, where to begin? So many options, all absolutely scrumptious with huge range of quality and prices.

You can find many other cuisines – Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, American (although one couldn’t really class that as ‘food’), among others. However we stuck to Thai – can’t beat the best cuisine in the world.

We particularly loved the street food – less than A$5 for two meals. Eating two meals out a day is easy – the trick is getting enough vegetables.

ACCOMMODATION

The AirBnB was great. The one we selected was located in Nimmanhemin – a very upmarket, buzzy and vibrant part of Chiang Mai. There’s lots of newish apartment buildings, restaurants and an over-the-top shopping centre (amused us no end).

Spoke to some friendly Kiwis who purchased a condo there years ago. Although prices have risen much higher than we’d envisaged, the price was still affordable providing we sold our property in Australia … and we’d have a bit left over. However, it meant that once we sold, it’s unlikely we could afford to buy back into any city in Australia.

THE UPSHOT

While we loved our stay in Chiang Mai and booked another two week stay in October 2019, we decided the culture and language were too foreign and different from our own. Neither of us are particularly linguistic so picking up the language will be difficult. We prefer to be able to communicate easily – not an easy task in Thailand.

Driving in the traffic (particularly as we age) is akin to taking your life in your hands. I’m sure you’d get used to it but there’s always people suddenly pulling out or changing lines without indicating. If you have an accident, as a foreigner it’s invariably your fault – even though it probably isn’t – and bribery is therefore required.

So we’ve decided we shall visit Chiang Mai whenever we fancy, stay as long as we like (and are allowed) and enjoy it as we choose. No living here for meandering ducks in the foreseeable future.