After the exciting hustle & bustle, exquisite street food and pressure cooker environment of Bangkok, I was expecting a slower pace of life amidst a crown of mountains. In this respect, Chiang Mai, Thailand didn’t disappoint.
I found the city to be very easy to get around, dense and possessing a unique vibe all it’s own for my couple of months there. Of all the destinations I’ve visited during this trip from Goa, India, to Varanasi, Rishikesh and Siem Reap, Cambodia; Chiang Mai was the easiest to get actual work done. It would seem as if a new breed of laptop wielding travelers (location independent digital nomads) custom crafted parts of this city.
Let me paint a picture for you, to illustrate my point. When you walk down a busy street like Nimmanhaemin it’s a visual onslaught of dense foliage, quaint coffee shops and co-working spaces, street food carts, bright red busses (Songtows), crowds of people and general kookiness. Many buildings are positioned at non-linear angles. Personified inanimate objects often make themselves known in front of storefronts for no apparent reason.
Once you get into the swing of things, know how to get around and where things are, it’s becomes a very easy life.
Part of the popularity of Chiang Mai as a digital nomad destination, is the affordability factor. By most standards, I’d venture to say this is a cheap destination with a high standard of living. Let me give you a few examples.
- A studio apartment for $200/month in a great, walk able part of town.
- Street food for $1-3.
- Nightlife – I recall an average night out costing around $30 USD. Meaning a tuk tuk or Songtow round trip, drinks and late night food.
Other travelers have posted much more detailed accounts of living costs. Doing a Google search for “cost of living in Chiang Mai Thailand” will show many of them.
My apartment in Hillside 2 building right off Nimman was about $200 a month (about 7,000 Bhat). To move in, I needed to sign a contract and pay two months rent + 2 months security deposit. Total in USD: $800.
My apartment wasn’t a luxury palace. It was a simple studio room with the basic necessities like a western toilet, fridge, air conditioning and awkward shower. The location however, was fantastic. Personally, I like arranging accommodation before arrival, so I contacted a local realtor (perfecthomes.th) to help me locate a place in the location I wanted, which worked out well. While I paid a bit extra for WiFi, it worked out better to hit co-working spaces and coffee shops.
I can’t honestly say I had prolonged conversations with the local’s due to most only knowing partial English, and me not knowing Thai. The interactions I did have were mostly with service workers. Other than that it was expats and travelers. For a while I started thinking in broken English, until I got around more English speakers, as sometimes I could go a while with only local interactions and I find it exhausting from both a repetition and isolation standpoint.
This is a recurring theme I want to elaborate on in an upcoming post, my travels being not very people centric, at least compared with others I see posting. I’m an introvert who can be extroverted and have a diverse, yet less frequent set of interests and topics of conversation than most. Meaning with a lot of people I just can’t relate, even though I’m open to other’s viewpoints, the idle chitter chatter turns me off. Secondly, the focus of my travels was getting work done, and thinking about some other life topics.
For someone like myself who isn’t a fan of hot weather, this was during their hottest month and it was challenging. After walking literally 2 blocks, your shirt is sticking to your body from the humidity. Several places (like restaurants) don’t have air conditioning. I’m not a shorts/flip flops kind of guy, I feel more comfortable in pants and boots. So for me, the walkable streets were only really enjoyable on abnormally colder days.
And now for some local attractions I visited…
Wat Chedi Luang in the Old City.
Waking into this space felt uplifting and like taking a step back in time. Monks pushing carts of flowers, exotic architecture and sounds. I followed the sound of a duo chanting further inward, and I followed it. I sat down to watch and listen. At the same time, I heard the low rumble of monks in meditation; it was a very special moment.
A stunning sight I wandered upon one day by accident. From colorful gardens to illuminated artwork ceilings and dragons.
THC Rooftop Bar
One of my favorite places to chill was THC Rooftop Bar (no smoking sadly) across from the Night Bazaar. Walking up grungy stairs and psychedelic art work sits a chill room to relax on floor cushions. I’d usually arrive early, start some drawing and evenly get into conversation with other travels. Often, this results in leaving there for clubbing/bar hopping at places like Zoe in Yellow.
A collection of random street photos, showing some of the city’s uniqueness.
Chiang Mai is a great place and I’ve only touched upon a very small part of it here. There are all sorts of outdoor activities like rock climbing, zip lining, waterfalls, martial arts, etc.
I’d love to hear any of your questions or comments.