Time in Chiang Mai
So my new digs sorted and relatively close to town and an easy walk from the vibrant old town I decided I would be alright here in Chiang Mai for a few months.
However despite the guest house I was staying at claiming to cater for longer term visitors it felt quite transient and I would estimate the average length of stay to be around 3 weeks. This I didn’t care for too much. So I set about finding a more permanent base and chose a nice little 1 bedroom house out of the city (about 10mins away) for a 5,700thb a month. Bills were extra of course and these would average out at about 1200thb a month for electric, although I did use the AC a lot, and only about 100thb for water.
Being out of the city meant I needed my own transport, so I hired a long term scooter for 2,500thb a month. I had never ridden one before but they are very simple to get the hang off, and the roads here are quiet. Plus it is so much cheaper than getting motorbike taxis every day, and the freedom to go and explore as I choose is great.
Chiang Mai seems to have a lot more permanent expat residents than I was expecting, some estimate as many as 50,000, with more long term visitors. This makes the whole place seem rather multi cultural, but with a definite Thai edge.
The city is very old and has an abundance of things to see and do along the cultural lines, however most folk seem happy to be just chilling a doing very little.
I found most of days spent having lazy mornings and then during the afternoon enjoying a stroll around the old town or one of the many markets here. The markets are great, nowhere near the size of Bangkok’s of course, but still large enough to waste and hour or two. I love food markets, all the fresh produce and weird and wonderful fruit and veg, always seem to get me. It’s is one of favourite things to do when travelling. Food is massive part of Thai life and that suits me down to the ground, I am not one of those fussy eaters, and am I am always willing to try new things. I do have limits though and one of the local snacks I couldn’t get to grips with was deep fried cockroaches, yes you read that right, those horrid little things we all hate in the west are considered a tasty snack here. In fact they are farmed on an industrial scale.
I have always been a pretty busy guy, no matter what stage of my life I always mange to have enough to do to fill my days. So this not doing a lot was going to take some getting used to. I recall a movie called “about a boy” where Hugh Grant plays a rich Londoner (As always) but he doesn’t have a job. He ends up breaking his day up into smaller segments of an hour each. This is actually really good advice and worked well for me, and helped relax a lot.
Having said that most people are going to need the odd thing to do each day myself included. I decided to try and learn a little Thai. I booked myself a six week course for just over 5,000thb this gave me 2 hrs of lessons each morning for 6 days a week. The Thai language is a lot different at fist and with 7 tones seems nearly impossible to learn. I was surprised though at how quickly I was able to gain a very basic vocabulary, especially as language was never a strong point for me in school. And after 2 or 3 weeks I was more than confident to hold a basic conversation with the locals at a bar or market stall. Once you get to this level, it seems to progress very quickly.
I really wanted to learn to Thai cooking as well, from a local, not some school set up to cater for tourists, but for love nor money I couldn’t find one here. I would gain a few ideas by watching the chefs at the food carts I frequented for lunch each day. It may not seem a lot to me, but will probably impress the odd folk back home.
As well as learning the language and sitting watching side street chefs, I also spent a fair few hours driving around on my scooter. In a sort of similar fashion to my aimless wanders around Bangkok. Again I found this to be an awesome adventure and I found loads of little villages, beautiful backdrops, as well as the obligatory temples.
The Chiang Mai region seems to have a lot of cultural attractions and things do to. I ended up staying here for 6 and half months, longer than initially anticipated but I just got into the flow of doing not very much. It is hard to get out of once you are in that mindset. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it here, it’s the kind of place I could find myself returning to and spending much more time. But my pot of money is not endless. Most of the permanent expats here seem to work online and can easily make enough to stay here year round. I’m not talking super luxury but they enjoy a standard of living I would argue is better than most 9-5’s back home. I must look into to setting up some sort of online business.
Where to next I wonder?