First Impressions of Chiang Mai, Thailand
November 5, 2016
Although I’ve been fighting a cold since we got here, we’ve been out to explore every day and have made some first impressions of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Without a set schedule or routine this week, we eat and nap when we need to and jet lag doesn’t seem an issue any more. There are a couple of topics I would like to share. The first has to do with how we feel about living in a studio apartment in the city. The second is why we are living in a studio apartment in the city of Chiang Mai.
This apartment is better than we expected. The building is secure. Even the gate to the street is closed at night. We have a king size bed, a small table with 2 chairs, a kitchenette with 2 burners, a fridge and a microwave. The bathroom has a shower with a hot water dispenser, toilet and sink. Everything is new and clean. There are lots of cupboards and even little shelves and drawers in the bed so all of our stuff fits easily. I am enjoying living simply. It feels like when we travelled in our trailer. Everything has a place and you really only have what you need.
The maids come in twice a week to clean and change the bedding. I’m really having to adjust to having my sheets changed so often! We had an opportunity to move into a one bedroom apartment starting next month, but we decided to stay here and continue living small. It was in the other building and although we don’t have anything to sit on beside wrought iron bistro chairs, or the bed, we have a lovely outdoor space.
There is a pool on the 8th floor overlooking the city and the mountains and a workout room on that level with bikes, treadmills and weights. The yard on the north side of the building is large with grass, flowers and orchids growing on the tree trunks. A plant covered pergola has tables and chairs with a light for evening relaxing. It is shady most of the day. This is important because our south facing window lets in a lot of heat that makes the air conditioning essential. I like to turn it off and go outside. The temperature has been around 30 by day and down to about 21 at night, but not as humid as I expected. My hair loves it. We had one rain shower this week, but are entering the traditional dry season. It should be a few degrees cooler with almost no rain.
This is primarily a long stay building. I think it has 42 units of studios and one bedrooms. There is big book exchange shelf in the lobby as well as an indoor sitting area. After noon, you can buy cold beer 620 ml for $3 or coke for .50. There is usually someone at the front all day, as well as the man who looks after things outside. I watched him trim individual leaves off the plants outside today.
Chiang Mai City
If you have to live in a city, then I think this is the right one. The old city is a couple of blocks north of us and is surrounded by a moat and a ring road. Many of the historical buildings, museums and several markets can be found there. This ring road can be a challenge to cross since pedestrians do not have the right of way on the road and driver’s do not own their lane like we do at home. Here, it’s every man, tuk tuk, songthaew, bicycle, car, and bus for himself. Red lights usually have 3 or 4 cars go through, even after those who have the green have started. It’s scary to watch but we haven’t seen any accidents yet.
Most of the neighborhood traffic are scooters, a few cars or tuk tuk’s- which are like a 3 wheeled motorbike with a double seat behind for paying customers. The songthaew is a truck with a topper. It has 2 benches along each side. You can hail one to take you where you may need to go. Some have a set route like a bus, but some base the route on their passenger’s destinations. They cost $1-2 a trip.
We also have a couple of roosters in our neighborhood. The sound of the fan running all night seems to block most of the other city noise.
The streets closest to us are more like alleys. They are paved but don’t have sidewalks on them. There are often cars and scooters parked along them and sometimes food carts. Drivers are on the left here so I just have to remember to walk on the side that makes me feel uncomfortable. There are pots of plants along all the roadways and trees in every yard. From the pool you can see a roof of a building that is entirely covered with plants so that you can’t tell what kind of surface it really is. The smell is taking some getting used to. It’s not bad, just different from home.
There are so many little businesses in every block. We found coffee shops/tailors/tattoos/massage places/cold drinks/little food carts/and bars. There are at least a couple of guesthouses on every street as well that mostly those offer a room with a fan or AC. One advertised a room with an X box. These seem popular with backpackers.
Food and services
We have calculated that eating out is almost the same price as eating in. A full egg and toast breakfast is about $4 with coffee. Last night we had panang curry with chicken and rice and pad thai with prawns for 165 Thai Bhat. That is $6.31 Canadian for 2 dinners. We ate that in a restaurant in the sister complex to this one.
We can have our laundry washed and dried across the road for about $1.50/kg. That seems worthwhile to me to provide a job for someone.
I’ll share some pictures for now then tell you more next time about our visit to a grocery store, the British Legion meeting, the expat’s club, the night market and our first wat visit.