What’s Life Like In Chiang Mai, Thailand?

If you ask Google what’s life like in Chiang Mai you’ll come up with a wide variety of experiences. Conversely, if you’ve never heard of Chiang Mai, Thailand then this will be an awesome opportunity to explore further what to expect if you decide to visit.

Individuals make their way to Chiang Mai from all over the world. Some people are on a brief visit for a couple weeks while others have been living in Chiang Mai for almost a year. It’s amazing how many people from such different walks of life are drawn to Chiang Mai. Age is not a factor as there are young backpack travelers visiting, as well as those Baby Boomers from the U.S., Australia, and Europe who now call Chiang Mai home.

This can be for a variety of reasons as Chiang Mai has so much to offer. One common love that everyone shares is for the authentic Thai food. It is unbelievable how fresh and in your face the Thai food is here. Regardless of where you come from, enjoying the Thai food in Chiang Mai is a must. In other parts of the world, specifically in the U.S., when dining out at a restaurant you get what you pay for. In Chiang Mai, one can quickly find the tables turn for the better. While there are such varying levels of restaurants from vendors with mobile roadside locations to the higher end luxury, mandatory 10% tip even if you’re solo type of establishments.

Still, there are many restaurants around the city where you sit down and can eat some of the best Thai food you’ve ever had for $3 USD. I must admit, when first dining in it felt like I was taking advantage with such a small price to pay for the quality. However, fear not as this is not the case. Reality is that excellent Thai food in Chiang Mai comes at an amazing value.

Even while shopping at a traditional grocery store, you’ll quickly find your bill to be considerably lower when compared to the U.S. Food is of high quality at the grocery stores, you can find everything you need and more at any of the Rimping Market locations.

Transportation around the city is also extremely convenient at a very reasonable cost. Now, you will see those daring enough to rent a scooter on their own and take to the streets. I don’t have the skill set to maneuver and manage the traffic, which does get very hectic at times. My preference is Uber (Grab here in Thailand now) where you can find friendly people with nice and clean cars, usually with tinted windows and air conditioning willing to get you where you need to go for a few dollars. After 5 weeks of regular use with Uber and Grab I’ve spent a whopping $150. I know some people who spend that in one night with Uber back in California.

Accommodations also come with varying levels of style. Those who are extremely looking to control their expense in this department can find rooms for 5,000 baht or less ($167 USD). I’m not sure what it’s like to stay in a location for that price. I decided to book my 3 month stay at Prestige in Chiang Mai which has been an unbelievably awesome experience. Rooms have a loft style spacious set up with a full kitchen, refrigerator, 2 flat screen televisions, fully furnished, high speed internet, and a central location for just under 20,000 baht per month ($640 USD)! A place like the ones Prestige offers could easily run you north of $2,000 USD in most major cities.

If you’ve never traveled to Asia before you’ll feel the sweltering humid heat to be overwhelming at times. As long as you are in a place with air conditioning then you will not have to worry about this as much. Depending on the time of year that you go this can vary along with a rainy season, which really gets to pouring when it comes down. One downside to Chiang Mai is the smog that tends to hang over the city. At times this can reach high levels, causing issues for certain individuals. When it rains this can remove some of the smog hanging above. Just be conscious of this and ensure you take any precautionary measures as needed. Activities are in abundance here in Chiang Mai with some thing for everyone. From Muay Thai training to ziplining, bamboo rafting, hiking, yoga, Thai cooking classes, shopping, movie theatres, night markets, bars, and so much more.

If you are coming from the Western world you will find that your money goes much further in Chiang Mai. It is amazing to hear the stories of people from different walks of life and what attracted them to Chiang Mai. For some it may be a desire to leave their home country for adventure. Others may be looking to reduce their monthly living expenses. Some may be working in the city or pursuing higher education. Through the various reasons, one thing for sure is that everyone will have an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones.

Different traditions, cultures, food, sides of the road being driven on, languages, and other experiences open our brains up to what we previously never knew existed. From my experience in Chiang Mai I firmly believe that for anyone who has not been to Asia before will find it easier to assimilate in a city like Chiang Mai compared to other cities in Asia. Many individuals in Chiang Mai don’t speak English yet are friendly and open to communicating through any means to ensure a good level of customer service at restaurants. For any person looking to change their environment or career and need some time to get away from their normal daily routines for longer than a two-week vacation, Chiang Mai might just be the place to visit.

If you don’t apply for a visa prior to coming to Thailand, you will be given a 30 day visa upon arrival. You can then go to the immigration office somewhere close to, but before your 30 day expiration to renew it for another 30 days at a cost of 1,900 baht ($64). This is a simple way to have close to a 60 day stay in Thailand without having to leave the country to renew your visa.

If you make it a goal and write it down, you may soon find yourself taking the necessary actions to bring yourself to a position financially where this is possible. Think all the way through all the expenses you will need from airfare, to accommodations, food, entertainment, transportation, and any other necessities of life. You may quickly find that regardless of where you are living, there will always be certain expenses daily.

Traveling does not have to be as expensive as the majority tends to think. Whether you are in the United States or Chiang Mai you need to eat. Regardless of where you are you will be paying for transportation. So many factors of living get replaced with an often more cost-effective alternative. Major responsibilities and obligations however, are something which need to be worked around. If you have an apartment or mortgage, this is true that rent will still need to be paid while you are away. Car payments and insurance will still have to be paid. Credit card bills and the likes will also have to be paid while away.

If you are in between careers this can be an amazing opportunity to take the time away to really focus and decide what it is you would like to pursue. We have access to many online learning platforms such as Udemy, Lynda, Coursera, and several others. One can easily find themselves learning a new skill in a matter of a few weeks with diligent effort. To me, this is the greatest gift of stepping out of the normal routines to analyze what direction you would like to go in. Once that direction is identified it becomes easier to then list out the action steps necessary to reach your desired direction. Financial independence is what allows an individual to live a life of freedom and options.

A common misconception is that it takes a large amount of money to reach this position. While it may help, that is not always the solution. Often times when we receive more income, we turn around and spend that and slightly more. While minimalism is an awesome lifestyle and I have much respect for it, there is a lifestyle to be lived in between the two. Somewhere between being a hamster on a wheel working for the credit card companies, and living in an apartment with only a single blanket on the floor, one may find a life of adventure, comfort, and freedom.

Will it be easy to get there? No. It will require financial intelligence, financial discipline, and above all self-discipline. However, you may be pleasantly surprised after sitting down and mapping out a strategy of what you owe to who, how much is coming in every check, where you can temporarily cut back, find opportunities to earn a side income, and identify the path of where you want to be. It might take you 2 or 3 years of little fun with extremely disciplined actions.

Depending on your personal situation this can vary, but is it possible for you to turn your financial life around? Definitely. I’m sure you will take the disciplined steps towards achieving freedom as you can be sure the juice will be well worth the squeeze.

Until next time, keep pushing and progressing.


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