I’ve been to Chiang Mai on my last backpacking trip but never had a chance to explore the city because I just stayed in Wat Ram Poeng to learn meditation. This time around we were planning to volunteer in Chiang Rai but as you know, travel plans always change and ended up in Chiang Mai. I personally opted to stay in Chiang Mai because of internet concerns. I needed to be online until I was able to setup the domains that I bought when I was still in Luang Prabang. I bought a lot of them and used my time in Chiang Mai to set them up one by one.
Staying in Chiang Mai for almost a month exposed me to a lot of things that I have never observed before. Here are some of my observations:
1. Chiang Mai is a liveable touristic city. I can see myself living in this city for a long time. You get the city facilities but not the hustle and bustle of living in a huge city like Bangkok.
2. Food is cheap and tasty, especially if you eat in small local restaurants. I always eat at this small restaurant (near Tha Pae Gate) where our food is cooked at the time we order. A rice meal with one viand (vegetables or meat or omelette) cost only 25 Baht, noodles for 30 baht and extra rice for 5 baht. Free drinking water too.
3. Transportation around the city is cheap, the red minibus cost around 20 baht (per way).
4. The Wats are gloriously beautiful, more beautiful and well maintained than the ones in Luang Prabang. Maybe because the Thais have a bigger budget when it comes to maintaining their temples.
5. So many options for shopping. For those who love the night markets, there’s the Saturday Night Market in Wualai Road, Sunday Market in Tha Pae, Weekday Night Market near Panthip and other small markets scattered around the city.
6. A few tourists seem to be in Chiang Mai for business. I’ve observed some who are buying things in bulk, negotiating for price and shipment. Shipping quality Thai handicrafts seem to be a good business in the West. There seems to be a high profit margin if you can just find your market. This is also a popular business back home, Thailand made clothes and dresses seem to be popular in the Philippines.
7. Accommodation can be cheap especially for those who are staying long term. There seems to be a lot of options available. I also noticed that the cost of living is lower compare to Makati and yet the standard of living is higher. For only 3500 Baht/Month you get to live in a 24 sqm room in Huay Kaew Residences with condo-like facilities. I rented a 22 sqm bare condo room in Makati for twice the price. Check out GotPassport for more info on accommodation in Chiang Mai.
8. It’s becoming a popular place to live and setup your digital businesses. People seem to be raving about living in Chiang Mai recently.
9. It’s one of those cities that have this laidback appeal. You can lounge in a coffee shop for hours and get lost in the book that you’re reading and when you decided to go back to where you’re staying you won’t get stressed out.
10. Poverty exists even in the nicest place such as Chiang Mai. Poverty is still evident although not as much as what you see in Manila. I saw a few people begging and sleeping on the streets.
These are just some of my observations about Chiang Mai. I did enjoy my stay there and actually see myself staying longer in the future.