Saturday, 23 November 2013

You, and I, could live in Chiang Mai

Not together of course! Unless you want to split the rent on a nice flat, or you're a stunningly beautiful woman of course.

I mean separately, 1) You could come and live in Chiang Mai, here in Thailand, and 2) I'm seriously considering coming to live here some time, just for a few months.

Chiang Mai is the beautiful historic northern city of Thailand. It has a central old city inside a square moat, about 1.2km across. And while it has the feel and charm of a small city, there's a lot going on outside the walls and gates.

Chiang Mai has a wonderful atmosphere. As a hub for northern Thailand, it's obviously a focus on the tourist trail, with hundreds of guest houses and hotels and tour companies. But it is also a cultural centre for Thais, not just the many who live here but also across the whole country. These 2 worlds combine, cautiously but happily.

An example: coffee shops. Chiang Mai is alive with coffee shops. But whereas 10 years ago you could easily say these were driven purely by tourists, there is now a growing number of young, middle class Thai people who enjoy going for a coffee.

Another: festivals. Just 2 of the many Thai festivals, Songkran (Thai new year, water fights, April) and Yi Peng/Loy Krathong (lanterns and river floats, November) have their main celebrations in Chiang Mai.

One thing that makes it easy is the number of "farang" (foreigners, and/or white people) already living here. Getting into a random songthaew (shared taxi), the people in it already were part of a digital nomads project group who'd settled to live in Chiang Mai for at least the next few months. "How easy is it to live here?" I asked an American guy. "Very easy," he replied with a big smile on his face.

Let's not mix up living for a short while and moving permanently. Moving permanently or even just on an ongoing basis means getting involved with work visas and immigration, which is less than fun in Thailand. Owning land and property can be very difficult for foreigners too.

On the other hand, if you work online it's very straightforward to come for short periods. As a British person you get a 30 day visitor visa every time you enter, and there are many "visa run" services offered so you don't even have to leave the country to extend your stay. (Of course with Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam all close by, you may choose to anyway.)

Even if you don't work online, you could easily save up some money like backpackers do - if your rent is reasonable, it would probably cost the same week for week as travelling.

Anyway. This pondering mostly comes from my trip back in September, where (luckily being from the EU) I realised I could live in European cities like Bratislava, Krakow or Prague for a short period. It'd be weird, but wouldn't it be fun?

And so the same out here in Asia. Not every city is like Chiang Mai and not everyone is suited to Asia. But the possible is always waiting round the corner for anyone who wants to make a decision.

Here's some photos of Chiang Mai to finish off, cheers.

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