I have to be honest, I only wanted to come to Chiang Mai because it’s one of the best places to celebrate Yi Peng, the lantern festival. But it only took half a day for me to fall in love with the city. And that was before I let all my troubles fly up into the sky with my own paper lantern.
Chiang Mai feels like the hipster suburb of Bangkok. It’s smaller so it’s not as congested, and it is so much easier to find a good place to sit and eat. There is a seriously dense concentration of great restaurants and coffee shops in the center. From any given coffee shop, you can see three other ones. This makes me feel like I could happily work here drinking Thai tea all day long. It seems that kind of atmosphere is quite common here. For the first time since arriving in Thailand, I’ve seen solo people on their laptops in public. The streets are more manageable and the city is small enough to walk, though cabs, tuk tuks, and buses are plentiful. And it’s full of character, without being overwhelming. Everything is lively and colorful, but comfortable and very relaxed. It’s like a landlocked town with an island attitude.
I’ve been craving sushi for like a week and it was impossible to find a decent sushi place in Bangkok that wasn’t outrageously expensive or really far from everything. By comparison, Chiang Mai has at least a dozen highly rated sushi restaurants walking distance from each other in its fortified Old Town. Our first meal was an excellent vegetarian sushi buffet at a family-owned restaurant. A young boy happily brought us menus that were almost taller than him, and the adults of the family cooked and served us. And on our second day, I had the best meal I’ve had on this entire trip (fried flat noodles with seafood) for $1.70. There are hundreds of amazing breakfast options. Do you know how hard it is to find eggs benedict in Prague? This food has been fantastic, cheap, and varied.
Maybe it’s because Chiang Mai is relatively small that the people here are somehow friendlier than those in Bangkok. And that’s true despite the fact that it’s slightly harder to communicate here. But you can always get your message across, and the people try their best to understand you instead of giving up and ignoring you. The cab from the airport was painless, because unlike Bangkok, the price was set by the taxi company, which matches you up with a driver. No negotiation necessary.
One thing I’ve noticed is that there is definitely a high ratio of foreigners to locals in Chiang Mai. A lot of non-Thai people look mighty comfortable around here. So I think I just discovered what has been well-known to others for a long time: Chiang Mai is magnificent!
Unbearable. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a thousand degrees right now even though it’s November, this post would have been called “Guys, I’m Moving to Chiang Mai.” But it’s humid, sticky, and scorching. And because I don’t really know how to get around by bus and there’s no train, I feel like I need to walk everywhere. Some places don’t have AC, so I’m sure it would be a drag to deal with this all year.
Just for kicks, I just looked up the cost of apartments in this lovely city. And for a cool $100-200, I can get a “premium” studio or a one-bedroom. Without jumping the gun, I think I’m going to move here when I go broke trying to become a writer. And if I find a way to make a living by writing, then I’m going to move here and splurge on a nice place between the night market and the Ping River for $500. The food is outrageously cheap and delicious. And what more do you need in life than affordable housing and great food? Nothing. You don’t need the Michael Kors watch and the new rims on your tires. Plus, I’m really good at haggling because when it comes to material things, I can always take it or leave it. And that attitude in the streets of Chiang Mai gets you at least 50% off everything.
Total Livability Score 9/10
Guys, I’m moving to Chiang Mai. I’ll just buy more tank tops.