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Life in Chiang Mai  


Living in Chiang Mai from a newcomer’s perspective

By Nicôle Rossetti le Strange
I’d been getting really itchy feet for a while; we’d been living in the same house for six years, which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life - so when Kevin (my partner) suggested that since his temporary contract with the British Red Cross was coming to an end, we should go travelling, it seemed like the perfect time to go off on another adventure.

We gave the matter some thought, although admittedly, not much, and decided that Thailand seemed a viable option. Kevin had stayed in Bangkok a couple of years ago (for work) but I’d never been to Thailand. If I’m honest, Asia has never been somewhere I’ve had a burning desire to visit but once he mooted Thailand, I thought, why not? We talked about it for a day, asked some friends if they’d like to rent our house (they said yes), applied for visas, booked flights, and began the mammoth task of packing up our house. That was in February – by the beginning of March, we were living in Chiang Mai, and by the middle of the month, had rented a condo!

So what’s it like to live in Chiang Mai? Fantastic! Thais here are incredibly friendly and laid back (apart from the occasional grumpy songthaew driver!). But it’s not just that; it’s not how cheerful everyone is, nor the fact that so many people smile and say hello as we walk along the street, it’s actually the kindness and utter generosity of spirit of people in Chiang Mai. In my opinion, they are truly lovely; we’ve been shown nothing but respect, and we’ve never experienced any of the negativity we’ve heard some Westerners complain about. We have made several good friends here, and have found that people have gone out of their way to welcome us to their city, have introduced us to fantastic places, wonderful people, and of course, amazing foods!

While I am without doubt, a food-lover, Thai food has never been high on my list. In Europe (particularly the UK), Thai restaurants offer pretty standard fare, and it is a great shame that what seems to be most popular there is the kind of food which is difficult for me, i.e. food heavily-laden with chilies. It’s not that I don’t like chilies; it’s that too much actually makes me physically ill. Happily, in Chiang Mai, there is a wealth of food to choose from. Most of the Western food is, in my opinion, average; fortunately, Chiang Mai also has an incredible range of Thai food on offer, and I have discovered many dishes which I can actually eat without being ill. The best thing about the food here though, is the street vendors; sometimes we have no idea what the food will taste like but that’s what makes it such a culinary adventure!

And then there’s the weather! Like the people, Thai weather is warm, sunny, and puts a definite smile on the face. And when it rains? Wow – dramatic doesn’t even come close! Of course, there’s also the wildlife, the plant life... and the photo opportunities! There’s always something interesting and/or beautiful to catch my eye!

When I say that Chiang Mai is a great place to live, I really do mean it. There is no one, single, thing which makes it so, rather, it is a combination of many elements - some tangible, some not - which make this city feel like home... we love Chiang Mai!

The Chiang Mai Mail is publishing a series of articles on residents’ experiences of life in Chiang Mai. If you would like to contribute please email [email protected]

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Living in Chiang Mai from a newcomer’s perspective