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Life in Chiang Mai


Life in Chiang Mai for the newbie

By Sabrina Carter
Since getting engaged on holiday in Thailand in 2011, we dreamed of leaving our London city jobs and immersing ourselves into a new life in Chiang Mai. To realize our dream we decided that I would adopt a new career as an EFL English teacher while my husband, Matt completed his OU Degree remotely.
In our early days in Chiang Mai we found getting orientated challenging as throughout our previous visit we stayed at the beautiful five star Ping Nakara Hotel. Now visiting under less salubrious circumstances was a bit of a reality check. The options for getting from A to B were; walk or attempt to describe our destination to songthaew drivers in broken Thai. Both options led to us frequently wandering around aimlessly and feeling socially excluded because communication through smiles and nods can only get you so far. In forty degree heat it felt like we were being awoken from our dream of an exotic new life by someone chucking a bucket of cold water on us, except the water was boiling hot and polluted. Talking of dirty water, Thailand’s water festival, Songkran marked somewhat of a turning point, where our feeling of isolation eased as fun and laughter filled the streets and we joined in the party.
Many farangs cycle for fun, a concept which Thais find difficult to grasp, especially when I turn up at school in my full lycra attire. As experienced cyclists we both find cycling an enjoyable way to explore new places. On purchasing a couple of cheap road bikes we were able to become even more familiar with our host city, and following a near death experience on a moped that left me sprawled in a muddy ditch, cycling also became my preferred mode of transport.
Those who can, teach’ as they say back in England. So there I was after nearly four months of freedom praying that I ‘can’. I’m thrown into a whirlwind of tenses and pronouns, wondering, did I ever learn English at school? My life revolved around studying and teaching practices, but despite the nerves and exhaustion rising to the challenge gave me an immense feeling of personal achievement.
After completing my training we found our little soi amongst the wonder of the street food venders off Suthep Road. The vibrant mix of smells and colour and the warmth shown to us by our neighbours is what makes it home. On Suthep Road finding hidden gems is a fabulous daily occurrence. One such gem is the ‘Magical Light Foundation Cafe’. An incident of serendipity here threw up the chance for me to use my newly gained skills to assist the foundation with teaching Burmese refugees English. Teaching the Shan children will be one of my most treasured memories from my time spent in Chiang Mai.
I have also been fortunate enough to work with Lukas Wyss who has established a skills centre for therapeutic horse riding for children with ‘special needs’. This work not only satisfied my love for all things equestrian but filled my heart with love to see these beautiful children experiencing just a jot of life that many take for granted. He was very lucky to be able to use the land of Khun Sivaporn Vimolchalao and gives many thanks.
On completing his degree Matt also needed to find a constructive way to fill his days, as I wasn’t going to stand for him living ‘sabai, sabai’ style while I was bringing home the bacon. With a love for animals he opted to volunteer for ‘Care for Dogs’, a charity that takes in abandoned and abused dogs. In his first few weeks here this rewarding experience has also gained us a new addition to our family, Rex,’ who we have decided to adopt and take back the UK in November when we will sadly be leaving Thailand. Not before we compete in the Thailand Ultra Marathon through the forests and rivers of the north, where through this we will be raising sponsorship money for Care for Dogs. http://www.

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Life in Chiang Mai for the newbie