I had mentioned in my last post that I was still a little undecided about my feelings for Chiang Mai and so I wanted to give you a little idea of what it's like for someone new to the city.We had done so much blog and Youtube research on what it's like to be a digital nomad in Chiang Mai that I felt totally prepared for what life here would be like. Everyone had only amazing and positive things to say -- making it out to be a beautiful mountain paradise with quaint streets, tons of cute cafes and all the yoga and vegan food I could desire. Reality is a little different and I'm trying to separate my expectations from reality in order to see the city with fresh eyes and optimism.
Most of these shots are from my Instagram, so make sure to follow along over there to see what we get up to!
First Impressions of Nimman, Chiang Mai
So far, we've stuck to our neighborhood, which is called Nimman. We settled on this area after doing a ton of research and always having this come up as the best spot for digital nomads in the city. There are tons of restaurants, cafes and apartments that seem to cater to expats, while remaining authentic to the Thai culture. Each night there seems to be a different food market that pops up with so many different stalls to pick and choose from. The streets are surprisingly quaint, with lots of greenery amongst the homes and businesses -- so long as you stay off the main roads. There aren't many sidewalks anywhere and you have to dodge traffic and low hanging power lines every time you leave the house so walking around requires your full attention. But apart from the danger of being run over or electrocuted, it feels incredibly safe. We've been walking around after dark without a single concern or feeling of unease. I would honestly say that I feel safer walking around Nimman at night than I did in Vancouver -- something I never would have expected.
Getting Started in Chiang Mai
Before arriving in Thailand, Ollie and I had booked a hotel for the first 2 nights in Chiang Mai. Based on everything we had read, you can look for and move into apartments pretty much in one day. It took us the full 3 days, but we did find one just in time. The hotel we stayed in was called BED Nimman and I honestly couldn't rave about it enough. The staff was incredible, the room was spotless, the bed was comfortable and the free breakfast was maybe some of the best food I've had since being here. We did feel a teeny bit rushed on that third day to get moved into our apartment so I think that 3 nights in a hotel would have been the perfect amount of time to find a place without feeling the time crunch. In the end, we did get a place and move in, so it definitely can be done! I think we may have been a little pickier than the average digital nomad, so that's something to keep in mind as well.
Co-Working Spaces in Nimman, Chiang Mai
The city really is set up for digital nomads with countless co-working spaces and cafes -- especially in the Nimman area. We purposely chose a place with fast WiFi so that we could work from home, but sometimes that can get a bit repetitive and lonely, so we've decided to check out co-working spaces every once in a while. Yesterday, we went to CAMP, which is located in the Maya Mall and is open 24 hours. You need to buy something for 50 baht ($1.90 CAD) from the cafe in order to get 2 hours of wifi. I think that if you have a data plan with AIS, you can get free WiFi, but we don't and so I bought an iced americano to test it out. Two hours goes pretty quick, so you can easily spend quite a bit of money there, but it was nice to get out of the house and be around other people. We both got quite a bit of work done and then headed across the corridor to the cinema to watch a movie. A pretty awesome setup if you ask me! They also have a foodcourt in the basement which serves surprisingly good vegan food for about $1.50 per plate. This mall pretty much has it all.
Apartments in Chiang Mai
If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (both @stylingmylife), then you've probably gathered that I'm pretty much in love with our apartment. There's a great little gym and a rooftop pool that are my havens. Rent in Chiang Mai is pretty reasonable (although it's gone up recently) and you can find a modern one bedroom apartment for about 1/3 the price of Vancouver. You get about 1/3 the quality as well, but we were expecting that so it's not a surprise.
Working Out In Chiang Mai
I'm really happy to be back into a good workout routine after being super lazy and eating ALL of the food while in Australia. And with a view from the treadmill like this, how can you not want to workout every day? Also, jumping in the pool straight after is the best reward ever.
It seems like about half of the apartments in Chiang Mai have gyms, so it was high on our list of requirements. We almost settled on a place without one, which probably wouldn't have been the end of the world because from what I can tell, gyms are very cheap. Also, there's a huge gym in the Maya Mall right next to CAMP! See, I told you that mall has everything.
Rooftop Views of Doi Suthep
After living in Vancouver for so long, you get used to being surrounded by mountains and beautiful scenery, so it's really comforting to have this view from our rooftop pool. When we were hunting for apartments, I think it's this view of Doi Suthep that sold us on it. Relaxing up here is by far my favorite part of the city so far.
Amazing Street Stall Smoothies
There's a little fruit stall that is set up just around the corner from our place that makes the most delicious smoothies. The fruit is laid out in little bags that you can buy for 10 baht (about $0.38 CAD) each or you can have a smoothie made with the ingredients you choose for 30 baht ($1.15 CAD). I was hooked after my first smoothie and went back the next 2 days in a row, but on my third time there, she would no longer make me a smoothie, saying that she would only put banana in it and not the other fruit on display. I honestly can't figure out the reason for this, but Ollie said he doesn't think the lady liked me... If you have any ideas on where I went wrong, I would love to hear it. I really want my smoothies back!
The Nimman Neighbourhood
The neighbourhood itself can almost be described as cute, and when looking at individual shop fronts, I can see why it looked so adorable in all the photos I saw online. I have a feeling that coming straight from beautiful, clean Vancouver and Sydney, I have an unfair standard, but I just don't feel the charm of this place that others seem to. I am a walker and have always felt like this is the best way to explore a city but in Chiang Mai, walking is not a fun thing. The main streets are incredibly busy with non-stop traffic; the crosswalks just seem to be suggestions as a reasonable place to run for your life; the sidewalks are sporadic at best and more often than not are unpassable because of one obstruction or another; you can feel the pollution heavy in the (extremely humid) air and the entire city smells of sewage from the open drains.
Crazy Thailand Power Lines
The power lines and pretty much all infrastructure in general are a serious mess. They get much worse than the photo above, but we were just grabbing something quickly from 7-11 and this was the first jumble of them I saw. These ones are pretty good because at least they are up high, but half of the time they are hanging down to the pavement and you need to dodge them as you walk on the precarious (mostly non-existent) sidewalk, while at the same time trying not to be hit by oncoming cars. It is honestly insane.
Endless Food Choices
Now with all those negatives being said, I do have to admit that there is an endless choice for food and Ollie has pretty much been in heaven. For me it is a little harder, but we've found a few places that offer vegan options in our area so I'm happy with that. The side streets are much quieter than the main roads and as long as you are watching for cars and bikes, they really aren't too bad at all. You end up walking in the middle of the road because everyone parks right against the edge, but the cars are pretty good at just going around you for the most part. Also, if you ever feel like walking is too much of a chore, there will be a songthaew along in the next 10 seconds that will happily take you wherever you want to go.
Chiang Mai Night Markets
At night, the city has little markets that pop up all over the place. I once read that Chiang Mai should be called the city of markets because there are hundreds of them. On Saturday, we weren't sure whether the regular street market would be on as many festivals and markets have been canceled in respect of the mourning period, but we knew a little one near us called the Wintage Market was happening thanks to good ol' Instagram so we went and checked it out. It was honestly the best! We ate until we were stuffed with desserts and everything and only spent a total of $3 CAD each. The market was very quiet and seemed to be mostly attended by locals so not many people at the stalls spoke any English, but they knew how to say how much it was and the rest could be easily pantomimed. Also, did I mention that the people here are the nicest I've ever met? Even when they are in mourning, they could not be any sweeter.
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