We've been on the road now for almost two years and one of the questions we get asked often is "where do you call home?" It really is a tough question to answer.
Most of our immediate family members live in Western Australia, we still own an apartment in Perth, and we are still legally residents of Australia. Andrew and I love Australia. We often talk about all the things we want to do when we head back to our home towns for those precious few months of every year. Hang out with family and friends, and of course, eat everything in sight.
Then there is Chiang Mai, Thailand. This place would have to be our home in Asia. We have tried making other towns, cities and countries our Asian home, but when it comes down to it, this place always wins*. (*Apart from Taipei in Taiwan. That city is amazing! We have yet to stay there long term so for the moment Chiang Mai wins.)
So… Why do we love Chiang Mai so much?
Back in 2009 we moved to Chiang Mai to get TEFL certificates and teach English. The decision to live in Thailand led us to make some great long-lasting friends. We met these people in our TEFL course and in the building we lived in. Some have stayed on in Chiang Mai, leading very fulfilling lives and heading back to their home country every now and then. Others are based elsewhere but keep coming back to Chiang Mai for a few weeks to a few months every year.
We are indeed very lucky as people come and go from Chiang Mai very quickly. It can be very hard to form a long-lasting relationship with people that you meet when you travel.
Making friends takes time and effort. You meet, small talk is exchanged and then you decide during that first meeting if you want to see each other again. The next meeting, you tend to share more stories about yourself, and so on. It's like dating but more difficult.
With dating you know more or less what you want out of the relationship. With making new friends when you travel there is every chance you are going to get to know someone and then you or they depart for the next leg of their trip and you may never see each other again. You can find yourself thinking "why bother? They are just going to leave anyhow."
Luckily for us, through the wonder of Facebook, email and Skype we have stayed in contact with many people that we met back in 2009 and in our travels since. We come back to Chiang Mai and have dinners and lunches together. We go to the markets and check out the newest shops while discussing everything under the sun.
Friendships are very important, even if you only see each other in person once every blue moon.
Eating Like Kings And Queens
Looking for something eat? There are way too many options in Chiang Mai. Everything from Burger King to raw food cafes, food served in rickety tin sheds to five star restaurants. Take your pick.
Eating a meal will cost you from 20 baht all the way up to 400 baht or more (not that we eat many 400 Baht meals!)
You want examples? Sure!
Eating at our local Burmese / Thai Food Stall
Three plates consisting of - Eggplant curry, fried red curry chicken, and fried rice with sour pork. All for a grand total of around 75 baht. That's around $2.50 for those of you at home.
The food is tasty, very cheap, and very healthy!
Eating At Salad Concept
The salad I am holding in the photo below is an Organic Tofu Salad. It is nearly bigger than my head and costs 115 baht. Around $4.
Eating At The Salsa Kitchen
Feel like Mexican or Caribbean food? There are plenty of restaurants offering good food and drinkable Margaritas. Two chimichangas with chicken, burritos or whatever you fancy for about 160. Around $6.
Chiang Mai has something for everyone. I am so hungry right now.
Very Reasonable Living Expenses
We have previously written about how much it costs to stay in Chiang Mai. Not much has changed in regards to living in Chiang Mai since we wrote that post. Prices have crept up a little but you can certainly still get extremely cheap places to stay.
You can get something super extra cheap if you are happy to stay somewhere small, without air-conditioning and hot water. Meanwhile we've drifted up the price scale. We are paying around 15,000 baht per month for a studio condo right in the heart of fashionable Nimmanhaemin. That's around $500 per month. It certainly isn't cheap but we wanted to stay somewhere really central, a place that we could just walk out our front door and eat delicious food (see above), have 180 baht one hour massages ($6), and hang out with the cool Thai university students in the evenings.
A place like the one we are staying in now back in Perth would cost us four or five times what we are paying. So for the time being we are living it up! Big screen television, a desk and comfy chairs for when we're working, very comfortable king sized bed for when we're sleepy, cheap drinks when we're thirsty, excellent food when we're hungry and a beautiful view overlooking Chiang Mai.
There you have it. Friends, food and budget friendly luxury. Just three of the many reasons why we keep coming back to Chiang Mai in Thailand. We love it!