Moving to Chiang Mai: One Month In

Jon Church
Mar 6, 2018 · 8 min read

My Chiang Mai changes everyday while I just try to keep up!

Hello family and internet strangers! I am indeed alive, as evidenced by the website I made to keep y’all in step with my daily life, called! Here is my first little update on my adventures in Thailand!

My Chiang Mai changes everyday. I’ve focused on keeping up instead of reflecting on it. Today I renewed my 30 day visa-on-arrival to stay here another 30, and I had decided before I arrived to write something at this milestone.

Today I realized something, after a day that had basically the same contents of any other day here. My stomping grounds cover a decent amount of the city center so far, I’m pretty comfortable in these areas. Still, what I experience there changes everyday.

I try a new tiny vendor, meet new people, visit at a differnt time, or I’ve learned something new about the city’s dynamics, and suddenly it’s like the whole city has shifted under my feet. I see and experience things I never thought would just be lurking around a familiar corner.

Every day has been unique so far and pretty amazing. Even uneventful days I’m stoked to just catch my breathe and appreciate being here.

I have plenty of stories to tell, but for now here’s a quick checkin with where I’m at right now in this adventure!

I‘ll answer these questions again as I get to know the city better.

How long have you been in Chiang Mai, this time?

Just under 30 days. I arrived February 7th, 2018

How long have you been in Chiang Mai cumulatively?

Just over 2 months total, my first time was Setember-October 2017

How’d you get to Chiang Mai?

I flew Nok Air from Bangkok for like $50, takes about 2 hours and change.

I flew from SFO to Bangkok (via Shanghai) and spent 4 days exploring Bangkok before I headed up to the Sanuk of the North (my new name for Chiang Mai, ya like it?).

What’s your best morning routine look like?

Wake up before construction on both sides of my building kicks in at 9am. Wash up, get dressed, then head out for breakfast. Sometimes take a Grab to Thanin Market to get Jok before 10am, or get Kuaytiew Muu Krob under the restaurant pavillion. I always get a coffee from one of the vendors. Often it’s a Cappucino shake with Boba pearls, or a strong Thai hot coffee, in the local style, with sweetened condensed milk. After my feast I take Grab to a coffee shop somewhere to pretend like I’m working.

Is there a restaurant you feel at home at?

My vendor home is still a Kuaytiew cart off highway 107 in Somtitom, right by Thanin Market. I sit down on her stool, she brings me Kuaytiew muu nam tok (sen yai if I’m feelin a change), I breathe that broth in and boom I’m home. She’s the same vendor that returned my debit card to me after I lost it my first time in Thailand, she speaks no english, and always smiles when she sees me. I love her.

A close second is all of Chang Phueak Market. I have only eaten from a few vendors there, but I feel super comfortable in the mess of tables, stands, locals, and farang. I have barely even put a dent in the food possibilities there, a challenge I am excited to accept! Great place to grab a beer and some muu ping and just people watch.

What do you do with your day?

Wander between restaurants, coffee shops with AC, and everywhere inbetween. I walk A LOT and it’s never boring, the city is so lively and full of travellers.

I eat. You can get an incredible bite to eat everywhere. You can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit a small restaurant or street vendor. I feel like I’ve had really good luck and found some really good vendors (I like to think I can tell the difference heheh) so I am always trying out places that catch my eye for some reason.

I have so much fun just eating and learning about the food, I’m never bored if there is food nearby.

How do you get around on the daily?

Still no motor scooter, I walk and use the ride hailing app Grab everyday. I walk from my apartment to Maya or Nimmanheim because they’re so close. Almost once a day I walk one way between Maya and the Old City via Huay Kaew blvd, sometimes both ways. It’s 2.5 miles from my place to just about anywhere in the Old City.

What’s most often on your plate?

I eat about 80% Thai food, 10% International food (like japanese foods or Korean), and 10% American Breakfast.

I have Khao Man Gai almost everyday. Chicken and rice (rice cooked in chicken stock from boiling yesterdays chicken!) always comes with a small chicken soup on the side. Most often at the Maya Luxury Mall Foodcourt, because it’s so close to my place, but you can get it practically everywhere. Pad Krapao (muu or gai, always phet) is a delcious fallback. If I can’t read a menu, 9/10 times I can still order Pad Krapao and the vendor can make it.

Khao Man Gai, with soft boiled egg
Pad Krapao chicken from the late night vendor by my apartment

I can’t get enough Muu Krob! Eating delicious fried pork belly everyday, for cheap, is one of those things I haven’t been able to get over yet. I feel like a king.

Kuaytiew Baa-Miit Muu Krob, egg noodle soup with crispy pork belly

You been having a good time? Any good parties?

Hell yes I have been having a good time! I haven’t been to an actual party, but pretty much everywhere can lead to a wild night in Chiang Mai. Making a friend at the food court turns into getting beers across the street turns into meeting up with people at a rooftop bar turns into closing down an after party and taking taking a drunk tuk tuk ride home at 3am.

That just happens on a regular ole tuesday! I meet new friends everywhere I go. Same place, new people everyday. But also you run into the same people a lot, Chiang Mai is a small world. Really reminds me of Gainesville! It’s one of those places where I don’t have to plan with people, I just go to their favorite hang out and run into them.

Because I still need to buckle down and work and get set up here, I’ve been trying NOT to go out and meet people! But all the same, I’ve met so many awesome people and stumbled into incredibly interesting converations with people from all over the world. Just going to the food court can be an adventure if you happen to meet the right person, and everyone out here is pretty open to meeting people, since we all share at least an interest in travel.

Seen anything cool lately?

Chiang Mai has a small mountain called Doi Suthep (I think it’s maybe a couple hours hike up, there are lots of stairs) with a large golden temple at the top. Not that I’d know, I haven’t gone to see it yet!

But I did learn recently that Doi Suthep and neighboring mountains are part of the foothills of the Himmalayan Mountains! You can see the temple at the top from the city, it’s really cool and something that is considered a must do activity for tourists.


Seen anything weird lately?

Sugar gliders instead of squirrels in Bangkok threw me for a loop, so did the 4ft long water monitor lizards that own Lumphini Park. And of course I run into things all the time that make me scratch my head.


However, I still think to myself occassionally “Why was that local swimming in the Old City moat??” That water looks dirty enough to give you an ear disease at the least. Why, Thailand, why? Was he drunk? Was he fishing? Did he lose something? Is this just normal? WHY?


What’s your $ burn rate lookin like?

I’m spending more money than I realize, but still it’s so much less than what the equivalent would cost me in the states.

On a typical day I spend about $10-$15 USD. Sometimes as little as $5 though.

That includes at least 3 full meals ($0.90-$1.80 each), a couple snacks, a few bottles of iced tea from 7-Eleven ($0.90 each), a few rides around town in a Grab, and maybe a 20oz beer to drink on the street from 7-Eleven while eating grilled meat sticks. Mmmm.

Taking Grab cars is actually my biggest daily expense! Soon I’ll buy a sweet used motorcycle (a Honda Grom) in the price range of $900–$1200 USD, and then pay about $3.48/gallon for gas (with 120 miles/gallon)

Best meal or food experience?

My local friends took me to a market and showed me THEIR favorite vendors. I had Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiaw, fermented rice vermicelli with a “curry” broth of pork ribs, ground pork, coagulated chicken blood cakes, tomatoes, lots of fresh herbs, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and whole lot of chili! It packs one helluva whallop flavor wise, but is a surprisingly light dish. Likely the most flavorful thing I have ever had in my life! My friend taught me how to order it with extra oil from the top of the pot, mmmmm.

Photo by Andy Ricker

How are you feeling?

When I’m not too exhausted or stuffed with food to even move, I feel really lucky to be where I am. I’ve worked my butt off to get here, traveling in Thailand and eating food here has been my biggest dream for the past 10 years. I am really grateful that I get to be here!

It feels like everything I’ve done in my life has been to prepare for this experience. That’s because I’ve always known I would do this, and so I’ve been thinking about it forever. Now that I’m here, it’s everything and so much more than I could have imagined. I’m finding an incredible community of people here, and every day really is an adventure!

The distance is starting to sink in. Things that were super in my face before like US politics and customs are suddenly a lot quieter than before. Which feels weird because HUGE news happens in the states and it barely registers out here. I didn’t encounter even a minute of coverage from the Winter Olympics, the Oscars, or the Parkland shooting. Those were things I had to actually seek out and find info on, since I haven’t used Facebook in a couple years now.

Hard to describe, but its interesting realizing that those things just aren’t a big deal out here, whereas if I was in America they would be inescapeable.

Jon Church

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