$266 a Month Rent in a City Where Splurging is Easy

The last couple of years have been the most adventuresome of my life. Inspired by my wife, Bonnie, we’ve been pursuing our dream of seeing the world for the last two years. But a number of months ago, we decided it would be nice to settle down for a while…and found the perfect place in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Although Chiang Mai means “New City,” in truth, it is anything but—its history stretches back over 700 years, and there are still imposing remnants of the original city wall, it’s gate, and the moat surrounding the city center.

In fact, ancient history mixes seamlessly with the modern throughout Chiang Mai. Beautiful Buddhist temples abound, each one an oasis of calm with its own centuries-old story, while cafes, museums, and more vegetarian restaurants than anywhere else I’ve seen, fill the meandering streets. It’s easy to lose a day simply walking from delicious meal to delicious meal. It’s also affordable.

My wife and I often splurge and have appetizers, entrees, and drinks…all of which costs around $12, for both of us. At home in the States, the drinks alone could easily add up to $12. A recent dinner date for us consisted of a lime-mint-honey shake, a fresh carrot-beet-apple juice, spring rolls, a bowl of khao soy (the local trademark dish, a yellow curry with wheat noodles), spicy red curry, and a dessert of mango with sticky rice…quite the feast.

We rent an apartment within easy bicycling distance of almost anywhere we’d like to go. We pay $266 a month for our almost-new apartment with mountain views…and that includes a weekly cleaning service.

The evenings here light up with flourishing street markets and raucous dancing of all sorts, from reggae to rock to trance. When I’m feeling a little homesick, I can head over to Nimmanhemin, a neighborhood that’s just outside the old city. It has the feel of a stylish Californian coastal town, combined with the unique and quirky cafes and coffee shops of Portland. Expats—young, digitally nomadic types as well as the older, happily retired—are easy to find here and always have time for a chat.

Chiang Mai
Frank and his wife Bonnie were only meant to stay in Chiang Mai for a month, but fell in love with the culture, food, and affordable way of life. So they stayed.

When I feel actually sick, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Chiang Mai—not only are checkups and vaccinations a quarter of what they would cost back home (even with insurance), but the staff here are consummately professional, competent, polite, and have fantastic English skills.

Pharmacies abound with almost any medicine or element of first aid we’ve required, and we’ve gotten everything from vaccines to teeth cleanings at the dentist to warts removed by a dermatologist for much less than what we’d have paid at home. The best example of that was our rabies vaccine, which was over $900 for each of us at home, and only $75 in Chiang Mai.

Almost as astoundingly, we are able to get appointments for both specialists and the dentist by simply walking into clinics, and even a hospital, and simply getting an appointment the next day. It certainly beats waiting for weeks back in the States.

Our feelings about Chiang Mai can be summed up pretty easily: when we arrived, we only intended to stay for a month. But three months later, we’re still here and looking forward to many more months in this wonderful city.

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