In 2006 I arrived in Chiang Mai ready to embark on a six-month volunteer placement for an NGO. Little did I know then, that ten years on, I would still be here, living a very nice life. Over the years, I have seen the expat community grow and they all seem to be drawn to Chiang Mai for the same reasons that I chose to live here. Here are five of them…
- Low Cost of Living
A main benefit to Chiang Mai is how inexpensive daily living costs are. If you are on a limited budget, you can get by on very little, I know people who spend just $4 a day on street-food and $10 a day on motorbike rental. Chiang Mai offers a quality of life that is hard to find elsewhere. Everything is so affordable and such good value. I frequently enjoy going for a Thai massage which sets me back $7 an hour, a manicure is a little more, at $13, or I can hire a housekeeper for $19 a day.
- Beautiful Countryside
Chiang Mai, known as the ‘Rose of the North’, is surrounded by mountains and verdant countryside. I love taking trips out of the city. In just an hour’s drive, I am transported into another world, full of fertile forests and cultural wonders. For longer trips, I head to the neighbouring provinces of Chiang Rai or Mae Hong Son, where I take in the sights and soak up the culture.
- East Meets West
Chiang Mai is a perfect blend of east and west. On the face of it, it’s an Oriental city, scattered with historic temples and tuk tuks, set against that unmistakable Asian street smell of exotic fruits and food—yet it has every modern amenity I want. Whenever I get a craving for western food, I head to ‘Yummy Pizza’ where I can order a large burger and fries for only $8, Plus, the servings are large enough that I almost always go home with leftovers.
- Large Expat Community
There’s a large and growing expat community in Chiang Mai, from young backpackers to retirees and digital nomads. For this community there’s an equally large support network, such as the Chiang Mai Expats Club, and a multitude of Facebook groups aimed at connecting and making life for expats easier. I often tap into the ‘Chiang Mai Digital Nomads’ group, which hosts regular talks and meet ups for digital nomads to network and exchange information.
- Friendly Locals
One of the things that makes Chiang Mai so liveable is the irresistible friendliness of its locals. Northern Thais are known for their hospitality and warmth, a deep-seated cultural trait that has age-old roots. It’s easy to take a stroll through town, be greeted by smiling faces and strike up friendships.
This local charm, combined with the very low cost of living and convenient lifestyle makes Chiang Mai an irresistible destination for expats, it’s certainly what’s kept me here.
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