Chiang Mai for new visitors


Asking if you can find a ‘good internet café’ around Nimman or a ‘decent room’ in Chiang Mai sounds like you’re asking if you can find ‘good bread’ in Paris or a ‘decent burrito’ in Mexico. It comes in many flavors, you have to find your favorite, but you won’t be starving, ever.

For example, please don’t worry about :

  • food. where Thai people are, there’s always food nearby. And it’s Chiang Mai, so it’s good.
  • ATM : they’re everywhere. EDIT (since I got my debit card cloned in an ATM) : You might want to check the ATM you’re using for ATM skimmers.
  • general store : 7/11 every 200 meters
  • laundry : washing machines near every accommodation
  • finding a room : Chiang Mai has been a destination for tourists, expats and retirees for the last 40 years
  • getting a shared taxi : song taew (shared red pick with two benches) for 20 to 40 THB

finding food (everywhere) or a place to work (around Nimman) is possible 24/7. The 7/11 shops are actually open 24/7

The only times where you need to plan your accommodation in advance is near : Loi Kratong (December) Chinese New Year (start of January), Songkran (mid April)

don’t : steal, disrespect the royal family, get angry

  • shoplifting has very different consequences in Thailand than in your home country
  • the royal family, images of the king and the general concept of monarchy are not open to debate or disrespect. If you need to discuss politics, don’t do it in a public place.
  • angriness has no impact here, except to make the angry person looks stupid. To get what you want, you should smile and insist.

accommodation : between 3k and 15k+ thb a month (+ electricity 300 to 3000 thb a month), depending of your lifestyle. wifi sometimes good, sometimes bad. Fast reliable wifi is possible either in a coffee place with AIS Super Wifi or by getting your own line (one month or more).

get a thai sim card. drive with your international permit. An “instant” payment of the br… fine is usually cheaper (200 thb).

get a thai massage. 1 hour is a good start, 2 hours is the best. 200 thb / hour is the usual farang rate. 95 % of the massage places in CM are actual massage places. You’re not in Pattaya, if you find yourself in a “funny” place, you’ve been looking for it 🙂

food : markets for produce, Rimping for farang food (good wines and bread selection), Tops as a general store. 7/11 for daily snacks. Tesco have more products than 7/11. Big C and Makro for big items / big quantities. Markets usually have the best deal. Chiang Mai Plastics (near Warorot) for household items. Daisy Store in Maya (3rd floor) has surprisingly good value household items too, including wine glasses. Visit Warorot market at least once (once won’t be enough to see all of it).
It’s surprisingly easy to order online at Tops ; they deliver in a few hours (but they’re not always on time)

Ordering not spicy food : pad thai, pad si iew are good bets.  Noodle soup is usually served non spicy and the customer seasons to taste. Avoid som dtam. Avoid the red powder (yes, it’s ground chili). Ask for “mai pet” (“my pet”) (no chili).

electronics : Pantip Plaza (south east), Computer Plaza (north), KSK (Kad Suan Kaew on Huay Kaew Road)

mall : KSK is old but resourceful. Clothes (XL for Men, farang sizes). Phones (3rd floor). Best pharmacist I know (ground floor, Thai-chinese man)

clothes : if it’s cheaper or the same price as in the west, it’s counterfeit (genuine products have an import tax of 100% value). Farang sizes can be found (less choice than in Bangkok). Try XL for men in KSK.

hygiene : if you’re coming outside of the cool season, be prepared to shower 3 to 5 times a day for the first weeks. if not, please join the backpacker crowd. Snake talc powder is cheap and very efficient too.

water quality, from bad to good :

  • tap water
  • filtered/ozoned tap water from white plastic bottles or automatic machines. avoid machines.
  • drinking water (clear bottles)
  • mineral water (clear bottles)

Things to buy at the pharmacy (or 7/11) : snake talc powder, flying rabbit white sirup for occasionnal stomach aches (edit : you can try “Strong Ginger Tincture”, red bottle, works wonders), everything for personal hygiene. The blue ones are farang sized.
I like Watsons, UK people like Boots. The vendors in small pharmacies usually don’t have any clues about medecine. The KSK pharmacist is the best one I’ve encountered.

Places :

  • west of town (Huay keaw road, Nimman, Wat Jet Yod) : digital nomads
  • north (Santitham) expats
  • east (Tha Pae Gate, Loi Kroh) backpackers
  • inside town (the Moat) tourists

that’s a general impression

First days :

  • book a place on tripadvisor or agoda for 3 to 5 days
  • rent a bike for 2500-3000 thb at Mango Bikes or Bikky. EDIT : I can no longer recommend Bikky, since they doesn’t seem to care anymore. A friend of mine got into an accident (and 3 months of reeducation) that wouldn’t have happened if they just have checked the brakes before renting. Go to Mango : owner is a nice guy, the guy who runs the store is competent, and they have recent and well maintained bikes for the same price or less than Bikky.
  • then go see monthly places (you can rent for 1 month at the price of 10 nights). Usual suspects are listed here
  • Go work at CAMP, Maya (you’re supposed to do it at least once to get your Chiang Mai Digital Nomad badge).
  • If you need fast (really FAST) wifi, get an AIS Sim Card and Super Wifi at the AIS Maya store, 3rd floor. Around 200 thb the first month. Only a few places where you can use it (CAMP, a few cafés in Nimman)

Hit the ground running (added 2016/02) :
If you have a work, or need to be working as soon as you arrive in Chiang Mai, these would be my best bets (all tested and recommended by me) :

  • Book a room for a few days at Varada Place (clean and well maintained but small rooms), Chiang Mai Lodge (DN standards), Baan Thai (simple), The Bliss (more comfortable)
  • Get a bike at Mango Bikes (on Ratchaphuek, small shop, close to Small House Kafe, Corner Bistro and Varada Place)
  • Go to PunSpace 2 Tha Pae Gate to work : it’s the best place for those with full or part time jobs (best A/C, best chairs, etc.). It’s so quiet that some say it’s not a “co working” place, but a “working” place.

Enjoy life.

Find new places to work and to eat and report.

Don’t wait for trouble to happen, it probably won’t. If it does, mai bpen rai.

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