“Same Same but Different” is a wonderful Thai expression that captures, in a nut shell, what we are experiencing in our initial days living in Chiang Mai. There are many similarities to life in Florida and yet it’s “Different”! Yes, we are living 9,120 miles (14677.22 km) from ‘home’, on a different Continent populated with people of a different culture but we don’t feel uncomfortable or unsafe. There are just a few things to get used to.
The first thing is the time difference! We are now 11 hours ahead of US East Coast Daylight Savings time which means that as we are getting our day started, the day is coming to an end there. In order for us to do business in the States, we have to do it late at night.
Our apartment, like the majority of housing in Thailand, has hot water in the shower only. The bathroom and kitchen sinks have cold water only. This didn’t come as a surprise to us because we found a similar situation while living in Panama where most Panamanians have no hot water – even in the shower!
We were pleased to find that there are three modern, clean, washing machines on the ground floor of our building for tenants to use. The cost is Baht 20 ($0.57) for a regular size load or Baht 30 ($0.85) for a large load. Here’s a look at how it all works.
There are no dryers so we bring the clothes upstairs and dry them on our very small balcony. At the end of the day, everything is ready to be folded and put away! Bill was smart enough to bring “wash and wear” shirts that look great using this process. Priscilla, on the other hand, will have to buy some clothes that dry quickly and don’t require ironing so she can look a little less crumpled!
Chiang Mai has become an Expat haven, attracting people from all over the world – from young (and older) backpackers to mobile business people and retirees. The low cost of living, laid back lifestyle and overall good climate is, in part, responsible for this growth. We had visited Chiang Mai many years before and felt it would be a good place for us to relax for two months before continuing on our trip. Our timing is perfect – the weather continues to cool in October and November and we leave Chiang Mai just before High Season when prices for accommodation increase!
There is so much information online in the form of Blogs, Forums, etc. and we made good use of these resources prior to arrival. However, many of the bloggers were actually backpackers looking for inexpensive accommodations and their modus operandi was to arrive in a city, find a hostel for a few nights then walk the streets until they found what suited them. Needless to say, this would not work for us!
Due to the amount of research that Bill had done over the past six months, we had narrowed our search for a Service Apartment to a particular area of the city and, of course, a particular price. The real estate companies we contacted advised us to get back in touch with them shortly before our arrival at which point they would know what was available. By the time we arrived in Chiang Mai we had narrowed it down to two companies. We spent our first afternoon with one agent and checked out three apartments, none of which met our criteria.
The answer is a resounding “YES” – for the most part! But there are always challenges to overcome and circumstances to adjust to, no matter how well traveled one might be. Take, for instance, the first four days of our six month adventure in Southeast Asia. It was quite a marathon!
Day 1: We were up at 6:00am and driven by a good friend to catch our 9:00am flight from the Orlando Airport to Washington Dulles Airport. With the help of a United Airlines representative, our check-in was quick and easy and we had plenty of time to relax with a coffee and a light breakfast. We were surprised to find that we had been ‘randomly’ selected for the TSA Fast Pass and were soon at the Gate standing in line #4 for boarding. Flight time: 2 hours 9 minutes.
We transferred at Dulles Airport to our ANA flight to Narita and were interested to learn that Economy class passengers all boarded at the same time instead of being called by row number. We saw people lining up but didn’t realize what was happening! By the time we got on board we only just had room to store our two back packs overhead! Lesson learned for our next connection in Narita to Bangkok! Flight time: 14 hours 5 minutes.
Day 2: Crossing the dateline brought us to Bangkok at 11pm. Total flight time: 16 hours 14 minutes – approximately 20 hours with layovers. Our minds and bodies had no idea where we were or what time it was! Airport pick-up, a quick shower and into bed around 1:00am. No wonder we were a couple of basket cases!