Adjusting to Living in Chiang Mai


“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!

By all accounts, the tap water in Chiang Mai is not fit to drink although it’s OK to brush your teeth.  The pipes are so old that a regular filter will not remove the dangerous heavy metals that leach into the water.  So, for drinking and making ice, we either buy large jugs of water at the Supermarket at a cost of $1.15 or fill our containers from the machine on the ground floor of our

Not many Thais speak English and, as newcomers, we certainly don’t speak Thai!  Fortunately, all restaurants and most food stalls post pictures of the various foods available so to order you just say “Number 4” or indicate which picture you want!  It works like a charm!

Thailand, like most of the world, uses the metric system which, for Americans, is another hurdle they’ll have to overcome.  Fortunately, Bill has numerous Apps on his very smart phone so we can figure out almost anything very quickly!

Despite the fact that Thailand (originally known as Siam) was never colonized, there are still signs of British influence.  For instance, cars drive on the left hand side of the road and tea is a popular drink here.

A word of caution on the subject of traffic.  Motor scooters rule!  In the time we’ve been here we have never seen a traffic cop and it seems that motor bikes are above the law!  They park and drive on the sidewalk … yes, the sidewalk … they are allowed to turn left on red lights, and you take your life in your hands when you try to cross the street!  Don’t assume that vehicles will stop at Pedestrian Crossings either!  They are there as a “suggestion” but drivers are not required by law to stop! That said, we haven’t seen any accidents and somehow, in all the chaos, drivers navigate without hitting another car and without their hand on the horn. 

Some times 5 on a bike

Some times 5 on a bike

Amazing!  At our stage of life we are not prepared to drive a motor scooter or ride a bicycle around Chiang Mai even though we see other Expats (mostly young) doing both!

Finally, the sewage system of Chiang Mai (and indeed, all of Southeast Asia) is not capable of processing toilet tissue.  So, on the right hand side of every toilet, including the one in our apartment, is a bidet sprayer (colloquially known as a “bum gun”!) which you use to cleanse yourself, rather than using toilet paper.  If you then use a cleansing wipe and/or toilet paper you deposit this in the lined trash can provided next to the toilet.   We take this trash to a large trash bin supplied on each floor.   The reason for this being the last topic on the blog is that we felt some people we know would not continue to read the blog if we placed it at the top!

In closing, these are a few of the things we’ve noticed in the short time we’ve been here.  We’re sure there will be more to come!  But we are now focusing on the many wonderful new experiences that await us as we become a part of this vibrant community.