Thailand

Our first trip to Southeast Asia. Reasons why we’ve chosen Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand as our temporary base

Last Updated on June 10th, 2019

During one chilly October night we were munching on handmade cookies and tea in the kitchen of my parents’ apartment in Khmelnitskiy, Ukraine. Hearing the sound of pelting rain against the window panes made us bundle up more in the blankets and take another sip of hot tea. It was cold and nasty in Ukraine.

A bigger part of Europe was getting lower temperatures and the only thought about the possibility to spend winter in this depressing weather was giving us chills.

Don’t get me wrong, it was very comfy in my parents’ home. We were welcome to stay as long as we wanted to. However, after spending three winters in a row in Southern California going back into the season with grey and muddy days was a tough thing to do. Besides that, we didn’t come to Ukraine with a goal to stay. We came to visit, recharge and continue our journey. Staying in Europe any longer, where money tends to slip through fingers pretty quickly, also didn’t make any sense. 

It was the right time to start planning our next steps on how to flee the cold. We were just not sure where to go next.

That cold windy October night reminded us though how much we wanted to explore and live in Southeast Asia. Our small talk about the cookies really quickly turned into a conversation about plane tickets and bookings.

No, the decision didn’t come up right away. We had to spend weeks, if not more, surfing the Internet and looking for deals.

Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos? We wanted to visit them all. Since we haven’t been to Asia at all, it didn’t really matter where to fly next. The most important factor was to fly somewhere where it was safe and dry. Going into a moon season didn’t sound that exciting.

After doubting for a while and engaging in excessive information processing, which led to procrastination, we let flight search engines make a choice for us.

We decided to go with the cheapest ticket available at that time and we found an answer. One of the best airlines in the world, Qatar Airways, was offering an amazing deal for less than five hundred dollars for two people from Kiev, Ukraine to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.

Choosing this ticket also meant that we could have a day-long layover in a new to us city Doha, Qatar. It was perfect and right on time.

Northern Thailand

You never know what to expect from a place where you haven’t been to before. We didn’t know a lot of things about Thailand before visiting and had mixed feelings about this country.

After doing our homework we’ve learned that Chiang Mai, a city where we were flying to, was one of the best cities for digital nomads, foodies and nature lovers. Other people were saying it was surrounded by green land and mountains, was famous for unique culture, food, amazing Thai massages, night markets and lots of historical sights.

We’ve been a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But at heart, we knew it would be a great place for us to slow down at, do our work and just enjoy our daily routine. And we were not wrong.

Northern Thailand

There are so many cool things to do in Chiang Mai. This city is not big, is not small. You feel comfortable there right away. 

It surprised us with a vibe, scrumptious food, stunning temples, quirky cafes, the welcoming atmosphere around, low cost of living and people. People here are special. They are kind, down-to-earth and easy going. Locals are open and honest. They try to please you and help in many ways with what they have.

Northern Thailand

After spending almost one month in Northern Thailand we can understand why this land is called “land of smiles” and why everyone is willing to come back. We loved it from the first day of our arrival and don’t want to leave.

There are tons of things one can do here and it’s simply impossible to have them all covered during one month stay.

There are multiple national parks surrounding the city, a bunch of cool retreats, gorgeous temples, lots of historical sights, museums, spas and so much more.

The only downside is that the sea is too far. But there is a chance to go to one of the nearby lakes, swimming pools or even waterparks. They’ll compensate for the lack of beaches quickly. We didn’t come here to vacation every day.

It feels like we’ve seen probably one-fifth part of what this place has to offer and we don’t want to leave.  

Northern Thailand
If you are a nature lover as we are, you’ll definitely fall in love with Chiang Mai too!
Northern Thailand
Yes, there is no beach access in Chiang Mai, but paying a few dollars for a pool day in one of many hotels is not a problem at all

Right after we arrived in Chiang Mai we got very lucky renting a comfy two bedroom apartment with a pool and gym within a gated community.

Finding an apartment with kitchen, washing machine, and all needed accessories in Thailand apparently is a task to do.

Ours came with a washer, mini stove, all plates and dishes, sheets and towels. We got all we needed and the price we paid was only $250 per month. Location of our complex is a bit far from the city center. But we are still in great proximity to markets and shops.

For the entire month, we got our own place and privacy. Our hearts feel sad now because time flies by so fast and we need to leave again soon. We needed to slow down, appreciate small things and Chiang Mai gave us that opportunity. 

Northern Thailand
We would never have the same home for the same price in the U.S.
Northern Thailand
How cool is to be home and enjoy a favorite cup of tea
Northern Thailand
One of our bedrooms
Northern Thailand
The view from our temporarily home

It is definitely thrilling to travel from one place to another with a speed of light. Traveling fast helps to meet new people, try new things and learn a lot.

But we really don’t get less if choose to stay in one place longer. We needed to take some time for our own work, privacy and to decide what is there next for us. Chiang Mai turned out to be a city where we found that.

Anya is Ukrainian-American who is absolutely obsessed with not only seeing the world as a traveler but living on each continent as an expat and digital nomad. She is the founder, editor and author or Road Is Calling. Her main goal is to share her knowledge of travel, hospitality business, online entrepreneurship and how to become an expat through finding jobs around the world. When she is not working on her blog, she is sauntering up mountains, wandering neighborhoods of a new city or simply mastering gluten-free cooking.

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