Category Archives: Chiang Mai

This is our 2nd Christmas in Chiang Mai, and our fifth in Thailand! Learn where to shop for the holidays and what restaurants are open, plus where to get baked goods for the holidays.

Christmas in Chiang Mai

This is our 2nd Christmas in Chiang Mai, and our fifth in Thailand! Learn where to shop for the holidays and what restaurants are open, plus where to get baked goods for the holidays.

We just celebrated our 5th Christmas in Thailand, and the second of which we spent here in Chiang Mai.

If you usually celebrate Christmas in a place that actually has winter ( as in snow), you’re probably wondering what it’s like to celebrate the holiday season here in Thailand. To be honest, I do miss the white Christmases that we had when we lived in Italy, the UK, and South Korea, but even though Thailand is a Buddhist country, many Thais ( and of course expats) celebrate Christmas, to some degree.

Every year, the department stores ( like Maya, Gad Suan Kaew, Central, etc) have a Christmas decorations and do a great job decorating. Christmas lights are also sold at most hardware stores, and at places like Big C and Makro ( top floor).

Restaurants in Chiang Mai are typically open on Christmas day, and many have a special set menu available or some type of holiday dish.

Nic’s family restaurant in Hang Dong does a fantastic job with creating holiday menus and events, especially on Halloween and Christmas. This year, they had Santa swing bye for the kids to chat with, and their set menus had both vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

If you happen to be in Chiang Mai during Christmas and don’t have the ability to bake holiday goodies, I suggest ordering a cake ( or two!) from Butter is Better and California Wraps. Both have gluten-free options too. Sadly, I haven’t found mince pies anywhere in town, but I’ll keep asking as I’m sure I’m not the only Brit looking for them!

The only thing that’s hard to find in Chiang Mai during the holidays is good, Christmasy wrapping paper. We bought our from Makro and it’s not the best, but we managed to use two sheets to wrap a large lego set Santa brought for Kaya.

When it comes to shopping, the malls have a plethora of different toys, clothing, and pretty much everything else. We usually shop at small stores and our local Wednesday market ( at Kad Farang) and ‘Santa’ got Kaya’s lego sets from a small shoe slash Lego store in the Mali Market, located in Hang Dong. The store is near the Pancake House and looks like it only sells shoes but it has an excellent assortment of legos inside.

The Wednesday market at Kad Farang has several toy stalls, including one that is across from Wine Connection ( in the parking lot). We purchased Shopkins-like toys and other stocking stuffers there, and have previously ordered a Scooby Doo lego set from the owner, who is extremely friendly and willing to look for special items.

Coffee shops also make sure to get festive during Christmas. While we always go to independant cafes, I do enjoy going to Starbucks for a holiday coffee in December. They sell some really nice mugs too! Cafe Kantary also got festive and has two hot cocoa specials with a mashmallow snowman, as well as Christmas cookies. And their decorations are by far the best I’ve seen at any place in Chiang Mai! The above Instagram photo with Kaya is taken outside their Kad Farang cafe.

Have you spent Christmas in Chiang Mai? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Thinking about moving to Chiang Mai? Read my thoughts on the pros and cons of living here.

Should you move to Chiang Mai?

Thinking about moving to Chiang Mai? Read my thoughts on the pros and cons of living here.

Thinking about moving to Thailand but aren’t sure which city, town, or island to choose?

After living in this beautiful country for over 5 years, I’ve discovered that Chiang Mai-as busy and touristy as parts of it may be- is perhaps the best place for our family. We tried living in Bangkok for a month, and though there were wonderful networking opportunities and people we connected with, it was too busy for us. I practically had a panic attack everyday. It wasn’t the type of lifestyle we were used to, especially after having lived in Phuket for years.

And speaking of Phuket: as lovely as it is, it also wasn’t the best place for us. Since we homeschool, we need activities and a community of like-minded holistic families, and Phuket just doesn’t have it. That’s not to say there aren’t some like-minded young families there, but we personally haven’t met any! And we lived there for five years! The homeschool community was dispersed throughout the island, and there weren’t many of us. On top of that, island life was so laid-back that it was borderline impossible to get people to come over to our house or to even go out for lunch. We just didn’t make any close friends, until we met our two chef friends Than and Jack.

But Chiang Mai is a bit of both Bangkok and Phuket, mixed with its own unique Lanna culture. It’s a city, but it’s relaxed. And like in Phuket, the touristy parts are easy to avoid, if you know your way around the city and choose to perhaps live in Hang Dong, or Mae Rim.

The Plus Points of Living In Chiang Mai

There are numerous benefits to living in Chiang Mai. For starters, there are lots of schooling options for children, as well as other family-friendly activities. And if you also homeschool ( or unschool) your kids like we do, you’ll appreciate the fact that there are hundreds of homeschooling families up here.

If you’re looking to learn Thai or continue your education, you will probably love Chiang Mai University, which has a Thai studies department. I studied there for about three months and loved it!

Payap University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in English, and our friends that teach there ( or study there) really love it. It too offer Thai language classes, and I believe you can also get your TEFL cert.

Because of the number of schools and universities in Chiang Mai, you can most probably easily find work as an ESL teacher. Billy taught English in Phuket, and found his job by applying to an add in the local paper. We recommend you do the same, and also possibly research schools and actually visit them with your CV. The more proactive you are, the better your chances will be to find work.

Chiang Mai has lots of health conscious farang and Thais too. Mostly the former, but a growing number of the latter are delving into juicing and healthy eating. To meet this demand, there are dozens of vegan, vegetarian, and organic restaurants, stores, and food stalls. This makes it relatively easy to get the vitamins and such that you may need. We live right next to a wonderful juice bar that serves up a mean smoothie!

And if you want a more hi-so grocery store option, you will probably love Rimping, which has a variety of beer and cheese and other imported items, when the craving arises. It also stocks lots of gluten free baking products, although they are extremely expensive. We instead order from iHerb, which is also where we get our vitamins and things we can’t find locally.

Living in Chiang Mai is relatively affordable too, especially if you are outside of the city center. My friend is renting a brand new condo for about 200 dollars a month, and my neighbor’s Bali-style two bedroom house is 8000 baht per month.

If you happen to be Christian, you’ll find that there are many denominations up here in Chiang Mai, especially in comparison to Phuket. I’ve even bumped into Mennonites here! There are of course thousands of Buddhist temples here too, and other religious centers.

Should you move to Chiang Mai?

The Downside To Living In Chiang Mai

The stereotype of the drunk, obnoxious 20 year old backpacker that dons elephant pants everyday exists for a reason. Granted, I have nothing against this type of person ( although I can’t stand the elephant pants uniform for tourists), but if they drive drunk or outnumber locals, it gets on my nerves.

If you are going to be working here, you may find the pay to be less than what you would get in Bangkok. My husband earned about 30K baht per month as an ESL teacher ( with years of experience) in Phuket, and I’m guessing the wage for teachers may be around that here in Chiang Mai. You can make more in BKK, or better yet, in Korea or Japan.

Immigration gets super busy, and depending on which visa you’re on and which immigration office you go to, you could end up waiting in line at 5AM so that you get your visa the same day.

If you want to rent a car here, expect to pay 15000 to 20000 baht per month, unless you get a really good deal through a friend ( or just get lucky) and find a rental for 12K.

Another thing to consider ( that my friends have told me about) is you can get ‘faranged’ if you don’t speak Thai and are at a larger, more touristy market. Aka, you can end up paying more. Funny enough, I haven’t had this happen to me here because we live in Hang Dong and go to local markets, and I speak decent Thai.

The traffic into the city ( and within the city center around Maya) can get bad. Really bad. This is usually during the typical hours, aka when people are coming home from work or picking up their kids from school.

Pollution during the burning months is extremely bad, although I didn’t personally have much of a reaction to it and think the air quality was slightly better here in Hang Dong. Or at least, it was this past year. The pollution comes from a combination of farmers burning their old crops mixed with pollution from other parts of Asia. If you have asthma or a serious health condition, you should notify your doctor about it and get their opinion. Or, spend those months in a different part of the country.

If you are feeling like Chiang Mai is the place for you and your family, read my free guide to living here for extra tips!

Do you live in Chiang Mai or are considering moving here? Let me know in the comments below!
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chiang mai for families

Chiang Mai for families

chiang mai for families

One of the primary reasons we decided that after living in Phuket for more or less 5 years we’d relocated to Chiang Mai is there are tons of things to do here for kids.

Don’t get me wrong, Phuket has loads of beaches ( as you probably know) and outdoor activities that are fantastic, but if you live there long-term you may find it a wee bit lacking for other family-friendly activities.

Chiang Mai happens to have many expat families from around the world that are based here, for a number of reasons. From Menonite missionaries to professors and even diplomats, expats have decided that this part of the country is an excellent place to raise kids. And it’s not just expats that feel that way. Many of our Thai friends from Phuket raved about the alternative schools here in Northern Thailand.

In today’s post, I’m sharing tips on how to find regular activities for your children  if you’re coming here long-term, as well as family-friendly travel tips for a short term stay.

Indoor Play Areas

Almost every mall in Thailand ( or Bic C) has a play area for kids. Promenada Resort Mall has perhaps the largest ( and priciest) and is our daughter’s favorite. The staff there are incredible attentive and friendly, plus there’s a little cafe for parents to hang out at while their kids are having in an array of things for children to do.

Maya has a playroom that’s great for younger children, and the same goes for Kad Suan Gaew’s retro playroom. The latter is across from a very old school, awesome arcade and game area, while Maya’s game area has loads of modern gaming options.

Central Airport Mall has our daughter’s second favorite play area, which has a baking and colouring station for kids to create in, as well as go carts.

As I mentioned, most Bic C’s and some larger Tescos have indoor play areas too. They are usually located near the food court.

Family-Friendly Restaurants

You’ll find the majority of restaurants in Thailand to be family-friendly, except for perhaps food stalls on a busy Bangkok soi. But even then, kids can find the hustle and bustle of street food fun!

But if you have a toddler/preschooler, you’ll love taking them to Nic’s where they can play in the hand-made bamboo boat or on the trampoleen while you and your partner have dinner. Or wine. Or coffee!

Nic’s is very popular with local and expat families that live in Hang Dong, and many of the kids that play there attend the buddhist school nearby. The kid-themed menu has everything from vegetarian croquettes to ‘spider’ pizza, plus smoothies and other yummy treats.

Thai dishes are around 100 baht and farang food is roughly 150 and up.

Another restaurant I think kids will enjoy is Ohkajhu, which is extremely popular with Thai families. Our friends have two young children that really enjoy walking around the large restaurant and looking at the organic lettuce and rosemary that’s growing in the front. There is a tractor that our daughter loves to hop on and pretend she’s a farmer.

 Dance Classes

Whether you’re homeschooling/unschooling in Chiang Mai or want to supplement some after school activities, chances are that at some point your lovely kiddos may want to take an art or dance class.

Thankfully, Chiang Mai has a number of schools and activity programs. Sangdao Dance offers ballet, jazz, and modern dance classes. The Russian Ballet in Kad Farang ( Hang Dong) is also an option. The teacher is a very nice man from the Philipines who has lots of experience teaching everything from hip hop to jazz.

Movie Theaters

Chiang Mai has several large movie theaters that show the usual Hollywood kids movies, as well as the latest in Asian cinema.

Because I’m a fan of everything retro, I personally think the cinema at the top of Kad Suan Gaew is pretty sweet, but the majority of the movies they show are dubbed in Thai.

The most popular cinemas are those at Maya, Central Airport, and Promenada.

chiang mai for families

Museums & Gardens

Art in Paradise is a fun place for family members of all ages. The 3d art makes it look as though you’re part of the painting/display. There is a similar museum in Phuket Town that opened recently, in case you’re heading down South.

Here in Hang Dong, you’ll find the beautiful Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden that is popular with locals who like to take strolls or cycle around the area at night, when it’s not as hot. It has a variety of plants from all of the country.

 

Walking Market

Although touristy, Chiang Mai’s walking market on Sunday makes for a great outing. Kids love  grabbing a cup of fresh passion fruit or juice as they peruse the stalls.

The Walking Market is also in a fantastic location, and if you go early enough you can beat the crowd.

Chiang Mai Zoo

If you’re looking for something a wee bit more affordable than the Night Safari, check out the local zoo. We personally haven’t had a chance to go but I’ve heard it’s OK, and we plan on checking it out sometime this summer.

Homeschool Coop

For Christian homeschooling and unschooling families, the local homeschool coop may be a great place to get the kiddos together with other homeschoolers their age. They offer classes in everything from chess to model UN.

chiang mai for families

Other Activities

Do you have a child that has taken an interest in robots? You’ll be happy to know that in Kad Farang there is a small robotics school!

Monk chat would be a fun thing for teens to partake in. Many wat ( temples) in the city center have a day when you can sit and chat with a monk, which helps him learn English and also gives you the ability to learn basic buddhist concepts.

Cooking schools here in Chiang Mai may offer classes that kids of all ages can partake in. This is a fantastic way to get your kiddos interested in helping you out in the kitchen, and I think cooking in general is an excellent way to help them build creative skills, as well as their confidence. Because we’re a big fan of Southern Thai cuisine, we haven’t yet found a school that offers the type of dishes we want to cook ( like gaeng som) so we have yet to take cooking classes here in the city, but I’m investigating if there are schools that will allow you to cook Thai dishes that aren’t the usual green curry/phad thai type of deal. Most schools  have a set menu that you can learn to cook, with vegetarian options frequently available.

I’ve heard great things about Benny’s Home Cooking school, and have seen photos on Instagram of kids taking lessons. They have several menus you can choose from, including some Lanna specialties and dishes from Isaan.

If English is your child’s second language, you’ll find many small English schools ( such as Kumon) that offer short and long-term ESL classes for kids of all ages.

And if your high school grad is interested in studying Thai while you’re here, Chiang Mai University has both long-term ( 1 year) and short term Thai language classes. I studied at CMU and loved my professor! The year long program would be fantastic if you have a teen that is taking a gap year before going into Uni.

For younger kids, you will find a number of clay modeling studios in malls throughout Thailand, including Central Festival in Phuket, and I believe there is one near the playroom/game area in Kad Suan Gaew.

Public swimming pools offer a great way to beat the heat. We go to our local one in Hang Dong ( the Kad Farang swimming club), where it costs non-members 40-60 baht each time they go for a swim. If you get the year pass it costs less.

For the martial artists in your family, they will be pleased to find a plethora of options and dojos. Kad Farang ( that I keep mentioning because I live next to it) has a tae kwon do place upstairs, as well as gymnastics and yoga.

What family activities do you recommend here in Chiang Mai? I’d love to keep adding to this list and look forward to hearing your tips & suggestions!
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A free guide to living in Chiang Mai

Live in Chiang Mai: A Free Guide

 

 A free guide to living in Chiang Mai

After visiting Northern Thailand last year, we decided to hold off on moving to Canada and instead move to Chiang Mai. We actually prefer Chiang Rai ( a wee bit quieter and more laid back) but have so far loved living in Chiang Mai.

Or Hang Dong, rather, which is just outside the city.

Hang Dong is quiet and not touristy, and yet also has many of the amenities that Phuket had, from Makro ( similar to Cosco), Big C, wet markets, Central, and Rimping ( an upscale market similar to Villa in Phuket). In addition, you can find an array of restaurants and street food. Everything from good pizza to curries and vegan restaurants are easy to find in Chiang Mai and Hang Dong.

Our Area

We chose to move to Hang Dong for several reasons, one of which is that we have friends here. We stayed at their hotel and had time to explore the area while plotting our move. Initially we thought we’d end up in the city, but instead found an affordable 13K Baht per month  semi furnished 3 bedroom house with an attached office in the front. Our townhouse in Phuket Town was 15K per month fyi, so we’re actually saving money and have a bigger place!

Our area is beautiful, surrounded by rice paddies. And a bunch of little sois with cement walls. Yeah, the last part is kind of creepy when you’re driving or walking at night! But it’s super safe and the people here are wonderful.

We live near Kad Farang, a popular market that includes several restaurants and a Rimping shopping mall. The best part of Kad Farang are the two days when there is a huge market. Filled with food stalls and super cheap clothing and toys, you can basically spend your entire evening having dinner and shopping.

Living in Chiang Mai

living in Chiang Mai

Some of our favorite farang restaurants in the area include Viva Pizza and California Wraps, the latter of which is in the Hang Dong Makro.

 

Living in the city

While many of my classmates from Chiang Mai University live out here by us, several live on campus or in the city center. It’s important to note that like Phuket or any other place in Thailand, each soi or road ( or neighborhood) is going to have something different to offer, and it’s best you spend time investigating each neighborhood to find what place is best for you.

With that being said, I’m going to tell you about my favorite haunts in Chiang Mai that may be draws for you, and give some tips to find an affordable house, apartment, or condo.

Let’s start with househunting. After living in Thailand for 5 years, I can confidently say the best way to find an affordable place that meets your requirements is to look when you get here and ask around. Don’t spend hours househunting online from afar. You’ll probably get ripped off.

There are however some Facebook groups for Chiang Maiers that may offer you some leads.

We found our current house from our friends, who are Thai and can therefore read the signs better than I can ( although I’m slowly progressing). They drove nearby ( literally 2 minutes from their place) and saw ours, then called the number and found out that the person who takes care of the house also runs a small cafe they go to.

We settled on the house then and there!

Our friend Jay found his furnished apartment on CMU campus by walking around. This is the best way to find a place if you don’t know anyone in Chiang Mai, and it was how we found our town house in Phuket Town.

Another option is to ask the reception desk at your hotel or wherever you plan on staying until you find a place. Ask if they know of anyone renting a place or had seen a sign advertising a rental.

Living in Chiang Mai

Or conversely, you could do what we first did when we moved to Phuket and find a place online. As I mentioned, chances are high it will cost you more than if you walk around and find a place on your own. It’s up to you!

We know several people who have lived at some point near Maya shopping mall. If you don’t mind the traffic and tourists and plan on going to Nimmanhemin Road and have a love of ramen, you may like that area.

Again, it all boils down to what you’re looking for in a neighborhood. We prefer a quieter area with amenities, and therefore like Hang Dong.

 

Where To Shop

We do most of our shopping at the markets in our area, one of which is at Kad Farang on Mondays and Wednesdays. Everything from organic vegetables to 100 baht dresses ( that I LOVE) can be found there. But the trendy ( and somewhat pricey) Rimping next to it is a great place to pick up imported items like cheese and beer. Because we all like cheese and beer, right?

living in Chiang Mai

Makro is another place to find imported and bulk items, and is popular with both Thais and farang. On Sunday you can get some mean street food from the Sunday Market starting at Taphae Gate down Ratchadamnoen Road. This is a major tourist attraction and gets mobbed, especially during high season. It’s still pretty awesome, and isn’t as crazy as say Patong, and you can pick up everything from home items to street food and juice.

Then there is my favorite janky-yet-epic mall, Kad Suan Kaew. While the Thais tend to find this mall pretty low on there favorite places to hang out in the city, I find Kad Suan Kaew to be pretty darn awesome. It’s design is Lanna style and has an old school movie theater on the top floor that has hand-painted designs of movie posters from the 90s. You can get a tattoo, see a movie, and grab some coffee at this mall. And get lost in its semi-abandoned back area.

But back to shopping..

At the bottom of Kad Suan Gaew you’ll find a Tops Supermarket at the bottom to get groceries. And on maybe the second or third floor you’ll find a Central to pick up makeup, Christmas decorations, and even a lazy boy recliner if you so choose.

There are many other places to shop, including the Night Bazaar on Thanon Chang Khlan and Central Airport.

 How To Get Around

The most popular modes of transport for Thais and farang is either a motorbike or songtaew ( open bus slash truck type of thing). There are two types of songtaew, yellow and red. The latter you can pay to take you anywhere, but it costs more. The yellow is affordable and takes you into town essentially. Because we typically rent a car, I’ve only taken songtaews here a few times but love them!

Car rentals, while we’re on that topic, are way overpriced here, just as they are overpriced in Phuket. Think about 500USD per month, unless you have a friend that has a friend that will rent one to you for a good price. We currently aren’t renting a car because our rental company decided to break our contract and rent to short term tourists, as they thought they could make more dinero. And chances are they’re right as it’s high season. But since we live near several markets and restaurants and I had to put a pause on my Thai Studies at CMU ( to my dismay) we don’t really need a car. We can walk or cycle up the road and get everything we need.

I want to say one thing about renting a motorcycle: we’ve seen many farang friends get into accidents. Only rent a motorcycle if you are confident driving here, and of course please don’t get wasted and drive. Yes, they are affordable. And yes, the Thais drive them. But they also know how to drive here ( in general) and so many farang don’t. And since many people probably do have a few Hong Tongs and drive- despite it being illegal- you want to make sure you’re a confident driver that can act fast when you have cyclists, songtaews, trucks, cars, tuk tuks, and even random tourists walking in the middle of the road. As well as the odd soi dog.

With that rant now over, you can easily find motorcycle and bicycle rentals throughout the city for a good rate.

Live in Chiang Mai

Questions I’m Often Asked

Is it safe?

Yes, very. Crime happens everywhere but Thailand is in general a very safe country.

Are the hospitals OK? Clean? etc?

Yep. Because I’ve only been in Chiang Mai for about 6 months, I know Phuket’s hospitals better but they have Bangkok Hospital here, and we’ve been to one of the local ones in Hang Dong. We are more into natural healthcare so I’ve only been once ( to drive someone who needed stitches) but the facilities of most hospitals are that of any Western one.

Some are better than others though. I would ask around when you get here for a good, affordable hospital in your area.

Are there too many foreigners in Chiang Mai?

I got asked this question regarding Phuket so often it made me mad as the people who asked it had no idea about the various parts of Phuket and would think Phuket equals Patong.

Look, Chiang Mai draws many tourists, especially young backpackers. And expats. But just like in Phuket or any other popular part of the country, it depends on where you go.

Here in Hang Dong, it’s nice and quiet 🙂

What about food poisoning?

in the late 80s, I was hospitalized in Bangkok after coming down with a fever. That is the last time I was really sick in this country. I’ve had minor upset tummy but I eat mostly spicy Thai food, so it happens mate.

I have had friends get sick ( one of which had a son hospitalized) after eating chicken or ofal. This includes Thai friends who eat chicken often, so I’m guessing it may be because of bacteria at the open markets and how the chef cooks the food.

Most of my Thai and farang friends have never had food poisoning, even if they eat street food 24/7.

If you do get food poisoning, you can get both natural remedies and drugs at the pharmacy. Look for the sign that says ‘ya’, which means drugs. I would write it in Thai but I’m not sure how to with my English keyboard…

How can I get a long-term visa?

This is always changing, but in the 5 years I’ve lived in Thailand I have had almost every type of visa possible. You can get a 90 day visa ( 60 days which you can renew for another 30 days) at a Thai embassy in say Penang, or you can just stick with the 1 month visa on arrival.

I currently have an educational visa which is 3 months, 3 months, then 6 months. Aka, a year. You get it renewed at immigration here in Thailand.

Is Chiang Mai a good place for homeschooling and unschooling families?

YES! This is one of the main reasons we finally left Phuket. I could go on a rant about the social issues of the island, but I’ll save you my thoughts on that subject! Phuket is a wonderful, beautiful place and really felt like home to me, but I’m glad we made the move up here.

There are a number of homeschooling families as well as unschoolers like us. We have personally met a family of 4 who homeschools, as well as several others here in Hang Dong. Both Thai and farang families, I should add.

Finding extracurricular activities for kids can be a bit of a pain as the majority of places offering say art classes and such aren’t advertised online, or maybe they are but are just in Thai. Or are simply word of mouth. For example, I had someone ask me where her daughter can take singing classes here and I googled for a while and found nothing. That’s not to say there aren’t singing lessons, I just will have to ask around and do some research.

 

I’m a digital nomad and work online. Are there many meet ups or like minded entrepreneurs and bloggers there?

You probably already know my answer to this if you’re a travel blogger. Yep, there are! In fact the travel blogging community kind of looks at Chiang Mai as a hub. You can find a plethora of Facebook groups for entrepreneurs based here.

I hope this short guide helps you get settled here in Chiang Mai! I promise to add to it in the weeks to come, as I get to know the area even more and get additional suggestions for housing, hospitals, and more.

I don’t speak Thai. Is that going to be a problem?

Nope! While I suggest learning Thai to deepen your understanding of the culture and to also learn about what to order at restaurants ( and how to make substitutions and such), most signs are in English. And most Thais speak English, to a degree.