We just spent five days in Chiang Mai. Our original goal was to give our bodies a rest from cycling, get our bicycles tuned up for the next leg of our journey, and do some “vacation” type activities like eat Western food and go to a movie. All of our goals were accomplished. We rented a motor scooter while our bikes were being fitted with new chains and cassettes. We watched the movie “Interstellar” and we ate things like burgers, pizza, pork tenderloin, and steak fajitas, the latter which by the way, caused us to extend our “vacation” by one day because of giving Eric an intense bout of food poisoning.
Our mini vacation was good, minus the stomach tango, but the real benefit to our stay in Chiang Mai was the exposure to the many different foreigners who have retired there. We met people from all over the world who chose to spend all or part of each year in this lovely, small crossroads between the northern and southern trade routes. (I learned about this from my afternoon at the museum).
I’m curious about how and why people move halfway across the world to spend the rest of their life. Our five-day sojourn, thanks to our Warmshower’s host who has chosen to retire in this city, exposed us to many different people, some of the local bars and restaurants, and many of the local conveniences- post office, shopping, pharmacy, grocery store that carries peanut butter, etc.
Here are some of the things I learned about Chiang Mai as a retirement destination:
The cost of living is low. For about $20,000/year a person can live quite comfortably – a nice two bedroom flat, good meals, money for entertainment and some travel in SE Asia.
It has the feel of a small, friendly village with the conveniences of a large city – malls, good restaurants (well, maybe not Mexican food), live music, plenty of sports activities like tennis, volleyball, golf, hiking, biking, yoga.
It would survive without the tourists, unlike some of the Thailand beach places. Sure, there are a lot of tourists in Chiang Mai, but there are also several good universities including a medical school and lots of businesses, industry, and farming.
It has a large expat community so it’s easy to find someone who speaks your language.
It has a “cool” season. Sure, it gets hot in the summer months, but right now its perfect. Mid 70’s, sunny, green, less humid. As a matter of fact, tonight will be my first in over a year without air-conditioning.
It has a good airport, train station and plenty of local buses, plus it cyclist and motor scooter friendly. You don’t need a car.
But most importantly, it has a restaurant that makes a delicious Eggs Benedict.
Could we retire here?
Me: Probably not. It’s too far from family. I haven’t seen many expat women my age, There are many twenty somethings or locals who don’t speak enough English. Sure, I could learn more Thai but it would be years (or probably never) before I could share my deepest thoughts.
Eric: Probably yes. He’s already made lots of buddies. He likes the slower pace, the weather, the convenience, the cost, the friendliness.
In any event, this layover in Chiang Mai has been enlightening in our journey of cycling for retirement.