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Sometimes you fall so hard for a place you just know you’ll never find another one like it.
For me, that place was Thailand.
I fell so hard for Thailand we decided to stay twice as long as we did for the other SE Asia countries. And because my obsession with Thailand could fill an entire novel, I’ve decided to split this post into multiple parts.
Part 1: Chiang Mai
Okay, let me start with a confession.
Even though I wax poetic about Thailand non-stop to anyone within earshot, we didn’t always feel this way.
In fact, we almost didn’t go to Thailand at all.
After the bombing of the Erawan shrine in Bangkok in 2015, we seriously considered skipping Thailand completely. Despite Bangkok being the most visited city in the whole world and our favourite travel blogger Matt Kepnes picking Thailand as his second home, we were still on the fence. After all, there were so many other countries we could visit in South East Asia. Why bother risking our lives?
As it turns out, we were wrong. Not only were we NOT risking our lives (Chiang Mai, Thailand actually has a lower crime index than Toronto, and attacks are just as likely to happen at home…just look at Quebec) We are SO relieved that we ended up going to Thailand. At the time, our blog friends Jeremy and Winnie from gocurrycracker just happened be in Chiang Mai. So we figured, why not meet up? What are the chances that we’ll be in the same part of the world again?
As it turns out, I’m SO glad Jeremy and Winnie were in Thailand.
If we had stuck to our original (stupid and cowardly) guns, we never would’ve discovered our favourite city in the whole world:
It was in Chiang Mai that we discovered the 3 things we loved the most:
Thailand is known as “the land of a thousand smiles” and it does not disappoint.
From the friendly lady who made the BEST smoothies in town, to our AirBnB host (who went out of her way to drive us to the train station), to pretty much every person we interacted with, we were treated with respect and kindness and no one ever tried to rip us off or raise their voice.
And it wasn’t just the locals either. As the “digital nomad capital of the world”, Chiang is full of entrepreneurs bootstrapping businesses for 1/3 of the cost in North America. In fact, I got 3 job offers just getting a haircut because I met 3 expats there who were looking for software developers.
The mall next to our condo even had a work-share space called “CAMP”, a Thai boxing gym, and a 3-D printing office for start-ups. Chiang Mai had an entrepreneurial energy that made me think of a more laid back Silicon Valley or Waterloo.
Pick up a rock, throw it in a random direction, and chances are you will hit a massage parlour. Thailand is full of experienced, high-quality masseuses, and let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten a $12 oil massage.
I was a little hesitant at first, considering how the last massage I got a massage for a “deal” in Toronto ended up being only slightly more fun than waterboarding, but as it turns out, in Chiang Mai, I had nothing to worry about. The massage I got in Chiang Mai at Green Bamboo turned out to be one of the best massages I’d ever had. And the cost?
300Baht for 1 hour, or $12CAD including tip.
Which is just insane, considering how I used to tip my masseuses $20 for a $90 RMT massage, the full cost of this 1 hour massage was somehow LESS than the tip?!
At $12 a pop, we could get a massage EVERYDAY of the year and still live on only $31,000/year per couple. In Toronto, with the same lifestyle of living in a fancy condo with sauna and pool, eating out, and getting massages, you’d be looking at expenditure of at least $125K year, which would require a combined salary of $165K-200K before taxes. In Thailand, you’re looking at ¼ of the cost and way better weather.
Oh God the food. Where do I even begin? Of all the places we’ve been to in Asia (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam), Thailand wins, hands down for the best night markets and food prices (Malaysia comes in at a close second).
Based on our expat friends’ recommendations, we even discovered the holy grail of all dessert places.
The best part?
The cheesecake surprise in the middle.
So good I’d eat it out of a polar bear’s ass hole. If you’re ever in Chiang Mai, don’t leave until you’ve tried this.
Chiang Mai also had a ton of ridiculously fun things to do. Things like:
This is where I got to meet real elephants up close and feed him bananas. After poking around suspiciously at me with his nose and snarfing up my bananas offering, he decided we could be friends.
Basically you stick your foot in a fish tank and these little fishies chomp away at the dead skin until your feet are smooth like a baby’s butt. Yay?
Since we’ve been stuffing our faces non-stop this whole trip, I decided, hey why not learn how to actually cook it? That way, we can always take a piece of Thailand with us no matter where we go.
But mostly it was just another excuse to stuff more food into our pie holes.
Due to Chiang Mai’s cooler Northern temperatures, mountain climbing is the perfect activity before going back to the Condo and jumping into the pool.
Of all the places we went to in Thailand, Chiang Mai had the perfect temperature at a balmy 27 degree C/ 81 degrees F.
If you love temple hopping, you will love Chiang Mai. If you’re staying anywhere near the Old City (the square, fortress-like thingy on the map), you will be within rock-throwing distance of all the best Thai temples you could want.
Quirky Cat Cafes:
This is a trend that started in Japan, but quickly made it’s way to Chiang Mai and Bangkok. It’s pretty much a coffee shop where you can to sit on comfy cushions and pet cats all day. And the best part? I got to annoy one cat with a mouse toy for so long that he freaked out and tried to claw my eyes out. Good times.
Food, food and more food:
We thought we had it made when we got lobsters for $40 in Boston. In Chiang Mai, you can order an ENTIRE TABLE of seafood (yup, that’s right “a table of” is now a REAL unit of measurement) and eat it with gloves to provide as little barrier between your mouth and the food as possible. The price? $17 CAD for two including drinks!
So after all this craziness, did we break the bank?
|Accommodations||$20||In Chiang Mai, you can easily found brand new condos with pool, gym, and sauna for $575-$600CAD/month. Greatest deal on accommodations ever!|
|Food||$20||Some days we splurged on seafood and all you can eat hot pot, but most days you can eat for even less than $20 a day.|
|Attractions||$11.56||Other than the elephant excursion ($35 CAD/person) and cooking class ($34 CAD/person), we hiked, swam, and temple hopped for free. There was also the awesome 100Baht (or $4 CAD) movie nights every Wednesday. Massages were ridiculously cheap at $12, for 1 hour, including tip. This is where we discovered that even the worst masseuse in Thailand will still likely be the best masseuse in any of the other SE Asian countries. One of our favourite things about Thailand.|
|Transportation||$7.25||We took a red truck-taxi called a Songthaew around the city for only 20-40Baht per person ($1-3 CAD) for a cost of $49.51CAD for the month. And guess what? Uber is also now available in Chiang Mai. To get to Chiang Mai, we took the sleeper train from Penang to Bangkok for $42 CAD/person, and then from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for $42CAD/person.|
Here are the pictures of our $575 CAD/month ($20/day) condo from Airbnb. If you’re signing up for the first time, click here for a $40 CAD/$30 USD credit.
Wow! At only $60 CAD/day/couple, Chiang Mai was, hands down, the best and least expensive place we’d ever been to.
Rating: 6/5 stars. If I wasn’t married already and Chiang Mai was a dude, I’d marry it and have a whole bunch of Chiang Mai babies to spread around the world.
With all the comforts of home, quality massages, and an innovative digital nomad vibe, it was the least expensive city we stayed in. And in terms of safety, it’s actually got a lower crime index than Toronto!
But after spending 2 whole months in Chiang Mai (which still didn’t feel long enough), we realized that there are other cities in Thailand, and we should probably go visit them as well.
So, did they measure up? Find out next week on Part 2.
Okay I know this has nothing to do with the travel post but I just HAD to share this insane news.
Remember how I said Chautauqua Ecuador week 1 SOLD out in just 1 week? Well, due to the demand, a 2nd week has been added for Oct 14-21.
And guess who’s going to be there?
THE Vicki Robin, best-selling author of “Your Money or Your Life”! When I heard about this, I immediately passed out from shock because this is The book that completely changed my life and got me started on the FI journey. That’s why it’s my #1 recommended book in the Financially Independence category.
And if that news isn’t enough to make your head explode, guess who else will be joining us at Chautauqua Ecuador?
Mr. Money Mustache himself!
For those of you who have read this blog from the beginning, you know in almost every post I write I mention MMM in some context because when it comes to Financial Independence, he is THE KING.
And I know that I’ve JUST told you about this, but due to the long waiting list from week 1, we are already more than half sold out for week 2! So I don’t expect this to last much longer.
Here’s your chance to sign up to meet Vicki Robin, Mr. Money Mustache, the GodFather JLCollins, Jesse Mecham (founder of YNAB), and myself! Trust me, this is going to EPIC and you don’t want to miss it!
Now, if you need me, I’ll be putting my head back together and trying not to end up in the hospital from too many fan-girling related injuries today.
For more details, click here.
To register, click here.
Come meet us at this year's Chautauqua UK! Details here