This post covers our flat hunting experience upon arrival in Chiang Mai. Finding a flat in Chiang Mai is easy but as we wanted to walk everywhere, we took more effort to live in the perfect area for us.
Orientation of the city
DAY 1: So we just arrived yesterday – having taken the 2nd class night train service, we arrived just before 9am. We didn’t want to commit on a place to live from back home over the internet as we wanted to get a feel for the city, the different areas, how easy it might be to walk between places, and how our life might unfold over the next few months. So we set out to do just this: we got ourselves a free map from our hostel and using the wifi, pin pointed down names of condominiums and apartments to check out around town, as well as the rock climbing venue and a few of the muay thay gyms. And then we just started walking.
DAY 1 went by pretty fast….
DAY 2: first thing we got ourselves a thai phone so we could call the letting agents and private landlords to arrange viewings of the places we took a liking to, and also so we could be contacted by the agents we emailed without having to constantly check our email. Calling and emailing, we arranged several viewings for the next day. Having only booked two nights accommodation in our hostel, we just booked an extra night as our flat hunting continued. (this wasn’t a problem at all for us, in the low season)
DAY 3: We started the day visiting apartments with an estate agent. We were shown one near the Maya shopping centre in a condominium block which had been newly renovated and as such looked very nice inside:
Our estate agent (whom we had just found very easily browsing online for flats in Chiang Mai), advised us that this condominium would get very noisy, as it was near a construction site and offered to show us a couple of different places further East. This was where he himself lived.
These apartments looked similar to the above photos, newly renovated but in a quieter more residential area of Chiang Mai. However as we had kept our budget to under 10000 baht/month, they seemed to be located in an area that was slightly less picturesque and vibrant than the centre of town.
Our next appointment was at 5pm with a landlord we had called from an advert in Hillside 3 condominium, which was conveniently located nearby Nimmanhaemin road, a trendy street near the university with a lot of bars and restaurants where it seemed a lot of expats chose to live. It was now midday.
As we were both set on climbing whilst here in Chiang Mai, we wanted to be near a climbing gym and the only gym we knew of: CMRCA was was going to be a fair distance from all of the apartments we had visited so far, including Hillside 3. So we started looking for nearby apartments and alternate climbing venues. We came across Smith residence, which seemed perfect from the reviews, the location to the climbing, but also restaurants, bars and the cost was within our budget. We were happy and thought this is it!!
And then we found the NO GRAVITY climbing venue: unfortunately they do not have a website, just a facebook. We had to check it out….so we walked there, which was a trek. But it was AMAZING! There were so many routes. It was bouldering and climbing, unlike the CMRCA which is only bouldering, the space was bigger and it felt a little cooler (I think….). Anyways it had to be there that we trained ! We hadn’t done much lead climbing or sport climbing and wanted to get some practise in before heading out to the Buttress.
So there we were….back at square 1. Except not quite! We had determined what was important for us, or thought so anyways:
Our apartment check list
1. Walking distance to No Gravity
2. Walking distance to cafes with wifi for a nice study environment
3. Walking distance to food stalls as we didn’t want to cook ourselves: as a European this sounds ludicrous, however you can get a thai meal for about 50 baht (£1), which is delicious and you don’t have to worry about shopping, food going off, or cleaning the dishes. It just makes sense and seems to be what most people do here anyways.
4. Fridge in the room to keep water and breakfast items (milk, juice, fruit)
5. A desk in the room to study there sometimes
[update – in the end we mainly worked in cafes so a desk wasn’t as necessary as we first thought]
6. Within the 10000 baht/month with bills included
7. Powerful fan, we actually though aircon was not necessary – Thailand has very powerful fans !!
[update – we ended up living in rooms with aircon for the hot season and actually would probably advise this]
Anyways we cancelled our Hillside3 visit and went into every guesthouse and condominium that we could find that satisfied the above conditions. People were very happy to show us the rooms even without prior arrangement and this proved a very efficient way to visit as many places as possible.
By this stage though we were starting to get very tired of flat hunting and just wanted to settle in somewhere.
On the internet that evening we kept browsing and found a guesthouse (CS House) which we though hit the nail on the head! It had a nice terrace to work, seemed to be off the tourist bit, which we felt would be quieter, and was very close to NO GRAVITY !
Test and Commit
DAY 4: Woke up and called CS House to check if they did long term rentals. They did !! Hurray. We checked in there for a night to test it.
Well….it was super quiet. The owners were so friendly and kind. It was the right location. It was walking distance to this wonderful cafe that also runs a charity for thai minority groups and refugees. But, it did not have a desk, it did not have a fridge and felt too much like a hotel room.
We deliberated that night….and realised there was a place that was suitable but they asked for 12,000 baht a month with all bills. So we wrote to them and asked whether we could negotiate. They got back and agreed 10,000baht/month ~£180 !!
So after 4 days of research, we checked into Tri Gong residence for a month – 15mins to No Gravity climbing wall, 5mins to many food stalls, cafes, bars and restaurants:
Final thoughts on the areas of Chiang Mai after our research:
Old City – This is the square, moat enclosed, old centre of town. It is actually affordable to live here and has a number of long and short term guesthouses. However these will feel like hotel rooms and you will feel like a traveller. It also is the centre for tourists and ex-pats meeting up, but there are quieter streets with Thais living there. Ultimately we stayed here for the convenience of walking everywhere but many people don’t want the noise and short term feel of the accommodation.
Nimmanhaemin – This is the student area, and coolest place for nightlife in the city. It also has lots of cafes and shopping if that is your thing. It is a 30-40 min walk from the centre of the old city, but that is while sweating in the heat. There are longer term condominiums and guest houses again for reasonable prices. It gets busier at night with the young and beautiful Thais on their scooters, partying but is still a leafy pretty area.
North of Old City – Quickly becomes a quieter, Thai neighbourhood, and 15mins extra walk might knock 15% off accommodation. But fewer cafes etc. However location of the best climbing wall and only cross fit gym.
South of Old City – Busier than its northern counterpart. It is the location of the walking market and lots of great food options. Though to be honest good food is almost everywhere central. Near some good yoga & evening salsa places.
East of Old City – Tourist area spills out into this direction, with good food and drinking options. It is also the location of Chiang Mai’s seedier but to be honest I think safe and non threatening Loi Kroh Road, go-go bars etc.
Further Out – I don’t have extensive experience of these areas, but in general it is as you might expect. Going out further ~5-10km you can get more suburban areas with gardens and proper detached houses, or just cheaper flat accommodation, and I am assured if you have a scooter then it is not difficult to commute into the centre. Special mention should be given to the area East of the city where on the slopes of the nearby Doi Suthep hill you can live in a forest area or have a good view of it.
Share your thoughts about living in Chiang Mai.