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A couple weeks ago I announced a new guest post series highlighting daily life in different places around the world. I’m starting it out with a post of my own from living in Chiang Mai, but if you’re an expat or are traveling/staying in a one place long enough that you’ve developed a daily routine and understanding of local life I want to hear all the little details.
If you’re interested in participating please shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the details.
My typical day in Chiang Mai has changed considerably over the past couple of years – starting out teaching at a high school from 7:45 a.m. – 4:50 p.m. everyday, to now having a more flexible schedule and better understanding of this place. Many things though, the little things that make up the day and life in Thailand, have stayed the same.
I’ve lived on my own in the bottom floor of house, slept for months in the back of a tattoo shop (not as strange as it first sounds considering many people throughout Southeast Asia live where they work…but still probably not something my parents appreciated hearing), and now live in an apartment just on the edge of town. While there are many travelers within the Old City of Chiang Mai and certain pockets just outside of it, the area around my apartment building is fairly green, with smaller apartment buildings, local Thai shops and few hotels or guesthouses. It feels real.
Every morning I ride my motorbike into town, dodging the increasing number of cars that are clogging the roads and help open my boyfriend’s shop, usually getting funny looks from people as they pass the white girl unlocking a tattoo studio and watering plants. After that, we’ll go to a nearby temple to tum boon, or make merit, by giving a little money. Everywhere you look there are temples and every home and building has their own shrines and spirit houses that they’ll make daily offerings – a little food, water (or red Fanta), flowers or incense – to, usually in the morning.
There’s a great coffee place just down the soi, but I’ve gotten into the local habit of having a packet of Nescafe 3-in-1 instead. For lunch I’ll often eat at a little place right around the corner where the two older women serve practically any Thai dish you could think of for just 25 baht – less than $1. I then work on my computer and try not to get too hot. Even though I’ve gotten more used to Thailand’s heat and humidity, my Pacific Northwest roots make it nearly impossible for me to ever be completely cool and not sweaty since…
Every day. I’ve never been outside so much in life. Even with an indoor job, so much is done outdoors like just driving around or eating lunch. Even days when it rains, you still the see the sun at some point, and 75 degree weather calls for a sweatshirt. I usually wear loose clothes and tank tops but always carry a jacket or long-sleeved shirt to cover up when going to a temple or driving in the hot sun. Thais cover every inch of their bodies protecting them from the sun, and while I think I would completely melt, I definitely cover up more than most of the backpackers.
Groceries are bought at the local fresh markets…or the higher end grocery store geared toward expats and wealthy Thais. I mostly eat Thai dishes but lately have been missing western food more and more. I like cooking at home, but eating out is often cheaper and I’ll eat meals at a roadside stall at least once a day. Pad see ew (thick rice noodles fried in soy sauce), phad grapao (stir fried chicken, basil leaves and chilies over rice), moo gratium kai dao (fried pork and garlic over rice) and guaytieow (noodle soups) are my go-tos. I also love the sticky sweet Thai iced teas.
Any shopping, laundry (we get our laundry washed and ironed for 30 baht ($1) a kilogram)or bags get balanced on the motorbike or hung from its handles.While I always wear my helmet, many people don’t in the evenings after the police checkpoints have been shut for the day…even though they’re required by law.
In the evenings I’ll usually have a late dinner then go home – not too exciting or too different than what I would do in the States. Every night I sleep with the windows open and a fan on. I’ve gotten more used to sleeping without blankets or sheets on and scan my room for mosquitoes before going to bed. Not only are they SO IRRITATING, but this year there’s also been a rise in dengue fever, which sounds miserable.
While, at the moment, my schedule is focused around work and helping out, I feel comfortable but still in awe that I live here at the same time since I’m surrounded by things completely different and exotic compared to home:
I hope I don’t forget it all whenever I leave.