A Tuk Tuk and street art in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Life in Chiang Mai, One Month Update

It feels like we’ve been living in Chiang Mai forever. We’re already beginning to take for granted the fact that we wake up in the same bed every morning, can nip downstairs for a swim whenever we like and go out and eat dinner for less than £5. In another sense, time has quickly dissolved and the weeks have slipped effortlessly by as we’ve settled into our comfy cocoon. So what have we achieved and learnt during our first month of life in Chiang Mai?

Tuk Tuk and Street Art in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Life in Chiang Mai, mental changes

Every day, I am surrounded by views of the mountains. Sometimes they’re almost totally obscured by typical rainy-season mist, and on others they stand out crisply against a backdrop of denim-blue sky. Yet, I can step out of my apartment block and be in the centre of the city in less than 20 minutes. Our new home has the perfect mix of peace and convenience and just being here makes me happy.

View of the mountains from our apartment in Chiang Mai

Moving to Chiang Mai has finally allowed us to do what we’ve been trying to all year: stay in one place, earn money and lay the foundations for a sustainable future. Now that we’ve actually started this process, so much worry and doubt has lifted from my mind. I now believe that we can do this. We’re working, we’re earning money, we’re living well and we’re planning for the future. I can firmly say that after what feels like a year of mistakes, we made the right choice by moving to Thailand.

This lifestyle feels amazingly simple. We actually have time now to read and I’m devouring books in a way I haven’t in years. Being able to cook and swim everyday is improving our physical and mental health. We’re meeting new people and getting to know Chiang Mai, searching out new markets, restaurants and temples and taking trips into the nearby mountains. My mind feels healthier than it has all year.

Work update

This time three years ago we were also renting an apartment in Chiang Mai and attempting to make some money online. We’d been away from the UK for just six months and were pretty clueless about working remotely, so subsequently we made barely any money. It’s a big comfort to look at how much we are achieving this time around in Chiang Mai and realise that over the last three years we’ve somehow developed the skills, experience and confidence to actually make this lifestyle work.

Chiang Mai Moat, Thailand

True, we’re not making tons of money and we are working hard, long hours, but we’re making good progress in establishing multiple income streams. We’re covering our living costs through a combination of freelance writing, blogging, online teaching and recruitment work. Despite the challenges of trying to work digitally, we’re learning and surviving. We’ll be putting out a detailed income and digital nomad report at the end of October (here it is!) so you can follow our progress.

Living costs in Thailand

We’ve spent a terrifyingly huge amount of money since arriving in Thailand. This includes over £2,000 on advance rent and deposits as well as buying household necessities, extending our visas and booking flights to Malaysia for a visa run in November (find out about our visa run to Penang here). It also feels like we’ve had barely any money coming in yet, but this will even out in October when a lot of our outstanding work payments are due.

Vegetable Spring Rolls from Taste From Heaven in Chiang Mai

Luckily, daily life in Chiang Mai is working out to be as cheap as we’d hoped. Here’s a proper living cost breakdown and video, but in September we spent £240 on food and £33 on transport. We’ve just received our first monthly electricity bill, which came to just £16. September’s internet cost £14 and the water bill for two weeks came to just £1.60! Now that we’ve settled in and are finding cheaper places to shop and eat in Chiang Mai, we anticipate that our living costs will decrease even further in the future.

Exploring Chiang Mai

September has been all about finding our feet and working hard, but we’ve still found time to explore Chiang Mai. We’ve discovered new markets and visited Wat Umong and Wat Ched Yod temples as well as revisited an old mountain-top favourite, Doi Suthep. We also took a day trip by motorbike to the Sticky Waterfalls and found an amazing massage place in our local area, Nimman.

Wat Ched Yot Temple, Chiang Mai

We also have a new favourite eatery, Taste from Heaven, which has the most incredible, cheap vegetarian and vegan food. We’re also weekly regulars at Why Not? Restaurant where we gorge on thin-crust pizza served straight from a wood-fired oven. This week we’ll be testing out a dumpling place and Mexican restaurant and we have plans to take a Thai cooking course. In November, we’re excited to experience the famous Yi Peng lantern festival and Loy Krathong celebrations.

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Travel plans

During the first part of this month we experienced a bout of extreme wanderlust. Although this has died down now, we still have a few trips planned over the next couple of months. Firstly, we want to hire a car and drive up to the tea plantations in Mae Salong in late October. In November, we’re taking a week-long trip to Penang in Malaysia to renew our Thai visas. We’ve spent very little time in Malaysia so we’re excited to explore a new part of the country; we hear the food there is amazing! In December we’re taking a short trip down to Bangkok where we plan to do some sightseeing and visit the Amphawa Floating Market, which looks like an incredible slice of local life.

Life in Chiang Mai: Andrew and I on a motorbike

Do you have any questions about living in Chiang Mai? Let us know in the comments below. You can also follow our weekly vlogs about life here on our YouTube Channel.

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14 Comments
  • Frances
    Posted at 12:18h, 10 October Reply

    Chiang Mai is one of my favourite places ever, so glad it’s working out for you there! If you’re still undecided on which cooking course, we took one with A LOT OF THAI (http://www.alotofthai.com) a couple of years ago and it was an amazing experience!

    • Amy
      Posted at 01:32h, 11 October Reply

      Hi Frances, thanks for the recommendation, we will check that cooking school out! We are loving Chiang Mai 🙂

  • Kristen
    Posted at 18:29h, 10 October Reply

    I’m so happy things are working out so well! I can’t wait to see Thailand, you guys make it sound so amazing.

    Looking forward to the breakdown at the end of the month!

    • Amy
      Posted at 01:35h, 11 October Reply

      Thanks Kristen, Thailand was definitely the right choice for us at this point in our journey 🙂

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 21:09h, 11 October Reply

    So glad to hear you’re settling in, and things are working themselves out. As much as I love the nomadic life, it is a treat to just settle in for a bit and develop a routine… albeit a routine that does NOT include commuting and sitting in a cubicle all day! Keep up the good work

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:12h, 12 October Reply

      Hi Rhonda, yes, I definitely don’t miss the commute and office life! At least my current office has no irritating colleagues and a view of the mountains and I only have to commute from bed to my living room!

  • Pingback:We’re not Weird in Chiang Mai! - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 05:44h, 14 October Reply

    […] In Chiang Mai, we can tell a random stranger that we’ve been travelling for the last few years and making money online and they won’t bat an eyelid. Actually, they’ll probably start talking about their online business, offer us advice or ask questions about what we do. In the UK, this information is often greeted with raised eyebrows and interrogations about how we afford to ‘be on holiday’ so much and questions about how we ever plan to have a mortgage or start a family. We often feel like we just don’t fit in when we revisit our home country. […]

  • Patti
    Posted at 16:40h, 14 October Reply

    Your apartment is SO nice! You two are amazing, you’re making it happen and defining your path. Well one both of you. I love your video series too, it’s always good to hear your voices. It should prove to be an interesting time in Thailand while the country mourns, I look forward to reading your thoughts.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:43h, 15 October Reply

      Thanks so much Patti, we are loving our new life in Chiang Mai. However, the mood here in Thailand is quiet sombre at the moment, it’s a sad time.

  • Melanie
    Posted at 01:57h, 18 October Reply

    I’m so glad this has worked out so well after your Spain experience. The food sounds great (yes, I’m reading this just before lunch!). And it’d be really interesting to hear your hints and tips on online work.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:08h, 18 October Reply

      Hi Melanie, thanks for reading, hope we didn’t make you too hungry! I’ll work on writing a tips-style post about freelancing over the next couple of months. It’s a steep learning curve 🙂

  • Pingback:Temples in Chiang Mai, Our Favourite 5 - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 16:30h, 21 October Reply

    […] own unique history, story and architectural quirks. We’ve seen but a fraction of the temples in this city we now call home, but we’ve already acquired a list of our favourite […]

  • Pingback:Our First Digital Nomad Report - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 11:02h, 28 October Reply

    […] been two months since we arrived in Thailand with a dwindling bank balance and a dream of working remotely. The path so far has been full of […]

  • Pingback:Our Mae Salong Mountain Haven - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 06:39h, 04 November Reply

    […] I awoke to the sound of buzzing insects rather than the hum of Chiang Mai traffic. As Andrew slid back the balcony door crisp alpine air hit me and through the grey dawn light, I could spot a stripe of neon orange on the horizon.  The sun was rising over our Mae Salong mountain haven, illuminating dozens of peaks cloaked in mist and a vast cloud sea that filled the valley bowls. It was a sight that made me thankful to be living here in Thailand. […]

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