Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Apartment hunting in Chiang Mai

Nut and I have been in Chiang Mai for about a week now looking for a new place to rent. I must say, apartment hunting here in comparison to the many times in my past when I've done it, is a piece of cake. There's much to choose from and rents are low. Of course, we're looking for the most common type of rental available, a furnished one room studio. If you want something other than this, say a two room apartment, you're out of luck -- they're rare or nonexistent. We found a brand new furnished studio with brand new furniture the other day and have just signed the papers. We were tempted by several very appealing houses also on the rental market but they were either too far from town for Nut, who has no transportation once I go back to the states, or, because they need to be fully furnished, too expensive for my budget at this stage. This place isn't perfect: it's in a big building and we're on the 4th floor but it has covered parking for the bike, a guard at the gate and an elevator. It's bigger than our old place and it's situated in the northern latitudes where it's so cool in the evenings that Nut shivers when she gets out of the shower.

This apartment will end up costing about the same as our place in Bangkok, that is, about 5,000 baht ($150 USD) per month. For me, living here only six or seven months a year, that's a very affordable amount even if I end up renting a place in the states after I return, although the way things are playing out right now that seems unlikely. For many years I've wondered where I would choose to live were I to pull up stakes in Alaska. That question has remained unanswered because I've never found any place in the lower 48 that I like well enough to relocate to and that I could afford on my retirement income. I wouldn't mind a stint in San Francisco, or the Adirondack Mountains, for example, but most places are too expensive, too cold, or too whatever for me. Besides being expensive American cities are by and large too crowded with strip malls, fast food joints and office parks for my taste. And what rural area down there could possibly compare with my neighborhood in Alaska?

One answer is to retire in Thailand. I suppose in some ways, I already have. When I think of grocery stores I don't think of Safeway or Star Market but Tang Hua Seng or Foodland or Big C. My neighborhood scene is heavy on temples not churches and it feels normal to drive on the left. I can whistle along with several popular Thai songs that play repeatedly on the soaps Nut loves. The Channel 3 News theme bounces annoyingly through my head from time to time during the day. My new favorite yogurt is Meiji Low-fat Mango and I have leaned to drink Chang beer in lieu of those lamentably absent and delicious Oregon IPAs I love.

On a more personal level, my relationship with Nut feels good and solid, the winter climate here at 18 degrees north is near perfect, I love the Thai culture and Thai food, and I can afford to live fairly well as long as the exchange rate stays favorable. I'm comfortable here and my anxiety level is low. What's not to like about that?

If in the future I decide to spend the majority of the year here there are other more attractive rental options. Take a look at these two houses please. This first one is not new but has been beautifully maintained. Fresh paint was evident on the wood windows and fascia. It has 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, is located in a quiet residential neighborhood and is renting for 10,000 baht per month, about $320 USD. The big drawback for this type of deal is that most houses are unfurnished and would demand a substantial investment in furniture and other housewares up front.

Rental house in the Chiang Mai Land area
And look at this gem we found while cruising around east of the Ping River just off Fa Ham Road the other day. This house is brand new, has never been lived in, and is in an older neighborhood that boasts several huge mansions and even a foreign embassy (Peru). Quiet, woodsy, and in the city, it rents for only 15,000 baht (under $500 USD) per month. We didn't look inside either of these but I'll bet they're very nicely appointed with tile everywhere and spotlessly clean.

Rental home near the Peruvian Embassy in Chiang Mai

Pretty damn nice. I don't know why this particular area has such an unusual mix of opulent homes, empty overgrown lots, and new construction but it's a pretty cool neighborhood. Tennis, good restaurants and the old city are just a short hop away.

Anyway. We're moved here from our hotel and are spending our first night in the new place. It's quiet and cool. It's a fine place to live until something better shows up.