Turning out better than planned, our exploratory trip to Chiang Mai came to a close yesterday. Considering it a huge success, we opened our bank account with both Thai Baht and US Dollar sides, got the internet banking set up, ordered and picked up an ATM card, successfully transferred enough cash to cover the requirement for extending a visa based on retirement and signed a one year lease on an 1,800 square foot house. Perfectly placed fifteen minutes south of the old city and ten minutes from of the airport, the Moo Baan (gated community) is one of the nicest and most secure ones we saw and our rent includes free use of a world-class pool and clubhouse, locker rooms and sauna.
Our new view that swaps seaside for mountains
With so many stories to tell, it’s hard to know where to start and since I’ve been stuck using a shitty IPad that freezes a lot and now that we’re back in Penang, I see Word Press somehow switched the “add new post” function to a minuscule font that’s obviously not supported on my old OS. Also almost impossible to edit, I figured I’d post one thing we did for the 14 days we spent in Chiang Mai. Now back in Penang for 16 more days, we need to finish packing, go to the bank in Penang to update our information (we are staying on the MM2H program), wait for the Hari Raya holiday period to end, send off our 15 boxes of stuff with the movers, greet the landlord, hand over the keys and begin Chapter Two of early retirement. Not looking forward to the last two weeks in Malaysia, it’ll probably go by real slowly but I guess I can write about how much more we like Thailand since we’re finally disposing of the old PC and don’t need to disconnect it until the last-minute. While the Malays are very nice people, the Thai have a certain Asian charm unmatched anywhere elsewhere we’ve seen in Southeast Asia an despite all the complaints and sarcastic jibes from many farangs all over Facebook about Thailand’s ways, all nations have their own problems and when you’re a guest it’s best to look the other way when something sucks and appreciate the reasons why you chose to live there. So here’s my day by day synopsis.
Sawasdee Krab from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Four days into our Exploratory Trip to Thailand it looks like we’ve got a beautiful place to live. Having given notice to our landlord in Penang, we worked out a very favorable and amicable deal whereby she agreed to use our two month security deposit in lieu of us paying rent through the date we’ll vacate so we bought plane tickets and headed to Chiang Mai for 15 days in search of a place to live. Also needing to open a bank account, we lucked out by finding a friend on a Facebook group willing to introduce us to his banker. Thailand’s always changing rules sometimes means navigating an endless web of complications and although Plans A and B both failed, we’re glad to report we opened a bank account despite not yet having a visa.
Since it’s quite difficult to navigate posts using an IPad, especially when the battery is almost dead and it constantly freezes despite the Apple Genius in Canada claiming that’s not possible, I wanted to check in and let everyone know what we’re doing. Given the amount of traffic I’m still getting even without having posted awhile, we also what to stress that as of July 7th, we will no longer be living in Malaysia. Given the blog’s focus on two North Americans choosing an overseas early retirement due to an unexpected layoff, I’ll be shifting the focus from Malaysia, the MM2H Visa and Penang to our life in Northern Thailand. Understanding there’s literally thousands of blogs on Chiang Mai, I’ll continue trying to tell stories rather than writing “we did this, we did that”. And many of you accustomed to my usual brand of sarcastic cynicism may be surprised because so far, Thailand is about a million times better than Penang.
Realizing flexibility and open-mindedness is the key to a successful overseas expat adventure, Diane and I began recalling some interesting albeit odd occurrences we experienced in Thailand. Having just learned about new rules on income verification for all MM2H applicants (the Malaysian Social Visit Pass), I recently posted about concerns for American applicants due to strict privacy rules prohibiting disclosure of certain financial information. Deciding to rehash Thailand as a real possibility should the Malaysian government reject our application, we reflected on some sights and sounds that proved interesting.
Although paltry compared to our adventures trekking to a Hill Tribe village or spending the day as an elephant owner, the fish massages scattered throughout the country stand out. Strolling through Bangkok searching for a Thai Massage, a local suggested we head down a side street but instead of a petite Thai masseuse we found several small studios with fish tanks, towels and shopkeepers poised outside waiting for the next tourist. Unfamiliar with this bizarre practice, we figured it couldn’t be any worse than eating bugs for the first time so we pulled out a few Thai Bhat and gave it a shot.
Almost as if they were waiting just for us, several giant Asian elephants approached us from behind and sat down. Differing from other animals, when a two ton domesticated animal sits down next to you and appears to smile, your heart pounds and fascination abounds. Conducting Introductions to each elephant in both Thai and English, the knowledgeable team of mahouts assigned riders to each elephant, probably based on first observations of each visitor’s size and personality. Instructional lessons would follow shortly as we began our day at Patera Elephant Farm, possibly the most educational and enjoyable animal encounter available in Southeast Asia.
Continuing our annual Expat Destination Research Vacation in Thailand, we just finished an amazing overnight excursion to a remote tribal village high in the hills. AfterHanging Out With the Hill People,we expected excitement in the next chapter and the day’s events exceeded all expectations. Conveniently located about an hour from Chiang-Mai, the full day specialized program is tailor-made for those seeking a once in a lifetime opportunity that educates, enriches and provides a meaningful understanding into the special world of elephants.
Strolling through Chiang Mai with no particular destination makes you hungry. Having completed the sweaty but fascinating excursion to the Karen Hill People Village, we searched for another new experience as we strolled the streets of the core. Passing markets filled with interesting meats, veggies, seafood and more chili peppers than a factory, our stomachs craved some authentic food. Appearing out of nowhere from a small alleyway, a frail old woman handed us a brochure for a Thai Cooking School offering daily classes.
possibly the best part of expat life
Honestly, one of the main reasons we’re becoming expats in Southeast Asia is the gastronomical delights offered every day on just about every street corner. Understanding cooking techniques piqued my curiosity and with the school only a few blocks away we strolled over for a look. Lured in by the friendly woman, the half-day cooking class taught us why restaurants outside Thailand simply can’t create “authentic Thai food.
Underneath the warm blankets came the sound of squealing, grunting and farting. Residing underneath our bedding in the guest house built on stilts, the pigs roamed around all night oblivious to the difference between day and night. Needing to pee badly, I stumbled out the hut door, tripped over some clothes and meandered to the “bathroom”, a separate hut with no lighting, a pit toilet seat on the floor and a bucket and hose. Diane held it in all night.
Giant squealing pigs live under the house
Possibly the best part of our annual Expat Destination Research Vacation, our visit to a real village far away from the touristy main roads was fascinating from start to finish. Departing the main road, we embarked on a four-hour journey just to get there. Utilizing a long-boat to traverse the muddy river, a mahout to guide us up a narrow trail on an elephant, and a bushwhacking local to hike through the jungle back down, just reaching the Karen Hill People was an adventure. Continue reading →