Chiang Mai Thailand cost of living for a couple

So, it’s been a long while since my last expense report, I’m no longer in Chiang Mai now but still have my expenses saved away, I’m putting them up for future reference.

This is for our second 30 days in Chiang Mai, it’s said your first month somewhere is always the most expensive, this was true for us, as our second month was much lower. Below are my previous expense reports.

Note: these prices are the total for 2 people, doing this trip solo would be half the prices, except for the accommodation.

chiangmai-expense2

Chiang Mai expenses

Chiang Mai Trip Expenses

  • Accommodation + electricity £168.15
  • Memberships (GYM – Co-working) £171.15
  • Food, entertainment, living etc £366.58

Total £705.88
Cost per person £352.94
Cost per day (per person) £11.76

As you can see, our month was much cheaper than our first month, had it not been for our memberships which consisted of 2 x 3 month gym memberships and 1 x 3 month co-working space membership, our expenses would have been even more lower. Our cost of living was no where near as low as that of an average Thai, but we’re on holidays after all, even still, we managed to make a profit this month by doing zero work.

ma-ploy

Maploy Pad Thai Nimman

By our second month we’d knew all the best places to eat and drink but had also basically cut alcohol down to less than once a week, we cut back on alcohol not too save cash, but simply because we felt no need to numb our minds, life was positively stimulating enough that drinking alcohol just made life less enjoyable.

Now you might think “but why? do you not enjoy alcohol” and the answer is “yes”, but life was better not drinking, imagine you have a choice of a crap movie or a good movie? why choose the movie that you know you’ll enjoy less?, I was far too happy to find alcohol enjoyable, so simply avoided it.

 

 

How to book Baan Thai Chiang Mai serviced apartment online

Baan Thai sign

Baan Thai sign

Whenever I mention on a Chiang Mai group online that I’m currently staying in the Baan Thai serviced apartments in the Nimman area of Chiang Mai, I always get someone private messaging me asking how to book online. The simple answer is, you don’t, you turn up and speak to reception in person, if there is a room free you book it straight away, if there isn’t, you find somewhere else until a room becomes available.

I have however managed to help a person book a room before he arrived in Thailand, I done this by placing a 1,000 Baht deposit for him, he was a mate I know from the UK, who came here to code with me for a month.

Before coming to Chiang Mai I read about Baan Thai online on Travel Dave’s blog, his article is more informative than what I’m writing here, except for the price has now changed.

Baan Thai Nimman

Baan Thai Nimman

As of October 2015 the price for a month has increased to 6,000 Baht, at the time of writing this, that price converts to £109.50. On top of this you’ll need to pay utilities, how much utilities cost will depend on how much you use the air conditioner.

Personally I use it almost every night, my room is in Baan Thai B and faces towards the pool, beyond the pool is Baan Thai A and then the road, the noise isn’t too loud during the night, but I prefer to have the balcony doors closed, this greatly reduces air circulation, so to counter this I put on the AC, it keeps the room nice and cool of course, but it also creates a constant white noise that prevents me from ever hearing outside noises.

Our most recent month came to £168 in total for the room including utilities, this isn’t bad, but you could find a room for close to half this around Nimman, however it wouldn’t have a pool or the same friendly Baan Thai vibe. Baan Thai is full of foreigners, many are digital nomads, others are retirees. You’ll quickly recognise the other tenants around town at either a Gym, local co-working space, or at one of the many local bars/cafes.

Baan Thai B

Baan Thai B

Baan Thai is directly under the flight path, if I happen to be around, I’ll usually be in the pool, from the pool you can watch the planes fly overhead, not just commercial planes, but also the fighter jets from the Thai Air-force, floating in the pool watching them roar across the sky in groups of three, I consider to be part of my morning ritual.

Overall I consider Baan Thai to be relatively quiet, there isn’t any bars near by that are open beyond midnight, however, if you’re an early riser and light sleeper, you’ll probably want to turn on the AC and shut the doors.

For the 6,000 baht a month, we get our room cleaned weekly, we also pay separately for laundry to be collected when needed, the cost of laundry is 40 baht (£0.73) per kilogram. As a couple, our weekly laundry cost averages around £3.20, it’s collected at 15:30 each day and returned the same time the following day. If you wanted to keep your costs low you could do your laundry yourself at near by laundrettes for roughly half the price. For me though, never having to worry about cooking, cleaning or laundry is a great time saver which allows me to get on with other things in life.

Cake in Wanz Cafe

Cake in Wanz Cafe

The Nimman area has a ton of Cafes and Restaurants, our two favourites on our street are Zood Zood for a good selection of tasty meals as well as their Butterfly Pea Water, and Wanz Cafe for a mixture of Wifi usage and Ice Green Tea consumption, Wanz is also a bar at night and Motor cycle mechanic during the day, the cafe has a motor cycle theme, the coffee tables each have a motor cycle engine as part of their frame. I’ve not been to Wanz in the evening, so I can’t really comment on the bar or food, but the cakes in the day time Cafe are good enough for my palate.

Chiang Mai Noodles in Zood Zood

Chiang Mai Noodles in Zood Zood

Our other favourite local place to eat and relax with some music is D-fine, it is however two streets over from our street, so roughly a two minute walk.

As already mentioned this area has a lot of places, the three I’ve mentioned here I’m sure aren’t the best, they’re just places we’ve enjoyed and often frequent for some normality in life.

Another place I feel worth mentioning is Salad Concept, Salad is a great break from eating Thai every day and this place is clearly the best in the area.

So to get a bit back on topic, if you’re wanting to stay in Baan Thai, either you’ll need to have someone already there place a deposit for you, or you’ll need to book a cheap hotel for your first night and spend a day walking around Nimman, this is what we did, we walked into every serviced apartment place we could find, besides from the location, the swimming pool at Baan Thai is what won the place over for us, its huge and the perfect size for laps.

flowers

Who doesn’t like flowers?

Often I’ll read people on groups say “what is their number, if they don’t have a website I’ll ring them and book that way”, don’t waste your time, why would they take a booking from someone on the other side of the world when someone will simply walk in that day and pay a cash deposit?. Rooms aren’t vacant for more than a day in Baan Thai, but rooms become vacant frequently as people are always moving in and out. Minimum stay is one month.

My favourite street food vendors are just around the corner, out the front of either Tesco or 711, they are Mr Moustache and Pad Thai Maploy.

I hope this helps, best of luck.

Tales of UFOs from aboard the Trans-Siberian express

UFOs in Siberia

US Navy ICBM

US Navy ICBM

Recently in the USA, a bunch of fools witnessed what they called a “UFO”, flying up at high altitude, this UFO later became an IFO “Identified flying Object”. The UFO was in fact a US Navy ICBM, on first seeing the footage I said to my self “that is clearly a rocket” as it looked no different than any other night time rocket launch.

Many fools uploaded videos, in these videos I heard people say “OMG!!, do you know what that is?” with responses like “it has to be a UFO!”, certainly it was a UFO to the person holding the camera, they were unable to identify it, I’m quite sure however that the voices in the videos assume Alien spacecraft are called UFOs, which just isn’t true, Alien spacecraft are called Alien spacecraft, UFOs are anything flying that you can’t identify.

When I’m with someone and I see what is most likely either a plane or helicopter at great distance and I’m asked to identify it, if I’m unable to, I’ll simply say “It’s a UFO, perhaps it’s a plane or a helicopter, I’m not too sure, but for now it remains a UFO until I can identify it“. At no point will I have ever implied the UFO was an Alien Spacecraft…. reason being that it would be much more likely to be something man made that I simply can’t identify due to distance/light, than say an Alien spacecraft from several million light years away.

Aliens

Aliens

Anyway, this recent event got me remembering a conversation I had with a lovely old lady on the Trans-Siberian Express. Half way across Siberia, I mentioned how very remote Siberia is and she straight away brought up her UFO experience. The skeptic within me told me to sit up and get ready for a yarn, but being a skeptic, I knew I had to remain open minded, so with ears pricked I sat listening to my partner translate the story.

Many years ago I was camping out in the forest, I bent down to put some more wood on the camp fire, while bending down the smoke rose up into my eyes and I could hardly see, as I looked up I could see a light in the sky, however as I rubbed the smoke out of my eyes the UFO instantly disappeared.

Upon hearing this story, I didn’t know whether to probe (pun intended) deeper or to be a polite foreign guest, I chose the later.

The skeptic in me thinks that what she witnessed that night, was no other than a result of the camp fire smoke in her eyes, it just seems a bit more logical than intergalactic visitors, flashing their lights just at the wrong moment, then returning home across the universe.

I thought someone might like this story, it entertained me at the time.

 

Chiang Mai Thailand first month living expenses report

So, it’s been a while since my last expense report, I’ll do one today for last month and my most recent one I’ll do tomorrow.

This is for our first 30 days in Chiang Mai, it’s said your first month somewhere is always the most expensive, this has been true for us, as our second month is much lower, so be sure to check back tomorrow. If you’d like to see our previous expenses, the reports are linked in the list below.

Note: these prices are the total for 2 people, doing this trip solo would be half the prices, except for the accommodation.

Chiang Mai Living Expenses

Chiang Mai Living Expenses

Chiang Mai Trip Expenses

  • Accommodation + electricity £213.38
  • Food, entertainment, living etc £702.12

Total £915.50
Cost per person £457.75
Cost per day (per person) £15.25

This is for the first 30 days we spent in Chiang Mai, during this time we went to Cambodia for 5 days, I’ve excluded those days from the spreadsheet and only included the first 30 days spent in Chiang Mai. We had a more expensive month in Chiang Mai than we had in Hanoi due to several reasons, one is memberships, our membership column is for anything we’d pay for monthly, e.g. Wifi, mobile phone data plans, co-working space membership, gym memberships etc.

Butterfly Pea Water

Butterfly Pea Water

The initial few days were our most expensive due to socialising with friends/family who were visiting, this is really the only time I drink now.
As I get ready to return to Australia, I’m reducing my drinking to zero, in my last 18 months before leaving Australia in 2006 I never drank once, excluding farewell drinks the 2 weeks before departure. When the weather is hot and sunny I have zero desire to drink, I consider this a good thing.
In Vietnam I drank Bia Hoi beer almost nightly but at £0.15 a beer 2% alcohol and freezing cold it’s rather desirable.

Some new costs we now have are room cleaning, laundry and eating out every meal except for breakfast. If we’re home, it’s either for swimming, resting or sleeping, everything else is taken care of.

Hiking Chiang Mai

Hiking Chiang Mai

Two of the main advantages of Chiang Mai for foreigners is it’s low cost living and permanent sunny weather, for this reason there is a very large number of Digital Nomads living here and working on-line, either running their own businesses or working remotely for employers back home, they’re literally everywhere!, many work in co-working spaces, however, if you go into any of the hundreds of cafes and restaurants in the Nimman area of Chiang Mai, you’ll find yourself either sitting next to someone working away on a laptop, checking orders on their phone, emailing clients from their tablet or a bunch of people discussing tech, e-commerce, coding, digital life etc, this is the norm and not the exception.

If you ever find yourself in Nimman and see a bunch of people in a restaurant on their phones, don’t be like the idiot in the image below, as they’re simply checking which tropical island to live on next, or how much money they’ve made from Chiang Mai today, or perhaps chatting to friends and family back home, perhaps it’s just a tourist glad to have some internet access.

I was once in a restaurant in Amsterdam and some tool started criticising a girl he didn’t even know, simply for “looking at her phone in a restaurant”, these people I call “the bored, face palmers” they’re that bored with their own life, that they need to criticise others and whenever I hear them, I want to face palm my self. For some people, being in “a restaurant” is something they do every day and they aren’t going to miss too much of the amazing restaurant excitement going on around them simply by looking at their phone.

Pool Baan Thai Chiang mai

Our Pool

The foreigners living here, tend to live well away from the tourist areas, everyone in this area is very friendly be it locals or foreigners and all bars shut by midnight, so there isn’t drunken zombies staggering around, sex tourism or even a single annoying hawker of any kind.

The food here is amazingly cheap and superb, there is no excuse for not living a healthy life style or atleast finding something that suit’s your taste.

A lovely street meal will cost anywhere from £0.45 for the best omelette and rice I’ve had, all the way up to £0.95 for the best seafood Pad Thai I’ve had. A lovely spicy Papaya Salad will set you back around £0.55, street smoothies, Ice Tea and Ice Coffee set you back around £0.50, while an Iced Green Milk Tea in one of the many trendy Cafes will set you back around £1 to £1.30.

Green Tea Latte

Green Tea Latte

Restaurant meals will set you back anywhere from £1 to £3, but will average around £1.50, anything over £3 would be something foreign imported and not of very good quality.

The other day I bought an Ice Cream Sandwich off a guy in the street for £0.18, it was a proper Ice Cream Sandwich, ice cream between 2 slices of bread, rather than the fake imposter version of Ice Cream between 2 wafers.

Our first month in Chiang Mai was nice and relaxing, everyday is like a beautiful summers day.

I’ll post my most recent expense report tomorrow and include a little more on life in Chiang Mai.

 

How to get from Nanning to Hanoi by bus and how much does the bus cost

Having recently completed this trip and having found conflicting info on-line, I thought I’d blog the correct information here on How to get from Nanning to Hanoi by bus and some tips etc.
Go by bus, you can go by train overnight, but expect to be woken at the border in the middle of the night.

The Chinese coach is nice, but without a toilet, the bus will stop twice for a toilet break and once for the border, one of the toilet breaks includes a 20 minute meal break, but just take snacks and wait till you get to Hanoi to eat.

The bus costs 168 Yuan and leaves at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and around 12:30.Nanning Bus Station Map

The bus leaves from the Langdong Bus Station Ticket Office on You’ai rd (or Lu as the roads seem to be called), all the street signs have the names in English so you can relax.

I recommend the 9:30 bus as I’m not a morning person, and the 12:30 will arrive late in the evening. The 9:30 bus will arrive around 7pm, the trip isn’t as long as it sounds, a good one to two hours is spent at the border.

You’ll have to arrive an hour early to buy your tickets. If you have time the day before, why not buy your tickets then?

Vietnam Border

Vietnam Border

Once you’ve crossed the border on foot (this is a requirement) and spent 10 minutes at Chinese customs, it’ll take you about 30 minutes to an hour to get through the slow Vietnam border control, then you’ll wait anywhere up to an hour for a bus.

The bus goes to 3 separate locations in Hanoi, you’ll most likely want to arrive near the old quarter, tell the bus driver at the Vietnam border “Hong Ha” or better still have it written on a piece of paper, Vietnamese uses a derivative of the Latin alphabet, he’ll understand the name.

The bus stop is a 2km walk or a taxi ride, you’ll most likely get ripped off a few $s, these taxi drivers are expecting new arrivals with no clue, if you’re travelling lite and on a budget or enjoy some exercise after sitting for so long, you can walk to the old quarter, but a taxi is easiest, depending on your negotiating skills it should be no more than 90,000 dong at the upper price range, however the taxi will try you for 200,000+ dong, by the meter it should be about 60,000.

The bus trip was great fun, we got to the bus station in Nanning to find that there was 10 other people from our hostel catching the same bus.

You’ll be given a small bottle of water and some sweet bread, but it’s a long day and Vietnam can be hot, so take plenty of snacks and water.

Enjoy Hanoi!

Relaxing in Hanoi

Relaxing in Hanoi

Mongolian Trip Expense Report

Here is the cost of our recent trip from Irkutsk Russia to Ulan Bator Mongolia. I post this a day after I posted my Russian Trip Expense Report, which was my most popular post yet, looks like people are more interested in how much something costs, rather than hearing about how good/bad something is, so here goes.Mongolia

Note: these prices are the total for 2 people, doing this trip solo would cost exactly half the price.

Mongolian Trip Expenses

  • Visas £0
  • Train £218
  • Accommodation £37
  • Food and other £60

Total £315
Per person £157.5
Cost per day (per person) £31.5

The “other” in “Food and other” applies to anything from Tooth paste, to insect repellent.

The train into Mongolia consisted of 2 nights accommodation on the train, in a follow up post I’ll include the cost of the train from Mongolia to China

Fact: Vegetables and fruit are practically unheard of in Mongolia, if you’re a vegetarian don’t think “meh, like I care, I’ll simply eat plain rice”, rice isn’t meat!, so therefore it’s unheard of.

Russian trip expense report

Here is the total cost of our recent Trans-Siberian trip through Russia. This includes the cost of getting to Russia from Estonia, and getting from Saint Petersburg to Irkutsk, from Irkutsk we headed south on the Trans-Mongolian onwards to China, I’ll add those costs in a follow up post.

Red Square Moscow

Red Square Moscow

Note: these prices are the total for 2 people, doing this trip solo would cost exactly half the price.

Russia Trip Expenses

  • Visas £176.4
  • Bus £4.50 – from Tallinn to Saint Petersburg
  • Trains £444.47 – high speed Saint Petersburg to Moscow and 4 night sleeper train Moscow to Irkutsk.
  • Accommodation £69.5
  • Tours £32.5 – Boat tours in Saint Petersburg and Moscow plus bus trip to Lake Baikal
  • Food and Other £148.15

Total £875.6
Per person £437.8
Cost per day £43.7

Mistakes made

  • We booked the fast train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow a little too late and paid around £90, this should have only been £40.
  • The train from Moscow to Irkutsk is really a waste of time, trees are planted 5 metres from the tracks for the first 80% of the route, so you literally will see nothing new for 3 days straight, I certainly will not recommend the trip to anyone.
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Ligo Festival Riga Latvia

Ligo Riga Latvia

A top lit fire burning down throughout the night

So this week in Riga was the yearly Ligo festival. The festival consisted of harbour side bonfires, live music, food, rain, beer and a lot of dancing.

On Arrival it was raining quite heavily, everyone had umbrellas, the large stage had live performers and singers singing traditional Latvian songs.

Fire Ligo Latvia

Awaiting the fires to be lit

It all seemed not that overly exciting at first, however beer consumption increased as the night got on and the atmosphere became quite merry. At 23:15 two large bonfires on the street were lit further enhancing the atmosphere.

The fires were top lit, meaning they would burn downwards more slowly, roaring away for around 5 hours. The night itself officially ended at 4am, we left 2 hours earlier than this. The Live bands on the stage were still playing and the area was still just as crowded as earlier, I’m assuming it stayed this way until close.

The girls all had flowers on their head and the men had big green leaves, it’s a site to see, these can be bought from the many vendors on the street for around 10 euro, beers range from 2 to 3 euro.

The street is closed off from traffic, along the side of the street are tents selling food and beer with tables and chairs out the front, behind these tents are hundreds of portable chemical toilets.

Latvian beer and snacks

Popular Latvian beer snack, fried bread

I’d highly recommend joining this festival’s very well behaved people eating and drinking all night. If you plan on visiting Latvia be sure to go during Ligo, ensure you turn up with an empty stomach and a willingness to eat, drink and be merry.

With free entry it’s easy to come and go throughout the night, around 9pm we stepped out to a near by bar, mostly to get out of the rain. Here we ate some fried bread (a popular Latvian beer snack) , enjoyed a beer and cider each before returning for the bonfire lighting ritual.

Why I’ve quit my job and moved to Latvia

ligoToo often I see articles by bloggers titled “why you should quit your job and move to (insert 3rd world country here)”, often with an accompanying lifestyle porn photo, you know the ones eg. a laptop by a pool.

The sales pitch is usually “it’s cheaper in country x, so work on-line there”, the reality is you have no safety net there, if you’re so sure of your on-line business plans and need to lower your living costs to bootstrap, then why not move in with your parents for a few months first, or crash on a mate’s couch or rent a cheap room in a local house with 5 poor uni students, then put that $2,000 for the flight and overseas living costs into your company, do some on-line courses etc, stay in your home town where there is less to distract you. If you’re bootstrapping there is no need whatsoever to have a beach 50 metres down the road.

Once your company is working well, then head overseas or better still, if you’re young and lacking real world work experience, get some solid experience in, move up the corporate ladder a little, the world isn’t going anywhere, it’ll still be there in 4 years time.

But this isn’t what most people want to hear, they want to see a laptop by the pool, a hammock by the beach and be sold a dream, have their reward now and work for it later, go away for 5 years, make enough money to survive then return home with zero experience. Now, you could learn a lot about on-line marketing, sales and the lot, but how about some office experience, how about paying attention to how companies you’re working for are run, noting this down mentally, most jobs in the world are in offices, get a good dose of reality, face to face with clients, work smart, invest hard, then reap the rewards.

I’m not saying slog out the 9-5 forever, you may be very successful on-line, but if that is your destiny you can do it from home and for much cheaper.

So why my title for this article? Well I’ve spent the last 9 years working smart and getting solid experience, all while working abroad in a first world rich/expensive country. I’ve built several revenue streams and can now branch out and reap my rewards, the reason for the move to Latvia is simple – my partner is from there and we’re living with her family for a month while we’re bootstrapping. How much will one month with the in-laws cost? $0, zero, nothing.

The one thing I’ve learnt over the last 15 years of working is don’t be in such a rush but always be planning and always be doing, be prepared to make mistakes, but be prepared to make sacrifices, moving to live by a beach and set-up your dream company isn’t a sacrifice.

Perhaps you’ll be able to simply pack up, move to paradise and bootstrap by some beach while instagramming life style porn to all your envious friends, but know that there is other ways to achieve your dreams. The key may not be to drop everything and run to paradise, it might actually be to work your butt off from home, then go abroad free like a bird, what is better than working from paradise? Being in paradise and not having to work.

Food for thought.

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