English teacher Jenn has moved to Chiang Mai for a job at a new school. She arrived with a suitcase of clothes and little else. Now that she’s settled into her job, she needs to find a place to call home.
Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand with about 200,000 people. It’s relatively cool climate and laid back atmosphere attract tourists from all over the world and a substantial group of expats. However, it is a small city geographically. The majority of the tourists stay in the old town, while the trendy area is Nimmanhaemin near Chiang Mai University.
Jenn is looking for a place with an easy commute to work. Luckily the school is not far from the Superhighway, which can get you around the city in about 15 minutes. She needs a furnished apartment, with 24 hour security. But most importantly she wants a pool where she can cool off during the scorching summer days.
Her budget is 8,000 THB ($240 CAD), a fortune compared to her last apartment in Phetchabun (3,500 THB). But Chiang Mai is a more popular city, which is reflected in the rental rates. A nice place with a pool will cost quite a bit more.
Cheap and Small – 29 sqm, 7,000 THB
This is a new condo building behind a supermarket along the Superhighway. It would be a 5 minute commute to work. It’s a one bedroom, and includes a kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and clothes washer. A clothes washer in an apartment is very rare, but not a major feature because a load of laundry can be done anywhere for 20 B.
Likes: Clean and modern. Technically a one bedroom, not a studio, because there’s a sliding door to hide the bed. Two air con units, which can save you money if you only cool the tiny bedroom area.
Dislikes: Pool is smaller than the suite. It’s more of a kiddie pool than a swimming pool. The unit itself feels tiny.
Luxurious and Expensive – 32 sqm, 8,500 THB
Across a major street is the second option. It is also a new condo, behind a mall on the Superhighway. The apartment buildings surround a beautiful garden and an enormous pool. The gym overlooks the pool and includes several cardio machines and free weights. It’s also a one bedroom, separated by sliding glass doors. In addition, the kitchen is galley-esque and is hidden behind the bedroom wall, and includes a fridge and microwave. It is decorated with modern black and white wallpaper.
Likes: Beautiful suite. Nice layout. Well decorated. Great gym. Amazing pool.
Dislikes: Price, on the expensive side. Despite being easy to get to work, it’s a little tricky to get home. This is one of the challenges of Chiang Mai because of the abundance of one-way streets.
Free without Freedom
The third option is to stay in the school provided rooms, on campus.
Likes: 5 minute walk to school. Free. Good wifi. Includes microwave, kettle, and fridge.
Dislikes: No sex, drugs or rock and roll. Ok, rock music is allowed, but absolutely no guests of any kind. No alcohol. No smoking. No leaving shoes off the shoe rack. Single bed. No kitchenette, but there is a communal kitchen that I probably will never use. You must always adhere to the modest dress code, even after hours since parents and students are always watching.
None of the apartment include electricity, water or high speed internet. A conservative estimate would be 600 + 200 + 650 for a total of 1,400 THB on top of rent.
There are cheaper alternatives available in Chiang Mai, but they won’t offer much more than the school-provided-free-room. Studio apartments without pools can be found for under 5,000 THB. Houses are also available for rent, but are better suited for sharing. A decent house with a bit of a commute can be less than 9,000 THB.
Jenn chooses the Luxurious and Expensive one bedroom apartment. She was able to negotiate the rent to 8,500 THB for an 8-month lease, which will end just after the end of the school year. Even though the suite doesn’t include internet, the building lobby and pool areas do have free wifi. The building has a washing machine and (drinking) water filling station. The suite is also equipped with dishes and cutlery, and flat screen tv, if Jenn ever needs to watch soccer games in Thai.