Tag Archives: Thailand

Thailand

Expat Location Spotlight: Chiang Mai

As the amount of travelers working in foreign countries increase each year, so do the number of locations for them to settle in. Chiang Mai, one of these locations, is in a mountainous region of northern Thailand. It’s often rated one of the top 10 most livable cities in Asia. It has started attracting a large amount of travelers who come to visit, and end up settling there for months. There are several reasons for this.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is much lower than in other countries around the world. Even compared to Thailand’s popular cities Bangkok or Phuket, it’s cheaper to live in Chiang Mai. For a studio apartment on the outskirts of the city, you can expect to spend about 5400 Thai Baht (equivalent to $150 USD). Factor in basic utilities and the cost of food, and you’re only at $500-$600 USD per month, not including entertainment or any extras.

Increase of English Speakers

Due to a large amount of English-speaking workers coming in the past 10 years, there are now many businesses catered to those that don’t speak Thai. Although it’s recommended to attempt to learn some Thai, you can go to stores or even doctors’ offices that speak fluent English. Expat meet-up groups have also popped up all around the city, making it easy to meet fellow travelers. It provides a social outlet, and lets you connect with others in the same situation to meet up with in the future.

Jobs

In case you don’t have a job where you can work remotely, teaching English is a very common choice for foreigners.  You need to apply for a non-immigrant visa, good for up to one year. You can then apply for a work visa, and an extension of stay if needed.

There are a few items to factor in before considering an extended stay in Chiang Mai. A tourist visa is required, which can be used for up to 6 months depending on how many times you leave the country. You need to exit the country every 60 days though, which will run you around $30 USD each time you enter the country. Visa fees and transportation costs aside, it’s easy to see why Chiang Mai is an affordable, livable city for expats.

Marissa Pedersen

Marissa is a freelance writer, travel blogger, and social media marketing manager from Seattle. She runs the travel blog Postcards to Seattle, which captures all her journeys from around the world. She likes to stay active wherever she goes, from kayaking in Italy to snowboarding in the Alps.

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A Month in Thailand for a Family of 4 – Tips and Advice?

My friend is planning a trip to Thailand next year, and asked my my recommendations. Here’s the scenario:

We are a family of 4 (two boys 4 and under).  We are looking to spend a month in Thailand and would like recommendations on locations.  We mainly want to stay in one or two places (so the kids don’t have to switch hotels/sleeping arrangements too often).  Ideally we would spend a lot of time by a beach/pool.  We would also like to have a trip where the boys can ride elephants and see more wildlife (chiang mai?). We were thinking of renting a house so we can have friends and guests come visit and stay with us (I don’t think we necessarily need help finding the house).  So we would like to understand the best places to stay where we can do day trips and not have to travel too far very often.

My advice?

I certainly haven’t been everywhere in Thailand, but I have spent a decent chunk of time there over the course of three separate trips — Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Pai.

I would recommend spending 1 week in Chiang Mai (where I lived for 10 weeks in 2012), a few days in Bangkok, and the rest of the time exploring from Krabi. The reason I think Krabi town will be the best bet as the place to spend the most time, is there is a vibrant town atmosphere, great food (duh, it’s Thailand), and multiple great nearby beaches & islands to explore. Koh Phi Phi is the most famous island (which I love). And, while I didn’t make it to Railey (Rai Leh), I know multiple people who have raved about it. Christine is one of those people, and her thoughts can be found here.

With respect to elephants, don’t ride them at all. Instead, go to Chiang Mai and spend time at the Elephant Nature Reserve (more info – http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/tour/index.htm).

The elephants tourists ride are abused. I had no idea prior to going to Chiang Mai in early 2012, but once there all the expats told me about how the elephants are actually treated and everyone raved about their time at the nature reserve, which rescues elephants and rehabilitates them. Below is a video worth watching:

YouTube Preview Image

What am I missing in the way of advice for a family? Please leave any advice or thoughts you wish to add in the comments.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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An Interview with Diana from Save Elephant Foundation

Today we’re kicking off an interview series on OHW that will ask travelers, tech entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and more to share a bit about the work they are doing and why they’re doing it. Oh Hey World believes in not only the transformative power of travel (that’s definitely a focus of ours), but in the positive changes we can create when we connect with like-minded people (that’s the core of the OHW platform). During my travels in Southeast Asia over the years I began to learn more about the plight of the Asian elephant, and conservation efforts in the region. When friend and fellow travel blogger Diana Edelman slowed down her travels and began working for Save Elephant Foundation in Thailand I knew she was just the right person to kick off the interview series. 

thailand elephant

1) Tell me a bit about the work Save Elephant Foundation is doing in Southeast Asia and why it’s needed.

Save Elephant Foundation is working to protect Asian elephants in Thailand and beyond. The foundation, founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, a renowned animal conservationist, not only works to protect the Asian elephant, but also other animals. Elephants in SE Asia are being removed from the wild and the main goal of SEF is to raise awareness about the plight of Asian elephants and how current activities in the tourism industry impact the population of the elephants in the region. Other than the elephants, SEF also works to give people in local communities better lives by providing aid and education — particularly as it relates to elephants mahouts or elephant caretakers who, prior to working with SEF, would have their elephants working.

2) As a traveler yourself, why did you decide to stop traveling and work with the Foundation?

As a traveler, I decided to stop traveling so much and join the Foundation because I believe in what Lek is doing. When I first visited the foundation’s Elephant Nature Park in 2011, I was shocked at how little I knew about animal exploitation and animals working in the tourism industry all over the world. My time as a volunteer there really opened my eyes to the decisions we make as travelers, and the fact that most people who come to this part of the world are not aware that the decisions they make in regards to animal attractions can greatly impact an entire industry and trade. Lek’s unyielding passion and desire to make the world a better place for animals is truly inspiring. Her love knows no bounds and being able to help her raise awareness about her foundation and responsible tourism is a dream fulfilled for me. I’ve always loved to write and do PR, but to be able to use my skills to try to better the world and change people’s ideas of what is responsible tourism … it makes me so happy.

3) What work are you doing at the Foundation right now?

I do the PR and social media for the foundation. I have traveled a bit and done research regarding the human elephant interaction, and also have been a part of two elephant rescues.

4) When I visited the Elephant Nature Park, I noticed visitors could not ride the elephants, which was a new concept for me, can you share the work the Foundation is doing in this regard.

The foundation’s main focus to is to educate tourists and future travelers to this region of how their actions impact the lives of wild and captive Asian elephants. Our hope is that with this information, people will make more informed choices as it relates to the animal activities they choose. The most common mistake people make in SE Asia is not being educated. Ignorance is bliss.

5) How can both short and long-term travelers have the biggest impact in supporting Save Elephant Foundation?

Short and long-term travelers can have the biggest impact by taking what they learn from SEF and their visits to the foundation’s projects and telling others. Education can change the world, and the elephants need people to speak for them.

If you’re keen to connect with Diana on the OHW network, you can follow her check-ins and activity from her OHW profile. Other important links to connect to Save Elephant and Diana include:

Save Elephant on Twitter and Facebook
Diana on Twitter

Shannon O'Donnell

A storyteller and knowledge-seeker captivated by the world. Formally an actress and web-nerd, I left in 2008 to travel solo, volunteer, and hunt down delicious vegetarian eats all over the world. She recently published "The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog, ALittleAdrift.com.

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Welcome Kits for Digital Nomads in Southeast Asia

When I decided to hit the travel trail in late 2011, I planned to go to Southeast Asia and be a digital nomad building WordPress websites (such as this one for Room77) until I figured out what my next career move was (which turned out to be building Oh Hey World). I did all sorts of research to figure out the best places to live as a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, and I eventually decided upon Chiang Mai due to the sheer volume of good recommendations about the city from other travel bloggers (Koh Tao was my second choice). When I arrived in Chiang Mai in early February to stay for a few months, I had a few very specific questions related to getting acclimated to the region:

  • Where should I stay for 1-3 months?
  • What expat communities exist?
  • What events are coming up that I’d be interested in?
  • Which coffee shops are the most comfortable with strong Wifi?
  • Who are the interesting people I want to meet?

That information was hard to find, so I set out to solve this problem on Oh Hey World. Our digital nomad welcome kits now answer those exact questions for digital nomads all over SouthEast Asia — and, eventually, the world.

Bangkok welcome kitGlobetrotting around Southeast Asia right now making money from your computer? If so, you’re in luck because we have welcome kits we’ve specifically curated for you for the major expat hubs around the region.

Tips for digital nomads in:

Have you been to any of these cities, and have something we should add? Leave a comment here or email shannon@ohheyworld.com and we’ll add them to our collection. If you’d like to create your own completely custom welcome kit for a city (such as this one for Santiago), then head over to our Welcome Kits page to learn more.

PS: You can also view some community generated welcome kits and OHW curated welcome kits in the US.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Bangkok’s top 5 off-the-beaten-path attractions

Getting off the tourist trail in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of the world’s biggest, and most bustling cities. It goes by several names, including the official Thai name “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit” (no joke!). This is the longest city name in the world, or just “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” for short, translating to City of Angels. Curiously enough, the more westernized name is almost opposite of this, as it is referred to as the “Sin City of Asia” with reference to the busy night life. Being one of the oldest Asian trade cities in dealing with the West, it has had a long term standing accommodating foreigners. This has brought about many popular attractions, and some at high tourist prices!

So what can you do that’s fun, interesting, and not really on the beaten-path? Being such a massive metropolis, there’s hidden gems around every corner in Bangkok. Here’s some of my favourite discoveries:

Forensic Museum

The forensic museum is not your run of the mill museum. This off-the-beaten-path museum is located at Siriaj Hospital, in central Bangkok. This place is crazy… and certainly not for the faint of heart! The Forensic and Pathology Museum takes you through a variety of different exhibits, examining different elements of the CSI related science, and it’s use in Bangkok. The exhibits include coronary studies, head injuries, a Tsunami 2004 exhibit, and even the mummified cadaver of the most infamous serial killer in Thailand. It’s not your run of the mill attraction, but certainly brings with it a heap of information and an inside look at this interesting study.

Thai Barbecue

Perhaps not best to combine this with your day at the Forensic Museum, this is a very popular Thai activity. Similar to a Korean BBQ, the Thai version incorporates a bowl at the bottom of the grill for making a soup with noodles, greens, wontons and of course some drippings from the meat being cooked on the grill above. It’s a do-it-yourself activity, and all you can eat. The typical Thai BBQs run about 120 Thai Baht, and often don’t have time limits dictating your stay. The buffet is immense, with tons of tasty food to try – including salads and desserts! Best if you go with some friends so you have some company to engage with while waiting on your meat to cook to your liking! They can be found all over the city – my personal favourite is Pla Thong located centrally in Bangkok near the Victory Monument sky train station!

Go to the Cinema… in bed

Going to the movies in Thailand may not seem like such a big deal. Sure there’s lots of English choices available, but they’re no different from the movies you can watch back home… except for one detail. A few theater complexes have developed VIP theatres. If you’ve got an extra evening to kill, and you really want to check out that new film your friends back home have been raving about – this is an experience in itself. Often with 3 different seating options, you can choose between the front gallery, where you’ll sit comfortably under the screen in body fitting bean-bag chairs. Moving up a notch going up the sides of the theatre, you will be watching the movie with the comfort of home, in a leather recliner chair – equipped with a blanket for maximum comfort.

And then.. the cream of the crop – Check out the fully reclinable ‘bed’ seats. These ones go up the centre of the theater for the best seating. They have enclosing walls so you and a friend don’t get the distracting sounds from people chatting around you. They also happen to recline almost completely horizontally for the effect of laying in bed. Equipped with pillows and a blanket, this is the ultimate comfort in movie watching.

This is like flying first class, minus the turbulence, and with a giant state of the art screen and surround sound system, to comfortably transport you to a far away land. Oh.. and did I mention they deliver popcorn and drinks directly to your seat? The seating runs about 300-1000 Thai Baht – cheaper than a night out back home, and in much more class and comfort. The Paragon Cineplex in central Bangkok is perhaps the most state of the art if considering this fun option.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

This is about as full on as markets get. At the very end of the sky train and subway lines, it’s easy to get to from nearly every central point in Bangkok. This market is probably the largest of it’s kind that I’ve ever been to. It’s definitely the biggest in Bangkok. It’s so big in fact, there’s maps available showing you the different areas to visit, and how to navigate to them. It’s roughly 4 city blocks in size, and easy to get caught up in and just spend the day browsing! You can get just about anything here – from clothing, to food, to art work, and even pure bred puppies! Once you’ve finished your shopping, or just need a break, there’s a massive park right next to it that you can go and lounge in and examine your loot! You’ll find some of the best prices here, and is a great option for buying souvenirs.

Visit Refugee Prisoners at the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC)

Now this can be a tough one for some people. It doesn’t exactly sound like the beaches and temples vacation you had originally planned on doing, but may be one of the most rewarding off-the-beaten-path experiences in Bangkok. There are countless people who have been imprisoned for overstaying their visas or living here illegally as refugees. They live with very little, and lack some basic necessities, such as vitamins, carbohydrates and hygiene products. There are a few NGOs in Bangkok who, for a very small fee of about $15, take you to visit some of the refugees and bring them these products with your donation. When you get out of your comfort zone and try to help others in need, you quickly learn the benefits of love and adventure that come from changing people’s lives for the better.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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White Temple - The Main Temple

Chiang Rai’s White Temple: This is a Must-See in Thailand!

The White Temple of Chiang Rai

There is a general ‘tourist trail’ that most people follow when heading to Thailand for the first time. This usually includes a trip to the beaches in the south, pit-stops in Bangkok, and a trip up to one of the northern provinces of Chiang Mai. It is a fair bit less common for people to venture much beyond that, as the city of Chiang Mai holds so many relics and activities already. This being said, for those adventurous enough, a short 3 hour bus ride to the northern most province of Chiang Rai can be well worth the time. Amongst the mountains, rice patties and natural beauty, amidst the ancient history and old cities, there lies another incredible – and bizarre – attraction: The White Temple.

White Temple - The Main Temple

The White Temple

Locally known as Wat Rong Khun, the unconventional temple is a tourist attraction for locals, foreigners, and even monks alike. Though completely different from the usual temples you may see in the north, it is still considered a place of spiritual worship for practicing Buddhists and should be treated as such.

White Temple - Buddha's everywhere

Buddha’s everywhere

Before  arriving to the gates, you can already tell that there’s something truly spectacular about this place! The immense complex of the White Temple is, as the name states, almost entirely white, with small reflective mirrors ornately decorating it.  It’s is a beacon of light to all those within even the slightest bit of an eye-shot away from it, luring them in with it’s beaming glow.

White Temple - Guardians of the bridge

Guardians of the bridge

This modern temple began it’s construction in 1997. You may say it’s a work in progress, as you can see new structures going up even to this day. With that said, however, there are already a myriad of temples and stupas found on the holy grounds which already completed.

The reason the White Temple is a little ‘different’ from your traditional temples is because it has completely modern elements, which lack in the older temples you may visit. It brings in an unusual contrast of good vs evil. Evil being represented largely in part by sins, modern warfare, and funny enough – Hollywood movies.

White Temple - Crossing Over

Crossing Over the bridge of Purgatory

With a mixed bag of appearance such as Neo (from the Matrix), Superman, Osama Bin Laden, and even Sponge Bob Squarepants, there is no shortage of recognizable characters in the stories being illustrated. Completely decorated with murals, statues, and even bridges crossing over purgatory, you find yourself becoming part of the journey to enlightenment.

White Temple - Still a place of worship

A place of worship

To anyone thinking of visiting outside the regular tourist trail, this is a highly recommended, and unique, destination to consider. You should give yourself about 3 hours to walk around, and another 30 mins in each direction getting to and from the temple from the city of Chiang Rai’s centre.

Please note: You should dress appropriately while visiting the White Temple. Although it’s bizarre, it is still a place of worship, and should be treated as such.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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Chiang Mai - Buddhist Ceremony

Chiang Mai – A welcoming Oasis filled with wonder and intrigue

Chiang Mai, Thailand – At a first glance

There’s only a few places on Earth which can create such an immediate feeling of coming home again on your first visit, as Chiang Mai can. A large, yet peaceful city of just over 1 million inhabitants, Chiang Mai is situated in the hills of Northern Thailand. It’s picturesque backdrop of rolling mountains and lush green jungle, is complimented by it’s ancient history, which is still visible around nearly every turn! With an endless supply of activities  delicious food, and smiling locals, it’s no wonder so many expats choose to live here – some short term, others, indefinitely.

I remember when I first arrived to Chiang Mai, I was first taken by it’s awesome location. High in the hills, it sits very close to the Burmese border. This has given it a rich history of both cultural mixing, and invasions. A notable feature is the incredibly large moat and old city walls which still protect the old city’s centre. You are immediately inundated with historical features, which bring light to the magic of a city of such long standings.

In addition to Chiang Mai’s rich history, it is also one of the most spiritual cities, with ornate Thai Buddhist temples hiding at almost every turn! I spent countless days wandering the winding old streets, and exploring the shoeless temples at almost every chance I got. Not only can you explore these beautiful temples, you are often welcomed into the ceremonies and services being conducted within them, as long as you keep a respectful air about you while there.

The food is really one of the biggest highlights for me, being a long time foodie! Not only do they have one of the best, (and CHEAPEST) selections of street food I’ve seen in all of Thailand, there’s a seemingly endless variety of choice for foreign foods as well! From Mexican, to French, to Italian cuisine, they seem to have a knack for doing an exceptional job no matter what food is being prepared. You will also find Thai dishes which are more exclusive to the North. My favourites being Massaman – a peanut-beef curry, and Kow Soy – a crunchy noodle curry.

For anyone looking for somewhere to have a quick visit, or even to settle down and try a new, longer-term adventure, I would recommend putting Chiang Mai high on your bucket-wish-list. It truly has a welcoming charm, giving anyone who visits a sense of finding a home and comfort.

Ian Ord

An explorer since birth, Ian has now spent the better half of his life travelling. Spanning all 7 continents, and leaving no stone unturned, he continues to pursue discover new cultures, festivals, foods and all the other riches the world has to offer.

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