In The Expat Zone

After feeling lost and confused in Chiang Mai for nearly four days, I’m in the zone again. The expat zone.

We’re in a vegetarian restaurant. It’s air-conditioned. There’s free wifi, pictures of elephants on the walls, a travel information stand in one corner and souveniers for sale at the back. There’s free expat magazines and tourist brochures on a table. Finally, we have a map of our new home.

I’m sipping on a young coconut and flipping through Chang Puak magazine. There’s ads for restaurant with “a spacious Bedouin style rooftop bar”, for spas, for an Indian restaurant … oooh, part of the magazine’s in French. There’s classified ads for yoga, tango, writers without borders, water aerobics, expat lunches, a computer group. There’s listings for condos and houses for rent. I haven’t even opened the second magazine, Citylife Chiang Mai. I’m going to leave it till after.

I absently discuss what to order with Darling Man — mushroom larb, steamed rice and tom yum soup. To share. Because it’s after 2pm and we had breakfast at 11.

“This is for Westerners,” Darling Man says, surveying the restaurant with a hint of disdain.

I remind him I’m a Westerner, then I go back to flipping my magazine. I’m thrilled to find a bit of expat “infrastructure”. I may never use some of what’s on offer — we’re only here for seven months after all — but I’m happy its there if I need it. Horseriding lessons? Probably not. A Bedouin rooftop bar? Possibly. English-speaking real estate agents? Most definitely.

I’d like to visit some of the fancy bars in Chiang Mai and maybe some of the high-end restaurants. I know our daily life will revolve around cooking at home and eating street food, so it’s nice to know there’s places for when we want to splurge. If we can afford to splurge. I try not to think about work. It makes my heart race. Our first week in Chiang Mai is a holiday.

And so, at the end of day four, we have discovered the flashpacker part of town, with its hippy chic restaurants, massage outlets, guest houses and juice bars. We’ve pottered around some wats.

Wat Ou Sai Kham, Chiang Mai

We’ve pushed a sleeping Miss M up and down and around what we thought was the old town but wasn’t. Then pushed her through the enormous gates into the old town and gone up and down and around some more. We spent THB200 (US$6.42) on a flashpacker vegetarian lunch and THB400 (US$12.84) on a Western dinner (three juices, tuna salad, fries and bangers and mash – a desperate and successful attempt to get Miss M to eat something).

We sweated, walking in the afternoon sun. But it wasn’t unbearably hot. The pram got stuck in potholes a few times and we did a lot of lifting it over obstacles and up and down the curb, but it’s still manageable. Miss M got a lot of attention. I think I recognise the Thai phrase for “pretty girl” even though I couldn’t say it right now.

Chiang Mai footpaths - not so stroller unfriendly

It was a pretty great day.

Then, just as the sky began to darken we found what we’d set out to see – Wat Chedi Luang. And it was just amazing.

Darling Man had the big camera and I had my point and shoot. He took some great shots and we only left because Miss M started acting ratty, after a long day out and about.

Wat Chedi Luang

Small camera

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Big camera

We left with huge smiles on our faces. Because we have seven months. We can come back. I’d like to take up the “monk chat” option that’s advertised — talking to the monks to help them improve their English. I’d like to see the temples at dawn. Darling Man wants to see how things look lit up by a full moon. “We’ll come back in two weeks,” he announces, after sizing up the half-moon that’s obscured by clouds.

I think our slow travel plan will work out well.

9 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. LOVE this!!! just love it. yay!!
    wandering educators recently posted..Deciding to Study Abroad

  2. Awesome! So happy you’re enjoying it! I remember the feeling of knowing you could go back. When we lived in Egypt I didn’t worry about missing something because I know I could (and did – many times) go back. When you are living in a place, you’ve got the luxury of time!
    Nancy from Family on Bikes recently posted..How I changed motherhood

  3. Welcome to Chiang Mai. Glad you’re enjoying yourselves thus far. We’ll show you a place where you can eat delicious vegetarian food for less than 100b.

    There is an Art Exhibit Opening this evening at CMU. I’ll send you some info. 🙂
    GotPassport Family recently posted..Gratitude

  4. Maria says:

    Glad to read you’re getting your groove back.
    Maria recently posted..Manna from Heaven!

  5. Girly says:

    I have always wanted to go there, all my life. Now i will do my best. Thank you.
    Girly recently posted..No chocolate, no happiness

  6. Red Nomad OZ says:

    How can you NOT have groove with Bedouin rooftop bars and ‘monk chat’??? That sounds almost implausibly exotic … and while I love my life & travel downunder in OZ, not experiences I’m likely to have!!

    • The Dropout says:

      There’s a fair bit of backchat in Australia though!
      Australia is a great place to tour. I was so lucky to have been shown so much of my wonderful country when I was a kid.

  7. Great to see that you’re happily wandering the streets of Chiang Mai – and that you’ve met up with some other bloggers, too! 🙂 Good luck with everything.
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Istanbul Eurasia Marathon 2011 – 5 Days To Go

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