Retreating Tranquil in Thailand – Reflections

This is where I live now – maybe you want to find out more about Chiang Mai and Thailand?  Check out this page or see  what its been like for me settling and getting established in my new Country.

Chiang Mai

Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude of attractions and welcoming hospitality. This is Chiang Mai, Thailand, my new adopted city in the country where I am retreating and living a Tranquil in Thailand expat life while enjoying new adventures and cultures.

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There is much written by Tourism Thailand and other resources about my new country but a short overview of where I reside is in order so readers can get a flavour of my new surroundings.

Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and it has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996.  Chiang Mai is located about 700kms north of Bangkok and 250kms south of the Myanmar (Burmese) border. It is within the tropics and is surrounded by mountain ranges that form the tail end of the Himalayan range.

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Chiang Mai sits in a broad valley at an elevation of 330m above sea level with the Ping River running through it – one of four main tributaries of the great Chao Praya River that runs through Bangkok. The valley is entirely flat and covers some 200 square kilometres.  As much as 70 per cent of Chiang Mai province is covered in mountains and forests. Wandering the countryside you see that agriculture – mainly fruit, vegetables and some rice cultivation – is the mainstay of the local economy.  T’s evident from living here that other industry include tourism, handicraft production, cottage industry, exporting, small-scale business, and manufacturing.

I’ve been getting to understand this country of Thailand and learned it has 76 provinces and a Bangkok special administrative area with a population of some 67 million people.  My Chiang Mai Province is the second largest with about 1.7 million people and the city of Chiang Mai has an estimated 400,000 people living in the greater urban area.

I was surprised to learn of the growing community of long-stay foreign residents and tourists that swell this figure by an estimated 100,000 during the tourist season.  Like me an estimated 25,000 foreigners live in Chiang Mai (on a full or part-time basis). Our community comprises mostly British, Americans, Japanese, Australians, Koreans, Dutch, Swedish, French and a handful of other nationalities and some belong to the Chiang Mai Expats Club.  It’s a social club that helps expats settle into Chiang Mai and feel a belonging along with English language magazines, a newspaper, and various clubs and societies that support this foreign expat community.

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Like other parts of the world my city has a historic past and I have started to learn some historical notes on Chiang Mai. King Meng Rai the Great, founded Chiang Mai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom on April 12, 1296 around the same time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Henceforth, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also to be the centre of Buddhism in northern Thailand. King Meng Rai himself was a very religious leader who even founded many of the city’s temples that remain important to this day. You can consider Chiang Mai a city of temples that are worth the time to visit for the tranquillity, the cultural difference and brilliant design and architecture.

Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it’s possible to experience historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side: the city features centuries-old pagodas and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. This some of the appeal for me in living in Chiang Mai.  It’s both modern with a historic culture. I have found that this dichotomy is best appreciated within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the fortified wall that once protected the city centre as well as the four main gates that provided access to the former Lanna capital city.

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I am told that strangely, for many years tourists had mistaken Chiang Mai simply as the base from which they could plan trekking and rafting trips to hill tribe villages and explore other provinces.

These days once in Chiang Mai I believe visitors are surprised by the fact that there are many things to discover other than its beautiful and historic temples.

Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes, a number of elephant camps, many cooking and massage schools, numerous outdoor activities, a variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and breathtaking scenery I believe make Chiang Mai one of Asia’s most attractive tourist destinations.

I am led to believe that the phrase “a day in Chiang Mai is enough to see things around town” was once a common tourism phrase. Not any longer, as a week or two in Chiang Mai may not be enough for visitors to experience all that Chiang Mai has to offer – that’s why I am here more permanently.

Some of the longer term expat residence tell me in the past 10 years tourism has increased the economic growth point for the city. IMG_0616I like that the old city of Chiang Mai showcases the north’s fascinating indigenous cultural identity including diverse dialects, a delectable cuisine, distinctive architecture, traditional values, lively festivals, numerous handicrafts, northern style massage and classical dances.

Chiang Mai is blessed with pristine natural resources including mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. I find the presence of numerous hill tribes that feature a wealth of unique cultures enhances Chiang Mai’s.

Hill tribe trekking, often combined with river rafting and elephant riding has always been one of Chiang Mai’s grea tourist attractions. With such a diverse range of attractions and an equally grand selection of dining and accommodation options I think that my Chiang Mai is a place to enjoy the ultimate experience.  And it is a great place to live as a full-time expat.

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Thanks to Tourism Thailand for some of this information.  You can find out more about Northern Thailand and Chiang Mai at: http://www.tourismthailand.org/About-Thailand/Destination/North

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) divides the country into five regions for tourism purposes – so if you interested about more of Thailand check these out – its worth the time.

Now you understand a little about my new environment check out the menu pages or links below on our move, building our house and settling in and then explore some of our Thai travel experiences.