Aug. 31, 2012

"Kathleen, I am a subscriber and a regular reader of your e-mails. I am due to retire at the end of this year, and both my wife and I are seriously considering Chiang Mai. The problem is, with the exception of the slash-and-burn farming, we have not read a single negative report about Chiang Mai. Can anywhere be as good as this city is described? I am not looking for comparisons with other retirement options, as it will be Chiang Mai or back home to England. I am currently living in South Africa."

--Gerry W., South Africa

Asian Correspondent Wendy Justice replies:

You might want to take a look at my Chiang Mai city report, available through the Live and Invest Overseas website here.

I tried to include the "warts" along with the many positives about Chiang Mai. Briefly, as I detail further in my country report, among the negatives:

  • The seasonal pollution, as you know, can be pretty bad. Many people choose to leave Chiang Mai for clearer skies during the burning months...
  • It's Thailand's second-largest city, and that means that there can be traffic congestion. Because it's a larger city, the traffic can be daunting, especially during rush hour and major holidays, such as Songkran. Traffic laws are rarely enforced...
  • There isn't an easy public transportation system. Most people who live in Chiang Mai eventually decide to own a car or motorbike. If you take tuk-tuks or other for-hire transportation, you'll often need to bargain hard to get a reasonable price...
  • You'll also need to have good bargaining skills when shopping at the market, especially for handicrafts or items generally marketed to foreigners...
  • The hot season can be very hot. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And the wet season can be very wet.

I could come up with a much longer list of "positives" for Chiang Mai--including the huge expat population, beautiful surroundings, vast selection of restaurants, clubs, and nightlife, good shopping, many activities, low cost of living, and so on.

Bottom line, this city is a very nice and very affordable place to live. Not perfect, perhaps, but where is?

***

"Kathleen, I just want to say Chris' points in the recent dispatch you sent out regarding gyms and exercise outdoors in Panama City is dead-on accurate and truthful from the comments about the parks to why no one runs/walks in to the streets. Excellent! I am a member of the Power Club that Chris writes about, and I go to the one in El Cangrejo most of the time since I live in the area. Most of the Power Clubs are in fact under-sized/-equipped and over-crowded especially early evenings and cost at least double what a good gym in the United States costs. Not sure if the gym clients are Colombian hookers at El Cangrejo in the afternoons, but I can do some investigation and get back to you on this!

"I enjoy all the daily emails from Live and Invest Overseas, and this one in particular was fantastic. Great job, Chris."

--Frank F., PanamaContinue Reading:

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