Taste and personal preferences can't be disputed, but Chiang Mai is definitely one of the nicest places in Thailand to live in. Unless you can't live without the sight of the sea and beaches, or you crave the cosmopolitan feeling of a big city like Bangkok, you can find almost anything in Chiang Mai that can give you a great quality of life.
Here are the top 10 reasons for making it your homebase.
Officially the country's second largest city with more than 1 million inhabitants (official figures are not consistent), Chiang Mai is the type of city that is not too small not too big (although some people who have known Chiang Mai for a long time regret that it is currently expanding so rapidly). You can reach all interesting areas in town on a scooter within 20min and they are all cyclable on a pushbike. Compare that with Bangkok, where you'll be stuck in traffic for 45 min to get one block further.
Construction is ongoing for the new Bangkok Hospital, a premier hospital group providing excellent private care. There are already many hospitals in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is rapidly expanding in size and facilities these few years.
Chiang Mai offers a very high level of facilities, even more so considering its moderate size. There is an ample supply of all kinds of accomodation at very reasonable price levels, and all kinds of facilities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, golf courses, shopping malls, hospitals, western supermarkets and so on.
As for food, Chiang Mai is probably the city in Thailand with the highest density of good restaurants. You can find almost any cuisine, it's easy to reach and it's affordable. The only food which is harder to get in Chiang Mai is fresh seafood.
Read more about food reviews.
Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand, and in the world. Many foreigners live fairly comfortably on a budget of THB 20,000 (USD 600) per month, and if you have more you can live like a king. Read more about cost of living in Chiang Mai.
Tucked away in the North of Thailand, away from hard and commercial life in Bangkok and from mass commercial tourism in the South (Phuket and Pattaya), local people in Chiang Mai are amongst the most genuine in Thailand. Although being a major tourism destination in Thailand, local people generally have kept their original identity and treasure their local culture. On the negative side, one can experience it as having a provincial character, but seen positively you can meet many simple and modest local people.
Chiang Mai used to be the center of a regional Kingdom called Lanna, with a distinct culture and separate from the great Siamese powers in the south. As a consequence, the density of local culture is much higher than in Bangkok: there are about as many temples in Chiang Mai as in entire Bangkok.
Conquered and influenced by Myanmar in the past, and nowadays a magnet for all kinds of minorities, Chiang Mai hosts a multitude of different cultures, sometimes living in their own neighbourhood but harmoniously with each other: hilltribes, Chinese, moslims, Indians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and many more.
Ethnic diversity other than the majority of Thai Buddhists.
There are no tensions between ethnic groups in Chiang Mai, like in the South of Thailand.
You can live almost any lifestyle you want in Chiang Mai: from relaxing, chilling out and doing virtually nothing, to an active lifestyle with yoga and focussed on well-being, or playing golf or any other sports. Possibilities to work and do business are more limited, as Chiang Mai is not a business city, but a lot of foreigners find their own work or ways to earn money. Read more about activities and communities in Chiang Mai and how to make money in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is located in the middle of a few mountain ranges, which you can see in great detail when the sky is clear. It only takes less than an hour drive to be completely out of the urban heat, and experience total nature.
However, within the boundaries of the city, there is nature everywhere, Chiang Mai is probably one of the greenest cities in Southeast Asia (if not, in the world).
Local culture respects older trees, so you often see that entire buildings are constructed in a way as to leave a big tree untouched.
Hence, Chiang Mai offers a unique balance between city life and rural life. Wherever you are, you will always be able to enjoy nature, whether it is a lush restaurant garden during lunch or simply the view on the mountain Doi Suthep from your balcony. Mountain view is a common good in Chiang Mai.
Similar sized cities in Asia often do not display this feature, as they are not as green, think about Phnom Penh where most trees are cut.
Mountain views in Chiang Mai are a "common good" and there is always a unique balance between nature and city.
Even amongst Thai people Chiang Mai is much preferred for its milder climate. Thailand being a tropical country, it can be melting hot everywhere, but Chiang Mai does have some real seasons and even a chilly period in winter. Read more about climate.
Chiang Mai is, after Bangkok, the best connected city in Thailand when it comes to flights, making it a convenient homebase or travel hub in Southeast Asia. Most major cities in Asia can be reached in maximum 2 stops. Check flight connections from Chiang Mai (coming soon).
Summarized and in all fairness, the only thing that Chiang Mai really lacks are sea and beaches, and that's why a lot of visitors and residents of Chiang Mai make trips to the South now and then to get a bit of a sea breeze. However, located in the middle of several mountain ranges, you can enjoy so much nature and different landscapes within a 1 hour drive that for most people this more than compensates to make Chiang Mai their homebase.
|Chiang Mai Toastmasters Club|
Speak English, Build confidence, Conquer your fear, Master t
|Chiang Mai Social Group Of Friends|
Do you want to meet up with fellow peers in Chiang Mai? Are
Mahasiddha Yoga (tantrayogathailand.com) - Just north of the
Free of costs language exchange between farang and Thai
|Couchsurfing Chiang Mai|
Weekly meet up with local Thai and Couchsurfers, long stayer
|Chiang Mai Fencing Club|
Dedicated to the sport of Fencing, playing Foil, Epee, and S
|Latin Tunes @Meridien|
Salsa lovers gather at the Meridien, salsa in style, every l
Salsa dance lovers swing it out on Thursday at Sahara, Nimma
Regular outings for bird lovers
|Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual group (LGBT)|
Our LGBT group aims to allow friendships between both Thai a
|Monday Jam night @ Boy Blues Bar|
Every Monday night is Jam night at Boy Blues Bar Bar. Many f
|First Northern Thailand Toastmasters Club The Confidence Builders|
Meets the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month at 6pm. 053-21
Saturday mornings 10 am. Contact Ruth at 085-615-1413
|Hash House Harriers: CSH3 (Saturday mixed Hash)|
Mixed family hash runs every Saturday. Pick up point is The
Support group open to those affected by alcoholism in a rela
|OA (Overeaters Anonymous)|
Every Saturday from 4-5 p.m. Please ask the guards or nurses
Every Saturday night screening at 07.00 pm (Free Admission!)
|Expat Club |
General Meetings on the 4th Saturday of the month, except De
|Open night @ Sangdee|
All are welcome to perform. Sirimangkalajarn Soi 5 from 8 PM
|Meditate with the Green Papaya Sangha|
In the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. T
Every Friday at 9pm at participating bars in a home and away
|Chiang Mai Expats Club Coffee Morning|
Coffee meetings are on 1st and 3rd Friday of each month Frid
|Alliance Francaise Films|
Alliance Francaise Films: Every Friday at 8 PM
|Trinity Baptist Church|
Meeting for old-time worship and fellowship with Dr. Jack L.
|Traditional 2nd hand market|
A Traditional 2nd hand market - Every Saturday morning from
|Big Day Out|
1st Sunday of every month. Live music and BBQ, 080 1222561
|New Beginnings group of Alcoholics Anonymous|
Open meetings at 10:00am on Sundays.
|International Group of Alcoholics Anonymous|
Chiang Mai International Group of AA meets every morning at
|Classic Cars of Lanna|
Meets the last Sunday of every month
Every Sunday 1:30 pm - 4:00 pm We have bats and gloves… ju
Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. Info: 084-485-0100, chi
Salsa dance lovers swing it out on Tuesday at Coffee Monster
|“Informal” Expats Ladies Lunch|
“Informal” Expats Ladies Lunch: The lunch buffet at the
|“Formal” Expats Ladies Lunch|
“Formal” Expats Ladies Lunch: First Thursday of every mo
Nicotine Anonymous: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1 p.m., 086-19
|Quiz Night @ Garden Bar Lotus Hotel|
Quiz Night at the Garden Bar Lotus Hotel Chang Puak. Teams o
|Chiang Mai Photographic Group|
Chiang Mai Photographic Group: meets every other Wednesday a
|Open Microphone Night|
Open Mike Night at the UN Irish Pub every Wednesday, from 8.
Co-dependants Anonymous: Support group for those having prob
|Friends of Bill|
Friends of Bill meeting (General 12 Step meeting, all addict
|Swiss Lanna Society|
Swiss Lanna Society weekly informal gatherings, 6:30 p.m. ev
|Royal British Legion|
Royal British Legion meeting has moved to Basic Line Hotel S
Badminton group meets every Tuesday from 2-4 PM at the Munic
Judo group meets at the MMA club near the Railways station o
CM Money Club meets last Thursday of every month. Info: Don
The Chiang Mai Computer Club meets every Tuesday. It is open
|Chiang Mai International Rotary Club|
The Chiang Mai International Rotary Club meets on Tuesdays a
|On-location Sketching Group|
On-location sketching group: Monday mornings from 8:00-10:30
Karatedo Federation Wado-kaj organises free Karate practise
|Tai Chi - Chi Kung|
Every Monday and Wednesday 8am at Suan Buak Hat Public Park
|Women's Book Club|
CM's International Women's Book Club meets every last Monday
The Gentleman's Club for real gentlemen and males approachin
|Back to Basics Group of AA|
Back to Basics Group of Alcoholics Anonymous meets Monday to
|Hash House Harriers CH3 (male only)|
Male runs every alternate week on Mon/Tue. Pick up from The
|Jam night @ Boy Blues Bar|
Swinging music with live jam, every Monday from 9pm
|Ball hockey by CM Highlanders|
CM Highlanders plays ball hockey every Monday.
|CM Travel Club|
Chiang Mai Travel Club gathers at Sangdee every 2nd Monday o
|Upstairs at Sangdee|
Performing artists every Monday at Sangdee. For those intere
|Hash House Harriers CSH3|
Mixed family hash runs every Saturday. Pick up point is the
|Sri Sathya Sai Baba Group|
Study and discussion group for CM devotees of spiritual mast
|Gay and Lesbian Club|
|Readers & Book discussion group|
Monthly over lunch to discuss a previously agreed book, cmre
|Dining Out Group|
Once a fortnight, alternating between Asian and Western food
Though there isn't a proper racquet ball court in Chiang Mai
|Circle of Light|
The Circle of Light Group is a reading & discussion group fo
|Chiang Mai Beach Volleyball Club|
Welcome to CMBVC! We are one of Chiang Mai's most active spo
|Urban Sketchers Chiang Mai|
Urban Sketchers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rai
Maum meditation is throwing away the false mind,and is Chan
|New Life Foundation Thailand|
New Life Thai Foundation is a unique international, mindfuln
|WED ZOUK BAREFOOT at Birds Nest Cafe|
We would like to invite you all for our regular zouk meet up
|Tons of Time!|
Weight being a problem for us all these days, but truly bein
|Tai Chi Chuan|
Tai Chi Chuan step by step.. Daily weekday classes every
|Yin Yoga with Claudio|
Price: 200B - Contact Claudio: 0847 744705
This movement meditation practice is for anyone that is insp
|Esoteric Integral Yoga|
The Esoteric Integral Yoga course is an in-depth course prov
Football Chiang Mai - Football fan in Chiang Mai
|Chiangmai AutoCAD Training|
AutoCAD for Engineering and Architecture drawing training
|Documentary Arts Asia Monday & Thursday Showings|
The Documentary Arts Asia Theater has regular screenings of
|Income Tax discussion|
How to legally claim tax rebate as a foreigner working in Th
|Chiang Mai Backgammon|
Anyone interested in forming a group?
|Tantra Yoga Community|
A unique course about the extraordinary spiritual adventure
|Chiang Mai Improv Theatre|
We are all about PLAY! Come and regress to being 5 years old
A laughter yoga class and circle at the Yoga Tree Chiang Mai
Think you're funny? We're looking for people who'd like to
|Chiang Mai Jugglers and Prop Enthusiasts|
Wanna meet and play with other Prop Manipulation geeks? Lear
|Chiang Mai Chess Club|
Welcome to Chiang Mai Chess Club
|Squash Players Chiang Mai|
There are 2 main groups of squash players in Chiang Mai.
There are a few groups in Chiang Mai that gather for salsa,
|Writers without Borders|
If you're an expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or, more specifi
An exploration of dance and movment, the BIODANZA way, of ho
|Green Papaya Sangha|
Meditation in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nha
|Bridge Chiang Mai|
Welcome to Bridge Club of Chiang Mai