This is my third trip to the second biggest city in Thailand. In a small way I have become a local. The baristas at Starbucks remember my name. They also remember not to ask me if I want yak milk when I order a black coffee. The owner of my favorite haunt for breakfast asked me if I really needed a menu “you know it by heart” he said. The ENT doctor at the Chiang Mia Ram hospital was gracious and said “nice to see you again, time to vacuum the ears?” I walked into Gecko Books and the owner looked up at me and said simply “Nope”. I had no idea what he meant. I shrugged my shoulders and he said “I have not gotten in any Hornblower novels yet.” It had been 4 months since I asked him if he had any. Most importantly, my dentist and all his assistants remember everything about me and treat me as a valued customer.
I know my way around the parts of town I need to know my way around. I know how to tell a Tuk-Tuk driver where I want to go. I know how to flag down a Sungtow (it is pronounced that way, the spelling is optional) headed in the right direction and how much to pay him.
I have adopted the attire of a resident expat, as opposed to a tourist expat. It helps fend off attempts at overcharging for transportation or other items. The difference I might pay if thought of as a Dickerson from Iowa as opposed to a local farong might be as much as a quarter in real money. It is a point of pride.
I have done all the tours and adventures already. So this trip is about finishing up a course of dental work and just “being a local.”
Of course I am not truly a local, but I am starting to think I would like to be, someday. It has become imperative that I eliminate or encounter other possible retirement locations before I convince my wife that there is no better place to hang our hats, watch our hair turn silver and feed the pigeons.
As said, this trip is hopefully, although doubtfully, my last trip to the dentist. Originally, almost a year ago, I came here to see my cousin. He has lived in Chiang Mai for 6 steady years. He seldom leaves. He blogs about it and emails me about it all the time. Once my wife and I settled into life in the UAE, I looked a the cost of flying here from Dubai. It was less than flying from our previous home in Central America to Los Angeles. Then I looked at the cost of dentistry in Dubai vs the same work done here in Chiang Mai. In short, it was less expensive to fly here, stay in a hotel, eat in restaurants and get my teeth fixed than it would be to have the dentistry done in Dubai. Plus I got a vacation, and Mary Ann got me out of the house.
My dentist here is the best dentist I have ever had. I have, since birth, had terrible luck with my teeth. So, I have seen enough dentists to fill a phone book. I once had an excellent dentist in Lima, Peru, but he was so expensive that my credit cardcompany sent me an emergency message that I was probably being robbed.
This dentist in Chiang Mai has equipment built tomorrow. He was educated at UCLA and speaks English perfectly. He explains everything so that even a fool like me can understand. He laughs at my jokes, which originate in nervousness. Yesterday he was screwing in an abutment. I told him I felt like a car. He turned to his assistant (yes, his CUTE assistant) and said, “Hand me the adjustable spanner.” She did not get it, but we had a good laugh. Plus, a BIG plus, something I cannot over emphasize, he is painless.
One other medical thing I take care of here is to have my ears vacuumed. Don’t ask. All I will say is that if I cut my head off, my health would be just fine. I walked into a first class hospital without an appointment, got the procedure done by an excellent doctor, and walked out less than an hour later. Total charge? About $30. Try that anywhere else.
But a person can only spend so much time in the dentist chair.
I planned this trip so that I would be here on a Sunday night. The Sunday night market in Chiang Mai is a colorful, vibrant and exciting event. Here are a few shots.
Besides the market I did not need to go anywhere or buy anything. Besides that, it has rained a few days during my visit. So, I have been reading quite a bit.
One of the reasons to love this city is a certain bookstore in town called Gecko Books.
An expat name George started Gecko Books about a decade ago. He has a handful of storefronts. They are all chock full of interesting books. He does not necessarily survive off of travelers, his local customer base is quite large as well. He buys books a customer/traveler is done with, and orders books both new and old from Australia, Canada, and the USA. If you buy a book from him, you can sell it back for 50% of what you bought it for. There is a time limit on this buy-back option, but I forget what it is. It has never been an obstacle. I have been able to find most anything I want to read. The popular authors such as Grisham are well represented. But it is not just a leisure reading bookstore. His shelves stock histories, science, theatre, dance, religion, and of course travel.
Anyone considering where they could afford retire to should consider Chiang Mai. My cousin is doing really well on about US$1200 a month, which includes rent, utilities, a great health insurance plan and he eats all his meals out. That is US$1200 a MONTH folks. Friendly people, very low crime, fresh air, great restaurants and a vibrant expat community.
Thanks for reading, tell a friend and make a comment. Next post….from KENYA!