Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Have Visa, Will Travel!

Yesterday, amato mio collected our visas from the Thai embassy in London - the feeling of joy and excitement we both felt was akin to receiving a much longed-for gift....or perhaps the next instalment of Fallout or Assassin's Creed! Heheh!

Obviously, for security I have removed any incriminating identifying information - I'm not really a secret agent with no identity....or am I? Muahahaha!
We now have our flights to Bangkok and to Chiang Mai booked (we leave the UK on March 7th). We have hotels in both cities booked (one night in Bangkok - stop singing right now! - and five nights in Chiang Mai), and we have a working list of accommodation to view once we get to CM.

We haven't yet decided whether we want somewhere a bit off the beaten track in CM province, a condo, or a house close to the Old City. And we won't know until we get there because we actually have no idea how safe it will be to cycle. If it proves OK, then we'll buy a couple of bikes (as in pushbikes, not motorised ones), and rent a place up to about 15km from the Old City. In fact, if it's easy enough to get taxis we might do it anyway, given that we could be paying up to 5,000 THB (c.£100) less per month by not living in the city, which would easily pay for several trips a week, should we feel the need, although I'm not sure either of us would...neither of us are remotely into bars, pubs, clubs, 'nightlife' etc.!

In terms of going out, we're much happier wandering around, exploring the countryside, visiting temples (and other places of worship), eating local food where the locals eat (not places aimed at westerners), and finding cultural things to do (as in the local culture, I don't mean in some elitist manner!). At home, in the evenings when not working, we tend to play board games with a couple of very close friends, read books, play videogames, and watch DVDs (mostly SciFi or bad B movies...of course!) - we don't watch TV as such (although we have been known to download David Attenborough's programmes and QI from iPlayer). I can't see this changing once we're in Thailand....not unless we both mysteriously receive sociability transplants!

For the first few weeks, I fully expect amato mio to be very tired - not just because of having to adjust to the heat but because right now, he's close to exhaustion. I mean literally, not figuratively. He's working 6.5 days a week, is on the 6.30am train to London (he starts work on the train) and is rarely home before 8pm. Most nights he does an hour or more of work when he gets home too. And yes, it worries me....but I do know this is only temporary, and that once he's left The Red Cross on March 2nd, he'll be able to relax a little.

On the plus side, by the time we get on the 'plane, he might be so worn out that he sleeps for most of the flight, which will be good because, as I think I've mentioned before, he gets terribly airsick, so sleeping is really the best option for him.

So, what are we looking for in our future accommodation? Here's our wishlist - it may seem like a tall order but I don't think any of it is unreasonable, or outside our budget. Besides, we don't have to have absolutely everything on the list but it's good to define what kind of things we are looking for, no?
  • Air conditioning - I'm not bothered but for amato mio, no aircon is a deal-breaker. He will melt without it. Of course, I may find I am glad of it too....I just cannot imagine being warm enough to appreciate such things - even in Turkey when it was 36c, I felt no need to switch the aircon on!
  • Bedroom - at least one, preferably two if there is no space for an office area. 
  • Living area - must be a decent enough size so we are not tripping over each other.
  • Kitchen - hob or firepit of some description - I want to be able to cook after all! A fridge is pretty much a must too. If possible, I'd rather not have a completely western-style kitchen but if I have to, then I want it to be efficient! Heh heh!
  • Washing machine - not essential but if there is not one, there had better be access to a launderette or laundry service!
  • Bathroom(s) - a bath would be good but I could learn to live without long as I can find somewhere to swim! I have to have aquatic immersion!
  • Hot water - an absolute must in the bathroom(s). I don't care how hot the weather is, cold showers are a complete no-no!
  • TV(s) - desirable but not essential as we can buy a couple out there (yes, I did say a couple....we have no intention of watching TV but we are taking our Xboxes!).
  • Terrace or balcony - this is a must-have!
  • Garden - I have spent the past six and a half years with a tiny paved courtyard - I miss having a garden. I really miss having a garden!
  • Close enough to the Old City and safe enough to be able to bike unless there is decent public transport or a taxi service. We have no intention of buying or hiring motorised vehicles unless absolutely necessary....and by that I mean if we are going away for the weekend up into the mountains, or to Chiang Dao caves/elephant camp, which are 70km to the north.
  • Close enough to get to a market to buy food, preferably every day. We're not interested in shopping at Tesco Lotus or Big C, unless it's for things we can't buy where the locals shop (and the only thing which springs to mind is Nutella...but honestly, no Nutella is a very small price to pay for having such a wonderful adventure!). Biking to a market is an option, as is walking. I know everyone says it's much cheaper to eat out, and that may be true but a) I love cooking (as you know), and b) what about the health implications? I don't want us to put on weight and risk our health because most of the food from the street-vendors is fried. Of course we'll try it (more than once I expect!) but that's not what we want to be eating every day. And with so much fresh fruit and veg around, why would I not want to cook and eat it? I don't really have much experience of cooking Thai food, so I am really looking forward to learning. Funnily enough, when I left my last teaching job back in 2004, I was given a rather large and very beautiful Thai cookery book. If I have enough weight allowance in my luggage, it's coming with me! 
  • Not too many expats - seriously, without trying to cause offence to anyone, why would we want to live on the other side of the world, and only mix with other native English-speakers? They're probably great people....or OK people...but we're not terribly sociable here in the UK, why would we want to be any different in Thailand? Especially not as there's so much to see and ourselves! 
  • Relative quiet, particularly with regard to neighbours. Noisy neighbours are a deal-breaker for me. Animals don't bother me, people do. 
  • Six-month lease - a lot of places ask for a minimum of one year but we don't yet want to commit to something that long-term. We're obviously prepared to pay a little more for a shorter term lease.
  • Fully-furnished - another absolute must.
  • Clean and in good repair - obviously! No mouldy bathroom, no stained upholstery, etc. etc. If I wanted to rough it, I'd go further north and stay with a hill tribe! Actually, that's a very attractive idea but in reality, amato mio needs civilisation!
  • Internet - the absolute no.1 not-having-it-is-not-an-option! 
We've been looking at various styles of accommodation; I've bookmarked so many (because I've had the task of house-hunting), which I've now categorised into vaguely interesting, maybe, quite possibly, and really, really like! Curiously most of the really, really likes have turned out to be condos, and not houses. I was surprised by this because actually the idea of living in such close proximity to other people is not appealing but I accept that perhaps the kind of people who also live in the condos we've been looking at are the kind who are less likely to be noisy and rowdy!

If we could have our perfect place, it would be a lanna house with all of the above wishlist features and not in a moo-baan (gated community). I don't think it's going to happen, but we might get lucky!

This looks wonderful...except it's not in Chiang Mai, is a bit on the large side, and is very expensive to rent per night (it's in a resort!)....but its pretty close to being my perfect house! Click on the main picture to bring up the gallery....and gasp in amazement!

Here are a few more reasonably-priced places we've been looking at... what do you think?

  • This one looks lovely but I think it's going to be too far outside the city to be practical (unless the public transport is good!)
  • We absolutely love this house, so I'm going to make enquiries about it. If it's available, we may find however, that the place is too noisy, or that there's no transport, or that it's too far from anywhere to be practical to bike. And of course, it may not be available. But it is pretty fab!
  • We love this one too! However, like the one above, it is on a resort, so we have no idea what the other residents would be like. Having said that, the reviews are really good, and it seems that the owner is very happy to help out with transport. Definitely one to investigate further!
  • The garden doesn't look up to much, TBH but I can live with that! It's around 15km outside the Old City, which is a little further than we'd like to be but if there is a local market close by to do day to day shopping, and if it really is fully-furnished, as the ad states (but the pictures don't show), then it could do us very nicely. Where it says no hot water, it might just mean that there are no power showers....but we'd have to find out!
  • This one fulfils most of the criteria, despite not being in the lanna style. It's only about 10km from the city, so as long as the roads are safe for cyclists...
  • This one is not as spectacular but it still looks like a good house (untidy current residents notwithstanding!).

A few of the condos we've looked at are (again, please click on the links):
Of course, with all of them, the neighbourhood is going to play a huge part in our decision-making, and it may be that once we get to CM, we'll find even more choice but these are a good starting point, and we are pretty excited about finding a wonderful new home!


MissOut&About said...

I love the one you linked to here, despite it not being Lanna style:

That terrace is gorgeous. I could imagine long, glorious evenings spent out there.

Nicole Rossetti le Strange said...

Beautiful, isn't it?

The more I look at these places the more I think that it's not essential to be near such frivolities as say, food! Ha ha!

Cassandra said...

What an amazing adventure! The houses you linked to look amazing - beautiful architecture in inspiring surroundings.

Although I have to say that a 15km bike ride up a hill, in thirty-something degree heat, with groceries on board, would absolutely kill me. ;-)

Best of luck for your move - I'm really looking forward to reading more about it.

(PS I'm really sorry if I posted this comment twice...I think Blogger ate it the first time but I'm not sure!)

Nicole Rossetti le Strange said...

Isn't it just, Cassandra? Even if after six months we find that it's not how we envisioned it, at least we'd have tried, and can then move on to somewhere else. There's a whole world of adventure out there, just waiting to be experienced!

15km uphill in the heat is something I may well have to get used to! Fortunately, I probably won't ever be in a hurry, and I'll have my camera with me at all times, so it may well be that I'll cycle a bit, wander around taking photos for a bit, cycle a bit more, etc.! I have no intention of half-killing myself! Ha ha!

I think you're right about Blogger eating your previous comment....I hope it liked it! :-)