Finding IT City Mall

The apartment I moved into is east of one of the main streets called Nimman road. I didn’t want to live right on Nimman. Its a little too busy and popular for my taste. I’d also seen a gym on google maps on my side of Nimman.

So yesterday I decided to go hunting for it. According to google maps, it is called Strong Gym and it is down the road from where I live. Google maps shows it like off the road somehow. It was weird, but I thought I would figure it out when I got there.

So I walk down there and its a nice day so I am enjoying things. Then I come up on a building that looks like this:

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That doesnt look like a gym. And as I turn the corner I see this official looking parking booth. I thought it may be a hotel, or a government building of some sort.

So I walk past the booth and no one stops me so I go wandering towards the little pin on google maps.

I end up in this huge shopping center. Like 5 floors. It seemed like it was called IT City. And it is a shopping center attached to a hotel.

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It had all sorts of places to eat and department stores and little arcade centers:

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Also this pizza place had specialty pizzas with shrimp and corn as toppings.

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They had this little photography gallery in the middle of one of the areas:

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Some pretty big sections of it seemed to be abandoned:

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There is a huge courtyard in the middle:

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There was even a movie theater on one of the top floors:

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They even have karaoke booths

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Anyways, I had a good time wandering around that huge place. But at the end of it all, I did find Strong Gym:

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It was hiding in the corner of the third floor.

It was crazy to just stumble into something so big and busy.

Spectre at Chiang Mai Cinema

Ok, so the new James Bond movie came out and I really wanted to see it.

I grabbed a red taxi truck (called a Songthaew) to take me to Maya. Shortly after I got in, the truck stopped and a white couple got in. They turned out to be from Portland (if I remember right) and they had the same idea I did to see Spectre on opening day at Maya.

So we walk in together and ask/answer the standard traveler questions, “where are you from?”, “where have you been?”, “where are you going next?”, etc…

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We get to the theater and I follow them to a different line than I used last time I saw a movie here. I got a ticket for only like 150 baht (I think, cant remember). But I guess last time I went to the VIP theater which is like way more expensive.

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This is what the regular theater seats look like.

Anyways, the movie was good. One thing that was interesting was that the showtime was 2:20. In the US that means that is when the movie starts. But here in Thailand, that is like when they let you into the theater. Then you watch like 20 minutes or so of previews mixes with advertisements until the movie starts, which is kind of interesting.

Also before the movie begins you are prompted to stand for the national anthem which is also interesting.

Also, I should be clear that the movies I saw where in english with thai subtitles. Its seems like its common for the first run american movies to be shown this way.

First Chiang Mai Apartment

I was able to find an apartment that rents by the month. There are lots of places like this but I was looking for something cheap. After wandering around chasing leads for a day or so I came across this place:

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The monthly rate is 6,300 baht per month ($178) plus utilities.

Here are a few shots of my room:

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As you can see there is a shower curtain which is a bit of a luxury if the previous places I have stayed are any indication. Usually is it just like the picture above but no curtain. You just kind of shower in there with the toilet and try not to get everything too wet. Its actually easier than it sounds.

Anyways, this place is clean, has a/c, and has fast enough internet for netflix so it works great for me. And its hard to beat a price like that.

Bridge of Spies at Maya Cinema

So there is this big mall in Chiang Mai called Maya. It is on a street called Nimmanhaemin Road or Nimman Road which is a big main shopping area with lots of coffee shops, places to eat, etc…

The Maya mall has a cinema and they show first run american films, so I thought I would check it out.

The mall is like 6 stories and the cinema is on level 5. There is a balcony with a cool view so I grabbed a pic:

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Nimman is towards west edge of the city so this view is just of the part of the city between Nimman and the mountain. The city goes on for a long long ways the other direction.

So I go up to buy a ticket and apparently the first run movies are like 450 baht ($12.70). Whoa. Was not expecting that. But I’m here so I’ll go for it. When you buy the ticket they ask you what type of drink you want. Popcorn and a drink are included apparently. Then they have this fancy little waiting area to sit before the movie starts. Then they usher people in and start as soon as everyone is situated. You popcorn and drink are there waiting for you.

Wow. Legroom city:

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The seats recline and everything. Very comfortable situation. But is it worth $12.70? For me it is. Plus there was just something very very comforting about doing something so normal as seeing a movie. I saw the new Tom Hanks movie “A Bridge of Spies” and the movie was good. But afterwards I just felt comfortable. Its hard to explain. Being so long in such a foreign culture is somewhat taxing. I’m getting more and more used to it but at the moment it is still strange and different in so many ways. I don’t know, watching that movie reminded me somehow that I am not so far from my other life. It was just something familiar in this sea of the different. It felt good and I left the theater feeling rather peaceful and good.

First Few Days in Chiang Mai

I made it to Chiang Mai.

Ok, so when I landed I my phone wasn’t connected to any network so I had to hunt down some WiFi. Luckily I found some in a little coffee shop. Using the WiFi, I tracked down this little guest house called Banilah that had really good reviews. I got the address and decided to just show up and hope they had a room for me.

You have to pay about 160 Baht (about $4.50) for a taxi from the airport into the city. So the Taxi drops me off at about 7ish local time. I am greeted by these two very friendly Thai women who speak english quite well. They take my bags and bring me some water. There are like 4 cats lying around tied each with collars long enough for them to get all the way around the room but not make it very far outside. But their long leads are a bit tangled and I get the sense that they are always like that.

Here is a picture of the guesthouse:

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Before I left, my dad mentioned to me that when he was in Japan, one of the things that struck him was how he could see people he knew in the faces, actions and mannerisms of the Japanese people, and how that made him feel that behind all our differences, we are all much the same. I felt the same way watching these women with their cats. Think about your typical cat lover who loves to hug and pet their cats while the cat gazes unimpressed into space. That is exactly how these two were.

Here is a shot of one of their cats:

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Anyways, after they gave me a key, one of them sat me down and gave met like 3 different maps of the area. She then spent like 30 minutes highlighting all the places of note in the area and around the city and explaining to me how to get around. The maps had a place for a Thai massage without a/c ($4) and a Thai massage with a/c ($5), a place for pad thai (turned out to be amazing and was just a little street cart), the market down the road where everyone goes to eat and shop (I went there several times and the food was great), all the 7/11s near by (there are 7/11s everywhere), the main temples in the area that people visit, the Saturday and Sunday markets (which like everyone goes to), and a market for tourists (“don’t go to that one, its too expensive” she tells me). Then she folds up the maps and puts them into this little zip lock and I go off to bed.

I didn’t remember to grab any pictures of the room. It was a little bigger than my hotel room in Singapore. But one thing that was interesting was that you had to go out to the balcony to get to the bathroom. Like the bathroom was in a door on the balcony. And the balcony had a fantastic view of a cement wall like 6 feet away, lol. But the place was clean and had fast enough wifi for a bit of netflix before bed.

The next few days I spent just wandering around until my feet hurt trying to get the feel for this place. The driving on the left side of the road is still a little weird for me. I didn’t realize how much of your behavior even as a pedestrian is affected by the side of the road people drive on. But every time you cross the street, you check different sides for the on coming traffic (or at least I do) and when you are walking on the side of the road (there are practically no sidewalks here) you usually keep in mind whether to watch for on coming traffic on your side or brace for traffic behind you on your side. And this is made all the more exciting by the fact that people are not accustomed to giving people a wide berth when zipping by on their scooters. Those scooters are crazy, they will even zip right in between cars that are stopped at an intersection.

Anyways, just as I was getting a feel for that area I am moving out. I found a place that rents for a month at a time which will be much cheaper than staying at Banilah. Plus its in a different part of town that has more internet cafes and places to work on my laptop.

Its still is amazing to me. I am really loving it here. I love how everything is so different. I really need to sit down and learn a few words of Thai. I’ve been able to get by but if I could at least say “hello” and “thanks” correctly, I wouldn’t feel so lame.

 

First Night Abroad

 

I made it to Singapore after a grueling 20 hour flight and was exhausted. My layover was for 14 hours. I had hardly eaten anything and had hadn’t slept in a bed for 2 days. I land in Singapore and find my way to a hotel in a crappy part of Singapore. I check in.

My hunger out weighs my fatigue so I decide to wander in search of food, and I’m glad I did. It was about 2:00 am local time and I found this little corner restaurant. It was quite busy for 2 am. There were probably a dozen people out eating at this restaurant. The road was busy. Cars and scooters driving by. The people eating there were all locals. In fact, there was not another foreigner in sight.

I did learn that English is one of the main languages spoken in Singapore. However, it is 1 of 4 official languages recognized by the government. Which explains why nearly all signs and advertisements are all in english (often along with another language).

I sit down and order. Luckily all the menu items have pictures. Nobody there seemed to speak much english. I order a few things and this is what they bring me:

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I got some shrimp dumplings, some pork dumplings and some sort of fried rice. It was all really good. The green stuff is sugar cane juice which was pretty good.

Here is a shot of the street I was on. It was in between traffic so it wasn’t as deserted as it looks.

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Anyways, Here are a few shots of the cheap hotel room:

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It was very small. But relatively clean, and I cant tell you how great it was to actually lay down and sleep for a full 8 hours.

The next day I went wandering around for some food again before my flight and ended up with this:

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This was an example of me looking around to see what other people were eating and just ordering that. It was very good and quite spicy.

Anyways, I made it back to the airport for my flight. When I made it to Thailand, it was interesting how dissimilar it is to Singapore.

Goodbye Utah

So for those that don’t know, in the end of Oct 2015, I quit my job and moved to Thailand. Well, when I say moved to Thailand, I really mean that I intend to spend some time living abroad and Thailand is the first stop. I may only be able to stay here for 60 days this first time around due to visa restrictions, but we will have to see what happens.

I, like many others, have always wanted to spend some serious time traveling. In fact, as I was saving for a down payment for a house, I would often thing about how I would rather blow all that down payment money on travel before I settled down. However, I never really knew how I could make that happen. I was making great money at a tech startup as a Web Developer. I really liked my job and they needed me. It was hard to take a week off to go vacation with my family to Oregon let alone actually travel the way I wanted to.

Then in about Feb 2015 I came across a concept called being a Digital Nomad. Whoa. It really blew my mind. The idea is that with the internet, there are many people who can work remotely and thus be location independent. These Digital Nomads travel the world with their laptops, often living a minimal lifestyle out of a backpack. They still typically work 40 hours a week but they do it from wherever they want.

I became obsessed with the concept, and, like tends to happen when I get obsessed, I spent much of my free time reading blogs, watching youtube, and dreaming about all the possible ways I could make this a reality for my own life.

The obsession died down a bit but was still very much there. But, work needed me and I wasn’t ready to leave my work. Plus I wanted to save up a little more cash.

Then around September, things changed. Which is to say, lots of things changed at work. We brought on two other very capable developers. Suddenly my reason to stay for work weakened. Then the environment at work changed a lot. It suddenly was not the company I felt like I signed up for in many ways. It was time for me to leave.

So, realizing that my reasons for staying just went away, I decided to go for it.

It was not an easy decision. In fact, it scared the crap out of me. Who does this? Who picks up and leaves to go live in another country? But, I wasn’t going to let a little fear get in the way of doing something I had always dreamed of doing. Plus I really wanted to be someone who would actually do something like this. Many many people dream about doing something like this. In fact, many people I told my plans to would reply with something like “I’ve always wanted to do something like that.” I really wanted to be one of the few who actually did it.

So, I bought my plane ticket to Chiang Mai, Thailand leaving on Oct 30, 2015. The next month or so I spent preparing and I had to keep reminding myself that I had really mitigated the risk and that if I didn’t actually go, I would regret it.

My last day of work was Oct 23rd and I spend the remaining time selling nearly everything I owned, reducing my possessions to a box or two to keep at my parent’s house and a backpack and shoulder bag full of the things I would bring with my to Thailand.

Now here I sit in a hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Its been crazy and exciting, but I cant say it has been easy. I’m experiencing culture shock and jet lag. I’m feeling a little lost and confused. Its super hot here all the time and I’m sweating through all my clothes. And more than once I have had the sudden shocking question come to mind of, “What the hell am I doing here”? But so far, I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why Chiang Mai, Thailand? – When I first learned of the Digital Nomad idea I came across several tools and communities on the internet for those that live this lifestyle. The city most often mentioned nearly everywhere is Chiang Mai, Thailand. Partially because it has decent internet and a low cost of living. Also, it probably has one of the biggest Digital Nomad presences in the world (probably because people like me who research like I did and decide to come here).

How do you Mom and Dad feel about it? – I come from a very family oriented culture. This question comes up a lot. They are very supportive. My Dad basically wanted to make sure I had thought through how this will affect my career, and Mom wants me to do what makes me happy.

Where do you want to go after Chiang Mai, Thailand? – I am considering several places including Jeju Island – South Korea, Canggu – Bali, and Osaka – Japan

What are you going to do for work? – I am going to be doing freelance web development. I also have a lot of personal projects that I just didn’t have time for when I was working 40 hours per week for someone else. If I play my cards right, I should be able to support myself doing freelance work part time or less and free up some time for my own ideas.