Living spaces in Thailand are so different that the US. Sometimes I peek into apartments and wonder how much space people need in order to feel happy. Apartments in Thailand, well, let’s talk about Chiang Mai since this is where I live, are tiny in comparison to the luxuriousness of the United States.
Many expats compare the overrepresented Thai-style studios to hotel rooms, but I think dormitories are a better description. Here’s a quick rundown: studios are common, one bedrooms are not. Kitchens are very rare, like a good steak. Most folks create a kitchen space with a counter top range and a hot water pot. Many cook outside on their tiny balconies.
Thailand is noisier. Hot water at the sinks are non existent. Bathtubs are almost never seen, as are shower curtains or some sort of separation between shower and say, the rest of the bathroom. Beds are harder. Walls are concrete. The wattage is different, not grounded and visible (no drywall). Construction is generally less quality, and construction is everywhere! Consider that carefully when looking for a place. And the Thai word for furniture is: furniture.
Why would anyone live here, right? Well, the above apartment is about 3,000 baht which is about $95. This includes bed, wardrobe, desk and sometimes a TV but generally things like a fridge and TV are glamorous add-ons. Electricity in apartments are more expensive than houses but as long as you aren’t running the A/C 7/11, it’s reasonable.
Water is cheap. When I lived in a house I paid a flat rate of 150 baht, which is less than $5. In an apt, it is not going to be much more expensive and if you are frugal, this can be a good indication of what your electricity bill might be. But let’s say, it’s been hotter than a chicken off the grill, and you’ve been using the A/C like a Malaysian mall, you pay as much as your 3,000 baht rent.
When I first got here, I lived in a more “American-style” apt which was more like a very large studio near Payap Uni for about 10,000. We paid too much but it was out of desperation and it made the transition to Thailand a little easier. I think. It was difficult for me to look out the window and stare at a large transformer and poverty. (Squatters had settled near the building)
For my next two places I was in the typical Thai-studios, one located in the moat and the other located just a little outside of it. It was the noise that ultimately drove me mad. My neighbor’s late night chats with her farang boyfriend, and the angry drunk farang guy who lived in the next building over, but who was too close and loud for sanity.
Next, I rented a glorified tent cabin in the bamboo woods, where I decided to get uber domestic and care for cats, who lovingly slaughtered snakes, lizards and rats of various sizes and laid them thoughtfully in front of my bedroom door or by my pc, or in the bathroom. I wrote about my house adventures here.
Now I live in town again, the Old City. I haven’t been here yet a month but I feel like it’s the closest to what I’m used to. It’s not that my family was well-off and I’m used to a certain standard of living, it’s I’m a homebody, and I’m used to a certain standard of living…
It’s a typical soi, I guess, except for the unnaturally large amount of old white men who hang out at the restaurants or in front of Veerachai Court’s mini mart. The soi is a great location and the condo where I live is about 20 years old, and has 15 floors.
So I’m assuming these old white men live in the same building as me or Veerachai Court. They look at me with the same interest that they look at all the women, but perhaps this is me being modest and not wanting to really know how they look at me. It’s weird.
My apartment is not the usual Thai-style apt, whoever made it, did so with Western sensibilities. The bedroom is raised, separated by French doors, the bathroom doors open like shutters and the drain is a divider between shower and the rest of the room.
The kitchen is all counter tops and at the center of the apt. Unfortunately, the burners are boxed in by granite walls which makes me wonder if the builder ever cooked before.
The living room has been decorated Asianly, and is my favorite spot because it’s comfortable and visually interesting. My Ecuadorian pillows are on the chair, there are Thai printed blankets, pillows, art and my scarves are draped over a bamboo ladder.
But I’ve saved the best for last, the lights are recessed, and not fluorescent! Sure, the lights are not evenly placed, it’s still Thailand, after all. It is not without its quirks.
The bathroom sink and counter tops are too high for me. The drain too close to the shower to be an effective separator. The French doors with its open cutouts doesn’t work well with the bedroom A/C. Sure. But I like my new place.
Oh yeah, I forgot, my front door is three doors put together on rollers.
What’s your experience living in Chiang Mai?