One of my colleagues, let’s call him Ben, asked me the other day if I would ever write about things I didn’t like about Chiang Mai/Thailand. I said, “No, I don’t think so.” I mean, I have written one post in particular about it already. Then he shared his top 5 things he hates about Thailand. His list:

1. Driving
3. Service “mai mee”
4. Hospitals
5. Banks

Ben is a 30something Brit married to a Thai woman with an adorable little boy who has been living in Thailand for many years. And you know about me, American Asian, easy on the eyes, funny, sexy cute, blah, blah, blah, but I think it’s important for you to understand and have a little background about Ben.

I have a tendency to write a lot of warm and fuzzy posts about how expat living is wonderful  and was going to write ANOTHER one, when I thought back to our conversation. I know I like to be positive, but let’s be honest. Living in Thailand is not always a cocktail on the beach. It’s not a 7-11 vacation holiday as some folks home would like to believe. And as I am enjoying another day of band saw construction noises, here’s my list:

1. Driving
2. the NOISE
3. Customer service (see mai mee)
4. the trash
5. Poor air quality

#1 Driving.
It’s not the other side of the road thing. It seems like that would be the biggest challenge but that novelty doesn’t last long. It’s the “I have no idea what the people around me are going to do” feeling. Even with these driving tips, I find myself swearing like a sailor driving a big rig in Honolulu Hawaii.

Yeah, I get real uppity or American. Sorry. Thais don’t look when pulling out into traffic because it is the responsibility of person behind them not to cause the accident. Motor biking encourages all sorts of weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, drinking and driving, exciting risk taking, and frankly, they don’t know how to drive cars here.

Or park. I once witnessed a driver pull out of a parking spot in an attempt to leave (?) and had ended up parallel and trapped between the rows of parked cars. Magic.

Part of the problem is the roads are not made for these Fortune 500 cars, not everyone has power steering and the “driver’s test” is a thin bowl of jok. Oh, and the red trucks, rot dangs are looking for customers, not you on the road, oh, no, yes, please stop in middle of the four way intersection while a Chinese tourist talks to you.

Jesus H. Christ, I could write a 4 page post on this alone, so I better stop. Everyone says, “It’s their country, they can drive how they want to,” but I say, No, don’t kill or butcher me with your lack of situational awareness, courtesy and care for everyone else on the road. And please spare me, Bangkokians with your “it’s so much better up here” talk.

#2 the NOISE.
I never realized how quiet America was until I moved here. Trucks rolling around town with speakers blasting the latest sale or advertisement. Public announcements in the countryside or neighborhoods, the Thai anthem being played at 8am and 6pm. The douche baggies with their loud mufflers. Packs of soi dogs. Roosters crowing at all hours of the day. Construction noises. Lots of construction noises. If you are booking a guesthouse I’d ask, if there is construction going on. Of course, they might not be honest or things might change at a notice, but you can at least ask.

Ben’s #2.
ATMs are a little different here. The big difference is you will get your card after you receive your money. So if you are forgetful, well, you might not want to be. It is easy to leave with your cash and forget your card. Also, have a little patience. I don’t know why but Thais have a hard time with these machines, and consequently take FOREVER.

ATMs must be non-intuitive for Thais because my mom always needs help using them. Maybe it’s an older generation thing?

#3 Customer service.
Oh dear. Anyone who has lived here has endured the waiting for the serviceman to show up, the trying to figure out what is going on. It’s not easy for us Westerners. We’re spoiled. There I said it. But if a roof is leaking then show up, if a pipe is broken, fix it. And if my internet is down, then don’t tell me you’ll come by tomorrow when I’ve been waiting all day for you to show up.

That said. You will learn to be more patient than you’ve ever been. Jing jing.

I’ve already written about #5 here and my very first post was about the trash (sort of). So I won’t be redundant.

I want to disagree with Ben’s #4 and #5 but I haven’t been here as long as he has and I’d rather not jinx myself.  So take this US News Money report and Retire Worldwide!

9 replies on “5 Things to Hate about Chiang Mai

  1. As an asthmatic I’d have to say that the terrible air quality would be at the top of my list. This year on one visit to Chiang Mai I barely made it out of my hotel room. Ditto on a trip to Singapore a few short months after.

    I do have plans to increase my lung capacity by learning the flute. But except for announcements in the press going nowhere, what plans are Thailand putting into place? Or SE Asia for that matter?


    1. Good point. I notice the “Stop Burning” billboards everywhere but everyone is still burning. And I haven’t heard anything about traffic pollution being addressed.

      Thailand is beautiful, so I wonder when Thais/whoever are going to start to do something about it?

      Interestingly my students are aware of the problem, acknowledging it as a problem but…


      1. Most of the Thais (and other SE Asians for that matter) that I know blame Indonesia – so no need to change their burning ways!


  2. Thanks Lani. I would have preferred early thirties as opposed to ‘thirty something.’ I could give you my top 100 things I hate about England but people probably already think I’m a little intolerant.


  3. Hated CM. And that saddened me because after my trip to Vietnam the previous year where i enjoyed the food and people tremendously, I was expecting the same if not better. When in fact, i had no similar revelation about food in CM which actually convinced me that I dont care for thai food. People were the biggest let down. Now, im asian american and i really dont expect host country to speak my language, english. However, in thailand most people either pretend to understand you and leave you hanging or maybe understood you but still leave you hanging cuz service aint their thing. I think places like Vietnam or main asian country cities have enough western culture mixed in to know that leaving people hanging isnt a good reflection on your culture. Thais (especially in the cities) are reliably unreliable.


    1. Between you and me (and whoever stumbles upon this old blog post), I think CM is overrated. It used to be a great mid-sized town and now it’s being called “Little Bangkok” because of all of the traffic.

      As far as the Thais go, CM is so overrun with tourists that I think those in the tourist industry have become jaded. There is probably resentment, too. But overall, Thais are helpful, friendly and sweet, but like anyhwere else in the world, there are all kinds.

      I often hear that Thais are not as direct or forthcoming, for them, it seems better to give an answer whether it is correct or not than not to give one (or possibly ignore the question out of discomfort). It’s about “saving face” and appearances. It’s just different than what we are used to. And yes, it’s maddening at times.


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