Chiang Mai Expats: What Do They Do All Day?

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Thailand | 1 comment

Chiang Mai Expats: Rise and Shine on Nature’s Terms

The Thai sun bursts into my bedroom and is usually the lovely culprit that wakes me up. I take secret joy in that, knowing we are living the dream as Chiang Mai Expats.

Why? Because five years ago, an alarm set at 5:10 am yanked me from my blissful slumber into the darkness of pre-dawn. Retiring in Chiang Mai, Thailand, means I can wake up naturally. With natural light. What an indulgence. This instantly boosts my mood for the day. Sometimes I choose to lie in bed just a little longer and read the news or catch up with friends on Facebook.

Chiang Mai Expats: Hours in a Sandglass

Retiring in Chiang Mai means I am pretty much in control of my minutes, hours, and days. I never realized that ‘time’ was what freedom was all about. It is a feeling that makes me smile inside and out.

When I was back home, working from 7 am till 5 pm, cooking dinner, and then getting back on the computer for more work at night, I had no control over my minutes or hours. And the weeks seemed painstakingly slow. The weekends were just ‘time’ multiplied by household chores. I don’t think I was ‘burned out, so to speak, but I think I was suffering from a strong sense of monotony that was making personal joy wither.

Something had to change!

Chiang Mai Expats: Mango Nectar Dripping

Road Trip Rice Paddy Views by Rachel Devlin
Road Trip Rice Paddy Views by Rachel Devlin

After I had decided to retire at age 46 and move to Chiang Mai, I dreamed up an entirely new life for me.

A life of swimming, riding my bicycle, and having sweet mango nectar dripping from my mouth and hands. I conjured images of bright blue pools with swim-up bars and Pina Coladas, spicey curries, and exotic rice paddies.

But that didn’t happen. Well, actually it really did. I had that lifestyle for about a year…. but things began to change. Recently, we met a new neighbor who is Chinese, and his wife is Thai. It shocked him when I told him that my husband and I were retired.

What Do They Do All Day, Those Chiang Mai Expats?

“What do you do all day?” he asked. I smiled to myself as my mind flickered through the answers. You see, these days, I am almost as busy as I used to be. But now, I do what I want to do and when I feel like doing it. One of our favorite expat past times is ‘doing lunch’. Chiang Mai has hundreds of tasty and interesting cafes and restaurants. So, meeting up for lunch is often what we choose to do. The local expat club runs a breakfast club, too.

Local Expat Berkeley

Actually, there is a pretty large expat group in Chiang Mai. So you will easily find ‘your people.’ It took me a while, but eventually, I found ‘my tribe’ when I enrolled in an art course. There are always groups or individuals offering courses here. I have done courses in the local history and I’m also learning Thai.

Many retired expats now find the time to get more into fitness. There are gym memberships for around $30 per month. Yoga is everywhere and there are also bicycle groups as Chiang Mai is very flat.

There are a multitude of team sports here, too, if you look. I was completely surprised when my neighbor, originally from Florida, found a volleyball team to join at the local university.

Chiang Mai Expats Become Martial Arts Experts

Sakan the Local Instructor by Roman Fightvision
Sakan the Local Instructor by Roman Fightvision

Muay Thai is the local martial arts style, and I watched a friend go from an elderly retired chef with arthritis to a Muay Thai fitness trainer! Of course, the Qigong (a Thai version of Tai Chi) in the park looks intriguing, but I haven’t tried that yet. It is on my list. Often these types of fitness experiences range between $5 and $10.

I have a few friends who like to escape by driving twenty minutes out of the city to go fishing. There are actually lakes teeming with a rainbow of fish. The truth is, there is great accommodation available at these lakes for $30 a night, including breakfast, and many enjoy a few beers while they wait for the fish to nibble. Of course, it is catch and release.

Expats in Chiang Mai – Partying Thai Style

Many Chiang Mai Expats love taking part in the many festivals that are ongoing here. Thai people love to celebrate and party. And they are happy for you to join in!

Song Kran Water Festival Temple Ritual by Rachel Devlin
Song Kran Water Festival Temple Ritual by Rachel Devlin

My favorite festival is Loi Krathong, where for three nights the Thai’s place flowered floats with candles into the river and release thousands of white lanterns into the sky. Of course, we all take part. The lanterns swirl upwards and light up the sky over the Ping River. It is nothing short of magic. I find it fascinating that my family has shifted naturally over to an old-fashioned notion called ‘the day trip’. There are hundreds of fascinating places within a few hours’ drive of Chiang Mai. Lots of Chiang Mai Expats do this around here.

The roads are smooth and well signposted. Lately, we have dipped our feet into hot springs, taken a hundred steps down into a cave, attended an antique car show, played in art galleries, and climbed a mountain to a temple that is basically made of nests of stingless bees.  The adventures are a-plenty here in Chiang Mai. So if you decide to retire here, it is best that you sell your rocking chair, invest in a good pair of runners, and power up google maps. You are in for a royal retirement, where every minute counts.

Using your imagination to create your new life is an important part of the step to actually making it happen! What types of things would you like to do as an expat in your chosen country? To follow my blog series on Expats in Chiang Mai, why not register for free?

by: Rachel Devlin