About Me/About You/About this Blog

Greg MillerThis American Expat living in Chiang Mai, Thailand hails originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California (40+ years), in the past lived part time in Bangkok and part time in Chiang Mai, and is now living full time in Chiang Mai.



GOT QUESTIONS?  About Chiang Mai, about Thailand, about leaving the USA?  How much money to bring to Chiang Mai?  How do you find an Apartment?  What about medical insurance, your own transportation, kinds of food available?  Anything.  I will do my best to give you a straight answer, and won’t try and sell you anything.  I will just help if I can.  Send any questions to me at expatchiangmai@gmail.com  Try to keep the questions short and specific as I get quite a few of them to answer every day.

COMMENTS on anything published in the blog are also always welcomed.  Comments do not have to agree with this website, but any deemed as spam or not related to the subject of the post will not be published.  We make the determination of what is considered spam comments.  Links in comments are OK as long as it does not go to crazy sites (porn, selling shoes, etc.).  All comments are moderated, meaning no comment will appear until we approve it (so Spammers, quit sending me your junk.  I get about 200 spam comments daily, and they are all trashed immediately.  It will never be published, and you are wasting your time and mine.)  I will not publish comments that are personally attacking me or anyone else.  I will not publish any comments that are vulgar, rude and grossly impolite.

GUEST POSTSAmericanExpatChiangMai.com welcomes Guest Posts. 

Tell us your story! 

If you are an expat, please share your experiences, difficulties and accomplishments.  Others want to hear about them.  If you have visited Thailand and have had good or bad experiences, please share them on this blog.  If you are still in the US and looking to go overseas, please tell us about what you are going through:  your plans, your frustrations, your reasons to go.

For proposals or information, email expatchiangmai@gmail.com.   You don’t have to be a perfect writer because we can edit the article (with your approval).  You can mention a commercial interest with a link in the story as long as it does not dominate the article, and the story must benefit the reader and not be for the sole purpose of achieving a link back to a website or product. .You can advocate a political cause if that fits well into the story.

Guest posts of 1000 to 2000 words are most preferred, and pictures and videos are big pluses.  It must be original work — not plagiarized from any other sites (will be checked).  Should not be distributed to any other sites other than this one.

Content can be R rated, but not X.  Good subjects would include:  expat life in Thailand, information about living in Thailand, Thai relationships, Thai food, travel within Thailand, Buddhism, making money in Thailand, teaching English as a foreign language, historical facts about Thailand, trip reports, hotels, etc., etc..  I am open to new ideas and am able to think “outside of the box”.  We do not want boring travel articles that are like any of millions elsewhere on the internet.  The article should be interesting or controversial or personal or opinionated so that it will motivate people to read it.  Personal anecdotes are terrific.   It does not need to agree with my political slant (which is a bit off the edge sometimes with my Libertarian free market, small government, independent thinking); it can be completely counter to that.  Diversity of thought on my blog is appreciated. You can have wild theories that may provoke reactions from readers.  Just make sure that bold statements are grounded on facts with sources for claims.  I am open to almost anything that would be of interest to expats in Thailand or anyone thinking of leaving their homeland and becoming an expat.  Secondary group would be readers wanting to learn more about Thailand for a vacation. The only subject that will NOT be written about on this blog is anything negative towards the Thai Royal Family, historically or current.

Best Guest Posting Published each month is awarded USD $20 (or 600 Baht), payable via paypal as an incentive.  Good stories are really worth a lot more, and this little award is just a little recognition to good writing.  Hopefully I can raise this award as time goes on and the site makes more ad income.  Winner is decided by the American Expat.

Number of viewers -   currently running about 1200-1500 hits to the site daily, with monthly hits running around 45,000.  Google Page Rank is 3 (meaning posts are usually on page 1, 2 or 3 in a search.

LINKING YOUR WEBSITE IN OUR BLOGROLL at American Expat Chiang Mai  is a 3-step process.

  • Link http://americanexpatchiangmai.com to your site, in the blog roll on some other way.
  • Send me an email at expatchiangmai@gmail.com requesting to link up. I will personally check it out.
  • If appropriate, it will done quickly. You site will be added to our blogroll, and our readers will be encouraged to visit your site if we like it.  No porn, super weird sites, sites that get me in trouble, sites that are nothing but advertisements or stupid sites.  If it works out, traffic will grow for the both of us..

REPRINTING ARTICLES on this site on your blog, including pictures, is always permitted and allowed for any legit use on another site, as long as credit is made to this website as the source (http://americanexpatchiangmai.com) and a link is made to our site for to anything used.  If you use our material without crediting this site as the originator, that is considered theft.  Also, no changes should be made to our writing when reprinting without our permission.

WRITER FOR HIRE.  Have keyboard, will travel.  We welcome freelance writing jobs.  English language writing by native English speaking Americans.  We have several educated people, including the producer of this blog, that is available.  We don’t charge outrageous amounts, and for a good cause will even work for free or for barter.  We are experienced and we are passionate about our writing.

  • Web Content writing.  Blog writing.
  • Editing of prepared material.
  • Article writing for magazines, newspapers newsletters or websites.  Can do news, commentary, reviews or product/service promotion on almost any topic.  Prefer quality writing over just volume.
  • Public speaking, lecturer, educator on a variety of topics, including motivational..
  • English language teaching in a classroom situation, in a business venue or privately.

hotel signHOTELS, RESTAURANTS AND TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN THAILAND, CAMBODIA, AND LAOS:  Let us review your establishment.  We have a team of writer contributors spread all over Southeast Asia that are happy to review your business and write an article for this website and our Top Thai Tour company site, with pictures.  All we ask is for complimentary accommodations, a complimentary dinner for a restaurant review or admission to your attraction.  Contact me at my email:  expatchiangmai@gmail.com.  We can promise a large readership.  Check out other reviews we have made on our site.

Greg’s story in brief:  After coming to Thailand regularly for a very long time, my wife & I decided to make the Land of Smiles our permanent home, so we built a beautiful house in ’07, shipped our precious belongings by slow boat, and started living full time here in 2011.  Greg & Tena own a small fashion boutique shop — Tena Fashions  and dabble in a few other fun entrepreneurial activities.  I welcome any questions about living in Thailand.  Just send me an email at expatchiangmai@gmail.com for a private question or ask in the comment section below for a public one.

A Little History – Back in the States, my wife & I started a Thai Restaurant in our US home town of Castro Valley in the Bay Area in 2005.  We started it on the cheap, with little encouragement from family, but with the help of some good friends.  My wife and I painted the restaurant ourselves with paint bought in garages sales (mostly half used cans).  The restaurant, Top Thai, became very popular and we had a lot of fun running the place.  It was a winner for us financially.  We sold our US business in 2011 to a Thai family and Top Thai Restaurant is currently operating with them.  Prior to us selling the restaurant, my wife & I would escape to Thailand as often as possible (not very often, unfortunately, because our business kept us working a lot).  While we have fun operating our small businesses in Chiang Mai with extended Thai family members, we consider ourselves to be semi-retired, and our main job is to enjoy life.

We currently live just southwest of central Chiang Ma in the Hang Dong area, living in the Home in Park Moobaan (home village) just off the canal road.  We are fortunate to have made lots of Thai and expat friends in Chiang Mai, and if you are in our area, we hope you will stop by to say hello.  Just shoot me an email and we will meet up somewhere in our town.

Here is an interview taken recently by an international magazine website about my life in Chiang MaiHoliday Homes International interview with Greg Miller.

Thanks so much for visiting our website, and suggestions for improvement are always welcome.


*** ABOUT YOU ***

Change How the World Sees You

You know those little images that identify people who leave comments? 

Yeah those.

They’re called Gravatars. If you’re not keen on being recognized as an unrecognizable blob or strange bug,  and it is not the good-looking person you really are (or want to be), then go get your own Gravatar here.  It’s extremely easy and only requires two things, an image and an email addressIt will take you approximately one and half minutes to complete (maybe less if you are more computer savvy than me).

this person should always use her picture!

You can use a picture of yourself — that works well if you are a photogenic type of person like this little lady. Or a symbol or drawing that you think most represents you.

Of course you don’t really need a Gravatar in order to comment. It simply makes it easier as you won’t have to insert your email address/name each time you comment here or on any other blogs you may find interesting. This way blogs you comment on recognize you immediately and your Gravatar and name is inserted automatically. Your email address is not disclosed on the page.  You can find an interesting picture which you think fits you best, and you can use that as your representation.  Like usually I use a silly drawing of an elephant because…because…oh, for no damn reason at all.  Just ’cause I like elephants, and I ain’t no Brad Pitt.

What’s that? You’re in the witness protection program? No problem. Most of my readers are too! It’s easy to remain anonymous. If you  don’t want to divulge your personal email then create a ghost email account specifically for commenting. Then no matter what blog you comment on you will be recognized by the blogmaster and other readers by your unique Gravatar.

Now, if you want a Gravatar, go get it here and be recognized!

If you don’t mind telling the world about yourself, and want everyone to know about you, maybe how you came to Thailand, or if your planning to go Thailand, or if you have any radical political ideas about life (and that’s a good thing by me), then send me an email about you and let me know if you want to have me publish it for the WORLD.  I can even put a link to your blog if you would like.  Just no commercial stuff.  If you want to sell product on my blog, you’ll have to pay me (albeit a very small amount).

Almost anything can be discussed on this blog, EXCEPT anything that might get me or anyone else arrested, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can possibly be interpreted as negative towards the royal family of my adoptive home.  Actually, I prefer to not discuss the royal family at all to avoid wrong understandings.  Also, I try to stay clear of Thai politics. I am a guest in this beautiful country, and I do not want to wear my welcome out.

Here are some pictures of my best assistant, granddaughter Emily.  She is my inspiration….

44 thoughts on “About Me/About You/About this Blog

  1. Hi Greg,

    just explored your website and I do enjoy reading your articles. I do travel to Thailnd also frequently and was thinking about to live there. I am German currently living in Switzerland and have seen the world.

    Bookmarked your page and who knows – maybe one day we will meet in Chiang Mai.

    Best regards from Zürich

    • Thanks Tom…Chiang Mai should certainly be considered for retirement place. Be sure to stop by the restaurant when you are in town and say hello.

  2. Greg,

    I just read your post, “My Experience at a Thai Hospital, and my Personal Realization of the Myth of American Healthcare Superiority”. It was right on.
    With the help of several expat groups, CMU Hospital, and Thai and foreign insurance companies I am preparing what hope will be a definitive report on expat health insurance in Thailand. It came about because we found so many myths about insurance here, and so many avoidable tragedies. So this will be soup-to-nuts coverage of the possibilities –along with pretty examples of what can happen to folks to don’t prepare for medical problems.
    The report will be distributed free, and updated as often as needed.
    My reason for writing is to ask your permission to include your story as a useful case study on the quality of Thai health care.
    I’ll send you the draft of the report for your approval and, of course, include any links and attribution that you wish.
    Incidentally, I moved to Chiang Mai from the Bay Area and agree 100% with your observations. Sad to see a great country decline under bad management…

    • Absolutely, you may use my posting on the your report. Actually. I am flattered. And I would probably like to reproduce your report on my site. Thanks.

  3. Hiiiii,

    I almost forgot to visit your site, actually I felt miserable and got flu in this evening but finally I’m here. Your website is very interesting even though I didn’t read all of them completely. Next time I’ll comment about the others articles for sure. Well, I’ve to go now, hope you and your wife get well soon. Good night my greatest kind parent.

  4. Thank you for all of your great information, news, and tips. We are going to moving to Thailand in a year, so I have been scouring the internet for any and all information regarding becoming an expat. Your site has given us some helpful insight on several things.

    Thanks again!

  5. I was just sleeping and woke up to a bite from an ant. I appreciate your entry on Thai bugs (mosquitoes and ants) and how to avoid them! I’m living in Koh Tao for the next month and then up to Singburi for one more month. I’m sure I’ll be looking your site up for more information!

    • Hope you have many adventures during your time in Thailand with good memories that will be with you always. And yes, Paradise attracts unfriendly critters as well, like ants and Yung (mosquitoes). We must cope. Hope you can get up to Northern Thailand sometime in your journeys.

  6. Great to read you post Greg. I married a Thai in 2009 and we have been living and traveling the USA. I think we are done with the US! I don’t think the world’s going to end in the U.S. but what I do know is that 90% of Americans will not be able to retire and will have to work until they die or until their late 70′s. You can’t even drive down the street without getting a ticket by a light with a camera on it. Big brother is everywhere! I am a disabled American Vet and plan to join the VFW and make Chaingmai my base camp. I have a small condo in Bangsaray Thailand but it is to small for long stay. Please keep me posted of any new articles. I watch a lot of J.C. Youtube videos http://www.retirecheap.asia he is also an inspiration and has been living in Thailand for 10 years. – California MIke.

    • Thanks Mike, and my suggestion is that you get the fcuk out of there soon and get over to Thailand quickly. Get rid of that stress that is everywhere in the US, but especially in California. That stupid state is totally broke, and various cities are going bankrupt and will probably be run by Mexican drug gangs soon, and then your young Mr. Brown (the guv) is out there telling everybody they better vote for his new taxes or there won’t be schools, cops or fireman. You are already taxed way past the max, and the local governments are trying to recoup money they think they are entitled to rip off from you, so they are doing stuff like installing those horrible red light cameras. Last year, my wife got a ticket for a California stop (hey, it’s California after all, damnit), that’s sliding through a right turn on a red light, and hers was done in the middle of the night with absolutely no other cars on the road, and the ticket was $440. Charging that kind of money is criminal — certainly more criminal than my wife’s offense.
      So at least here in Thailand you are pretty much free to think and do what you want as long as you can take care of yourself as well. And the cost of living in some Thai cities, like Chiang Mai, is about 1/4th of what it is in California.

  7. Chiang mai is not quiet or peaceful. It is rather disappointing. When i visited, I was overcharged and cheated for nearly everything.

    • I am sorry that you had a bad experience, and would like to know more. If you care to write a report about your experiences in Chiang Mai, maybe we can publish it on this site. We don’t hear about this very much.

  8. Hello Greg,

    I enjoyed very much your recent article in International Living about Thailand’s “Big Village”. I am heading there and interested in looking for an apartment to rent for 3 months in the price ranige you mentiong $300-$450 month. Can you direct me how to do this as on Craigslist the prices look higher. Is there an agent or person I could look to for help. Or does one have to be there to find the deals. I am coming with my Thai gf, but she is from Trang, not CM. So, thank you in advance, if you can give me a lead on finding a place. This is the first step. If all goes well, it will become permanent for me and for us. Thank you! Benjamin

    • Craigslist is good in the US, but the Thai Craigslist is lousy. Full of scam ads, as I am sure you found out already. Don’t even bother with them. The best place for ads directed towards expats in Thailand is at the Thai Visa ad place here: http://classifieds.thaivisa.com/real-estate/ If you go the top of that page and click on Advanced Search, you can narrow down your search to just Chiang Mai, or even the price range you are looking for. There are lots of apartment ads on this site, and there is plenty of availability in Chiang Mai at that price range. If you want a real estate agent, I can hook you up, but you are likely to pay a bit more. If you just do a google search on “Apartments for Rent Chiang Mai” lots of these agents will pop up — but again, you will save money by dealing with the apartment owner directly on a Thai Visa ad.

  9. Thanks for the professional-quality articles and Web site to peruse, Greg. I’m an American in my 40′s who has been living in Shanghai for many years. Would like to come to Chiang Mai for at least six months to live cheaply, see another culture, and work on a full-length book project. I’m hoping that the cost of living is such I would finally have the freedom to do that. I have two masters degrees from the States and 10 years of university teaching experience and thought maybe that would be the best way to earn some cash on the side while I write. Any suggestions about the universities there and about how hard it is to get shorter term leases? For a newcomer, is living in town the best option? Also, what is the pollution like these days? Is it viable to jog outdoors?

    Thanks so much.


    • The cost of living in Chiang Mai is low — much lower than in Bangkok and much lower than in any modern city in the West — because mainly of the low cost of housing. A decent studio apartment in central Chiang Mai with a swimming pool, good security and fully furnished would run around 6000-8000 Baht per month (USD $200-$266). (Best place to find rentals = http://classifieds.thaivisa.com/ and do “advanced search” to get just in Chiang Mai). Food is also abundant and cheap, with a typical lunch in a cafe running about 50-80 Baht (USD $1.66-$2.66). Some things do cost more than the US, like the cost of a car, a bottle of wine and lots little things. But public transportation is easy and fairly cheap, so it is possible to live quite well on little money if needed.
      Chiang Mai is a university town, with the biggest one being Chiang Mai University, one of the best in the country. There are actually five pretty big universities within Chiang Mai. My restaurant is right down the street from CM U, so I meet a lot of teachers from there, and have learned that there is a big demand for native English speakers in the university, as this is an international school. With your background, I think it is safe to say that you can definitely secure a position at one of the schools in the area. You should start contacting them before you come down here to have some things lined up.
      You can get an apartment rental for any period here — even for just one month — but you would save a bit by signing up for a 6 month or 1 year lease. Until you are familiar with the different areas, I think it is prudent to rent on a short term basis — and a nice option is “serviced apartments” (there are plenty) that offer maid service, concierge, and very nicely furnished modern apartments. You can rent for a short term while scoping out where you want to stay long term.
      Without your own transportation, I would try to get a place in central Chiang Mai. Within the moat is a bit touristy, but just outside the moat is very good. The area of town I would look around in that is central with lots of good apartments is near Nimmanhemin Street (commonly called “Nimman”). Outside the heavy tourist area and close to the universities. In time, especially since you want to do some writing, you may want to rent a house or apartment just outside of town (10-15 km) where it is extremely quiet and much more relaxed. And you may want to start thinking about transportation. A car is nice, but both used and new are about twice the cost in the US. Motor scooters are the main transportation and they are simple to drive, most being totally automatic. You can rent one for about USD $100 a month, or buy a brand new one for about USD $1500.
      Air pollution comes in February and March when farmers tend to burn overgrowth in the fields. CM is in a valley, so the smoke cannot leave. Earlier this year it was very bad, so the government (hopefully) will be cracking down on this (which is illegal — but this is Thailand where rules are bent a lot). There is no air pollution now and during most of the year, and you can jog around town quite easily (but in the afternoons it can get warm — good time for a nap). Best weather months are November through February.
      Hope this info helps, and feel free to toss me some more questions. Specific questions are A.O.K.

  10. Thanks, Greg. How noisy (from inside an apartment) would it be in that area you suggest? Also, is there constant construction/remodeling of concrete shell units within the condo or apartment buildings in Chiang Mai? (This is a bad problem in Shanghai residential buildings). I appreciate your response in advance…


    • This is not the source of noise here. There is construction on new buildings in a few places
      in town, but what there is knocks off at 5 pm. This is not a town with a lot of highrise
      apartment and office buildings with new construction going for more. There are almost no buildings
      that tower above 10 floors, and not too many even close to that level. Chiang Mai is truly just like
      a big village. Noise comes from traffic and street sellers hawking their wares.

      The general model for central Chiang Mai is having main roads with most of the commercial stuff going
      on, and then off of these are lots of very narrow streets (difficult for two cars to pass going the
      opposite direction) coming off the main road. These side streets are called a Soi, and are usually
      numbered. These sois are where the houses and apartments are, and the only business on the soi is
      perhaps a small coffee house or laundry. But sometimes fruit & veggie sellers drive into the soi
      and get on a megaphone to announce they are selling papayas or something.

      A typical address might be “323 Soi 10 Nimmen”, which translates to house number 323 on the 10th little street
      off Nimmenheimen Road. That will likely be a fairly quiet place, but Nimmenheimen Road is full of noise from
      the businesses and traffic on that street. As you look at ads for apartments or small boutique hotels (there are
      so many of these in town), you will see addresses like this. In picking a place to live, you want to pick an area
      that has a main road that you would like (the right kind of shops for you) and on a quiet soi off that road. Some
      main roads in town are very touristy (almost all of them within the moat which surrounds the center of Chiang Mai),
      some have a lot of Burma people (which tends to be a bit poorer), some are close to the universities and have that
      college town kind of feel and so on.

      If you go a bit outside of town — like an area where I live — there is also a main road with most of the shops, and the residential areas without so much business are much larger, and people tend to have a yard or even a small farm — which is impossible in central Chiang Mai. These areas are much quieter, but you will have to hop on your motorbike to do any kind of shopping.

      For sure, there is no noise in Chiang Mai close to the levels in Shanghai or Bangkok. Compared to those places, the whole area is very quiet.

      OK. Hope that helps.

  11. Greg:
    Great insights and was wondering for a newbie if sticking around CM University is better to start than on the outskirts?I like simple life but safe, clean, quieter and some modern western amenities. Prefer a furnished 1BR so i don’t have to ship anything but take my luggage. My laptop will work there?What about banking?Will my ATT cellular plan work there?Is there part-time work opportunities for ex-pats?I read international blogs that claim CM or Cuenca, Ecuador is best. Why CM over Cuenca, Ecuador?How much money from SSA is adequate? How much savings?Is it a hassel to tansfer money from USA to CM bank?How does one figure income taxes to USA?

    • Thanks for the nice words on the site, and I will do my best to answer your questions. I like the area around CM Uni very much — that is outside of downtown and the heavy tourist packed areas, and has a lot of good restaurants and shops. A clean nice area. There is plenty of public transportation (the Songthaew trucks), or maybe rent a simple motor scooter to get around. A nice 1 BR furnished apartment in that area (and there are plenty) in a newish building with pool, fitness room, security, etc. along with WIFI (in almost every apartment building) and cable TV (with maybe 1 or 2 English language stations) will run around 9000฿ (or USD $300) per month. A good place to find an apartment is through the classifieds on ThaiVisa Forum — use the Advanced Search to narrow down to what you are looking for. Even though furnished, you may have to buy little things like a bath towel, etc. Kitchens are usually not much other than a Microwave, sink and small fridge, but most people around here eat out because it so darn cheap. Laptops work fine. You can use your US plug, no need for any kind of convertor, because the fat plug really converts the power to DC to your computer. There is WIFI everywhere, but it will be just a little slower than back in the USA. You can use your ATM card and CC here, but you better check with your bank. Almost all US banks charge a 3% “conversion fee” (aka bank ripoff charge) just for converting the money back to US$. My bank, Bank of Charles Schwab, is one of the very few that does not charge this fee, nor any fee for using an ATM anywhere in the world (for me the best bank there is). Forget your AT&T cell service. Like the banks, the cell phone companies see your relocation as an opportunity to rip you off. You can bring your I-phone or whatever to Thailand and buy a new SIM card (available all over the place here) that gives you a new Thai phone number and prepaid cell phone service. Time is very cheap — cheaper than in the US. And when your time runs low, you can pop into a 7-11 or any ATM and add more time to your phone. You can also buy a separate cell phone here — there are used ones for as little as USD $10 that are just fine. Calling home to the US is also not expensive on the cell.
      Sorry, I can’t answer anything about Ecuador. Has a good reputation, though. You can learn a lot about life in Chiang Mai and elsewhere in Thailand online, including (plug) my website.
      How much money? As anywhere, the more the merrier. If you get around $1200 a month or more, you can do well. Savings? Everyone would have a different answer. To me, it would be important to have at least $25K USD in your savings B4 thinking of moving abroad. If you have to get back for some sort of emergency, it is important that you have enough for that, for sure. It is not a big hassle to transfer money to a Thai bank from a US bank (but your US bank will charge you too much for the transfer). And you can draw out money with your ATM card. I have my social security automatically deposited in my US bank and draw it out as I need it (but again, my bank does not charge conversion or ATM fees).
      Living Internationally, you still must pay homage to the IRS (the rulers of all American citizens no matter where they live). You can do it here the same way you do it back home — online by yourself or have your accountant to it. If you have any financial assets in Thailand, like a bank account, you also have to report this to the IRS. If you make money in Thailand from working, much of it is exempt from US taxes. You don’t need to even think about Thai taxes.
      Hope this helps.

  12. Great information. We are headed your way by sailboat, hope to arrive in about a year and a half, been dreaming about Thailand for years. Will follow your site as we go, thanks so much.

    • Thanks and happy sailing. I wish we had a port here in Chiang Mai you could sail into. While there are plenty of them in the South of Thailand, we are pretty much landlocked up here. Stay safe in your travels, and I would really like to get a report every once in awhile about your adventures.

  13. Great information here. Thank you for spending the time on this blog! I have been toying with the idea of calling it quits and moving there. My wife is from Lamphun and I just need the courage to go and do it. I just recently retired Navy so I have some income from my military retirement, plus I have a chunk of savings and a 401K. I am currently in the Middle East and ready to settle down. I am dabbling with the idea of a restaurant in the CNX area and also exporting goods. I have been to Thailand many times over the past 20+ years and absolutely love it there. I want to ensure I am debt free before I go… (almost there). If need be, can we finance a house? We are leaning on paying cash but would like to use that $$ to invest in possible business ventures.

    • I think you have a good plan. With your retirement money, you can live well. I am a little pessimistic about what is going to happen to 401K accounts in the near future by the federal govt. They want your money and would like to convert it into the social security program, which might save SS but will not be good for you.
      I live with my wife actually south of Chiang Mai (near Sanpatong) and know Lamphun pretty well. My wife and I are actually thinking of buying a small chunk of farm land there (3 Rai) to start an organic farm (a personal interest of my wife and I). It is a good town to settle in — I especially like out in the country outside of the town towards the hills. We will still keep the house we have and use the Lamphun farm for a little getaway.
      It is possible to get a bank loan, but not easy. They also don’t loan a large percentage of the real estate, and my experience is that they like to loan what is backed up by a CD in their bank. We try to buy everything in cash (so different than back in America, but a much better feeling).
      At one time, my wife and I owned a restaurant in Chiang Mai. We had restaurant experience, having owned a very successful one in California. Had mainly family members operating the CM restaurant, but could not get the traction we had hoped (staff motivation problems). Fortunately, we were able to sell it and earn a nice profit.
      In the past, when my wife and I spent time both in Thailand and the US (about 50/50), we were quite involved in importing Thai products into the US, mainly fairly expensive artwork. We did very well, and used our California (Thai) restaurant as sort of an art gallery. Since selling that enterprise and spending full time in Chiang Mai, we have relaxed more and are not working so much, and no longer import into the US (plus we got older — I am now 65). We do have a boutique shop in CM (selling authentic expensive designer brand women’s fashion accessories) and a small tour company (www.topthaitours.com).
      For sure with your safety of enough income coming in each month to live OK, you can have a lot of fun coming up with little enterprises to earn money. What I really like about Thailand is that you seem much more free here without government (Feds, State, Country, City) on you all the time making you comply with tons of regulations (our experience with the California restaurant). If you want to do some little business in Thailand, you just do it. Really like that.
      Good luck to you, and I hope you keep us informed of your progress.

  14. What is enough money to live on in CM? Do you recommend visiting first or just go for it?Your far away from USA if you get homesick and want to return. Most people retire as I am planning with just social security cuz employers no longer want to pay pensions.Some have a 401(k) or IRA. What is a realistic budget?I read about some fighting breaking out recently with an extremist group attacking the government? Is it safe for foreigners today as its been in the past?

    • Lots of different questions, and will do my best to give you straight answers:
      1. My opinion is that for Northern Thailand (a bit more expensive in BKK or many of the popular beach cities in the south) a couple can live well on $1500 or so a month. You can live on less, but may have to sacrifice here and there. Above that (like $2500+), you can live extremely well. I wrote at article about this very subject a few months ago on this blog: http://americanexpatchiangmai.com/how-much-money-do-you-need-to-live-in-thailand/
      2. It would certainly be recommended that you visit Thailand and stay a month or so, do some exploring on how expats live, and make sure Thailand is right for you. Thailand is not for everybody. The language is difficult to learn, and you have to like Thai food, relish fresh veggies and fruit, and feel comfortable. During this time you should absolutely check out houses or apartments for rent to see what you can get for your budget.
      3. I am far away from the US and I miss family (I have a married daughter and a married son in the US, both with kids — my grandkids). Fortunately, with the way internet, facebook and Skype is, we manage to stay in touch. My wife visits the US about every 3 months to to do biz and visit the grandkids (I usually stay home). Maybe daughter + 2 grandkids will be staying with us for about a month this summer. So I miss family, but I do not miss American life and am quite content in Northern Thailand, but I understand that is not for everybody. Everyone is different. I am not homesick, because I am at home.
      4. My monthly income is social security and a little money from our local enterprises here. Not much by US standards, but we live well. We own a beautiful large home (no loan and no property taxes). We have a nice new car (paid cash), a little in the bank for security and don’t think about money very much. Back in the US for most of my life I spent worrying all the time about bills, accumulated lots of debt and had a lot sleepless nights. I am OK now.
      5. If I had a 401K in the US, I think I would take some action to protect that. The US federal govt wants to take 401K money and convert it into the social security scam. That might save SS for a little while, but it will not be good for people with a large 401K. I have been doing a lot of reading on this.
      6. In the very far south of Thailand on the border with Malaysia (a very long ways away from us), there are some hostilities with the minority Muslim population that wants autonomy. No violence outside of that area with this, plus the news makes it sound bigger than it is. This is not causing any problems with foreigners living throughout Thailand, and actually never even heard about problems from this affecting foreigners in the area where they are disputing.
      7. Generally, Thailand is very safe. I expect it would be much safer here than in most US cities. We walk around town at any hour of night with no fear, and most cities do not have a “bad area” that you cannot walk in. The only real danger is on the road because Thai drivers have to be about the worst drivers in the world and never obey traffic rules. I have been involved with Thailand for many years, and it seems as safe here now as anytime in the last 30-40 years, maybe safer.
      Hope this info helps.

  15. Yes that is helpful and insightful. $1500 is about average for social security but who knows how long before it goes bankrupt?Then a little savings to supplement social security is not enough to live comfortably in US. No pensions too much any more and rising health care. More families are living together in multigenerational homes. That is ok unless you come from a dysfunctional or highly addictive family . Who wants to live with an alcoholic or druggie or drama queen?Do you give up citizenship in US or how does Visas work?Still have to pay US taxes right?Do you keep US Bank and go to ATM? Is it a cash society or Visa accepted?Mine does not charge foreign transaction fees i.e. Capital 1, Chase & Schwab specifically.Dunno about Discover.Do you have to keep some monies in Thai Bank?Do they furnished places since I would travel with a suitcase & laptop.If unfurnished is furniture affordable or expensive? Can somebody ship a box or 2 if necessary later or is shipping costly or safe?
    Thanks for being so patient & kind answering all of my questions and some trepidation about leaving my homeland. My grandparents immigrated her but i no long live the American dream but find the violence, cost of living, greed, corruption, etc, etc to be demoralizing&disheartening. I am retiring on not very much but need a new start & obviously need to survive. I try to live the Golden Rule but every day I am sorely tested.I have reached that proverbial fork in the road. I try to imagine my grandparents who left Europe in 1900 to unknown USA. Now I face the similar decision but with much more information than they had. So why am I hesitant?I guess we all have to make that leap. I have some family but for the most part they are caught up in the mad dash for cash.They are blood but heavy duty materialism has never been my highest pursuit. Helping people and being kind in a cruel world is who I am. Others that subscribe to this world view of mine are my adopted family.Those that are mean spirited I try not to let the buzzards get me down and certainly do not run with such a crowd.Although I have to live i the real world and interact with them every day.Anybody that shoot children in kindergarten for no apparent reason is the sign of the end of this civilization as we once knew it. We are on that slippery slope of extinction. Our children are the most precious gift and the most vulnerable.Sorry for my rambling its just been getting worse not better……………

    • OK, will do my best to answer you. Don’t take my words as the final ones for you. The internet makes it easy to do research on any one particular question.
      1. Agree about family. Sometimes it is nice to be far away from them. Every situation is different.
      2. People use cash and ATM cards and Credit Cards in Thailand, just like the US. I keep a US address (daughter’s place) and have a US bank acct. (Bank of Charles Schwab). I have auto deposit of SS checks (which is what they want nowadays). Be sure to find a bank (a rarity) that does not charge a currency conversion fee (3%), ATM fee for using a different bank ATM, and if possible no charge for the acct. Schwab does all this plus pay interest on the balance of the acct. But you need a US location for them.
      3. I have a yearly retirement visa, and in order to have that I need to have a bank acct in Thailand with 800,000Baht in it (a little less than USD $28K). You can get around this if you have a high monthly income (USD $2400+). Plus a few other minor things, like no felony criminal record and somewhat healthy. There are other kinds of yearly visas available with other rules. You can find a lot of visa info at this forum: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/
      4. I am an American citizen and will be thru the duration. The current law is that as an American expat I must file income taxes plus another evil form for FATCA disclosing all information about any overseas bank accounts (as in Thailand). I also vote absentee in every election (trying to get rid of the scoundrels just like everybody else).
      5. Almost all rental apartments and houses are rented furnished. A good place to check out rentals in Chiang Mai is here: http://www.buyrentchiangmai.com/ To get USD, divide Bht by 29. So a 10,000Baht place would be the same as $345. This real estate company is owned by an expat friend.
      6. Laptops from the US work here without a voltage converter because the power cord actually scales everything down to 12v. DC.
      7. Easy to ship furnishings here, there are many companies in the US that specialize in picking up from a US address, going by boat and delivering to the Thai address. Takes 30-45 days, and they charge by the cubic meter, so heavy is OK. Not too expensive in my mind. If you have very lightweight pkg and need fast, any air freight company can ship to here, but it is pricey. It is all very safe.
      8. I agree with you about emigrating out of the US now. My grandparents emigrated from Germany in the 1920′s to the US, and it was a good thing they did that. Now I have moved on. SE Asia does not have a depressing economy or nanny state control. For me, Thailand is a good home.

  16. All social security checks are direct deposit now. Nothing is done by paper any more including your lifetime earnings are online for you to print out.
    When you say 28,000BHAT Thailand requires for Visas, etc. How does that work? ou put it in a Thai bank and earn interest while your a resident? Its non-refundable?Do they have legal reps with all the paperwork or one can go it alone?Can you pay a Thai person to help you navigate the system? Lastly I’ve lived in different parts of USA from Winters in East/Midwest to summer humidity. Rainy season in north to desert. What is climate comparable to in CM? Is it light/sunny or cloudy there?

    • For a RETIREMENT visa, you are required to have 800,000Baht (just under $28,000 USD) in a Thai bank account. It is still my money, earning interest. I have a CD with a bit more than this that I do not touch, but it always still my money, I keep the interest (which nowadays is so small). This is to prove to the Thai govt. that I have enough to support myself. I just show them my bank balance each year when I renew my visa. For a retirement visa, you are required to get it first in your home country from the Thai consulate. Renewals can be done in Thailand. You can have people do it for you, but they charge a lot of money. It is not difficult to do by yourself. You can go to this page: http://www.thaiconsulatela.org/service_detail.aspx?link_id=34 and scroll down to the Retirement Visa info to see the other requirements. If you look at the Thai Visa Forum site sent to you in an earlier reply to a comment, there is a lot of info and discussion about this Visa.
      The weather in Chiang Mai varies from Warm to Hot. Never cold. This is the tropics, and with the beautiful green hills of tropical forest, there is rain. The rainwater is not cold, and usually lasts for about a half an hour, than sunny. It usually has this rainfall a couple of times a day, more often at night. Temperatures vary to coldest night of the year getting down to around 60 degree F, and the warmest days are about 95 degrees F. Like tropics everywhere, it does get a little humid sometimes.

  17. Retirement Visa
    Easy to get in Thailand
    For income proof, as an American you need to have an affidavit of income from the American Embassy stating you earn 80000 baht a month.
    Last one I had notarized was 50.00(US)
    I don’t like the idea of having money tied up in a Thai bank although, a lot of people do
    But all of my retirement visas have been based on the affidavit, and no complications. Maybe a bit of aggravation but nothing that a smile and perhaps a bit of the coin of the realm didn’t get done.
    As for hiring someone to help
    You will be, in my opinion, throwing your money away.

    • Good point. However, most of us do not have a verifiable monthly income of this amount (which is about $2759 USD) per month. Quite agree with you about the no need to hire someone to do the forms.

  18. Income verification:
    I have SSA but the $28K I get to keep at my own US Bank or have to put it in a Thai Bank?

    • If you are getting less than almost $2800 per month from SS (and any other income), you will need to have a bank account verification that you are holding 800,000Baht (USD $28K). If you have a Thai bank account, you can just show them your bank statement. If you keep it in the US, you have to go to the US consulate and get a notarized affidavit from them verifying your account in the US. That costs $50 and you have to do some paperwork. So it can be done with a US bank account, however it is easier to have a Thai bank account. Most guys on a retirement visa just get a Thai bank CD and keep rolling it over and not touching it. (Plus a lot of us don’t like to have to deal with the US consulate very much).

    • Yes. I know what they are, but I am not the one that approves whether any particular kind of account meets the requirements.

  19. In Thai Bank what is interest rate on $28K.
    Can you leave the money invested in US at Schwab Brokerage services in stocks, mutual funds or bonds?You can’t spend the $28K for as long as you live in Thailand?Every year you have to prove you have at least $28K invested so you don’t become a burden to Thai govt or society?

    • I don’t know the exact interest rate, but it is low, same as in the US. I can’t answer about stocks, etc. — that is something you will have to ask the Thai consulate. The govt. wants you to have the money in the account at all times to show that we have enough to take care of ourselves.

  20. Hi my wife and I are black american, looking to move to thailand in early 2014. We want to look for housing in Chiang Mai around $360.00 US a month furnished. How hard will this be? And is it hard for black americans to fit in with other expats?

    • On the question of housing, this can be done in Chiang Mai. For a house with two or three BR and a couple of BA, furnished, this is about where they start in rents for a decent place. Average may be a bit more (closer to USD $500). Apartments are less, but they have a lot less floor space. In CM, houses are definitely better for the money. Understand if your income is from USD, much will depend on the exchange rate. If the dollar falls substantially, that means an increase in cost for you, and there is a lot of fear that this is something that may happen given the questions about the future US economy. Brits took a big beating a year ago which has not recovered. In the time I have lived here, I have seen the Baht to Dollar go from 40 to 1, down to 30 to 1.
      As far as Black Americans fitting in, you have to realize first that Americans are not the big expat group here. We are very much outnumbered by Europeans in Thailand, and in CM it seems to be Brits and Germans dominate in numbers. And then there are also Aussies outnumbering us. To “fit in” and make friends is not easy for any expat here because of the big differences between all of us. I find that most expats have to be comfortable about not having much of a friend network, be pretty much independent and make your own path, while working to integrate with locals. There are a few groups, like the Expats Club and such, but if you go there, you may find you are the only American in the room. The people from Europe will have a completely different perspective on just about everything an American has, and that makes for interesting initial conversation, but after that an American finds that our perspective on life, politics, ambitions,…everything, seems to be far different.
      There are not many African Americans here in Chiang Mai for sure. I know of only two, one being quite an accomplished and well known operator of live theater in town. Really haven’t seen any others in the several years living here, so you have to be very comfortable with the idea that you are likely not going to find any people with a similar background to yours. This situation requires being very secure within yourself. You don’t have the strength of having a community of people just like you which is something all Americans find here, but for a Black American it would be much more.
      Have to tell you that as far as Thai people, they assume all black people are from Africa. There are Africans that come here for retirement or to just live and work. Having a black American president is starting to make a dent in that perception with the more educated Thais, but there is also a general fear of black people that has been created by images of crime news in the US. There is are a disproportionate number of African blacks in Thailand that have been involved in criminal gangs (notably Nigerians). In Laos, I met up with a black American traveler that literally had to be kind of teacher wherever he went in SE Asia, demonstrating to the locals that black Americans are not frightening, are educated, have good manners, all the other good stuff that other people have. For this guy I met, it was starting to wear on him a little bit. You do have to understand that once you go beyond that first level of Thais you meet — the ones that are worldly and well read — most locals do not understand how things are in other places in the world and they form general perceptions based on news headlines, movies and TV that caters to the lowest denominator. Bottom line is that as a Black American in Northern Thailand, you may encounter negative stereotypes until you can bust some of the stereotypes by the force of your own character.
      One other factor is that in Thailand, people are discriminated by perceived social class. There is an appreciation by Thais for very pale white skin which they think makes a person beautiful. There are dark skinned Thais, and these are not considered attractive because of a perception that they are from a lower social class (rural farmers). You may be quite surprised to hear a Thai person with a beautiful bronze skin color being referred to as a Black person.

  21. I am so grateful to have found your blog as we are looking to relocate to Chiang Mai (from California) by early 2014. We have been before and fell in love with the people and the city, and can not wait to call it our ‘home’ for however long it lasts. I’m currently reading all of your posts and appreciate all you share. Nice to hear that you moved to Chiang Mai from San Francisco–I lived there as well for many years and it is quite possibly my favorite place to live in the USA but it has gotten extremely expensive over the years, with rents considerably higher than where we currently live in Los Angeles.

    Would you be able to suggest any specific areas to look for 1 bedroom guesthouses or apartments if we are planning on bicycles being our main source of transportation? (not mopeds) If all goes as planned, we will be in in Chiang Mai at the beginning of February. I have inquired with the Smith Residence as I’ve read positive reviews online, they were prompt to reply and gave me the option to wire money to their bank as a means of deposit for them to hold an apartment. (so bummed we couldn’t use a credit card for this, as wiring money accrues extra costs!). Either way we know there is still time, so we are still on the look out for other options. I know that not every guest house or apartments will have web presence, so I was wondering if you know of any good recommendations. Please let me know, any advice would be appreciated. I thank you again for all the information on this blog. We can’t wait!
    PS. I was raised in the US but of Filipino origin, and always I am mistaken for being Thai…they immediately talk to me in the language and I am always embarrassed not to be able to say anything back. I know one of the first things I need to learn how to say is “I am not Thai, I am Filipina, I don’t understand, but i’m trying!” :)

  22. Sawasdee Krup,
    Khun Rick here writing you from sunny Phuket.
    Briefly, we sold all, paid final taxes, and moved here in Sept 2012.
    We are so relieved and are enjoying life again (instead of working all the time).
    I will write more later on our situation, cost of living here, etc.
    It is not perfect, but it works well for us!
    Chok Dee,

  23. Pingback: Greg Miller, Author of American Expat in Chiang Mai Passes | Chiang Rai Times English Language Newspaper

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