The Shock of Moving to Asia and Making a Living in Thailand on the Computer in my Chiang Mai home

TimThe Shock of Moving to Asia and Making a Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand on the Computer

Guest posting by Tim Wooten

Last year I finally had it with living in the US.  The economy stunk (and still does) and it seemed like I was a hamster running fast and getting nowhere.  With rents and gas and food and taxes going up it seemed like every day, and my income stayed the same or went down with the landscape full of maybe the most talented unemployed people in the world.  I earned my income independently doing computer work and there seemed to be more of us all competing for a shrinking base of customers. I didn’t see a good future at all.  So one day my wife and I decided to do something very radical. We decided to pull up stakes and get out of that place to become expats on the other side of the world.

Were we absolutely crazy?  Many in our family thought so. We were going to get rid of all of our possessions and pull up stakes and move to an exotic country we had never even visited before, Thailand. Maybe it was crazy, but it was what we decided to do no matter what everyone else thought.

One thing about independent computer work:  as long as there is a good internet connection and steady electricity, I can go to work.  Times zones are inconsequential. With a comfortable place to work, I can sit down at the keyboard and start producing, and if I could bring my meager US customer base to a place with a cheaper living cost, I would be ahead. That was the plan anyway.

So the wife and I had a whirlwind disposal of our worldly goods. Garage sales, craigslist, giveaways to family and friends and after a short time all of worldly possessions could be stuffed into one suitcase and two backpacks. I pushed all my client files, development websites and everything digital into the cloud and we were off.

And then we arrived in Chiang Mai. It was a different world. The culture shock was enormous. We learned that most locals didn’t speak English and we were on our own. Despite that, we were able to find an almost decent place to live for very little money. Unfortunately as we were very new to this whole different world, we overspent in some other areas, like expensive restaurants.

We were lucky to have the names and contact numbers for a couple of people we had met online on forum sites and blogs that were able to steer us in the right direction, but it was not easy. We learned that you cannot over-prepare for this major change. There is so much to learn to just be able to cope with life in Chiang Mai.

Number one thing we learned is that you have got to get your independent transportation handled as quick as possible, otherwise you are trapped to traveling only short distances on foot or relying on Chiang Mai’s public transportation and that is not good. Best thing to do initially is to rent a motor scooter, which will set you back about $125 per month. Without that (or even better, having a car), you will be trapped in the central part of the city.

After a short while, with the help of one of my online Chiang Mai contacts, I was able to find a nice house to move into for a little over $800 a month. It’s a 3-bedroom house furnished beautifully, so it worked well for us. There are even much cheaper places available just outside of town, but we needed to move fairly quickly into a real living space.

With our living set up fairly settled, I was able to get down to business and resume my computer work, which is primarily involved in designing websites. And if I can pat myself on the back just a little, I am darn good at it.  I am very pleased that I was able to maintain much of my customer base, and am even working with some new clients now that I have settled in to my new digs.

Decent, but not great, internet is available everywhere in Chiang Mai. Service is based on 3G, with maybe 4G coming by the end of ’12.  Skype works well enough here, especially if video is not necessary.  And Chiang Mai, being a university town, has plenty of computer shops for buying new equipment and getting repairs. I sold my computer equipment to a family member before moving and it is probably still just sitting there collecting dust. He doesn’t even know the power of that machine! The first purchase I made was a brand new laptop for far less than I would have paid in the US.

Distance from my commercial American customers has not been a major factor for my business, other than a couple that thought that now I was far away they could be much slower in paying my bill. I am still working on that one, which may be something I will have to cope with from now on.

I have been able to acquire some new local customers, including a local tourist attraction and a MAJOR Korean electronics manufacturer. And the stress level has been reduced, which is better for the quality of my work and life in general.

With more spare time, I am starting to get involved in some other ventures, including partnering with another expat in creating a local tour company. If you would like information on this, I invite you to drop by our website: Top Thai Tours, the site is still in development but getting very close!

I am churning out websites now at a good pace, but am always looking for more business, so if you would like to have me evaluate your site, please just shoot me an email at twooten15@gmail.com. I also welcome any questions you may have about living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so feel free to send me an email.

Here are some examples of my work:

And while I have been working to establish my computer work here in Chiang Mai, my wonderful wife, Miranda, has attended a rigorous local TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) school, got her certificate just two weeks ago and is about ready to start her job teaching English in Thai schools.  Her pay alone will cover our living costs as well as the motorbike rental, so we are headed in the right direction.

She has her TEFL and TESOL certificates for life and it was not an expensive investment. This will really give a good boost to our Chiang Mai living.

If you would like to get some info on becoming an English teacher in Thailand, just complete the form below and hit submit, and information will be sent to your email address.


If you would like to follow our adventure here in Thailand, feel free to add me as a friend on Facebook at facebook – Tim Wooten or connect with me via LinkedIn at linkedin – Tim Wooten.

I work primarily with a Content Mangement System (CMS) called Drupal. I have been a member of drupal.org for close to 7 years now and have contributed 2 modules to the community. You can see my contributions on my profile page here – http://drupal.org/user/52983.


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18 thoughts on “The Shock of Moving to Asia and Making a Living in Thailand on the Computer in my Chiang Mai home

  1. Very interesting, thanks for your post. I take it there is no prohibition in Thailand against your kind of work? It wouldn’t be something I could do, having no skill in it, but it does give me hope that I could find other work there if I do move to Thailand. I don’t think my savings would support me for long there without working.

    • The best thing to do is probably to ask around to see which fields are in the most demand in the target country. Then, you could train yourself in that area, get certified, establish some connections and possibly be good to go.

    • It’s easy enough to find ways of making an income online. You can sell stuff on EBay or Amazon. Or if you’re so inclined you could teach English. There is quite a big demand for that right now.

  2. Looks like you’ve got it made! Doing web design for US real estate was an option that I had when I left the US, and I would have enjoyed doing so, but I ended up with ERP instead of CMS. Are you going to change your country, listed in Drupal, to Thailand instead of US?

      • I think that’s a good way, but I was old enough when I arrived almost 2 years ago. By the way, I did the same UniTEFL course in 2011 and then stayed on, have, however, never looked for a job as a teacher. The pay was said to be around THB 20’000 per pmonth in a Thai school aand up to THB 50’000 in an international school. Your wife may need to start at the local level first, if she does not have a US teaching degree.

  3. Very interesting blog post! I like reading posts by expats like myself. I am a twenty something year old expat living in Abu Dhabi with my husband.

    I’ve been to Bangkok a lot of times but never Chiang Mai. :D I think the farthest I got in Thailand was on a family trip to Canchabury (spelling?). :D It was really gorgeous I got to see the Bridge of River Kwai.

  4. Tim
    I wish you good luck and you seem like a skilled guy who is on top of things and pursuing open avenues. I’m planning on being an expat within the next few months and I would like to know how you handled your banking and snail mail communications, and took care not to burn all your bridges to the US. And I would like to hear from other expats reading this blog about how they handled it. Maybe Greg could add some of his knowledge about how other expats in Thailand have done it.

    • I’ve been in Thailand over 10 years now. It took me a while to get some of those things sorted.

      Communications is easy these days with several options like Skype on both your PC and smart phone. I got a monthly subscription and a Skype online number for a pretty cheap combined cost. So I can call US phones and also receive calls to a US number. Direct calls from Thai phones aren’t expensive if you buy a local calling card.

      You need to keep a US bank to recieve USD deposits. But choose carefully so you don’t get ripped on ATM fees and so-called “foreign transaction fees” when you use their ATM card or do bank wires to your Thai bank.

      Snail mail was an issue. For one, few US banks will do business with you without a US address. Lots of mail forwarding services around but most are expensive if all you need are a handful of letters scanned and/or forwarded each month. I ended up with mailboxforwarding.com. $15 a month for a generous amount of received mail and scans. I’ve been satisfied with them so far. If you decide to go with them then enter my box #22401 in the promo code box during checkout and we will both get a free month.

  5. Perhaps you may know already, but you can get tremendous help at http://www.thaivisa.com, including forums, with regard to stringent standards to be met and regulations to be followed, including business visa, work permit, etc. Welcome!

  6. Hi Tim,
    Congratulations on your move to Thailand.
    I only just moved myself with my wife last June.

    I think it is great that you saw the writing on the wall back home & decided to give Thailand a try. So many hamsters as you say just keep running with their head down & then life is gone.

    If nothing else life is an adventure & now you will have a new chapter.

    Good Luck to you both!

    Mike

  7. Nice article Tim. Glad to hear you and Miranda are both doing well. We should be back in Chiang Mai in September. Hope to see you then.

  8. I went to Chiang Mai in October and spent four weeks in the city. It was an exploratory trip, which was preceeded by considerable research. One element of that is (and has been) that Chiang Mai is considered one of the most affordable cities in the world and of considerable interest for retiree’s (most so given the economic Tsunami of 2008).
    Within my search I found something called Chiang Mai properties, at http://chiangmaiproperties.co.th/. They have on line listings and have a tab to convert to whatever currency. Whomever, might find it interesting to do a property search with them. From what I saw one could find some very nice rentals for $400, or less.
    In addition there is an ex pat group in Chiang Mai. They publish an on line newsletter and have multiple events. They have a monthly meeting and a monthly brunch, along with listing’s for many other activities. I believe that membership is around 700 and there are around 30,000 ex pat’s living in Chiang Mai from all over the world.
    I have no ax to grind, I’m just sharing some information.

  9. I agree Chiang Mai is still very affordable and you can get some great deals I stay in Place called PP condominium, Not the best building for sure but offers great value, I pay just under 200 Dollars a month including my bills and I have a brand new room.

    This is actually the room I am living in!
    http://www.rentinchiangmai.com/rent-in-chiang-mai/apartments-in-chiang-mai/pp-condo-studio-room-pp016.html

    It is also slightly out of town just by the super high way but I bought a second hand motorbike and enjoy moving about.

  10. Pingback: Workers of the World #10 | The Working Traveller

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