Prices of Everyday Living in Thailand

Sunsets in Thailand are free

Sunsets in Thailand are free

People are always asking us how much things cost in Thailand.  You’ve probably noticed in some of my posts that Kevin and I have become much more frugal since moving over here (I thought we were frugal in Seattle, but now I kick myself if we spend more than $10 at a meal!).  Aside from being unemployed, the other big reason behind our frugality is that the prices of everyday living in Thailand are incredibly low, especially in Chiang Mai where we’re based.  In an attempt to offer up an excuse for being so cheap now, and to hopefully get a free pass for making some of the “Omigod how can anyone afford that” comments that I know will slip out once we’re back home, I’ve pulled together a list of the prices of common things we buy here.

Prices of Everyday Living in Thailand


What: A beautiful top floor 1-bedroom apartment (41 sq. m)
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 14,000 Baht/month
Cost (US): $438/month
We have free access to the onsite gym and pool.  Our water bill each month runs about 200 Baht ($6.27) and electric is usually around 1400 Baht ($43.87).


What: Midrange hotel room in Thailand with aircon, pool, and breakfast
Where: Sakulchai Place Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 838 Baht/night (includes taxes and fees)
Cost (US): $26/night (includes taxes and fees)



What: Bananas, Mangos, and Papaya
Where: Ton Payom Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): Bananas are 20 Baht/bunch, Mangos are 30-45 Baht/kilo, half a sliced papaya is 15 Baht
Cost (US): Bananas are $0.63/bunch, Mangos are $0.94-$1.45 for 2.2 pounds, half a sliced papaya is $0.47
The Ton Payom Market is out west of Chiang Mai, and is frequented mostly by locals and expats living in Chiang Mai.  Because of that, prices are probably lower in general than they might be for fruit in the Old City where tourists tend to stay.  We don’t bargain at all for our food at the market – when we first moved here we got hung up on paying the list price for produce, but bargaining is stressful and just doesn’t save enough money to justify it, in our opinion.  We happily pay the listed price for anything at the Ton Payom Market nowadays.  As you can see, it’s pretty much a bargain even at full price!


What: Lychees
Where: Ton Payom Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 20-100 Baht/kilo
Cost (US): $0.60-$3.13 for 2.2 pounds
Yesterday’s lychees are always the deeply discounted ones; the freshest fruit is always the most expensive.  We like to go for the cheap bag, and try to eat it within two days.  If you let them go too long, sometimes they can start to smell and taste like dirty socks.  Then it’s just time to bite the bullet and toss ‘em out.


What: 1 Kilogram of Rambutan
Where: Ton Payom Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht per Kilogram
Cost (US): $0.94 per 2.2 pounds


What: 10 Large Eggs
Where: Ton Payom Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 36 Baht
Cost (US): $1.13


What: Goldfish Crackers!
Where: Rimping Supermarket (importer of almost everything!), Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 90 Baht
Cost (US): $2.82
We buy these for special occasions and emergence goldfish cravings.


What: Bag of 8 Persimmons
Where: Ton Payom Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht
Cost (US): $0.94


What: Small jar of Nutella
Where: Rimping Supermarket, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 99 Baht
Cost (US): $3.10



What: Bubble Tea
Where: Mont Blanc, Nimman Neighborhood, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 35 Baht
Cost (US): $1.10


What: Iced Latte or Iced Mocha
Where: Kaweh Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 50 Baht for any drink between 8-11am
Cost (US): $1.57 for any drink between 8-11am


What: Typical Iced Coffee in a sit-down aircon cafe
WhereAnywhere near Nimman in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 55-70 Baht
Cost (US): $1.72-$2.19


What: Lychee Smoothie
Where: Doi Coffee, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 70 Baht
Cost (US): $2.19


What: Water Delivery Service
Where: Polestar Water Delivery Company, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 20 Baht per giant 50L jug
Cost (US): $0.63
“Nice Jugs”


What: Leo Beer (the best Thai beer we’ve found), Imported Cooper’s Pale Ale from Australia, Imported Budweiser
Where: Rimping Supermarket, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 53 Baht for Leo, 80 Baht for the Pale Ale, 99 Baht for the Budweiser
Cost (US): $1.66 for Leo, $2.51 for the Pale Ale, $3.10 for the Budweiser (crazy, right?)


What: Ben More Scotch Whiskey (740 ml)
Where: Any 7-11 Store in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 389 Baht
Cost (US): $12.19

Lunches and Dinners


What: Som Tam (shredded papaya salad with lime, beans, carrots, peanuts and fish sauce)
Where: Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 40 Baht
Cost (US): $1.25


What: Salad Pak Palomai (leafy green salad with tons of fruits, and pumpkin dressing)
Where: Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 70 Baht
Cost (US): $2.19

IMG_4655What: Vegetarian Massuman Curry with Brown Rice
Where: Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 60 Baht
Cost (US): $1.88


What: Yogurt, Fruit and Muesli
Where: Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 60 Baht
Cost (US): $1.88


What: Avocado Cream Salad
Where: Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 100 Baht
Cost (US): $3.13


What: Whole Grilled Chicken
Where: The Chicken Shack in Chiang Mai (Not sure of the real name, see map in my previous post.)
Cost (Thai): 140-150 Baht per chicken
Cost (US): $4.39-$4.70 per chicken


What: Pad Thai
Where: The Pad Thai Family street food stall near Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai, Thailand (see this post for map)
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht per plate
Cost (US): $0.94 per plate


What: Kanom Krok coconut dessert
Where: Street food on Suthep Road in front of Bangkok Bank west of Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 20 Baht for 8 pairs of Kanom Krok
Cost (US): $0.63 for 8 pairs of Kanom Krok


What: Indian Food – two meat entrees with naan and rice
Where: Taj Mahal Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 320 Baht
Cost (US): $10.03
This Indian food was nowhere as good as Taste of India in Seattle… oh how we miss Taste of India.


What: Rice Noodle Soup with Pork and a Wonton
Where: A little place we call the Suthep Soup Spot, east of Wat Suan Dok but West of Sriphat Hospital, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht
Cost (US): $0.94


What: Any meal with tofu, chicken or pork
Where: The Organic Vegetable Restaurant, which we call the 40 Baht Spot
Cost (Thai): 40 Baht for any dish with chicken, pork or tofu
Cost (US): $1.25 for any dish chicken, pork or tofu


What: Pad See Iew with Pork
Where: The first food stall south of Kaweh Cafe on Siri Mankalajarn Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht
Cost (US): $0.94


What: Tea Leaf Salad, Braised Pork, Bean Soup, and 2 servings of Steamed Rice
Where: Burmese Restaurant and Library, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 120 Baht
Cost (US): $3.76


What: Large Pepperoni Pizza, Large Chang Beer, and Tip
Where: Why Not? Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 400 Baht
Cost (US): $12.54
This is our splurge restaurant.  Spending over $10 for a meal is a rarity for us here!


What: A plate of Khao Kha Moo (pulled pork), rice, egg and sauce
Where: The famous Cowboy Hat Lady at Chang Phuak Gate, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 30 Baht per plate
Cost (US): $0.94 per plate

photo 2

What: Six pieces of Grade A Tuna Sashimi drizzled with sesame, soy, pickled ginger and wasabi sauce
Where: Barracuda Restaurant, Koh Tao, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 180 Baht
Cost (US): $5.64


What: Hawaiian Burger
Where: Burger Queen, Pai, thailand
Cost (Thai): 95 Baht
Cost (US): $2.98




What: Minibus to Pai, a 4-hour drive (for transport details, see this post)
Where: Terminal Green Minibus Service, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 180 Baht/person
Cost (US): $5.64/person


What: 24-hour Motorbike Rental
Where: Pai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 120 Baht
Cost (US): $3.76


What: Overnight 10-hour bus ride on a First Class Bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
Where: Green Bus Company, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 426 Baht/person
Cost (US): $13.35/person




What: ATM fees
Where: Anywhere in Chiang Mai
Cost (Thai): 180 Baht per transaction
Cost (US): $5.64/transaction
Crazy, right?  It costs over $5 every time you take out money.  To combat this problem, we use the Charles Schwab Investor Checking card, because they refund all ATM fees!  Bangkok Bank is a bit cheaper, only charging 150 Baht/transaction, but that’s still $4.70.


What: Monthly storage pod for all our worldly belongings (except our sofa, which is in Katie & Erik’s basement… thanks guys!)
Where: Hansen Brothers Storage in Seattle, WA
Cost (US): $39/month for 1 box

photo (1)

What: SSI Open Water Scuba Certification
Where: Roctopus Dive School, Koh Tao, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 9800 Baht per person.  With 2 people doing the class, they included 4 nights of accommodations!
Cost (US): $307/person.
Open Water Certification consists of three half-day classroom sessions, one afternoon of shallow water training, and 4 Scuba Dives up to 18m deep.


What: Traditional Thai Massage
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): About 200 Baht/hour
Cost (US): About $6.27/hour
The photo above was post-massage, which is why I look slightly unhinged.  At almost all massage places, they issue you these baggy pants and a cotton button-up top for traditional Thai massages.


What: Dental checkup and cleaning
Where: Mukmai Dental Clinic, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost (Thai): 800 Baht
Cost (US): $25.07


Our Monthly Budget

Curious what it costs to live in Chiang Mai for a month?  Check out this post for details about our monthly budget.


We Want to Hear From You!

Do these prices surprise you?  Are you curious about the cost of other things in Chiang Mai?  If so, leave me a comment and I’ll add it to the post!

Going to the Dentist in Chiang Mai

Mukmai Dental Clinic in Chiang Mai

Mukmai Dental Clinic in Chiang Mai

Going to the dentist can be an adventure no matter where you are in the world, but it is extra intimidating when you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and aren’t familiar with social norms.  When I was a kid, my parents were only able to get me to go to the dentist by promising we’d walk next door to the toy store after I was done.  To this day, I expect someone to buy me something every time I exit a dental office.  (Mom and Dad, I’m watching the mail for some sort of package to arrive…  hint hint… send dark chocolate!)

Which Dentist in Chiang Mai Did I Pick?

Mukmai Dental Clinic

Mukmai Dental Clinic

I decided to make a visit to a Dentist in Chiang Mai, Thailand because it’s time for my 6-month checkup, and I’ve been a little freaked out about my teeth since I basically sit around drinking sugary coffees all day…

I did a little research and found Mukmai Dental Clinic, a small dental practice in the Old City neighborhood of Chiang Mai that belongs to Dr. Suttipong Soontaracharn (say that name five times fast…).  This dentist comes highly recommended by fellow expats online.  Rumor has it he has many plaques.  I hear this guy deserves a crown.

Anyway, all dental puns aside, I called the receptionist (tel: 053-416328) and managed to schedule a cleaning and checkup without any problems.  They even got me in within a few days of my phone call.

How Did It Go?

I hate to disappoint you, but it was not much different from a dental visit in the US.  It was a nice, immaculately clean office with air conditioning.  The equipment wasn’t as new as what you might find at a dentist in Seattle, but I’m pretty sure Dr. Suttipong charges fair rates as opposed to the exorbitant rates many dentists in the US charge.

The waiting room was great:

Comfy Waiting Room Chairs

Comfy Waiting Room Chairs

The receptionist desk sported a wooden elephant sculpture, which I thought was great:

Receptionist Desk

Receptionist Desk

I happened to use their ladies’ room before my appointment, and noted that they have hand soap, paper towels, and a ton of toilet paper.  If that’s not an indicator of a classy facility, I don’t know what is.

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Dr. Suttipong spoke perfect English and was super nice.  He explained everything he was doing and gave really thorough answers to all of my questions.  In most dental offices in Seattle, you spend all your time with the dental hygenist and only get a 2-minute visit from the dentist.  At Mukmai, however, Dr. Suttipong did the whole checkup and cleaning himself.  He definitely went to town with the scraping – my gums felt quite violated when I left, but they were plaque-free and clean.  Here’s a peek at the actual dental chair:

The Dental Chair

The Dental Chair

There were a few small surprises during my visit:

  • Instead of giving me sunglasses, they just laid a tissue over my eyes during the cleaning.
  • My cleaning was, um, intense.  My gums definitely took a beating and bled accordingly.  I’m pretty sure that most peoples’ gums bleed at the dentist, but in the US the hygienist usually squirts water in your mouth and suctions it out during the cleaning so you don’t see all the gore.  Here, they had me rinse and spit, so that was fun to see…
  • I was not issued a free toothbrush or given dental floss or toothpaste samples before I left!  Such a bummer!  If you’re anything like me, you tend to load up at dental visits.  I heart freebies.
  • Dr. Suttipong never recommends unnecessary treatments/procedures.  I asked about x-rays, but he said my teeth looked so good it wasn’t necessary.  I asked if I should consider coming back in three months for a checkup before we leave Thailand, but he encouraged me to wait until next Spring.  In the US, I feel like most dental offices treat their patients as potential sources of revenue and try to squeeze every dollar out of them that they can.  It’s not like that at all with Dr. Suttipong.

How Much Does a Visit to a Dentist in Chiang Mai Cost?

This is the best part of the whole visit!  I only have coverage for dental emergencies, which means I pay for a routine cleaning like this completely out of pocket.  I think a routine dental visit at my old Dentist in Seattle billed something like $250-$300 to insurance.  My cleaning at Mukmai Dental Clinic cost just 800 Baht, or about $25 USD.

Back home, I recently had three cavities filled.  I had full dental coverage through Boeing, but between the deductible, co-insurance, and having to pay the extra cost to get white composite fillings instead of silver fillings, it cost me about $280 out of pocket.  At Mukmai, it costs about 1000 Baht for a single filling, which is about $33 USD.  What a deal!

This inexpensive dental care has led to the popularity of “Dental Tourism” here in Thailand.  For some Americans or Europeans facing costly dental procedures, it can be cheaper to fly to Thailand, have a vacation, and get the dental work done here than it would be to do it in their home country.  What a way to fund a vacation, right?!

Would I Go Back?

Definitely!  I probably wouldn’t travel for 24 hours just to get here, but I’d recommend Mukmai Dental Clinic to anyone living in Chiang Mai looking for quality dental care.  I’ll be sending Kevin to get his teeth cleaned there very soon…

We Want to Hear From You!

Do you have any dental adventure stories from your travels?  Any dental emergencies or strange dental experiences you’ve had in foreign countries?

Top 5 Things We Miss Most While Living in Thailand

Let's start this post with a beautiful photo in Chiang Mai - this is from Wat Suan Dok, the temple 50 yards from our apartment.

Let’s start this post with a beautiful Chiang Mai photo.  This is taken at Wat Suan Dok, the temple 50 yards from our apartment.

We’ve been living abroad for over three months now, and spent some time this week reflecting on what we miss most about the good ol’ US of A.  The thing we miss the most is definitely seeing our friends and family; it was so sad to spend 4th of July this year without our annual gathering of friends in our backyard.  It’s also tough to be over here so far from home when so many of our loved ones have babies who are growing up so quickly!  When we left, the newest baby in the group was the size of a small chicken.  We just skyped with those friends a couple weeks ago, and now he’s the size of a butterball turkey.  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!  Aside from our friends and family, we came up with a list of the top 5 things we miss from the USA.

The Top 5 Things We Miss:

#1: Good Public Bathrooms

My general frustration with the toilet situation in Southeast Asia has undoubtedly been apparent in some of my previous blog posts.  To get an idea of the despair I feel when I walk into a bathroom that is completely devoid of toilet paper and hand soap, please follow this link and press the blue button.  We’ve lived here long enough that we have a short list of public bathrooms which stock what we call the “Triple Crown”: hand soap, toilet paper and paper towels.

We’ve racked up quite a list of weird bathroom experiences since we got here.  To name a few: I nearly tipped over a toilet that was not bolted to the ground which caused all the water to flood out onto the bathroom floor, Kevin accidentally used a broken urinal that essentially just drains everything right out onto the floor, and I almost wiped out when my foot slipped on a wet “squat toilet” at a sketchy rest stop on the way to Pai (also, a cat was watching me in that bathroom, which I find to be extra weird).

#2: Regular Business Hours

In Thailand, there’s no such a thing as regular business hours.  If business isn’t hoppin’, it’s fairly common that a restaurant or shop will just close up for the day.  Most businesses here are family run, which means that staff are pretty single-threaded.  So if someone is sick, or if the family has other things going on, they just post a sign in the window saying they’re closed for 1 day.  This has bitten us a lot here since our favorite coffee shop only has one barista!  Even in the finance world, hours are really short – the bank we use regularly is open from just 10am-3pm.  We’ve tried to get used to this and roll with it, but it’s hard to be patient when you walk to your favorite coffee shop in 90+ degree weather, looking forward to their awesome aircon and iced drinks, only to find that they’re closed.  HULK SO MAD.

#3: Cleanliness

While cleanliness isn’t a huge issue here in Thailand, it’s enough of a problem that it might be slowly driving me crazy.  In Seattle, your neighbors will shun you if you leave put out your garbage bins when it’s not trash day.  In Chiang Mai, it’s pretty normal to walk past a big bin or pile of trash every hundred hards or so.  I have also become an absolute nut job about watching out for dog poop.  There are tons of stray dogs in Chiang Mai, so there is poop everywhere.  It reminds me of this video clip:

There are also just a lot more smells associated with a tropical climate – hot weather enhances the smell of everything, from the smell of durian fruit to the smell of the squid vendor.  And let’s be honest here, we don’t exactly smell awesome all the time in 90+ degree weather, either.  One thing is for sure, your cleanliness standards definitely adjust quickly when they have to – I am 100% ok with using bar soap in a public restroom now.  This is happening.

#4: Reliable Infrastructure

I miss strict electrical regulations.  We’ve become fairly accustomed to power outages, and we are unfazed at this point when we hear the familiar crackling and see electrical arcing in Chiang Mai’s electrical wire connections.  The electrical system here is a mess – in the old city I could reach up and grab electrical wires with hardly any effort.  Traffic was stopped outside a cafe one day because a live wire had fallen into the road.  And then there was the day we saw the electrical workers in the photo below run out into moving traffic with their bamboo ladder to work on a wire:

Don't mind me, just climbing on my ladder in the road...

Don’t mind me, just climbing on my ladder in the road…

I’m also getting tired of blocked or nonexistent sidewalks.  Pedestrians don’t get any respect here.  If you were in a wheel chair or on crutches, don’t even bother visiting Chiang Mai.  When did sidewalks become appropriate places to park motorbikes, anyway?!  It’s so tricky to walk around here – even if you’re in a crosswalk and the light is red, cars still won’t voluntarily stop for you to cross!  You have to force them to stop by bravely walking out into the road!

#5: Beer

Budweiser. So sad.

Budweiser. So sad.

The main beer brands in Thailand are Leo, Chang and Singha, and they are woefully inferior to the fantastic craft beer selection we took for granted in Seattle.  Nowadays we drink our beers on ice to take out some of the “slap-you-in-the-face-bad-taste”.  The situation is so dire that we picked up a can of Budweiser for the 4th of July and it tasted GOOD.  What is this madness?!

We want to hear from you!

Are you surprised at some of the things that made our list?  Are you shocked at something we left off?  What do you think you’d miss if you moved abroad?  Cheese? Peanut butter?  Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper?  I thought I’d miss cheese more than I do (good cheese here is outrageously expensive and reasonably priced cheese is outrageously gross) but I’m fine without it.

The Little Island of Koh Chang

Beautiful Koh Chang Sunset

Beautiful Koh Chang Sunset

We recently returned from a quick trip down to the beautiful island of Koh Chang, Thailand.  Koh Chang is situated in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from Cambodia.  We decided to make the trip there in low season (i.e. “rainy season”) to take advantage of the bargain-basement resort prices.  We lucked out and won the weather lottery, and it only seemed to rain at times when we weren’t at the beach or pool – jackpot!  As an added bonus, it was raining when we left – I LOVE when it’s raining on the day you’re forced to leave the beach!

See, it rained when we were leaving!

See? It rained when we were leaving!

Getting to Koh Chang is not easy!

In fact, it’s damn near impossible.  The map below shows the route we took to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang.  We do not recommend it for the faint hearted – if you spend just forty extra US dollars, you can shave over 10 hours off of the journey!  Unfortunately for us, we have an overinflated sense of adventure, and an under-inflated travel budget.  Let’s be honest here, that’s usually a terrible combination.


We decided to try our hand at traveling the “cheap route” to Koh Chang, figuring that at the very least it would be an adventure.  We didn’t realize it would be a neverending saga that would leave us feeling nickeled and dimed.  There’s really nothing worse than feeling like people are taking advantage of you – I do not enjoy being charged double the rate charged for locals.  Kevin and I call it the “tourist tax”.  It sucks, but it’s really just life here, and it’s easier to pay the extra couple of dollars than try to argue with someone in a language you don’t speak.

Anyway, our disaster of a journey down to Koh Chang went something like this:

Leg #1: We started with a Songathaew ride from our apartment to the Arcade Bus Station.  Songathaews in Chiang Mai are essentially just organized hitchhiking.  You flag down one of these red pickup trucks, tell the driver where you’re going, and if he agrees to your destination, you hop into the covered truck bed with bench seating.  Cost: 40 Baht (US$1.25) per person.  Time: 30-minutes.

Leg #2: Next, we grabbed a 10-hour overnight bus to Bangkok’s Northernmost bus terminal, Mo Chit.  Our bus left at 8pm and arrived at 6am.  It was surprisingly not that bad!  Everyone gets a blanket and head pillow, the seats recline nearly flat, and they give you tons of snacks and a bottle of water.  For $14/person, it’s not a bad deal!  If it weren’t for the strange 2am stop at a bus station, it would’ve been fairly normal.  We didn’t take a “VIP” bus, but noticed there was a buffet at the bus stop for VIP customers.  There’s nothing like hitting a Thai Buffet at two in the morning, amirite?!  I was glad for the stop even without getting to go to the buffet – I only used the onboard bus bathroom once on our trip, and it was a harrowing experience.  I don’t know about you, but a bathroom with water sloshing all over the place in a moving vehicle is not my cup of tea.  Cost: 463 Baht (US$14.40) per person.  Time: 10-hours.

Leg #3: After arriving to Bangkok’s noisy, dusty Mo Chit bus station at 6am, we wandered around in a complete daze trying to find some coffee.  We eventually stumbled upon the booths selling minibus fares to Trat and snagged two tickets for a 7:30am departure.  This is where things started to get sketchy.  Minibus drivers in Thailand are absolutely insane – did you know that red lights are just guidelines, and that it’s perfectly ok to drive on the shoulder?  Cost 270 Baht (US$8.40) per person.  Time: 5 hours.

Ticket Booths and Minibusses at Mo Chit

Ticket Booths and Minibusses at Mo Chit

Leg #4: After our 5-hour white-knuckle drive from Bangkok to Trat, we were dropped off at what seemed like someone’s front porch, and told we had to pay 130 Baht/person more for our next minibus and the ferry.  We didn’t really have any other options, so we paid up even though it felt like a scam – it’s just $4, right?  I also had to pay 5 Baht to use their bathroom, which didn’t flush, had no toilet paper, and didn’t have a sink to wash my hands.  Sigh.  We hopped on a 20-minute minibus ride to Ao Thammachat Ferry Terminal.  Cost: 130 Baht (US$4) per person.  Time: 20 minutes.

Leg #5: Ferries in Thailand are not quite like Washington State Ferries.  The paint on our ferry to Koh Chang was peeling, everything metal was rusted, most windows didn’t close, and it was rocking and rolling so much that I was looking around for the nearest exit and life jackets.  Luckily, we made the 30-minute ferry trip safely to Koh Chang.  Cost: Included in Leg #4 fee.  Time: 30 minutes.

Leg #6: Upon arrival in Koh Chang, we were absolutely bombarded by Songathaew drivers hoping to take us to our hotel.  Based on my previous research, we were again hit with the tourist tax – they charged us double the usual rate, but it was raining and I didn’t feel like we had much of a choice.  Cost: 100 Baht (US$3.10) per person.  Time: 15 minutes.

Welcome to Koh Chang!

Welcome to Koh Chang!

The Total: 30-minute songathew + 10-hour bus + 5-hour minibus + 20-minute minibus + 30-minute ferry + 15-minute songathew = nearly 20 hours of traveling for the bargain price of just 1003 Baht ($31) per person.

The Verdict:  We do not recommend that you do what I just described – it was not fun.  For our trip back home to Chiang Mai, we did something MUCH smarter.  We paid 650 Baht (US$20) per person for a minibus that picked us up right at our hotel in Koh Chang and took us straight to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, then we flew to Chiang Mai on Bangkok Air for 1590 Baht (US$50) per person.  It cost over twice as much to travel home, but we got there in less than half the time.  I also absolutely love Bangkok Air and will fly with them any chance I get – they have free checked bags, a lounge with free snacks, drinks and Wifi at BKK Airport, and they always serve a meal on their flights whether it’s 40-minutes or 5-hours.  I’m pretty sure we ate enough free cookies, muffins, and sandwiches at their Airport lounge to make up the extra money we spent flying, anyway.

A note on Koh Chang weather:  We really lucked out and got some sun in Koh Chang.  However, if you’re flying all the way over from the USA to visit Thailand, we recommend you just suck it up and pay the higher prices to go somewhere that is not currently experiencing its rainy season.  Because the wet seasons vary depending on which of Thailand’s coasts you visit, there’s always somewhere with guaranteed sunshine – spend the money to make your vacation worthwhile!

So how was Koh Chang, anyway?

It was actually fabulous once we finally got there.  Because it was low season, it was nearly deserted.  We scored a pretty good deal on a wonderful little beachfront bungalow at the KC Grande Resort right at the North end of Koh Chang’s popular White Sand Beach.

The KC Grande is the kind of place where they fold swans and elephants out of your towels and sprinkle flower petals on your bed:


This resort is also the kind of place where you get a free glass of juice on check-in, and get to hit up the lobby bar for a free welcome cocktail:

Our resort had four pools.  That is not a typo.  They have a beach-front infinity pool where you can swim while you watch the sunset:

The Beachfront Infinity Pool with swim-up bar

The Beachfront Infinity Pool with swim-up bar

There was a rooftop infinity pool which was absolutely deserted during lunch one day – we felt like celebrities up there all by ourselves!  We ordered some lunch and coffees and ate them poolside – we felt like we owned the place:

I couldn’t help but get a rooftop panoramic photo:

Rooftop Infinity Pool

Rooftop Infinity Pool

They also had a pool with an insanely fast water slide that should not be allowed to be used by kids.  It was way too fast, but we loved it.  You should definitely click on the photos below to see them bigger – the look on Kevin’s face is amazing:

There was also a small pool about 20 feet from our bungalow, but I don’t have photos.  They also have a row of lounge chairs right on the beach:

Enjoying Beachfront Loungers

Enjoying Beachfront Loungers

The colossal KC Grande breakfast buffet at the resort was included in our room rate, so we hit it really hard every morning.  They had pancakes, waffles, french toast, pastries, toast, soups, noodle dishes, eggs at least 5 ways every day, sausages, bacon, ham, salad, four kinds of jams, syrup, honey, yogurt and granola, fruits, five kinds of juice, coffee, tea, and an array of cheeses.  We did our best to consume a normal day’s worth of calories at breakfast, and I think we succeeded.  I’m talking three plates per person at breakfast.  The seating next to the beach wasn’t bad, either:

Breakfast on the Beach!

Breakfast on the Beach!

We did go for a barefoot run on the beach one day to try to make up for that buffet breakfast.  I was going to wear my red one-piece swimsuit and let my hair down and run around Baywatch style, but common sense prevailed and I wore actual running clothes:

Morning Beach Run in Koh Chang

Morning Beach Run in Koh Chang

We also found a swing on the beach while we were exploring!

Kevin swinging on the beach

Kevin swinging on the beach

And Kevin made one of his lifelong dreams come true – after we woke up, he immediately put on his swim trunks, ran out to the beach, and went into the ocean for a morning swim.  This was before coffee, people!  It was everything he dreamed it would be and more:

We ended up spending most of our time in Koh Chang just hanging around at our resort.  With a view like this one, who wouldn’t, right?

Evening beers on our bungalow porch

Evening beers on our bungalow porch

Do we recommend Koh Chang to others?

If you’re on a really long vacation and you are not crunched for time, we think it’s worth the effort to get there!  However, if you only get two weeks of vacation per year, we would recommend hitting a different Thai beach destination that doesn’t require so much effort to travel to.  Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui are a bit more touristy and crowded for a reason – you don’t have to jump through five thousand hoops to get to those destinations.  If you do decide to go to Koh Chang, be sure you book a minibus from Bangkok that will take you all the way across the ferry to the island and deliver you directly to your hotel.  If you have a big travel budget, Bangkok Air operates somewhat pricey flights from Bangkok to Trat, where you can get a minibus and ferry ride over to Koh Chang.

Rice Cooker Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Please do me a favor.  Walk into your kitchen, get out your electric mixer, and just give it a hug for me.  I miss my kitchenaid mixer soooooo much, and have never missed it more than this week when I used a FORK to beat egg whites into soft peaks.  A FORK!  It’s like I’m living in the dark ages.  I tried to find and purchase at least a metal whisk, but in a store that stocks not one but two different sizes of crab leg cracker tool thingies, there was not a whisk to be had.  So I was stuck with my fork.  All that was missing was a covered wagon and a butter churn.

While you’re in your kitchen, please also just take a moment to look around and appreciate the fact that there aren’t ants worming their way into everything.  I have to keep my sugar in the refrigerator to keep the ants from swarming it.  On any given night, there’s about a 50/50 chance you’ll find me crawling around our apartment with a head lamp on, searching for the source of the ant problem.  I’m clearly on the verge of declaring all out war on these ants; at the very least I’m on the verge of losing my insanity.

Proof that I'm slowly going insane.  I really am not exaggerating.

Proof that I’m slowly going insane. I really am not exaggerating about these ants.

On a more fun note, this week Kevin and I celebrated our three-year anniversary!  It’s hard to believe that three years ago today, we were sweating profusely on an unusually warm day at the Arboretum in Seattle, celebrating our marriage with our nearest and dearest.  Now we’re here, sweating profusely in Thailand.  We never saw that coming!

Kevin and I had a fun day celebrating.  We started our day with french toast at home, topped with nutella and bananas:


After a quick swim in the pool, we finally tried Ristr8to, Chiang Mai’s fanciest coffee shop.  It was like we teleported to a coffee shop in Portland.  I had a hot Flat White with single source coffee beans from Brazil, and Kevin had their signature drink, the Ficardie.  It came with a mysterious tiny cup of hot water; we’re still not sure what that was for…


We spent the middle part of the day hiding in an air conditioned coffee shop, enjoying lattes and bubble tea and working, because work makes us happy.  We finished off our day with a trip to Why Not?, home of the best deal on pepperoni pizza.  Trust us, we searched for and found the place with the best Baht per square inch price within walking distance of our apartment.

But the pièce de résistance was something I cooked up in our humble 10-cup rice cooker: a delicious decadent Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  It was tasty and wonderful and smelled so heavenly while it was cooking that I almost tore into the rice cooker to eat it right then.  Next time I cook it, I’m going to try a couple things: I want to try coconut milk in place of the regular milk, and I want to add about a cup of chopped pineapple into the batter.  Read on for the full pineapple upside down cake recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Note: For those of you who only have a rice cooker measuring cup available, which is much smaller than a regular measuring cup, be sure to scale up the cup measurements by a factor of 1.4.  I noted in parenthesis the places where this is necessary.


  • 1 pineapple, cut into 1/3″ thick rings.  (You need enough to cover the bottom of your rice cooker pot.  They cook down, so use about 50% more than you think you’ll need!)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (brown sugar works perfectly too)
  • 4 cloves (optional)

Wet Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1/4 cup milk (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional – I skipped this because vanilla costs an arm and a leg here!)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour (1.4 rice cooker cups), I used cake flour and it was fine
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Make Topping

  1. Cook pineapple slices, cinnamon sticks, palm or brown sugar, and cloves in a pan on medium low heat until the liquid bubbles and the pineapple slices are slightly softened, but still firm enough to handle without breaking.
  2. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside so the pineapple can soak some of that juice back up while you’re making your batter.

Make Batter

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar in three batches, whisking between additions to combine.
  2. One by one, add in egg yolks, melted butter, milk, then vanilla, whisking after each addition to incorporate each ingredient fully before adding the next.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, then gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Butter the bottom of your rice cooker pot to prevent that precious pineapple from sticking!
  2. Place the cooked pineapple rings in a single layer on the bottom of the rice cooker pot.  Save the remaining cooking liquid!  You’ll want to drizzle it on your cake after it’s finished baking.
  3. Pour the batter into the pot to completely cover the pineapples.
  4. Place the pot in your rice cooker and bake for 40 minutes on cake mode.  If you don’t have cake mode, regular mode is ok!  Just keep your timer handy and check the cake for doneness after about a half hour.  If your rice cooker is smaller than 10-cups, it may take longer than 40 minutes to bake.  The cake is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove the rice cooker pot from the rice cooker, and use the plastic rice spatula to loosen the cake edges from the pot.  Then place a plate on the pot opening and bravely flip the pot over onto the plate.  If all goes according to plan, the cake should fall right out.
  6. Drizzle the cake with the reserved pineapple syrup from earlier – you may need to heat it back up on the stovetop to thin it out for drizzling.
  7. Slice and enjoy!  The cake should keep for several days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long.

We Want to Hear From You!

I’m barely clinging to my sanity with these ant invasions!  They come in from a different direction every day.  Does anyone have any natural remedies they might suggest for getting rid of these pests?  I’m a little nervous about buying ant spray since I can’t read Thai – I would prefer to not accidentally poison Kevin and myself.  Any tips would be lovely!  (Mom, if only I had access to that ant poison you used to use that was banned in the early 70s… sprinkle some of that on our balcony and we’d be all set!)