A Saga to get Sleeping Pills in Chiang Mai


Hanging out with the pill statue at our neighborhood pharmacy.

Did you know that Zolpidem (off brand Ambien) is a highly regulated, government controlled substance in Thailand?  Neither did I.  Being from a country where many doctors hand this stuff out like candy let me a little bit ill-prepared for our foray into the Thai Medical system to try to obtain some sleeping pills.

I definitely am not a habitual sleeping pill user.  In fact, I regularly fall asleep while still holding my Kindle when all the lights are on. However, I am highly open to using one of these magical pills to sleep soundly on a 13-hour flight.  I also have been known to use it for one night at my travel destination to get over the jetlag hump.

So Riddle me this – how many hospital visits does it take to procure some sleeping pills in Chiang Mai?  The way we did it, it unfortunately (and infuriatingly), it took FOUR visits, which ended up costing us about eight hours out of our lives, and we only have ten pills to show for it!  Read on for the tale of our epic journey…

Hospital Visit #1

First we stopped by Chiang Mai Ram Hospital on a whim on the way from the Khao Kha Moo lady who serves delicious tender-cooked pork with rice. We usually follow up Khao Kha Moo lady with a trip to the cake woman, who makes the most divine coconut cake on this planet.  Sadly, she wasn’t there that night, which we should’ve realized was a sign of the struggle to come.  We popped into Chiang Mai Ram, where we learned that a doctor must be a Psychiatrist in order to subscribe sleeping pills.  The Psychiatrist was not currently in, which didn’t surprise us at 8pm on a Sunday night, so we headed home.

Hospital Visit #2

After doing some research, I learned that Sriphat Medical Center (part of Maharaj Hospital complex) is supposed to be cheaper than Chiang Mai Ram. You know we can’t resist a bargain, so we headed to Sriphat to scope things out on a Friday morning.  We walked in, realized there wasn’t a single sign in English, and realized we were probably the only non-Thai people in the entire building.  Luckily, a super nice man who spoke English took pity on us and pointed us up to the 13th floor.

We packed into a hot, steamy elevator with about 15 other people and slowly made our way up to the 13th floor. When we got there, we were met by a nice lady in a pink jacket who spoke English and escorted us around, and we were super excited that this floor had pretty good aircon.  The lady in the pink jacket helped us register, snapped my photo for my hospital record, and walked us in to the nurse’s desk.

This is when things started to head south.  They said we should come back at 2pm to see “Dr. Aneesa.”  I wasn’t mad yet, so we said okay and happily went about our day.

Hospital Visit #3

We came back to Sriphat at 2pm, headed to the nurse’s station, and no one knew who this mysterious “Dr. Aneesa” is.  So that was weird.  The nurse was so puzzled about why I thought we had an appointment, but set us up for a 9am appointment on Monday.  In spite of the appointment time, she advised us that it’s first come first serve.  Frustration began to set in…

Hospital Visit #4

We showed up to Sriphat right on time at 9am Monday morning, headed up to the 13th floor again, and were so sad at what the nurse’s station told us. Sure, my “appointment” is for 9am, but I’m number four in the queue, and the psychiatrist won’t be here until 10:30am.  Awesome!  SO FAR SO GOOD, right?!  Luckily, Kevin and I brought our Kindles and iPhones, so we were able to stay occupied.  Maybe this is part of the visit with the psychiatrist – they try to see if they can push you to snap.  Good one, guys!  On the plus side, we were on the 13th floor, so there was a pretty nice view:

The Nice View that kept me sane!  There's a golf course in the middle, and the airport in the back right.

The Nice View that kept me sane at Sriphat! There’s a golf course in the middle, and the airport in the back right.

Finally, at about 11am, after over two hours of waiting, we got to visit with the Psychiatrist. She was nice enough, but seemed extremely suspicious that I was asking for sleeping pills.  She grilled me about why I wanted them, asked if I’ve ever seen a psychiatrist in the U.S., and wanted to know if I had taken them before and in what dosage.  It was kind of an ordeal.

So, Did We Ever Get the Pills?

We spent 8 hours at 4 hospital visits and all we got were these 10 measly pills!

We spent 8 hours at 4 hospital visits and all we got were these 10 measly pills!

Yes, we did.  But in the end, we learned that Thai laws limit a prescription for Zolpidem to just TEN pills.  TEN!  Or at least that’s what the hospital told us.  I spent 8 hours in hospitals, spent 1,230 Baht ($38 US), and all I got was ten measly sleeping pills.  Would I do it again?  Never!  Am I glad we did it?  Not at all!

Luckily, one good thing came out of this ordeal – we sort of had an epiphany while we were waiting for the doctor in the hospital.  The whole reason we went to Sriphat was to try to save a little money – maybe five dollars, at the most ten dollars.

We realized that if you’re willing to spend maybe 25% extra, no matter where you are in the world, things are generally much more pleasant.  If we spent just a little bit more and went to Chiang Mai Ram (the more upscale private hospital) we’re sure things would’ve gone much more smoothly.

This holds for so many things we’ve encountered in Thailand.  Spend an extra dollar on dinner and it can save you from a rough day of stomach problems.  Fork out an extra $5 for the first class overnight bus and you’ll actually get a decent night’s sleep.  Better yet, spend an extra $35 to fly instead of bus, and you can save yourself ten hours of traveling.

We Want To Hear From You!

Have you had any crazy medical experiences in foreign countries?  Everyone loves the we-don’t-speak-the-same-language game of charades when body parts and medical problems are involved.  Please share your stories with us!

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?

Fourth of July in Thailand

In honor of the good ‘ol USA, we decided to have “America Day” here in Chiang Mai this Fourth of July Friday.  We’re about a half a day ahead of everyone back home in the States, so most of you are just waking up as our day comes to a close.  There aren’t a ton of festivities here in Chiang Mai for budget travelers like us who aren’t willing to pay $40 for an American-themed buffet, so we decided to make our own fun.  Here’s how we celebrated our day:

Step 1: Dress in Red, White and Blue – check!

We are selfie challenged, this is the best we could do!

We are selfie challenged, this is the best we could do.

Step 2: Obtain a watermelon – check!

Fun fact, there’s no such thing as “seedless watermelon” in Thailand.

Our tiny, one dollar watermelon.

Our tiny, one dollar watermelon.

Delicious, glorious watermelon:



Step 3: Listen to some good ‘ol patriotic music during breakfast – check!

Obviously, this is the first song we listened to this morning.  Is it weird that Toby Keith’s music makes me a little homesick? “…We’ll put a boot in your ass it’s the American way…”

Step 4: Order the most American thing on the menu for lunch – check!

We got spaghetti with tomato sauce (and tofu and veggies…).  Okay, I realize this is technically a Thai spin on Italian food, but it was the most American thing they had.  I’ll take what I can get!

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce!

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce!

Step 5: Buy some American beers – check!

Rimping Supermarket is the best spot to find import foods and drinks.  Last time we visited, they actually had Anderson Valley beers from the US, but this time they only had Budweiser!  And you know what is terrible?  The Budweiser actually tasted GOOD to us!  That just goes to show you how bad beers are in Thailand.  We also bought a Pale Ale from Australia (Kevin has really been jonesing for an IPA and that’s the closest thing they had) and a Leo beer, which is our go-to Thai beer now.

Leo beer from Thailand, Pale Ale from Australia, and Budweiser from the USA.

Leo beer from Thailand, Pale Ale from Australia, and Budweiser from the USA.

Kevin was pretty sad about having only Budweiser:

Budweiser. So sad.

Budweiser. So sad.

We also caved and bought some of these:



Step 6: Make a mango pie in the rice cooker – check!

We don’t have an oven, or a pie plate for that matter.  I also lack a rolling pin and measuring cups.  But I know one thing for sure, 4th of July just isn’t right without some sort of fruit pie.  Apples and cherries are pretty darn expensive here, so I decided to try my hand at a mango variety!

Fresh Mangos for the Mango Pie

Fresh Mangos for the Mango Pie

I think the secret is to pre-cook the crust before adding the filling!  I went with my mom’s standby pie crust recipe: 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup water.  No refrigeration required for that recipe like most butter crust recipes!  I pressed the crust out on the counter since we don’t have a rolling pin:

Ghetto pie-making

Ghetto pie-making

Then I pressed the crust into the rice cooker pot, making it as thin as I dared to make it:

Press that crust into the rice cooker pot!

Press that crust into the rice cooker pot!

I pre-cooked the crust in my rice cooker on “Cake/Bread” mode for 25 minutes.  Meanwhile, I tossed two chopped mangos with a couple dashes of cinnamon, two spoons of sugar, and about 1/2 cup flour to soak up those juices.  I spooned the mangos into the pre-cooked crust, and garnished with some fun, holiday-appropriate shapes cut out of leftover pie dough:

Pre-cooked crust with Mangos and "USA"!

Pre-cooked crust with Mangos and “USA”!

The pie took about 90 minutes more on “Cake/Bread” mode to finish (it’s about done once the filling really starts to bubble), and came out looking like this:

Mango pie, after 1.5 hours in my rice cooker

Mango pie, after 1.5 hours in my rice cooker

Turns out, it’s harder than I thought to get a pie out of a rice cooker:

Delicious but sad looking mango pie.

Delicious but sad looking Mango Pie

It was SO DELICIOUS though, so I’m calling it a success:

Tasty slice of Mango Pie

Tasty slice of Mango Pie

Step 7: Gorge ourselves on pizza, beer, watermelon, and mango pie while watching “House of Cards” – check!

Again, I realize pizza is sort of an Italian food, but I also think that pizza screams “AMERICA!”.  We’ve kind of adopted it as our own, right?  I’ll take the little victories where I can get ‘em.  Also, there’s really nothing more American than gorging yourself on pizza while watching a TV series about American Politics, right?!

Delicious, wonderful, pepperoni pizza!

Delicious, wonderful, pepperoni pizza!

Step 8: Enjoy unexpected fireworks show – check!

We didn’t realize there would be fireworks in Chiang Mai today!  Luckily, we had a perfect view of the unexpected fireworks show from our top floor apartment, and we rushed outside to watch the pops from our balcony.  It was great!

Fireworks in Chiang Mai over the Ping River

Fireworks in Chiang Mai over the Ping River

Step 9: Tell friends and family you miss them – check!

Nothing makes you miss your friends and family more than missing out on an iconic American holiday.  We sure do miss all of you, and would like for this post to serve as a gentle reminder that visitors are always welcome here in Chiang Mai!  We would make wonderful Chiang Mai tour guides – our English is excellent and we know a thing or two about where to find the tastiest foods for the best prices!

We want to hear from you!

What are you doing to celebrate this 4th of July holiday?  What are you eating?  Are you grilling?  Are you going camping? Are you blowing things up?! Light a sparkler for us!!

Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, A Budget Breakdown

A beautiful temple in our front yard: Wat Suan Dok

The beautiful temple in our front yard: Wat Suan Dok

The main reason Kevin and I picked Chiang Mai for the starting point of our adventure abroad is because of its reputation for being a dirt cheap place to live.  Luckily, we love Chiang Mai for lots of other reasons too: the wonderful locals, the delicious food, the beautiful mountains surrounding us, the ease of getting around the city, and the huge expat community.

We are both officially unemployed now, without much reliable monthly income.  Luckily, we make enough money from renting out our house in Seattle to cover many of our expenses here, and Kevin still makes a little residual income from past app successes.  However, we saved up and set out for this year abroad knowing that it’s highly likely that more money will be going out than is coming in.  And we are ok with that.  The whole point of this year is to experience new cultures, as well as to spend all of our time learning and working on projects we are really excited about.  In order to do that without worrying too much about finances, we came somewhere cheap!  So how much are we spending in Chiang Mai?

The Budget

Note: When this post was published, the exchange rate was about 32 THB for $1 US.


  • Seattle Rental Income (Rent minus Mortgage minus property manager fees): $860
  • Unpredictable App Income
  • Begging for money in the Old City (just kidding, mom and dad, we’re not really doing this)

May’s Expenses

Cost (THB) Cost (US) Note
Rent ฿14,000 $430 41 sq. m 1-bedroom apartment
#8211; Water ฿225 $7 #8211; Electric ฿1,400 $43 We run our aircon a LOT.
#8211; Cell Phones ฿749 $23 #8211; Internet ฿641 $20 We upgraded the free "Internet from Hell" that came with our place
Massages ฿1,630 $50 Three 1-hour Massages each
Coffee ฿4,837 $148 Cafes are our work space!
Food: (We only cook breakfast now!)
#8211; Restaurants, Cafes, Food Stalls ฿7,466 $93 40% of this was at Pun Pun! #8211; Farmer's Market ฿2,283 $70
#8211; Grocery Store ฿841 $26 Booze ฿971 $30 One large beer here will run you ฿55 at the 7-11 Transportation ฿480 $15 Travel ฿0 $0 No travel in May! We were settling in, and plan to pick this up soon. Miscellaneous ฿1,757 $54 Soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, toiletries, etc. Travel Insurance ฿2,050 $63 IMG Global's Patriot International Insurance with Adventure Sports Rider Grand Total ฿39,330 $1,203 For 2 people per month in Chiang Mai

What Does $1,200 per Month Get you in Chiang Mai?

A great 1-Bedroom Apartment

Enjoying the apartment pool

Enjoying the apartment pool

We love our apartment!  It is brand spankin’ new, has two aircon units, a washing machine, a hot water heater, cable TV, and a great well-stocked kitchenette.  It also came with the slowest internet ever, so we pay each month to have our own wifi network that is much faster.  We use either the pool or the gym every single day, so we’re definitely getting our money’s worth.  Our landlord also sends a cleaning company over every month for a top-to-bottom scrub.  For more info, photos, and a video tour of our apartment, check out my previous post about our apartment search.

Delicious Market Fresh Breakfast Supplies

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We cook just one meal a day now – breakfast.  Every few days, we head to the Ton Payom market, where the farmers bring their goods and set up shop.  We always buy eggs, mangos, lychees, bananas, bok choy, sugar snap peas, baby corn, a bell pepper, tomatoes and onion and rarely spend more than $7 per market trip.  Sometimes we pick up a whole pineapple from the gal down our street for 50 cents.  Sometimes we impulse purchase food from “cake guy” who sells this amazing coconut cake for 30 cents per piece.  More often than I care to admit, we stop to buy Kanom Krok from a street vendor from 20 Baht.

Tasty, Cheap Thai Lunches and Dinners

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This has got to be the best thing about living in Thailand.  There is delicious, fresh, wonderful, crazy inexpensive food all around us!  It makes me want to use a gratuitous amount of exclamation points!!!  The most fantastic thing about being in Thailand semi-long-term is that it takes away the fear of ordering something that won’t be good.  If you’re only in Thailand for a week, you kind of want to play it safe and order things you know you’ll enjoy.  If you’re here for a long time, you may discover a surprising love of dishes with lots of chili paste in them (I used to refuse to even eat onions or garlic, people!  I’ve come a long way.)  Plus we rarely spend more than $2/person per meal.  I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Local Cell Phone Service

We have a family plan with DTAC, a Thai cell service provider.  In order to get this plan, we walked into their store, were helped out by an English-speaking employee, and left an hour later with Thai Sim Cards in our iPhones we brought from home.  For 700 Baht (plus tax) per month, Kevin and I each get 1GB of 3G data (and unlimited slow data if we go over that amount), we get 200 text messages, and 300 minutes apiece.  DTAC allows you to tether with their data plan, which means we can create a wifi hot spot from our iPhones.  This is great if you sit down at a coffee shop to work, then realize their internet speed is abysmal.

The occasional ride in a Tuk-Tuk or Songathew

Unfortunately, we don’t have a motorbike.  This is certainly the best way to get around in Thailand, but we’ve so many stories about foreigners being pulled over and forced to bribe policemen that we haven’t been brave enough to wade into the murky waters just yet.  We take the occasional ride on a Songathew, which is a red pickup truck with bench seating in the covered truck bed.  Songathew rides cost 20+ Baht per person depending on where you’re going.  Tuk-Tuks are a different animal – these are sort of tricycle-style motorcycles with a bench seat behind the driver.  He’ll take you straight to your destination and will generally cost at least twice what you’d spend on a Songathew.

Heavenly Massages

Green Bamboo, 1-hour Massage for 200 Baht

Green Bamboo, 1-hour Massage for 200 Baht

Coming in second behind the food, massages are another great reason to base in Thailand.  The most we’ve ever spent on a 1-hour Thai Massage is 250 Baht, or $7.70.  (We also typically each leave a 50 Baht tip, or $1.50.)

Travel Insurance

Many people travel without any sort of medical insurance, but I’m a little too high strung for that.  Before leaving home, we paid $760 for a 1-year Patriot Travel Medical Insurance Policy with added Adventure Sports rider from IMG Global.  This is essentially a catastrophic coverage plan that we’d use only if something major were to happen.  It also provides us with Identity Theft Assistance and Lost Luggage coverage.

Lots and Lots of Coffee

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Rarely does a day pass when we don’t hit at least 2 coffee shops.  We typically spend 3-4 hours at each spot working on whatever project is top priority that day.  This means we spend quite a bit on coffee, but we justify this to ourselves because we rented a fairly small apartment and spend $270 less per month rent than we had initially budgeted for.  Also, we’re from Seattle, which means coffee runs in our veins instead of blood.

A coffee in Chiang Mai can run you anywhere from 50-80 Baht ($1.50 to $2.50).  You can find bubble tea for just $1, and we have a favorite bar with Wifi and beers for just $1.  Life is good.

You Should Move Here Too

Do you see how inexpensive Chiang Mai is?!  One of the reasons we’re blogging is to try to convince other people to throw caution to the wind and spend some serious time abroad.  Hopefully this will help sell Chiang Mai as a great spot for a “mini retirement”, or even a full-on retirement (they have special retirement visas aimed specifically at folks over age 50)!

While there are certainly significant financial implications to consider (like getting ahead on retirement savings) before quitting your job and moving abroad, I think we’ve made a case here that it’s possible to really minimize your expenses in Chiang Mai.  We certainly don’t pinch pennies (er, pinch Baht?) – we live in a brand new “western-style” apartment with a pool and gym, we run our Air Conditioner a lot, and we’re eating as much fresh, healthy food each day as we want to.  It’s definitely possible to live here for much, much, much cheaper than we do.

Here are a few budget-isms we have found interesting:

  • We are now horrified to spend more than $2/person per meal
  • All our monthly expenses, including rent, are paid in cash
  • Can you believe our water bill was only $7?!
  • Electric bills are paid at the 7-11 store, so that’s something to get used to! I think the US should learn from this – it’s far more pleasant to pay your electric bill somewhere where you can also buy a beer.

We want to hear from you!

Are you surprised at what it costs to spend a month in Chiang Mai?  Have we convinced you to quit your day job and move over here to join us?