When figuring out where to stay in Chiang Mai we decided not to live near the centre after our experiences over the past week (see Being a pedestrian in Chiang Mai sucks). The centre of Chiang Mai is really fun and cool, but I’m not sure it’s right for parents with small kids – it certainly wasn’t for us.
We wanted somewhere where we could walk around outside (preferably on good pavements), with decent air quality and generally a nice area for our kids to be in. The two districts that looked really good to us were ‘Hang Dong’ and ‘San Sai’.
San Sai district, Chiang Mai
Where is San Sai district?
San Sai district is North East of Chiang Mai old town, past the river. The Chiang Mai university is in this district, so there some good amenities around the area.
What’s San Sai like?
It seems to be predominantly Thai, but with some expats there too. We’ve spoken to a few Thai people who live there and all say they love it. They describe it as very beautiful, a lot more green than other areas, with access to most of the shops you need on a regular basis and still pretty quick and easy to get into the centre via the ring road.
Having been there I definitely agree with them that it’s beautiful. Rice paddies, lakes, trees, temples and nature surround the houses and shops. The air felt cleaner and fresher too which made me feel good about potentially moving my children there.
Bilingual nurseries and schools in San Sai
There is a bilingual nursery and school in San Sai here. They take children from age 1 1/2 upwards and will do short term nursery care. It wasn’t a huge draw for us, as we’ll probably get a nanny instead (it’s hard to find nursery care for under 1s in Chiang Mai and we need someone to look after our 9 month old), but from what I’ve read online it seems like a good one.
The thing that nailed San Sai for us was that we had friends there, but if that wasn’t the case then we’d definitely consider Hang Dong too.
Hang Dong district, Chiang Mai
Where is Hang Dong?
Hang Dong district from just South of the airport down to the base of the Doi Suthep National Park.
Things to do in Hang Dong
You’ve also got the Chiang Mai Night Zoo and the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon down there, which is well worth a visit.
Shopping in Hang Dong
Hang Dong is also the closest district to the Central Plaza shopping mall, which is a lot of people’s favourite mall. Personally I love MAYA, but Central Plaza does have a lot of Western stores like M&S so if you’re looking for a piece of home then that’s your place!
What is Hang Dong like?
Hang Dong is a popular district for Farang (white foreigners). There are lots of Farang already living there and all the amenities you would need.
Bilingual burseries and schools in Hang Dong
If you need a bilingual school or nursery then there’s at least one of each there. Here’s a link to bilingual schools and nurseries in Chiang Mai.
Finding places to rent in Chaing Mai
After you’ve figured out where to stay in Chiang Mai, it’s another task entirely to find your dream home. To find accommodation as a foreigner you have a couple of options:
- Airbnb (expensive, better for short term bookings)
- Facebook groups such as Buy and Sell Chiang Mai (good for getting deals, but unstructured and not a lot of choice)
- Search property agents’ websites online
- contact property agents directly
Using real estate websites in Thailand
The first thing you’ll notice if you’ve searched for property in Thailand is that the websites are bad!
Seach functionality is terrible – it’s really tough to get specific criteria (e.g. has a ‘Western’ kitchen) plus location. It’s also 50/50 whether there are images of the inside.
To enquire about a property, you send an email from the property listing. The thing is, you don’t know which agent you’re contacting. When the agents respond to you it’s always something like ‘you’re interested in house? Meet tomorrow 4pm?’. No link to the house, no discussion of your needs.
It’s fine if you’ve only emailed about one or two houses. If you’ve sent a lot of emails, though, you’ll have no way of knowing which house a particular agent is about to show you. We went to 5 houses in one day, and didn’t know which of the 12 or so we’d emailed about until we drove up to the doorstep!
Meeting agents in San Sai
The next rather comical thing about figuring out where to live in Chiang Mai is attempting to meet the agents. You don’t meet at the house itself, because that would be too easy – there’d actually be an address you could punch into your phone.
Estate agents in Chaing Mai send you a location to meet, which seems fine until you get there. It ended up being a bit of a comedy of errors trying to meet up with the agents, but with less comedy the more it happened.
Meeting agent #1
We were told to meet at the car park at a shopping mall. The shopping mall consisted of two separate, massive buildings, with car parks literally surrounding the entire thing. There must’ve been thousands of cars. So we message her on Link (Asian WhatsApp). She tells us to wait at the back of building B. Ok, narrowed down slightly, but we can still see no sign of her anywhere. More Link messages. Eventually she sends us a photo of her location at which point we drive around the shopping mall until we find something that looks like the photo.
Meeting agent #2
This one told us to meet her at the sign at the front of the university. We thought we were onto a winner until we waited around for a while and no agent. You guessed it, more Link messages.
Turned out she meant the entrance to the university, not the main building with the big sign. So we go there. No agent. More Link messages. Turns out there are two entrances to the university and we were at the other one. So we go to the other entrance and eventually find her parked on the street in front.
Meeting agent #3
We were told to meet her in front of the coffee shop just inside the gated community that we were looking at. We drove up to the car park in front of the coffee shop and waited. Link message saying she’s here. No sign of her. Sigh.
We did manage to find her eventually by driving around a bit. She was vaguely in front of the coffee shop. If you consider the side the front.
When we drove up and began slowing down behind her she started driving off. We followed. We got a call a minute or so in ‘you follow?’ I guess she’d had a bit of a panic that she was being followed by a complete randomer. We assured her that it was, in fact, us and off we went.
Coming soon: Renting accommodation in Chiang Mai, Thailand