How to find an affordable luxury apartment in Chiang Mai?
Here’s a spoiler: throw a little money at the problem!
In another post I talked about how Lisa and I neglected to consider what Chinese New Year would mean for domestic Thai travel.
That was nothing compared to what it meant for how to find an apartment in Chiang Mai for month-long affordable luxury.
Best Laid Plans…
Our plan upon arrival in Chiang Mai was to stay in the Old City – a very cool but very touristy part of town surrounded by a moat.
We booked Sri-Pat Guest House for a few days so we could do the tourist thing while looking for a month-long rental.
Our plan accelerated when we walked into the room in our guest house. it was LOUD!
Can YOU HEAR ME OVER THE CONSTRUCTION NOISE!?!?!? AM I SCREAMING!??!?!
Yeah, there was major construction going on just outside our window on the property next door. AND IT WAS LOUD! Don’t believe me? I dare you to play this video:
The construction starts at 8 am with hammering. By 8:30 there is smashing of tile. 15 minutes later the rebar and concrete cutting tools start.
Louder than a plane taking off. Earplugs helpless against the aural onslaught.
We complained…were told there’s nothing to be done.
We had come to Chiang Mai to get some work done but it was too loud to sleep. Too loud to work. Too loud to even think. This was just not going to work for us.
Suddenly finding our month-long flat rental ASAP became imperative.
How to Find a Lease in Chiang Mai
Finding a month-long lease in Chiang Mai can be a challenge these days.
Like any decent Googler we started our how to find an apartment in Chiang Mai process by looking online.
Once you look online all the advice says: stop looking online, dummy, because you are wasting your time.
The best – perhaps the ONLY – way to find a lease that meets your specific requirements is to walk around in the area you want to live and inquire with the manager at each building whether a short-term lease is available.
We had chosen to live in the Nimmen area of Chiang Mai as it’s where loads of digital nomads and ex-pats tend to work and play.
It’s a very cool and vibrant part of the city.
It’s the area in blue below.
How to Find an Apartment in Chiang Mai: Not So Simple
So we walked. And inquired. And got rejected. And walked. And inquired. And got rejected.
According to my apple watch, we walked nearly 8.5 miles that day.
There were two problems:
First is that, as noted, Nimmen is a very popular area for nomads and ex-pats, making availability somewhat scarce in general.
Secondly, we had arrived in the middle of Chinese New Year – the limited remaining availability had been booked until the middle of February…just in time for Chinese New Year to be over and the burning season in Chiang Mai to start (burning season is a time of year when the air quality in Chiang Mai becomes atrocious and most folks quit the city for a month or three).
Nevertheless, we persisted (shameless plug for our Saucey Chic Statement Scarves!). And eventually we found a flat in a lovely building called The Siri right on the edge of the Nimmen district – it even had a swimming pool!
We were so excited for affordable luxury at Siri!
A couple hours later we got a message from the manager that the owner was planning to have family stay there later in the month so it was not available after all.
Hey, Siri, thanks for nothing!
Always Have a Plan B: Kantary Hills
But we did have a backup plan.
Early in the process (maybe like three miles of walking in!) we found a place called Kantary Hills. It’s an absolutely beautiful combination hotel and serviced apartments complex in the heart of Nimmen.
They offered a 1BR hotel suite that cost about 150% more than we wanted to pay for the month.
At that price for the gorgeous 1 bedroom suite, the awesome swimming pool, the three (count ‘em: THREE!) hot tubs, the gym and the smoking fast internet, we made it our Plan B, emergency backup contingency plan.
And after The Siri fell through Plan B became Plan A.
We packed up our few belongings at Sri-Pat, I took the construction noise video above, and we made our way to Kantary Hills.
After we moved in I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to get Lisa to leave.
She kept reminding me that, as a traveling consultant for most of her life, nothing feels more like home to her than a hotel suite.
Which is pretty much where we lived for a month and a half in Chiang Mai.
What We Learned…About Ourselves
We always said this journey would be one of self-discovery…and so it has been from the start.
That week we discovered one advantage of coming to Chiang Mai mid-career with an established business rather than coming to Chiang Mai in order to start a business: the ability to overcome logistical obstacles by investing in affordable luxury.
It was moment of clarity for us that not only launched us as digital nomads, but also launched us on our life of full time affordable luxury travel.
Because when I say we paid more than we wanted, I mean we paid about 30% rather than 20% of what our mortgage was in Washington, DC.
We found luxury in Chiang Mai. But it was affordable luxury!