EI arrived in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, with great anticipation. More than three years ago, when I first traveled through Vietnam as a backpacker, an Israeli told me how much he liked Chiang Mai – while we were maltreated by the inevitable horn concert Hanoi.
One thing I notice immediately after arrival: Chiang Mai is much quieter than the Vietnamese capital. Busy hustle and bustle can only be found on the main arteries of the city, and there is hardly any honking. A blessing!
However, I don’t think the city is particularly great at first. This is due to my residential area. On a recommendation I moved to the north of the old town. This is square, is framed by a canal and has several old access gates for orientation.
“Here you can go for a nice walk and lose yourself in all the little streets,” enthused a friend, who works as a tour operator. True, you can lose yourself wonderfully in the network of alleys. But I don’t think it’s nice because the old town is dead. Corona has also left its mark here.
Thai boxing in times of Corona
However, on my forays through the old town I accidentally discover a small Muay Thai school. In Germany, the traditional Thai martial art is known as Thai boxing.
The owner of the studio is a young Brit and only opened it with his Thai girlfriend in February. Bad timing, because Corona has so far had little income. If this continues, he may have to close this year, he says.
A mixture of sympathy, curiosity and pity then leads me to trial training. I was always more of an endurance athlete, but martial arts was the domain of my younger brother. So it’s high time to try it out for yourself.
In contrast to boxing, not only fists fly with Muay Thai, but also feet, shins, knees, elbows and forearms. In addition, even clinching is allowed, in which the opponent is clutched in order to be able to work on him from close up.
I already licked blood after the first training session. The multitude of explosive movements offers a holistic workout that I have never experienced before. Despite sore muscles, I book the first ten training sessions. Let’s see if my body understands the fun.
Idyllische Co-Working-Spaces in Chiang Mai
And what else do you do in Chiang Mai? Drinking coffee and working – preferably both at the same time. There is not only the best coffee nationwide, but also countless idyllic co-working spaces where you can work calmly and relaxed.
Perhaps it is the absence of distractions that drives many foreigners to work in Chiang Mai. At least that’s how it is for me.
After a few days in the old town, I spontaneously get an apartment from a friend to sublet it. She found a job in another city.
The apartment is located near the university in the student district: sixth floor, top floor, no elevator, but instead air conditioning and terrace, including a great view of the surrounding mountains. A real stroke of luck!
However, I don’t spend much time in it, because I can finally experience Chiang Mai from its lively side. There is a popular night market in the student district where you can not only shop, but also eat well. There is also a gastro mile not far from where one stand is lined up with the other. Life rages here too.
And if that’s not enough – a lake with a jogging route directly on the university campus provides balance, relaxation and the already obligatory spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. The jungle landscape can be reached in a few minutes; on foot, by bike, bus or shared taxi.
Thailand is relaxed in the crisis
There have been no new corona infections in Thailand for over two months. And so now the distance rules are handled much more relaxed here.
Some bars and clubs have reopened in Chiang Mai. You get very close – with or without a mask. As long as the country’s external borders remain closed to tourists, the locals obviously feel safe.
Day after day, I now enjoy the special advantages of Chiang Mai: Many residential complexes have a large swimming pool with free access for everyone; one-hour Thai massages cost just five euros; Daily rents for a moped are also cheap and make you mobile.
It is this mix of good working conditions, many leisure opportunities, pleasant climate and low living costs that attracts emigrants to Chiang Mai. In the next part, I present some of them.
Read more parts of the world travel series “One Way Ticket” here. The column appears every two weeks.