Now that I was moving to a new city, it was finally time to begin my first apartment search in Thailand! I would be volunteering in Chiang Mai for the next month and needed to find a place to call home asap.
Since most Thai apartment complexes don’t have websites — or at least not ones I can read — I decided my best bet was just to walk from place to place and ask in person about rates and to see the rooms. I had a taxi dropped me off in Nimman, the neighborhood recommended by another volunteer at the foundation. I optimistically set off into the midday sun, ready to view as many apartments as the day could hold.
I started out at the large Baan Thai apartment complex. The room was sparse, but clean and bright. I loved the giant balcony, and the pool certainly didn’t hurt things.
I felt like this could be a good option. But if I could get all this for only 5200 baht ($187), what was available for a little more? I decided to go see a few more buildings.
I entered several faded high-rises and played the same game of charades when the staff said they didn’t speak English (my two Thai words of hello and thank you could really only book-end the conversation at best):
I smiled brightly and pointed to myself. I held up one-finger to indicate one month and then made my hands into a pillow, closed my eyes, and tilted my head to the side to indicate I wanted to sleep there. Then I held up both of my hands in a weighing motion, asking how much.
They usually smiled back at me and then made a big X with both of their arms. I was never sure if this meant, “Sorry we’re full” or “Get away from me crazy foreigner, I have no idea why you’re flailing around in my office.” Either way, it definitely meant I wasn’t getting an apartment there.
After walking around for another hour and sweating through my t-shirt, I earned a glass of pity iced tea from the receptionist at a building that was full, didn’t rent by the month, and out of my price range.
Finally, I came across the Yesterday Hotel with an open monthly room. But it was three times the price of the first place and felt like I was on the set of a movie in colonial India.
Across the street I found the Misone. It was slightly more expensive that the first building, but actually smaller and dirtier.
I stepped back into the afternoon heat and started to walk grudgingly toward another distant high-rise. I came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the street. What was I doing?? I already had an option I could be happy with, but was relentlessly chasing an undefined notion that I could find something better or nicer or more fun. [I pause to note that that sentence could probably be applied on a deeper level…but I was too sweaty to do any profound thinking.]
I practically ran back to the first apartment complex. I laid my head on the cool tile and stretched my arms across the wall. I apologized over and over for thinking that I could do better. I could not. And it happily took me and my 5200 baht back.
I picked up a few decorations from the Sunday night market and the apartment is starting to feel like home. Every morning, I wake up and have breakfast on the balcony in my new camouflage lounge chair –it was the only one and it was on sale! (I assume because hunters were confused as to when they would need to be hidden from animals while laying by the pool.)
It’s not perfect, but I’m so happy to have claimed my own little space in Thailand.