Chiang Mai- the city of foreign settlers .

I have been a resident of Chiang Mai for twenty two winters. I began my annual stay in Chiang Mai in the winter of 1990.
At that time, I met a few ex-pats living full time in Chiang Mai Then ,there were a number of people living here because of the circumstances from their past. I remembered meeting Vietnam veterans in Bangkok I suspect that is still true ;but I have not been meeting many of these people for a long time now. About two years ago I did meet an American serviceman who had been an air force pilot during the war. He told me that in 1962 there were no motor vehicles in Chiang Mai -only bicycle rickshaw. At that time all the roads in Bangkok were canals. Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East.
I remember meeting one huge body builder from Europe whose mother paid him to stay away from his home in Europe. I remember meeting an Englishman with three lovely daughters who had a sorry tale of woe to tell. He had been a rather prosperous man when he landed in Chiang Mai. He married a Chinese woman who turfed him and his three daughters out after his money ran out. I had heard she was working on a Swiss man-husband # 3. i didn’t help that this same man overstayed his Visa in the Kingdom by ten years. A Thai man prevented him from spending a long time at the ,”Bangkok Hilton”as the notorious prison is often referred to by ex-pats. This of course led to his owing his life to this man.

Then I met a number of Americans living here on Social Security. One can live quite well in Chiang Mai on a modest pension.

Fast forward to 2013. In the past five years , I have witnessed a huge increase in the number of people both men and women who have been settling down full time in Chiang Mai. The majority of them have been from the United States but there have been many also from various countries in Europe:France, England, Norway, Germany, Austria, Denmark,and Holland.

A large number of the new ex-pats are ,”Digital Nomads”, the term given to those who can make a living with their computers any where in the world where they can find a reliable and fast internet hookup. A large number of them are IT specialist. Others create web sites and do marketing, still others write magazine stories or have a successful blog.
There are a number of men who marry Thai women and have business-many times it is a bar or a restaurant.

The Chinese have become the new tourist for the most part. Two days ago while seeking refuge from the heat in the lobby of a five star hotel I observed bus load after bus load of Chinese tourist disembarking. During the hour I sat there reading ,”The Bangkok Post” , I observed perhaps only a dozen of white faces belonging to Caucasian.
This scene has been repeated over and over again in the hotels here in Chiang Mai and I suspect in Asia in general,starting about five years ago.

There are millions of Chinese with new bulging bank accounts with one or two weeks holiday a year. They are boorish, loud and pushy- a new version of the ,”Ugly American “tourist that one dreaded meeting in ones’ travels in the past. They still exists but are a rather diminished lot. The American travelers I meet these days are a thoughtful and well behaved lot for the most part. Many of them are choosing to settle in Chiang Mai on a permanent basis after a few previous visits.
I do hope that the Yellow menace does not take over the planet in my life time. They appear to be devoid of the basic social skills we expect when in the company of others.i find ,the high pitch tone language is an assault to my years ,as it is often spoken at the loudest volume possible.This is not true of the refined Mandarin dialect; but of the Southern dialect that most of these tourist speak. I’ve been reading that the Chinese government are strictly interested in industrial expansion -not in territorial expansion. I do hope this is correct.
The Japanese were the first to begin settling in Chiang Mai upon retiring about ten years ago after the Tsunami. Then there was a big increase of Japanese population afte rthe nuclear melt down. I ,personally know a young Japanese lady whose job is to find housing for them.
It is dotted with many little Japanese restaurants. I’m presently writing this article in a Thai/Chinese establishment that caters to foreigners. Across the table from mine sits a Japanese lady and at the next table to her a young Japanese family of 3 has just sat down for lunch-the father ,mother and a son of perhaps six years.
More recently, in the past five years , the Koreans have begun to move in. Many new Korean restaurants have opened up in the new Yuppie area close to where I live.Both the Japanese and Korean men have one very bad habit in my opinion-smoking. As one writer put it,”they were late in beginning the filthy habit but are making up for lost time”.
I’m not mentioning the Chinese as they moved in a couple of hundred years ago. They were given rice concessions. After this other concessions were made until now it is purported that the most influential families running the economics of the Kingdom have their roots in China.

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2 Responses to Chiang Mai- the city of foreign settlers .

  1. Florian SAUVAGE says:

    Dear Arthur,

    My name is Florian from France. I lived in Dryden, Ontario, Canada as a Rotary Exchange Student for one year. It was 6 years ago now. During my stay, there was a woman from Flin Flon aslo a member of Rotary, called Donna, that you met in Chiang Mai last month. She told me to contact you saying you could help solve an issue I’m having there.

    Indeed, 2 months ago, I came to Chiang Mai in order to Import Thailand String Lights (Cotton Balls). As you’ve been in Chiang Mai for a while, you probably know what I am speaking about.
    Anyways, before coming, I checked all the suppliers and talked to them. When in Chiang Mai, I saw them all. Some had factories, some had not, Some seemed to be honnest some didn’t. And I ended up choosing one suplier. 15 minutes from downtown.
    We agreed on price and quantities. And all seemed fine. So I returned home to Toulouse, France and I paid 50 percent to a personal (Pathetic) bank account.
    The goods were to be ready in March 20th. Of course, they were not ready as I mentioned that a thai friend of mine should come to check if the goods were in good condition and ready to be shipped. After 30days she asked me to pay which I refused because the goods couldn’t be verified… She then tried to make me feel guilty saying many thing about “trust”.
    Anyways, let’s stop the story.
    I am coming to Chiang Mai within the next week. I would like to know if you think this could be a SCAM or is it normal for Thai people to act this way?
    I spent 125 000 THB yet and I have to pay the other 50percent.
    I will check the goods and travel to Bangkok port with a driver. Should I be scared for my safety (The seller told me it isn’t safe to get a ride with a truck driver)?

    Thanks for your answer, and your help.

    • arthur says:

      Dear Florian,
      Doing business with Thais’s is a bit of a minefield even with the best of them.
      I would cut your losses or tell the person that you gave the money to give you only enough goods
      for the money you gave them.
      I am giving you the e-mail address of a French friend of mine from France whose son has been
      doing business in Thailand for at least 13 years now.
      Her name is Marie. I think she can best help you.
      I have never done business in Thailand except to teach at a friend’s school.
      Her e-mail is ,

      If you have any further questions you can contact me at
      Good luck in swimming with the sharks. I think that is who your business people are that
      you are dealing with. I would not trust them but check it out with Marie and her contacts.
      Good luck,

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