A Not-So-Slight Change in Plans: I’m Going to Thailand

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A Not-So-Slight Change in Plans: I'm Going to Thailand

The plan was to hang out in Nepal for a month, drop back into India for a couple more and then move on the Egypt. After checking my bank balance and doing some rough arithmetic, however, I decided that it might be time to settle down for a few months, cut back on expenses and catch up on work.

I knew I was arriving in Nepal late in the season and would have to give it a fairly cursory visit. This was okay with me — what I really needed to do was find someplace comfortable where I could catch up on writing and spend some time tinkering under the hood of my site. My photos from the Ganges had gone semi-viral and crashed the site twice, so I really needed to offload all my photos and optimize things.

And two months in Laos, followed by two more in India had really cut down on the amount of time I could spend online. Nepal proved to be just as difficult — though wifi is common and often free, the power is out at least twelve hours a day. My week in Pohkara turned out to be a lot less productive than I’d hoped, with most of my time spent juggling batteries and staring at wall sockets.

There are people who can sit down and write wherever and whenever they feel like it, but I’m not one of them.

There are people who can sit down and write wherever and whenever they feel like it, but I’m not one of them. I have to wait for the inspiration to hit and then write like hell before it fades. And it always seems to hit when the laptop batteries are at 20%.

Finances were the other concern — the savings account was looking pretty thin and a few months of low rent and cheap food sounded like just the ticket. I had another 2-3 months left on my Indian visa and considered finding a hideout there but the wifi and power problems would still exist. And though India is an incredible place, it’s not what I would call relaxing.

Moving forward to Egypt was a complete unknown — what if I hated it? From there, I would be moving on to Morocco or possibly all the way to the Americas with few cheap flights in between. So backing up seemed to be the best option. Malaysia was a possibility, as was Thailand and Vietnam.

So after talking it over with friends and giving it some serious thought, I’ve decided to head to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and get an apartment for 2-3 months. Why Chiang Mai?

1. It’s inexpensive, fully-wired and foreigner-friendly. I can get a nice apartment for $200-$300 a month and rent a scooter for $75-100.

2. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to live as an ex-pat and there’s a great group of people already there who can show me the scene. Some I’ve met online and a couple in ‘real life’ so it’ll be nice to have a bit of community on arrival.

3. I’ve yet to explore the northern half of the country, so some two-wheeled adventures are definitely in the works. Also hoping to hit some national parks and try my hand at nature photography.

4. It’s warm. After a couple of months in northern India and Nepal, I’m looking forward to burning the long johns and wearing sandals somewhere other than the bathroom. Yes, I’m a wuss. I’m okay with it.

5. Thai food. No explanation needed.

6. My brother just got a job in South Korea, so he’ll be able to come visit and I’m planning on crashing on his couch after I leave town (He doesn’t know this yet).

7. I’m working on a book project (not as exciting as it sounds, alas) and really need to lock myself in a room for a few weeks and knock out some pages. A couple of freelance projects are in the works and broadband would be very helpful.

So what can you expect to see on Johnny Vagabond over the next couple of months? I’ve got a bunch of posts from India and Nepal that only exist as notes and fading memories at the moment. I’ll be exploring and photographing Chiang Mai, then riding the bike up to Chiang Rai and Pai for some two-wheeled fun. Watch for some how-to posts on improving your travel photography as well as the usual oddball conversations and interactions with crazy characters.

I can’t wait. Thanks for following along.

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave January 23, 2011 at 9:26 am

You’ll totally love it, mate – great people, great food, great climate, great city!

Yes, I’m jealous. Lots.
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wes January 23, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thanks man. Maybe you can sneak away for a week or so?

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Dave January 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

It’s something I’m def. considering to be honest – if this job thing (zzzz) doesn’t pan out next week, I’ll be checking out flights for sure.
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Christy @ Ordinary Traveler January 23, 2011 at 9:30 am

You can’t really go wrong with Thailand! I’m a total wuss when it comes to cold weather so I don’t blame you for wanting to head to warmer climate. Sounds fun!
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Russ January 23, 2011 at 9:32 am

This sounds like a great idea Wes! We are in the middle of a too-brief stay in Chiang Mai. Wishing we had planned on 2-3 months instead of 10 days here. You’re going to love it.

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Earl January 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

Seems like a great decision to me and is the exact same reason I return to Chiang Mai over and over again. And it looks like our paths will cross as I should be back in Chiang Mai within the next month….see you up there!
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Marsha January 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

Seems like Thailand is the place to be these days. Looking forward to seeing and reading about your perspectives. Wishing your photo was my view right now…
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Gray January 23, 2011 at 9:56 am

You know, I have had little to no interest in visiting Thailand until recently. The more I read about Chiang Mai, the better it sounds. I think, with all the work you need to do, this sounds like a fine plan, Wes. Settling down for a couple of months isn’t a bad thing.
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ayngelina January 23, 2011 at 10:09 am

Team Chiang Mai is taking over the world!
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Matt January 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

Sounds like an exciting and well thought out change of plans. I never unfortunately ventured north when I was in Thailand so Team CM still only exists to me as this too-good-to-be-true group of bloggers living it large.

Excited to see the how-to photography posts.

Safe travels!
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Amy January 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Is it just me or are there a whole lot of bloggers hanging out in Chiang Mai? Looking forward to reading your posts and dreaming of when our family gets to Thailand!
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Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World January 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Everyone seems to be in Chiang Mai these days. For some reasons I never have any interest in visiting Thailand, but I’ve always enjoyed stories from the expats living there. Can’t wait to hear your version.
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Ryan - PauseTheMoment.com January 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Congrats Wes! You’re heading to the right place and you’ll be in the best hands with Team CM. I spent a month in Chiang Mai back in November and loved every second of it. As a matter of fact, I could live there. As far as apartments go, I had a nice studio apartment with balcony inside of a secure complex with a on-site pool, coffee shop, laundry, fitness center, convenience store, and high speed internet for $180/month. If you stay 3 months or more you can secure a deal for around $130/month. Next door is a big shopping mall with everything you can think of, along with cheap thai food in the food court (usually around 25-40thb/meal). Check out HuayKaew Residence and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Also, it’s on the northwest side of the moat near CM University so it’s in a more “thai” area which makes it quiet, relaxing and easier to focus on your work. Did I sell you yet? I might as well become a leasing agent. Love this place! Enjoy yourself…
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Dude! Thanks so much for the tip. That looks perfect :) I’m gonna owe y’all some serious beer for this…

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Megan January 23, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Ooh! Are you going to be passing through BKK?
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wes January 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Yup! Just arrived this morning (Monday) Should be here 2-3 days. Would love to meet for a bite or drink if you have the time.

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Nick Laborde January 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

You gotta do what you gotta do right. It’s looking like I’ll make my way in that direction soon, that $200- $300 a month rent is looking pretty damn sweet.
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Yup! And $1 street food is very appealing as well :)

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Sally January 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Umm… excuse me? This plan is like a week too late. Lame.
BUT I hear China is totally the place to be come mid-February. Just saying.

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Natalie January 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I am the same as you, I can not just sit down and write anywhere. Needs to be a specific environment. Look forward to your tales of Thailand though.
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Thanks, Natalie. I envy people who can, but my head just doesn’t work that way. Hope all is well in your world :)

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Dyanne @TravelnLass January 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm

“Change of Plans”, Wes? Surely there’s nothing wrong with that. Always best to go with your gut, and no doubt Chiang Mai is going to be a fantastic experience for you. And Morocco? Trust me, you’re going to love that too. Egypt? Uh, perhaps not so much (I just returned, but don’t miss idyllic Nuweiba on the Sinai.)

Indeed, speaking of the happy consequences of a (monumental) “Change of Plans”, check out my post tonight – ’twas but a single comment next to the office coffee pot that verily changed my life forever!
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Hmmm.. sounds like I made the right decision not to try to settle in Egypt for 2-3 months, then?

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suzanne January 23, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I’m with sally, you are a day late & dollar short as far as i’m concerned. I am currently in CM headed to laos… tomorrow. hmmm, will maybe have to swing back up this way in April… I mean, I gotta meet the infamous Johnny Vagabond.
suzanne
http://www.savorygal.wordpress.com

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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Hey, y’all are just too quick for me to keep up with. Hope to bump into you eventually :)

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Magda @DestinationWorld January 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm

You are going to have such a great time over there! I’m already jealous of all the amazing food you are going to eat every day. Can’t wait for your posts from Tahiland :)
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Thanks! I think I’m most excited about the food. Bring on the heat!

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Theodora January 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong — at all — with wanting a bit of luxury in life. Or, in fact, just working bloody internet. Particularly that coupla hundred dollar luxury you get in Thailand. So wussing out is cool.

You’ll love Chiang Mai, and have a lot of adventures there. We’re sitting in Ubud, Bali, right now, for some of the same reasons as you (not the cold) and it’s really very nice to have a base for a little while.

Now, one thing I’m curious about. It sounds from your post like Nepal costs *more* than Thailand? Is that the case?
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I really need to run the numbers on Nepal, but I certainly spent a lot more than I expected. Housing is fairly cheap but food, drink and transport really tear you up. They’ve been catering to tourists so long that they really manage to squeeze every penny from you that they can. I was surprised at how much haggling and fighting was required to get a fair price. Being charged $3 for a $.75 soda is not uncommon…

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Eli January 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Wes, you’re going through the same thing we were about a month ago. We’d just finished up with Thailand, and were heading south through Malaysia unitl in Kuala Lumpur we realized we were heading toward a zero balance quicker than we thought. We scoured the internet for apartments, finally found one that was a mix of good price and good location, and now we’re working like crazy trying to find freelance gigs to get out travel fund back on track.

Anyways, I think your plan sounds good and everyone has to stop to replenish at some point. Plus, I hear Chiang Mai is really cool (and warm).
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Yeah, some times you have to circle the wagons, whether it’s due to funds or burnout or whatever. I’m glad I don’t have a RTW ticket that forces me to be at a certain place at a certain time.

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Andy January 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Looking forward to more motorbike stories! I really hope we can can get out to Thailand soon, and we should if some marketing plans go to… plan.

:)

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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Give me a shout if you’re in the area :)

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Christy @ Technosyncratic January 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm

There is nothing more infuriating than facing a lack of usable internet or power when you’ve got the bug to work!

Thailand seems like a great place to live for a bit, though — like a number of other commenters I’ve never had much desire to visit Thailand, but lately I’ve become more interested. I look forward to reading your experiences and maybe getting some ideas!
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Amen! And I get the urge to work so rarely that I really have to take advantage when I can ;)

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Trang January 23, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Sounds like your never going home :-) And you have found a way to somewhat balance traveling and the books at the same time, good for you! I’m pretty much in the same boat after coming down to Malaysia on the bike I’m seeing less than 2 weeks in a place leaves no time for any real work… found lots of places worth stopping off at on the way back up though for a month or more.. have fun on the bike..

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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Traveling on two wheels is tough. You don’t have that downtime that you get on a bus or a train. And when you roll into a new town, you’re usually too exhausted to do much… That said, it’s my favorite way to travel.

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Kirsty January 23, 2011 at 9:58 pm

We have fallen in love with Chiang Mai and will be sad to leave it! Although word of warning, there’s so much going on – work seems to slip very far down the to do list!!!
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Ruh roh. I *really* need to be productive while I’m there…

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Andi January 24, 2011 at 2:37 am

Wow, does Thailand know that the travel bloggers are taking over the country??? J/k have fun!
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Seems to be the place to be, for sure…

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Sarah Wu January 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

Nice, I bet you’ll have more amazing photos when you go to Thailand. I know you’ll love the Thai food and the weather. I’m in love with Thai food in NY. But i bet Authentic one are better. :) Have fun.

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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I just had some bbq beef and noodle soup that was incredible. I may have gotten a little carried away with the chili sauce, however…

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Daniel January 24, 2011 at 12:42 pm

With regards to # 3 & 4 – I am right there with you buddy!
Cant wait to see the wildlife shots, good lucck to you-

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Brooks January 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Setting up a home base for awhile sounds like a good plan and Chiang Mai is a great place to do it. There’s a reason why no other city has an official team. I’ll be up there next month and will keep my eyes open for ya!

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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Very cool. Let’s grab a beer when you hit town :)

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Raji January 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Wherever u go, whatever you do, i wud still follow johnny vagabond.
If I can not make a RTW trip myself, I can at least wish all the best to people who can!
Hope you are able to do all you planned to in Thailand.
My internet connection in India (Gurgaon near Delhi) is works fine for me and i have power 23 hrs a day.
Anyways… let me know if/when u r in delhi next, my dinner invitation is still valid :)
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wes January 24, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Thanks so much. I’m not sure of my plans post-Chian Mai. Would like to pass pack through India and Nepal, but it’ll depend on funds and a few other factors…

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Joe Le Merou January 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm

You definitely can’t go wrong with Chiang Mai !
Such a great place and so much things to do there…
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Fiona January 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I really look forward to your upcoming posts and photos!

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Michael January 25, 2011 at 12:04 am

awesome man, I love CM. Don’t miss Took tearing it up late nights at the Brasserie on the river.
and be sure to hit Soppong for a weekend in there somewheres, the Pangmapha District of Mae Hong Province is one of our favorite areas of Thailand.

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Andrew Murray January 25, 2011 at 6:43 am

See you there in April Wes!
Thanks for the breakdown of the costs too btw :)
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Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker January 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm

A day in CM:

Wake up
Eat
Walk around
Eat
Nap
Eat
Walk around
Eat
Bed

… see, no work!
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wes January 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I like the sound of that!

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Scott January 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Good idea! Chiang Mai is a pretty relaxing place, and taking a bike up to Pai/Sappong is a wicked bike ride! Plus you can’t go wrong with the Thai food and hospitality. Good luck!
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Pirate63 January 31, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Sounds just the ticket Wes,wil be watching this closley on how to be an expat for a couple of months! It sounds perfect

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Final Transit February 4, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Hi Wes, Congratulations for the photo roulette, and all the best for your next destination! I haven’t been to Thailand yet but from what everyone says, it seems to be a wonderful wonderful place. :-)
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Rebecca February 9, 2011 at 5:52 am

Hope you’re prepared for food overload! What a great place to bed down for a while – I’ve never been to Chiang Mai but am coming in April and can’t wait.
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wes February 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm

The street food is here is unbelievable. Amazing meals for less than a dollar. Love it!

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Kirk March 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Man I dont get out enough! just your change of plans are better than my originals. Food for less than $1 and rent for 300 per month wow. Do you ever look for a job while you are visiting or is it just money saved for traveling?
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wes March 9, 2011 at 10:09 am

Even better: rent looks to be cheaper than I thought.

I’ve been traveling on savings mostly. I’m a graphic designer by trade and have a few clients I work for remotely from time-to-time, but it’ not enough to be self-sustaining. The site has made a little money from advertising. Hopefully, I can bump both of these income streams up a bit and keep the trip rolling.

Thanks for the comment!

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Paul March 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Holy hell, good thing you didn’t go to Egypt right?
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wes March 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I kind of wish I had — not often you get to see history made on that kind of scale. But, yeah, it wouldn’t have been fun…

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