The ease of the Chiang Mai apartment search

Written by on September 19, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Expat Life, Thailand - 16 Comments

When I arrive to Chiang Mai, I am handed a bronze keyring of the Eiffel Tower. I roll it around in my hands as we head from the airport to my new home.

I have an apartment and I haven’t even had to look.

I don’t know what I am expecting. I have many friends who have lived in Chiang Mai, and their apartments were always beautiful.

When the Elephant Nature Park van pulls into a large white building, my mind goes wild with what to expect once I walk into the door of my new home.

I grab my carry-on and my computer bag and nearly float to the entrance, despite having had the horrible and sucky travel experience for more than 30 hours, and it being just past 8 a.m.

“You are on the third floor,” says Yam, a staff member from the park. For a brief moment, I am actually thrilled Air China has lost my bag. Imaging hauling the massive, 70 pound case up three flights of stairs makes me even sweatier than I already am on the hot and humid Thai morning.

Heart racing with happy, I climb the flights of stairs and head down the long hallway. Around me, tiny shoes are placed outside padlocked doors. When I go to stick my key in the door, I can feel the sweat pooling around my brow, dripping down my neck and my back.

It is ungodly hot for this American girl.

I open the door, hold my breath and close my eyes, expecting greatness when they open.

Instead, I am surprised at what is in front of me. The apartment is a small room, a far cry from the gorgeous place I had in Vegas. In it is one bed with a flowered blanket, a fan hanging from the wall, and a wooden bathroom door.

That’s it.

This won’t work.

Immediately, I feel guilty. How spoiled am I that an apartment without air-con, anything to sit on, or a television and wifi won’t work for me?

But, I know it doesn’t. There’s no way I can go through the month sticky with sweat, racing to coffee shops to do work, and falling asleep with only voices traveling through thin walls. So, I do the only thing I can think of: I head out to find another apartment.

Later in the afternoon, I meet up with Daniel, a talented photographer, and he tells me about Smith Residence, where he lives. He sells it to me within seconds.


Weekly maid service.

A restaurant downstairs.

A minimart.

Laundry service on-site.


A gym.

The rooftop pool at Smith Residence

A rooftop pool.

Done, done and done.

So, we head towards Chiang Mai Gate and across the moat to Smith.

As soon as I walk in, I know it is where I want to live. The wall-less lobby is sparkling clean and adorned with red couches. The reception is staffed by people who smile.

“Do you have any rooms I can move into in the next week?” I ask.

They nod their heads and then whisk me up the elevator to the sixth floor to check out what is available.

My room at Smith Residence, pre-sprucing.

It is a modest room. There’s a bathroom with a tub, a queen size bed, fridge, microwave, two chairs, a TV (with cable!) and a balcony providing breathtaking views of Wat Doi Suthep.

Another view from Smith and Wat Doi Suthep

I go back downstairs.

“I’ll take it,” I announce.

Then, they tell me how much money I owe (to the tune of roughly $300 a month), tell me I can move in whenever I’d like, and then I sign a paper saying I won’t damage the room.

That’s it. Wham. Bam. Thank you, ma’am.

The next night, I stand outside on my balcony and watch as the sun sets, casting glorious golden hues on the mountain and Wat Doi Suthep in the distance, towering over the city.

I crawl into bed at night and feel perfect. Content. So happy to be in my new home.

Planning a longer-term stay in Chiang Mai? Here are some other blog posts to help you find that perfect apartment during your visit:

Getting a Deluxe Apartment in Chiang Mai, Travel This Earth

The Search for an Apartment in Chiang Mai, Neverending Voyage


About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

16 Comments on " The ease of the Chiang Mai apartment search "

  1. Ava Apollo September 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm · Reply

    I might have just been miserable and stuck it out in the tiny apartment. Good for you for finding something better!

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:20 am · Reply

      I had to! There is nothing worse than being in limbo.

  2. Tim collins September 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm · Reply

    Hi Diana,
    As someone who has lived in Chiang Mai for the past 10 years, i can say for a short stay it is very hard to go past Smith Residence, well found!
    If staying longer, there are apartments similarly priced that offer cooking facilities and more “elbow room”albeit a little further out of town,
    Enjoy Chiang Mai

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:20 am · Reply

      Thanks for the tip! I enjoy Smith, but will get a house sooner or later. I can’t be far from town though, no bike, no motorbike and I love to walk everywhere.

  3. Alouise September 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm · Reply

    Your apartment looks awesome. I’m totally the person who would have been polite and suffered through the crappy apartment, but seeing what you can get makes me realize it’s definitely worth it to search for something better.

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:19 am · Reply

      Oh, there was no way. I was so tired, so hot, so ready to settle somewhere. I needed to have a place and be done. 🙂 Glad I did it, too. Since I have moved there, I have adopted an entire family of people.

  4. Sloan September 20, 2012 at 9:15 am · Reply

    I can’t wait to visit Chiang Mai–but hearing about your itty bitty apartment makes me nervy for mine—I shall see in less than a month!

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:19 am · Reply

      Where are you planning on living? My place is basically a hotel room, but it serves its purpose OK. Will get a house in the next year, as soon as I have people to live with 🙂

  5. fiona September 21, 2012 at 8:13 am · Reply

    Wow – you make the whole apartment rental process sound so easy – and such a bargain too – really like the room you got!

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:18 am · Reply

      It was really easy. The room looks a lot better now that I added some color. It was really sterile when I first moved in.

  6. Hogga September 24, 2012 at 11:19 am · Reply

    You really lucked out… seriously. So jealous lol

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:16 am · Reply

      You should come and visit me. Seriously.

  7. jmayel & sacha September 28, 2012 at 5:43 am · Reply

    We looked at staying here as well. Bu they wouldn’t allow doggies so we were forced to look for houses with gardens. The amazing thing is we got a really nice 3 bedroom house for $230 a month! When people see it they can’t believe its so cheap. Chiang Mai is awesome for things like that.

    • Diana October 1, 2012 at 6:15 am · Reply

      WOW! I want pets and a house, too. But want to meet some people I could live with before I jump Smith. I love how inexpensive everything is here. 🙂 We should meet up one day soon!

  8. Vinita November 10, 2015 at 6:01 am · Reply

    Thanks for the tips Diana! We’ll be based in Chiang Mai from next week and will definitely check out Smith!

    • Diana November 12, 2015 at 11:48 am · Reply

      Great!! Enjoy my home!! Let me know how it goes 🙂

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