Moving On - Chiang Mai To Chiang Khong- David Unk

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - General Discussion Forum' started by DavidFL, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. #1 DavidFL, Apr 11, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 11:15 AM
    As some of you know in the last couple of weeks I've moved on from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong on the Mekong.

    It was a difficult decision to make after so long in Chiang Mai - at 64 years of age, more than half my life has been in Chiang Mai!

    We had a nice GTR send off at the Kafe on 27 March 2018


    The Kafe was packed with 50 plus mates to make sure I was leaving town
    29351958_10156506525263755_761744420173383195_o. 29662726_10156506491828755_5559730474292507508_o.

    This post carries on from here
    Best Part Of Chiang Mai To Live In (from A Rider's Perspective)?

    Some details & "logic" for moving on will follow, but first some notes I had for a speech I endeavored to deliver without being too emotional. Public speaking is certainly not one of my strengths.

    Gday & welcome everyone to the Kafe & a happy hour drink with me.

    I'd like to thank you all for coming, this is supposed to be the last happy hour for me at the Kafe.

    As you maybe aware I've decided to leave Chiang Mai after a long time here. 35 years in Chiang Mai, & at the age of 64 that is more than half my life. The time has flown by such that I've actually lost track of it, confirmed by the fact that I originally posted it as 34 years, but yesterday at the Bier Stube I was reminded that I've been in Chiang Mai longer than the Bier Stube, so it is probably 35+ years.

    These have been 35 fantastic years & an incredible life!

    My reason for moving on after such a long time is that I've become unhappy with what is happening to Chiang Mai & the valley.

    Chiang Mai is no longer a sweet charming upcountry town. The new pace of development means that the city is being choked by traffic – from the road & in the air, + with Chinese tourists.
    The old Lanna charm is disappearing at frenzied pace. The city is becoming a china town.
    There used to be lovely shady lanes to walk down, now it's just a busy concrete jungle with traffic congestion & no parking.
    In the next 10 (-15?) years I don't see any satisfactory solution to the traffic & environmental issues involved. So for me the quality of life here in the valley is only going down & going down rapidly. I didn't come here for that dilemma, so the time is right to move on.

    There are much better places than Chiang Mai in North Thailand to live now. But once upon a time = 35 years ago for me, there really was only Chiang Mai. It was such a gem – the Rose of the North. Sadly it isn't such a sweet smelling Rose of the North anymore. The place for me now is Chiang Khong by the Mekong, Chiang Khong has always been my favourite town in North Thailand, some perhaps it is only right that's where I should end up.

    But I must say I had thought I was going in the other direction to Thung Hua Chang, 60 kms south of Lamphun, with a very sweet lady Gaa, but that is not working out because of a very significant cultural speed bump we seemed to have hit. Sadly she is not here, and I wish she was. So perhaps that's another reason time to move on.

    My life here has been very special & it is extremely pleasing to see so many friends old & new here.

    Thanks to the motorbike rental shops for selling GTR maps & keeping me alive & on the road.

    I'd like to acknowledge the presence of
    • The Mr Mechanic gang
    • Tim & Veronica
    • Zed
    • Well Schack from Euro Diner
    • Danny Siam Sun
    • Sandy for the UN Irish Pub & MotoGP
    • Katai & Joe new dear friends at the Erotic Garden

    • Kay & Noah at BBT tours for being Kafe buddies.
    • Joe from Joe's Bike Team
    Joe witnessed my massive bus crash in 95, He was the first one on the scene. Joe also went to Laos with me on the first bike ride in Laos in 95.

    Now some thanks for special people and relationships over these many years.

    I would like to thank the Kafe first for their TLC in all my time here. You guys run the friendliest happiest mixed pub – Thai & Farang - in the universe. And without the Kafe I may well have moved on years ago.


    Old mate Scotty is here. We rode together to Sipsongpanna in China in 1995 – 23 years ago. No GPS, no mobile phones & pretty much no map; just 2 paper maps - a Nelles Indochina map & a S-W China map. That was real adventure, no pussy riding as some of you like to say.

    David Lek is here & without David I would never been able to ride so many hundreds of thousands of kilometres on my bikes, because David was the one who kept them going, even after a nasty bus accident in 95. A smashed up NV400,

    Then the fantastic Africa Twin that had only 16,000 kms on it when I bought it, but ended up with 340,000 kms! Even if I do say, that is impressive for this region where the distances traveled aren't actually that great. Chiang Mai Ducati is lucky to have such a meticulous mechanic working with them now.

    In more recent years Dave Early has been a brilliant mate riding with me in Laos surveying for the guide maps I did for the Laos national tourist office when tourism in Laos started to kick off. Dave was also there to support me when I & a certain singer & I split up.

    Dave Early was instrumental in getting the Toy Ride up & running. As was Robert & the Xcentre people.

    Thanks to Ben Kemp. GTR would never have really got off the ground & be so well known if I had not met Ben. He is the one who redeveloped the website & got the forum going. Ben was also extremely supportive of me when I struggled after that certain singer & I split up.

    So that brings me to the singer – Meow. I knew her as "Happy go lucky" & for 13 years we had an amazing time & life. I can never forget those fantastic times & life we had together - travel, loving, & errh drinking somewhat. The drinking often included feeding the monks in the morning on the way home from the pub.You were & still are a gem of a woman & Id like to thank so very much for coming tonight & letting us be dear friends again as if nothing happened.

    Now Meow is here as a singer because of Toei. Toei is the guitarist here tonight & I've known him before I met Meow; & it was Toei who gave Meow her first job as a singer. Thanks Toei for giving Meow her first gig as a singer at the old Seasons Pub & plus for playing some good music for so long in Chiang Mai.

    7 years in Mae Rim & the traffic finally got to me. It was the straw that broke the camels back! But one of the joys of Mae Rim has been spending time at the X-centre & knowing Ian & Long. In all my time I've never met such a devoted hard working couple. They can be compassionate to a fault when you are in need or help. Thanks for all the love & help you have given me (& Jason at the time). I would not have survived that extremely difficult period in my life, if it had not been for Ian & Long & the Xcentre!

    Now the last & most important person here. None of this motorbike riding would have been possible as there have been a few broken bones++..... Dr Sudhee
    • The bus accident in 95 – 100 stitches in my left leg, that came dangerously close to the family jewells.
    • A broken ankle falling of Walter's bike in Tanin market
    • My right wrist wore out & the triple joint was pinned
    • Then the “worst” one - the humerus head broken in Laos 10 years ago. It happened in Hongsa on a Friday afternoon. Saturday lunch time David Lek picked me up at the Huay Kon border crossing. David brought me back to Chiang Mai & home with my arm in a sling. At 3AM Sunday morning I was forced to go to Ram hospital because of the pain. The on duty orthopaedic doctor wanted to do an emergency operation “to save my life.” I refused, got a jab & waited to see Dr Sudhee at his clinic 8AM in the morning. He was furious that someone would try to operate on that crushed humerus because of the main artery passing through. The result for me via Dr Sudhee – no surgery, a cast on my arm & 6 weeks later I was ok to ride again!
    Dr Sudhee looked after me every time & without his magic I wouldn't be riding.

    The Hongsa spill was an interesting one. It happened Friday afternoon. On Saturday lunch time David Lek picked me up at the Huay Kon border crossing; brought me back home with my arm in a sling. The master plan was to survive, endure a bit of pain, then see Sudhee at his clinic Sunday morning. However at 3Am Sunday morning the pain was too great & I was forced to go to Ram hospital. The on duty orthopaedic docor wanted to do an emergency operation “to save my life.” I refused, got a jab, went home & at 8AM saw Dr Sudhee at his clinic. Sudhee was furious that someone would try to operate on that crushed humerus because of the main artery passing through. The operation alone would be more life threatening & would probably never achieve a satisfactory result, except to fatten the doctor's bank account! So, the result for me via Dr Sudhee – no surgery, a cast on my arm & 6 weeks later I was ok to ride again!

    He is a very special dear person & apart from Scotty & the Kafe here, is the one I've known the longest. He operated on my son Jason at an early age, he saved David Lek's life after his leg was crushed in a car accident. David could have lost his leg, but he ended up only losing a big toe!
    plus helped Dave Early & Ian. You've been a god for some of us riders here.
    Thank you very much for coming & the skillful magic of your hands & heart. May you live a very happy healthy retired life.

    On that note I want to thank everyone for coming. Thank you all for your friendships & sharing a lot of good times together. It has been a wonderful 35 years in Chiang Mai. Please enjoy yourselves tonight.

    Coming next .....trying to pick the right place to live - some ideas for the North.​

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  2. Looks like a great night for all Dave.
    Member of RA who don't live in CM love to visit CM, but that ware it ends? "VISIT".
    Chiang Khong is a great lovely place to live and I wish you well.
    Only 1 hour or so away from Chiang Rai which as you know has great riding groups.
    So we all in CR hope to see more of you now Dave.

    All the best wishes
  3. Was a great night. Lots of faces I recognised and many I had not met in person yet.
    I hope this next chapter gives you lots of joy and many adventures.
    I look forward to dropping by and saying hi. :D
  4. Dave, I think its a great move. When I first rode in the CM area 30 years ago I disliked it....places like Mae Sai, then just a dusty street with an old bridge crossing over to Burma offered a far better experience...for me...than cities like CM. I'll try and stop by later this year and we can discuss the merits of your move over a few sodas! ;)
  5. #5 DavidFL, Apr 14, 2018 at 12:33 PM
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018 at 7:55 PM
    When I first came to Chiang Mai it was an absolute gem of a place – a charming, quiet up country town. Like most things in life though nothing stays the same & everything changes over time, including me. 55

    A Chiang Mai view from Doi Suthep 1979

    The frenzied pace of development in Chiang Mai & quite a few other places in the North is disturbing such that I'd come to realize that Chiang Mai was not the place I wanted to see myself in another 15 years.

    Songkran Chiang Mai 1982

    What are the options you might think?

    If you feel you need infrastructure – hospitals, shopping centres, pubs & restaurants - of a modern town or city then your choices are pretty much limited to the provincial capitals – Chiang Rai, Phayao, Lampang, Phrae & Nan. Mae Hong Son does not cut it here yet. I don't include Lamphun because it is still in the Chiang Mai valley & you will still keep getting attracted back to Chiang Mai for business & socialising.

    Chiang Mai The south side of the moat 1982

    If not a provincial capital then, there are some pretty good amphurs to consider around the North, Mae Sarieng, Fang, Mae Ai, Chiang Saen, Pua, Chiang Kham, Khun Yuam, Mae Chan. Mae On – Sankhampaeng is fabulous but, you will probably still need to keep coming into Chiang Mai for business & socialising. I'd thought about moving 30-40 kms out of Chiang Mai, but you would still end up needing to come back into town.

    1982 the Chiang Mai valley

    One of the problems is that all the main towns in North Thailand are in the valleys. The Thais settled in the valleys & the hill tribes are in the mountains. Over time the bigger towns start to suffer from traffic & pollution; & in the case of Chiang Mai, all the pollution is getting stuck in the valley. You only have to go 30 kms out of Chiang Mai & you can often see clear blue sky. Chiang Mai is enveloped in a cloud of dust from the dust whipped up by the traffic & construction. Is it going to go away? Is it going to get any better? Is there a realistic master plan to manage the environment & improve the quality of life for people living in the Chiang Mai valley in the forseeable future? For me the answer to all these questions is no! Even if they can produce a master plan now, it will take 10-12 years minimum before it has serious positive affect.

    1979 Kamphaengdin between Thapae & Loi Kroa roads

    Now the pace of development is so fast that most of the provincial capitals are going to face a similar dilemma in the coming years. If you're moving to a provincial capital then pick one in a big wide valley with some air flow & as little pollution as possible.

    Lampang is nice but has horrific pollution because of the coal mine & industry based there.
    Chiang Rai is a huge wide open area, the air is cleaner with a better flow of air, but eventually it will cover a bigger area than Chiang Mai I feel & have huge traffic issues getting into & out of town.
    Phrae is gorgeous, a classic old town with a strong conservation movement, similar to Nan, but the hot season in Phrae is a killer.
    Nan is magic with a lot of charm, but is stuck in a valley, has regular flash floods & massive smoking corn field fires in the hot season. Traffic congestion could easily get to be a pain the arse in Nan & Phrae – old towns with narrow sois & roads.
    Phayao is a nice option with the lake & a wide open valley. The roads are wider? There is very good potential here; plus it has a central location for biking trips – west, east, north, south. It just about touches all bases.

    But I've seen enough of the big city looking ahead 10-15 years...

    I thought about Mae On – Sankhampaeng – a gorgeous clean, easy going area with probably the best access into Chiang Mai city. You just drive straight down the “super” R1317 to airport plaza & drop down onto the moat & you are right in town. No traffic lights, perfect! But you're still stuck in the now smelly polluted concrete jungle city that I've grown to be disillusioned with. Mae Taeng was also under consideration, but you are still stuck with Chiang Mai. Chiang Dao the same.

    Mae Hong Son
    I thought about Mae Hong Son & a couple of friends suggested move to MHS – it was close to the GTR chedi & I wouldn't have far go at the end of the journey. 55. But MHS is too isolated, has insufficient infrastructure, & has possibly the worst smoke pollution in the hot dry season. Jump on your bike to get away from MHS, & in 1.5 hours where are you? Only in Pai or Mae Sarieng, still nowhere really. Ok MHS will have a mini boom once they open the border at Pratu Muang out of Khun Yuam &/or a Shan crossing to the North of MHS which will eventually come; if the Burmese can reach agreement with the ethnic groups controlling their own areas on the border, but you're still far out there.

    Mae Sarieng
    Is still a gorgeous charming town, but it too suffers from bad smoke pollution in the hot dry season, plus is relatively remote – you can go north to MHS, south to Mae Sot or east to Chiang Mai. It is however the cleanest town in North Thailand for me.

    Mae Chaem
    Is a gem of a place, but it has quite a way to go, plus suffers regular wet season flash floods. It is eventually going to be a biking hub, once they've completed the asphalt links from Mae Chaem to Mae La Noi, Mae Chaem to Kong Loi, Mae Chaem to Wat Chan. The loops from here are all going to be amazing roads & rides, & even now they are fabulous loops for dual-purpose / off road riders.

    North of Chiang Mai is really coming on tap & is worthy of serious consideration. In 1.5 hrs you can be in Chiang Mai, Doi Mae Salong, & almost Chiang Rai. It has a nice mix of ethnics to make the town interesting. Fang city does has some nasty flash floods in the wet season though.

    Mae Sai doesn't excite me as a place to live.

    Chiang Saen
    Is absolute super by the Mekong & has more character than Chiang Khong. The river foreshore is nicer in many ways, but I don't like the increasing Chinese influence there – shops, restaurants, guesthouses & karaokes. Pass for me. Ian Yonok however, seems to have hit the bullseye with his place the Viang Yonok Resort – he's an extremely lucky man.

    Chiang Kham
    Is another place well worthy of consideration. It is still a “perfect” charming town. It is very clean & with a wonderful mix of ethnic cultures – one of, if not the best in North Thailand, & that appeals to me a lot. The people are very proud of their culture, particularly the Tai Lue & IMHO they are nearly always the best looking women & with the best costumes. Outstanding every time. But Chiang Kham has frequent flash floods & is incredibly hot in the summer months

    North of Nan has great potential, a lovely laid back atmosphere on some great biking routes. But the infrastructure is lacking & they too have nasty flash floods around the town.

    So...Chiang Khong has been my favourite North Thailand town for 20+ years. The town is clean, charming, there is no traffic problem. And indeed since the bridge was opened the old part of town has gone backwards, quieter more peaceful, more relaxing; with all the development now taking place downstream towards the bridge that is 6 kms from the city. The infrastructure is sufficient, Tesco-Lotus, hospital, restaurants, & stores supplying products to Laos. The river is magnificent to stroll by or ride along & check out the coffee shops both up & down stream. The location is good – access to Laos, or in 1.5 hours you can be in Chiang Saen, Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Chiang Kham + a bit more in Doi Mae Salong or Nan. These are all brilliant riding options. I've found my spot & hopefully this is going to be the last. Life is good. Chiang Khong is a 5-star retirement destination for a 2-star price.

    If anyone wants to swing on by I'm living 500 metres from the Mekong, Tammila guesthouse, the Bamboo Mexican / Rin Bar, Chiang Roy bar. Drop me a message & we can hook up.


    BTW North Thailand is full of little gems, you just need to decide how you want your lifestyle to be & aim for a spot that is hopefully still going to be good in 15 years

    I hope this info is useful for people looking to move.
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  6. Good choice.
    Nothing wrong with ChangKhong
    Nice, relaxing place with many good restaurants & hotels of varying prices.
    I've not been there since Christmas but that will be put right in the next couple of months!
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  7. Hope to ride up next week. Will PM my fone #
  8. #8 DavidFL, Apr 14, 2018 at 11:04 PM
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018 at 11:26 PM
    There was another alternative that I had once considered for awhile, and that was Laos.

    I once thought Luang Prabang & even Luang Nam tha would be ok.
    Even Oudom Xai, several years ago I thought would be magic - at the genuine crossroads of Northern Laos. The potential here is tremendous. From Oudom Xai you can go east to Vietnam, North to China, South to Luang Prabang & west to Thailand. An amazing location!
    But the Chinese invasion of northern Laos is terribly disturbing & has put me right off. Oudom Xai is almost a Chinese city now, they are so dominant.
    Luang Prabang may not be so bad actually, but it is a very small community and well if you need medical care get out there & go to Thailand. The expat community in LPQ does seem very friendly though & they seem to be a more down to earth breed compared those in Thailand.

    Vientiane I love as a party town, but I would not want to live there long term I don't think. Traffic & the heat being disturbing issues in the future.

    In the south of Laos Savannakhet is delightful & I think worthy of consideration. Decent medical care is just across the uncrowded bridge to Mukdahan, a sweet little Mekong town if it ever was.
    Then in the deep south is Pakxe / Champasak.
    Champasak is a genuine Mekong paradise & I once thought about moving there. It is a bit too tranquil perhaps, however booming Pakxe is only 40 minutes away & Ubon Ratchathani perhaps 2.5 hrs.
    Pakxe is a beauty & also has real potential. It may end up being one of the most important towns in Laos with trade between Laos - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand. The Mekong here is fantastic & there's nearly always a sweet breeze blowing through the area. If I was to seriously consider a move to Laos, I think the deep south Pakxe / Champasak would be it, hopefully with less Chinese influence; although the proposed Chinese development for the Mekong - Siphandon area is frightening.
    Laos – massive development for Khonephapheng proposed in southern Laos.

    In all of these moves & decisions on where to locate you need to think ahead for medical care. The older you get the more important & crucial it is. If the infrastructure is not quite there & you're under 45 it shouldn't be so imperative if you are healthy & can wait for the hospitals to catch up in the next 15 years. For this reason if I was a lot younger Pakxe & Champasak might be a real option to explore. We are spoiled in Thailand with decent medical care just about everywhere.

    Just a few more ideas.

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  9. With Laos Dave, it's only going to get worst with the Chinese.
    Now with the new rules banning them, Blue plated cars from coming into Thailand, Laos is the new playground?
    Wise decision IMO
  10. Wow - those photos from 1979, and the transformation to nowadays is insane. But very interesting to see.

    No wonder you want to move on...
  11. The Chinese are an issue everywhere, but some places it is worse than others were they are becoming dominant. If they would just blend in it would not be such an issue perhaps, but it is certainly something we all need to factor in for the future living.
  12. 270036=4392-2thapaegate.

    the early 80s at Chiang Mai gate.
    If you like these oldies take a look on GTR here
    you can see a few changes to the roads
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  13. Can we all live in HOPE?
    But after 10 years in China, I have lent how to blend in (China)
    I can no spit 30 meters and if you stand outside your house now you can hear me talking from China.
    And don't forget now I wee & pop at every street corner.
    The new place you call "home" was a nightmare a few years back with the Chinese and there Blue plated cars.
    Let's just HOPE for you Dave it stay that way otherwise I could see one more move.
  14. Excellent info David !
    I've lived in Sihanoukville Cambodia since 2001 and the Chinese have taken over there too. It is what it is, and the government allow it...
    Always liked the feel of Nan when visiting Thailand on my bike trips, so good to hear the pros and cons as I've only been there in the dry season. Will follow this topic with interest as I think there's a lot of people considering where to move next to escape the massive development in the region.
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  15. Looks like I can't getaway until Saturday. Look for me Sunday. PM sent

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