There are certain things I look for when I arrive in a new place. I call these my desirability factors. I rate them High, Medium, or Low. I will be adding new desirability factors soon.
Walkability: I like living in self-contained neighborhoods. Places where everything I need is walkable from my home. The old town area of Chiang Rai is walkable. But it is a fairly rural town with lots of surrounding greenery, so you are probably going to want to get out and enjoy nature when you are here. In that regard, it is more like a small town that has surrounding interesting things to do. So you are probably going to want to get a scooter, bicycle, or small car to fully enjoy the surrounding areas. Medium.
Food: Medium. There is great Thai food here is reasonably priced. There are also many international type foods around but not the same quality or selection as you would find in Chiang Mai or Bangkok. If you are a foodie, and like food diversity, this might even be a low for you. If you love to cook, like me, then Medium.
Weather: Medium. Average highs range seasonally from 81F/27C in December to 95F/35C in April. Average lows (at night) range seasonally from 55F/13C in January to 75F/24C in June. The rainy season is May through September when at least some rain falls in 15/more days of the month. The rain turns on and off like a faucet but can ruin an entire day from time to time.
Things to Do: Medium. If you enjoy the mountains, hiking, fishing, nature, and night markets, you should be fine. If you are a cultural lover I would say low.
Social Considerations: Medium. This is a bit of a sleepy town. The night markets seem to be where many people are out and about. You will see the locals dancing together. It looks almost like a line dance in the USA. The temples are another place where people congregate and meditate with Buddha. There are movie theaters (yes, some English), cooking schools, Thai Boxing, yoga and meditation, and language classes.
Expats: High. There are 14000 members averaging 15 posts per day. That is a good sign and a great resources for you to pose odd questions.
Real Estate: Apartment and condo rentals start around 8000 Baht ($250 USD) per month and condos start around 2 million Baht ($60,000 USD). There are even cheaper places, but you should wait until you are on the ground there to rent. Just get an Airbnb for the first few weeks while you verify feasibility, rents, and other conditions. I never recommend buying until you have lived somewhere at least 2-3 years.
Chiang Rai Desirability Score: Medium for me as a cultural explorer. But it could be high for someone that is all about small towns and nature.
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