How much do things cost here? Here is a snapshot:
basic Thai rice or noodle dinner - 70p
pizza - £3
cup coffee - 70p
dozen eggs - 50p
diesel - 66p
bottle wine - £18
cinema ticket - £3
can coke - 30p
litre Thai beer - £1'10
sleeper train with air con from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (480 miles) £18 takes 14 hours
air fare from Bangkok to Chiang Mai £56 takes one hour
You can get lots of Western food and drink but it's very expensive. In the local "posh" supermarket they sell quite a lot of Waitrose own brand stuff. It's only been in last year or so that "proper" milk has been available - an awful lot of tinned condensed milk is used! The only cheese is all imported (cheese is the one food that Amy really misses). Thai bread is sweet and a lot of their food is salty.
In January 2013, a new national law was enacted - minimum wage of £8 a day (yes, a day). Officially this has resulted in a lot of redundancies - but I guess the reality is that many people are paid less. I have only seen one beggar - an old lady who sits on the pavement by the nearest indoor shopping mall.
Chiang Mai is the second city of Thailand and it's very odd walking around as rich live side by side with "middles" and the poor. property ranges from beautiful houses, blocks of apartments, bungalows and hovels. there doesn't seem to be any planning laws!
For me, there are two definite downsides to Chiang Mai - (1) pavements are either non-existent or in an appalling condition so you really have to look where you are putting your feet. Where there is a pavement, the step down onto the road is huge or long & slopey! Second downside is rubbish heaped up at side of side roads although it is collected quite often - litter bins are very very few and far between.
I have got more used to traffic. mopeds and cars just weave around you. luckily on side roads they don't go very fast. Good job cos there is definitely no adherence to any traffic rules (ha ha, i am assuming there are some!). Crossing main roads is like taking the walk of death! Zebra crossing? Yes they exist - but i am still working out why! Traffic lights? Yes there are some and, yes, some drivers do seem to know why the pretty lights keep flashing different colours, others only see green! However, if you're brave enough, you just dodge between traffic and obviously some car drivers don't want a red spottie paint job, so they do stop. That happens when I'm out with Amy - you'd laugh as i kind of hold on to her and follow in tow as we both hurry across, bobbing our heads up & down, looking in direction of driver and praying you don't trip up cos you're not looking where you're putting your feet (Thai way of saying "thank you so much for not flattening me flatter than flat"). AND, I've now worked it out why Thai people don't walk anywhere! Clue - nothing to do with hotness.
No photos with this post as I am doing it on my Kindle Fire (a fantastic piece of kit). i can read books, play music and use internet (free WiFi in my room). Whilst writing this, I'm listening to Ken Bruce on Radio 2! But can't upload from my camera so I'll post again soon - including account of day Amy and I spent at a Thai cookery school- with photos (have to use Amy's computer for that)
I know you are all in midst of bitter cold, ice and snow so I'm sending you sun, sun and even more sun. Keep warm and safe.