Before I give you the full scope on Smith Suites, I need to tell you an important story. Ready? Here goes.
Once upon a time on a cold Toronto Sunday in 2015, I numbed my sadness by binge reading one of my favourite FIRE bloggers. For context, that year was a rough one for me; I felt as if I lost sight of my dreams. I felt as if I lost myself and sold my soul.
While going through Go Curry Cracker’s blog post, I discovered an interesting article about his $375 monthly USD apartment in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai? Where’s that?
I had never even heard of the place. A quick google showed that this quaint city is in Northern Thailand.
Intrigued, I started looking at listings and was shocked to see accommodations that’s cheaper than my condo maintenance fees. I began to search for apartments in Agoda and Booking. In fact, I spent the WHOLE day daydreaming about what life would be like if I could be in Go Curry Cracker’s shoes. But as Monday loomed closer, I shut down that dream to face reality. I needed to prepare for the work week, iron my clothes and make my meals.
At the time, our reality was about moving forward in the most “logical step.” Buy a house in the suburbs. The thought of living so far from downtown Toronto was dreadful, and I knew that I would cry myself to sleep in my suburban home.
That was our reality
If anyone would have told me that we’d be starting a year of travel two years later, I would have laughed in their face.
Fast forward to our trip to Chiang Mai during our year of travel
We were only planning on spending three weeks in Chiang Mai. We only came back for the food; that was it. That’s because I was not very impressed with the city during our first visit. It was only at G’s insistence that we even decided to stay three weeks in Chiang Mai.
We had plans for our year of travels
One month in Myanmar, one month in Vietnam, and then three months in Taiwan. It was in our spreadsheet. That made it pretty official.
But then we met an entrepreneur that unknowingly convinced us to come back to Chiang Mai for three months. In fact, we spent the following days apartment hunting after our conversation with him.
After visiting a dozen apartments and not finding “the one,” we were on the verge of giving up. We were staying at Smith Residence at the time, and G discovered that the owner also owned another apartment called Smith Suites. While it looked like it was out of our price point, we decided to check it out.
We went to reception and discovered that the apartments book a year in advance here
Luckily, last minute changes came up and there was availability in one of the apartments for two weeks. We asked for a tour, figuring it wouldn’t hurt so we had something to compare.
Mr. Ta Ve, the onsite employee, gave us a tour of one of the bedrooms
We were immediately impressed with the quality and cleanliness of the apartment. Everything felt so familiar. It felt like home.
Mr. Ta Ve then took us to tour the gym and showed us the pool
As I stood there taking in the beautiful view, I felt this nagging feeling in my gut. Why does this apartment feel familiar? I ignored the feeling as we continued with the building tour. We were sold that this place was the one we wanted to call home. But there was no availability.
Luckily, a staff member was able to pull some strings for us. It required us to move to three different apartments, but that was ok for us. We wanted this place so badly that we signed the contract to a unit we never had the chance to tour.
Once we signed all the paperwork, I had a moment to think about the feeling. I thought of Go Curry Cracker and that cheap apartment he posted about way back in 2015. Once we got back to our hotel, I went on his website to search for that blog post that I once read years ago.
My jaw dropped when I realized that we booked at the same building that he wrote about in his blog post years ago.
You see, this apartment is not just any apartment, but THE apartment I saw on his blog!
What a reminder that everything happens for a reason.
If it weren’t for that blog post, I would not have known about this Chiang Mai place.
If it weren’t for that blog post, I would not have spent the whole day looking at Chiang Mai apartments while envisioning a life of travel.
And of course, if it weren’t for that blog post, the idea of travelling around the world for an extended time would not have crossed my mind.
Smith Suites was not just any apartment for me
Smith Suites was the seed that planted the idea of long term travel in my head. It left my head in the clouds, not wanting to touch the ground. Without Smith Suites, I would not have known that this long term travel business IS possible.
As crazy as this sounds, to be able to physically stay, touch and feel this place was a funny reminder that the universe is always listening to your wishes. I can’t tell you how much this apartment was a pivotal moment during my year of travel.
Ok, story time is over. Now we can proceed with our usual accommodation tour.
The room at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
As I mentioned earlier, we stayed in three different units during our stay in Chiang Mai since we booked last minute. Essentially, we took the gap months between when tenants were moving in and out of the units. Yay for unplanned revenue to the owners?
We stayed in the following units:
507 – one bedroom 14,500 ฿ per month ($458 USD / $610 CAD)
402 – Studio 14,000 ฿ per month ($440 USD / $591 CAD)
202 – Studio 13,500 ฿ per month ($425 USD / $570 CAD)
Note: Prices do not include electricity or water fee (about 2,500 ฿ per month).
We wanted to book a studio for the duration of our stay but weren’t able to due to lack of availability. For that reason, we paid a bit more to stay in a one bedroom during our first month. As I mentioned earlier, I did not remember what we booked after spending almost two months in Cambodia and Myanmar. All I remember is walking into the apartment, dead exhausted from a long day of travelling and squealing with delight.
My nervousness of staying in a place I’ve never seen disappeared as soon as I walked into our apartment. The unit was beautiful and better than what I imagined.
The apartment far exceeded my expectations
The kitchen in the larger unit was separate from the sleeping area, which I did miss a bit later when we stayed in the studio.
We did find the one bedroom to be far bigger than we needed since we only had a suitcase and carry-on.
The apartment had plenty of lighting, which ranks high on my list of wants for accommodations.
My sleep at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
We slept relatively well in all the units. We did find 202 to be a bit noisier since it was on a lower floor and closer to the road, but I fell asleep just fine. My only grievance with the lower unit were the ANTS! Despite being SUPER DUPER clean and making sure we tied up our garbage bags, we had an army of ants crawling from one end of the wall to the next on a daily basis. They were everywhere, including crawling up on plates and dying in my cup. One time, I left a can of condensed milk uncovered only to return to it with an army of dead ants. G had a good laugh watching me morph into the ant killer. It was quite clear that I wasn’t used to sharing my living space with these harmless insects.
Our kitchen at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
The kitchen had the basics – a stove top, fridge, and microwave. Our unit also came with dinnerware and cutlery, making it easier to have “home cooked” meals. And by home cooked, I really mean reheating takeout from a local vegan restaurant haha.
We did find everything to be on the short end though and the countertops and table were low. I felt as if the apartment would be ideal for someone in the 5’2 height range.
The service at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
In my opinion, what made Smith Suites stand out is the service. The staff members were very professional during every interaction. Over time, we grew fond of some of the staff members.
As we were booking apartments for the first time in a foreign country, we were very nervous and cautious. We would make multiple requests to make sure that there was no misunderstanding. For example, we’d ask for a copy of the contract so that we could take our time to review the documents. We asked a hundred questions, which Kim, the lady we dealt with, never felt bothered. She was super patient in waiting for us while we read and scanned our documents.
Mr. Ta Vee felt like an uncle to us. He made sure to take care of us from day one and helped us with some of our unusual requests.
This thought might come off as weird, but I wondered what Mr. Smith looked like for the longest time. I assumed Mr. Smith was what you’d imagine a John Smith to look like because of the last name. I even wondered how he became the owner of the building. After all, foreigners could not own property in Thailand. Then, when I saw a photo of Dr. Smith, I became even MORE confused because he looked pretty darn Asian to me. I later learned that the name Smith is the anglicized version of his Thai name. Finally, mystery solved. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I was very intrigued by the ominous Dr. Smith for a very long time.
Dr. Smith and his wife are so awesome and ever so friendly (along with the rest of the staff, of course)
They did a great job in building a community and do not shy away from getting to know their tenants. In fact, they throw Christmas parties and even takes the tenants out on day trips. We half-joke with him that we will become regulars and come back to Chiang Mai in twenty years. It’s only half a joke because I hope it can be our reality one day.
Leaving my luggage at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
Staying at Smith Suites also made the luggage situation so much easier for us. We were able to leave behind our small luggage when we went to Cambodia and Myanmar. We were then able to leave our big luggage when we went to Vietnam for two weeks. As you can imagine, travelling with too much stuff to these countries is a hassle. We were a bit stressed out with the luggage situation and were happy to know that we could leave our stuff there.
Feeling safe at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
Safety was another concern of mine when living in Thailand on a more permanent basis. Fortunately, I felt very safe here. A security guard watches over the premise at night, and the gates are locked. There is also a smoke detector in each room.
The location of Smith Suites Chiang Mai
The location was perfect for us. It is next to the Saturday night market and a daily market that is way cheaper than the more popular ones in Chiang Mai. There was also a grocery store that was within a five-minute walk from us.
Since the apartment is right outside of the Chiang Mai gates, we were close to temples. If we needed to go to a mall, we could easily order a Grab or Songthaew.
The area is also very safe to walk, even when it’s late at night.
The gym at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
The gym is great for your daily workout. I do find it to be hot in the daytime though so you need to open the windows to cool down.
The pool at Smith Suites Chiang Mai
We tried to use the pool whenever we could. We did find that there was not enough shade, which left me a bit sunburned a few times.
The community at Chiang Mai Smith Suites
Another great thing about this apartment is the community feel from the other guests. I didn’t find out until much later during month seven of our travels is that our building is full of Canadians! It was a welcoming surprise as I was starting to get homesick.
Thanks to one nice Canadian (hi Dale!), we became part of the close-knit group.
The members often had daily happy hour to catch up and chit chat.
As you can see in this lengthy post, Smith Suites was so much more than just a serviced apartment. It was our home away from home during our year of travelling and the place that planted the seed in my head to dream of a life of travel.
Jenny Tran says
chiang mai looks so cute along with your apartment and the little note, I’ve been thinking of destinations and this is on the top of my list for asia
You should totally visit Chiang Mai! It’s a really great place to visit and chill 🙂