a nomad in search of...
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018

Mike Chong

Location: Chiang Mai (city), Thailand

Nawa Saraan Hotel
I was in Bangkok and thought I'd stay there for 30 days until my visa expiration when I unexpectedly received a message from Mike, "...come and look for me in Chiang Mai. u can stay at the same place (Nawa Saraan) for 2 weeks.". Of course I said yes! It would be good to see Mike again and be in Chiang Mai again. Moreover, it's how my universe talks to me - by clearing a path on where to go next. Of course it needs other people to open that opportunity for me. But that's the additional beauty of it - I get to identify the people I am karmically entangled with. Now I know who are a part of my karmic process.

Mike Chong
at Nawa Sheeva Hotel with Mike

SIM Card
Getting to Chiang Mai was painless. I checked-in to Nawa Saraan and Mike stopped by later in the day. First thing he handed me was a Thai sim card with internet load. Even if I need a local sim card, I usually don't buy one because I would only use it for the duration of my visa - 30 days. When I leave the country, the card expires. But Mike anticipated that need and didn't just say, "You need a sim card". He said, "Here's your sim card". Is this guy for real?

To segue, I am also reminded of Eunice. When we met in Bangkok, she just handed me a loaded Metro card saying, "Here, you need this." Mike, Eunice and I are all good friends. Yes, I am surrounded by good people indeed.

Free Breakfast
Breakfast is not offered at Nawa Saraan. But just to make my stay extra convenient, he also left word with his staff from the other hotel, Nawa Sheeva, that I could go there to have breakfast. Whoa! Again, I remember the last time I was here in Chiang Mai, he was killing me with kindness. Now, he's doing it again!

Free Money?
When he asked me about my money situation, I said it was bleak, but I'll figure out a way to make money in Chiang Mai. Without missing a beat, he forked-out money from his wallet and handed it to me. I wasn't expecting that gesture. What generosity! As a general rule, I never accept free money - not even from my Dad. But at the same time, I was really low on cash with nothing on the horizon. Whatever cash I had was just left-over from the Bitcoin Cash he bought from me. I accepted the money on condition that it would be a loan. I was more comfortable with that. He shrugged and laughed - he could care less if I paid him back or not. I also accepted because Mike is not the kind to exact a marker (moral IOU). He found a friend in need and offered help - end of story. That's how I do things too - no markers!!!

That was not the end of it. On other occasions, he would give me a currency like US Dollar or Chinese Yuan and say, "I don't like that currency! Here, take it!" What a sweet guy, really! It always fascinates me how tough guys express their sweetness. Of course I kept mental tabs on how this is all adding up. The first money I make goes to pay this back.

Sadly, or perhaps awkwardly, as much as I tried to make money here in Chiang Mai, it didn't happen***. I got barter freebees, but not cash. I wanted to pay him back before I left, but it didn't happen. Perhaps Ho Chi Minh would allow me to do that.

(*** as of Aug 9, now in Ho Chi Minh City, I found a way to partially pay him back...yey!).

Thinking Big
We caught up on the latest with each other. It was great seeing him again.While listening to him, I was reminded all over again why I admired him at the onset when I met him 2 years ago. He doesn't waste time sitting on the fence over petty details. He sees the big picture, makes the executive decision and grabs the bull by the horns to make things happen. He keeps going forward.

Tough Cookie
Mike is a man of dimension. On the outside, he's a friendly laid-back guy - generous, compassionate even to his staff, cheerful, etc. On the inside, he's tough - you don't mess around with guys like him. No, he doesn't prance around with 2 knuckles - you just sense it. I could imagine, if he wishes to be a Triad Lord, he could. He has what it takes. But being smart, he argues, "Why bother with the headache when I can be legit and live comfortably?" That's exactly what Lucky Luciano said he wished for when he was an old man and out of the mob business.

Caffeine Fix Cafe
Marginal profitability on the cafe business? He junked it because for the same time and effort, he can make more money on the hotel and building-construction business where his core strength lie. That means putting to sleep the top-of-the-line fully programmable Victoria Arduino coffee maker - perhaps the most expensive in all of Chiang Mai at $26,000! Convert the cafe space into an additional room? He can't be bothered at this time.

Waya Massage
Lazy employees on the massage business? Again, he didn't just fire the employees, but junked the business altogether because he doesn't need the headache + marginal profitability. Why waste precious time and come out aggravated by employees who fool around when they think nobody's watching? To Mike, these are petty details.

Hire a Guy for the Little Things
I asked him, why he doesn't hire another guy to mind the little things. He said then he has to look after the other guy! Apparently, it is hard to find someone who has the qualities he looks for - intelligence, industriousness (not only when he's around), and someone who can truly care and nurture the business (not just working for a paycheck). Alas, this is the same sentiment aired to me by my friends who also run their business.

Quick Contingency Thinking
Throw him a good number of business variables and he can figure out the best option - maximum profit, least cost, least maintenance, least amount of time to get investment return, etc. He thinks fast and he thinks forward with contingencies - Plan B and even a Plan C. I told him to write a book about running a hotel or how to succeed in business. But really, it's not just know-how. It's a gift that accounts for street smarts, inherent intelligence, forward thinking, guts, etc. Like most successful people I know, Mike aims to perfect his game - the money inevitably follows anyway. Smart people follow the perfection. Lesser mortals follow the money.

The Cliff Dive
I haven't seen him since I left Chiang Mai 2 years ago and we don't really keep in touch. But every once in a while, I would get an unexpected message from him like when I was badly injured from a failed cliff dive. I thought about healing my head injury by going inside a cave and meditate on it or not come out of the cave at all. He said something like,

"...just fucking go and take a ct scan. and see how it goes. u are too young to fucking die. fuck. we will see each other again. in this current life. so hang on."

Indeed, we saw each other again.

The Soul of Nawa Saraan
The hotel I was in, Nawa Saraan, as beautiful and luxurious as it is, wasn't doing too well. I asked Mike what the problem was - location? reviews? staff? Quickly, he said, "Nawa Saraan needs a soul. Here at Nawa Sheeva (his more luxurious hotel), I am the soul. I can take care of things. There is no one there in Nawa Saraan and I can't be in 2 places at one time." I knew exactly what he meant as I think along those lines too. The first thing that hit my mind was, "I can be that soul!" I love Nawa Saraan and I already have the experience of running a resort/hotel at Fox and Firefly River Resort. Perhaps when I have a full 30 days on my visa I can make an offer to be that soul - no money needs to change hands. But I guess I need to learn Mandarin first!

When his 3rd and most ambitious hotel opens up in 2 months (7 rooms with a swimming pool inside every room), he will be needing more souls.

Hanging Out
Despite his busy schedule, I'm glad we could hang out for food, laughs and even a few shots of his fav spirit, Regency Brandy on the rocks with soda water. He took me to his favorite porridge place near China Town, took me to a little-known Big Bass fish hot pot outside the Old City, went to hang-out with the neighborhood tattoo artists and had great pizza with his wife Bee. We had good times at the Birds Nest soup resto and had a pampering massage at Zira Spa. When it was time for me to leave, he even took me to the airport. Whoa! It was just all good! I don't know if this happens again so it was best to make the most out of the here-and-now.

Ending Thoughts
Seriously, I don't know what I've done to deserve such generosity and kindness from Mike. We only had a few minutes of conversation when I was here in Chiang Mai 2 years ago - and I haven't since him since.

Given all these abundance from Mike (and blessings received from other people), I'm also I free-loading? I certainly hope not - as they were all offers. It's not me to be asking for anything...and I don't. It's not in my nature to rely on other's generosity, but I have learned (quite painfully), that I should also be welcoming of kindness when offered. Again, that's how the universe talks to me.

Every time I accept an offer from people, there's probably 5 offers I politely refuse. In most cases, they come with strings. But Mike (and a few others I can think of that I'm close to...Jeanne, Greg, etc.), come with no markers. That's why it's easy to accept because it comes from the heart. And there's nothing I will not do for these special people in my life.

Mike reminds me of my Dad somehow. They're both street smart, easy to get along with, both tough as nails, both can comfortably navigate the underworld, but both chose to stay clean. Girls spread their legs for them and guys want to buy them beer! When they enter a room, you take notice. That's the kind of rare people movies are made with.

I've met many people during my travels, but you don't meet people like Mike everyday. I wish the universe showers him and his growing family all the abundance - health, happiness and prosperity.

--- TheLoneRider
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Reader Comments:

Mikey ChongMikey Chong
(Aug 7, 2018) u forgot to mention my favourite drink. thailand regency brandy with soda. my daily drink. hahahhah

(Aug 7, 2018) done! already added 🙂

Next stop: Rediscovering Ho Chi Minh City

Google Map

Chiang Mai, Thailand

important places in Chiang Mai IMPORTANT PLACES
Chiang Mai Bus Station Bus Station
Chiang Mai Train Station Train Station
Chiang Mai airport Chiang Mai International Airport
Nong Buak Hard Park Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily

hotels in Chiang Mai HOTEL
Chiang Mai Nawa Sheeva Hotel Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big room, high ceiling, salt-water pool
Chiang Mai Nawa Saraan Hotel Nawa Saraan Hotel - upscale container-themed, garden setting, most expensive coffee maker in Chiang Mai

birds nest restaurants in Chiang Mai RESTAURANT
Chiang Mai birds nest restaurant Natural Bird Nest by Burapa - authentic bird's nest soup

Thai massage in Chiang Mai SPA / MASSAGE
Chiang Mai, Royal Thai Lanna Massage Zira Spa - upscale authentic Thai massage and spa treatment

cafes in Chiang Mai BICYCLE RENTAL
Chiang Mai bicycle rental Top Thailand Adventure Tour - bicycle rental


Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
  • the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
  • to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
  • get a cab outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
  • for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
  • FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
How to Get around Chiang Mai
  • red taxi (shared) - B50 standard fare
  • tuk-tuk
  • bicycle - B50 daily rental
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
  1. North Gate Pub - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session
  2. Road House - in front of Porn Ping Hotel
  3. Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar
Chiang Mai Cost Index
  • B60 Chiang beer
  • B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
  • B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage (highly recommended)
  • B50 noodle soup with meat
  • B50 coffee
  • B40 pad thai
  • B30/kilo wash-only laundry
  • B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
  • B100-150 dorm bed/night
  • B250 fan room/night
  • B30 internet cafe/hour
  • B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
  • B130-150 Movies weekdays
  • B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
  • B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
  • B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
  • B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
  • B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva (highly recommended)

  • Transportation
  • B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
  • B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
  • B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
  • B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
  • B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
  • B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
  • B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
  • B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
  • B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
  • B638 #7 a/c train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
  • B50 red taxi fare from point to point
  • B100 red taxi fare from train terminal to city

  • Tours
  • B2000 full day elephant sanctuary
  • B750 Chiang Rai one-day tour
  • B1500 mountain biking scenic ride
How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by Train from Bang Sue Train Station

For more train info: Bangkok to Chiang Mai trains - departing from Hua Lamphong - MRT (Bangkok)

(I'm using Bang Sue as a starting point because I was closer to it, but you may be closer to the Hua Lamphong station)

  1. take the MRT train to Bang Sue Station. Take the #1 Exit to the north provincial trains
  2. Proceed to Counter 2. You will see an information booth, a train schedule chart and the ticket counter. Choose the train and pay at the ticket counter.
  3. daily train schedule:
    • 8:48am - #7 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:30pm, not sleeper, B638
    • 2:06pm - #109 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 4:05am, sleeper
    • 6:31pm - #9 Premium Train, arrive Chiang Mai 7:15am, sleeper, B938 upper deck, B1038 lower deck
    • 7:56pm - #13 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 8:40am, sleeper, B768 upper deck, B838 lower deck
    • 10:22pm - #51 Train, arrive Chiang Mai 12:10pm, sleeper, 3rd class B270 (non sleeper), 2nd class B438, B728 upper deck, B798 lower deck
Chiangmai Blogs by TheLoneRider
  1. Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
  2. An Intimate Conversation with my Universe in Chiang Mai Aug 8, 2018
  3. Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
  4. Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
  5. Yoga Exploration at The Yoga Tree with Gernot Aug 1, 2018
  6. Yoga In The Park - Chiang Mai July 31, 2018
  7. Yoga with Adam at Hidden House Yoga, Chiang Mai July 29, 2018
  8. 2 Weeks in Chiang Mai July 25 - Aug 7, 2018
  9. A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
  10. Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
  11. Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
  12. Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) to Chiang Mai April 9-10, 2016
General Travel Tips
  1. arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
  2. put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
  3. avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
  4. power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!

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