Friday, February 17, 2017

Relocation to Chiang Mai, Thailand (November and December 2016)...

Kristin and I left Rwanda on November 3, 2016 and arrived in Chiang Mai on November 30. In between, we traveled to the U.S. visiting Colorado, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Before we left Rwanda, we cleaned up our household stuff quite a bit, but we still had to ship as much as 445 kg via Ethiopian Air Cargo. They were altogether 15 pieces of cargo.

They arrived in Bangkok safely well. Peter Lee and Sanghyun Cho made an arduous 11-hour effort to process them through the customs and forward them to Chiang Mai via truck. Upon arrival, Caleb Ji and his friends received them and stored them well at ABBA Center.

When we arrived, Isaac Wee picked us up at the airport and took us to M Plus 2 one-bed room condo. Isaac is one of the owners of the condo. A Singaporean Chinese who married a Thai woman and living in Chiang Mai. A young 34 years old smart guy.

Isaac helped us a lot with many nitty gritty information about Chiang Mai and introduction to people such as Sumalee, a prominent lawyer who then helped me open a bank account at Bangkok Bank. I also rented a motor bike at 2,000 baht a month. His Honda Moove was pretty handy and helpful for two months.

Social Interaction... We are connected to Korean missionaries whether related to BAM or not. They are our primary connections. Secondarily, we are also connected to Korean communities via Kakao Talk chat room. There are a lot of information and people to connect to if you wanted to. There is even a Korean golf chatroom. I have not utilized it yet, but I will.

Outside the Korean community, we attended our first Chiang Mai Expat Club breakfast meeting that takes place twice a month. We have signed up to be their lifetime member. It is a channel to all the communities outside the Korean community. I am sure we will make an inroad to other communities, such as Thai, mountain tribes, Chinese, Myanmar as well U.S. and other expat communities.

Health Insurance... The membership with Chiang Mai Expat Club has helped us secure a health insurance after 34 months of no health insurance. This insurance provides a catastrophic coverage with a $2,000 deductible per event, but with a 100% coverage for all in-patient cost all over the nations, except the U.S. and Hong Kong. Even in these countries, they provide a 30-day coverage if there is an emergency. We have also purchased a personal accident insurance that covers up to 100,000 baht per event so that we may be covered against any accident-related medical expenses. The total premium for both insurances is a little over $1,000 annually per person. Not bad. We felt relieved as we age.

Housing... After visiting 8 houses and condos, we chose to rent a new modern Lana style house in Nong Jom, Sansai. A small mooban but a very clean and safe mooban. We were happy not only with the cleanness of the house but also the rent we agreed to pay: 15,000 baht or $428 per month. Moreover, the landlady seems quite nice. She agreed to buy a wash machine and a microwave.

Car and Motorcycle Purchase... Later we bought a Nissan Tiida hatchback and a Yamaha MX Mio 125. Both were second-handed. The golden-color Tiida was a 2010 model with a little less than 60,000 km on the odometer. We paid 275,000 baht or $7,700. A good buy. The Yamaha bike was a 2015 model but had run only 6,000 km. We paid 35,000 baht or $1,000. Transportation secured.

Household Services and Utility Payment... We learned how to make payment for the electricity and the water. Both we pay at Seven Eleven stores. They cost us approximately 350 baht or $10 and 150 baht or $4.30, respectively. Not bad at all. There are garbage collection service for which the landlady paid for a year. Some people use water delivery service, but we are using Britta filter for tap water. Also, there is a cooking gas delivery service from a nearby store. We use a house cleaning service from a lady who comes once a week. We pay 300 baht for each visit. She asked for 400 baht but settled for 300 baht. I am sure sooner or later it will increase. We also use massage service regularly. Both Thai massage and foot massage. These services are affordable and effective. Each hour of service costs us 200 baht. Again, very very affordable. I have found a place where I can get my hair cut. It costs me 100 baht including hair wash. I suppose we are pretty much covered for utilities.

Internet and Communication... One of the first things we had to set up was internet. You know you cannot function without internet. We chose to buy an annual contract from 3BB broad band service. I think it works well for my blog posting as well as conference calls, let alone e-mails and facebook posting. I am content. We also bought a data plan from AIS. I am using a 3 gigabite per month plan while Kristin is happy with a 1 gigabite plan. We will see how it goes. So we are pretty much covered with this internet service and data plan.

Shopping... We have found a local market in a walking distance or in a very short bike ride distance. Things are really cheap at this local market. Five small breads cost us 20 baht or 57 cents. 10 eggs 40 baht or $1.14. Five small cucumber 10 baht. Five sweet potatoes 10 baht. A good size pineapple 40 baht. Get the idea? There also are traditional markets nearby.

For other shopping needs, there are several supermarkets and shopping malls. Tesco Lotus, Big C and Makro stand out as supermarkets and Promenada Mall, Central Festival, Central Airport Plaza Mall and Maya Mall as shopping malls. Home Pro, Big C Extra, Meechok Plaza and Tesco Lotus also provide convenient shopping outlets. Moreover, there are night markets open almost everyday somewhere in town where you can buy foods and a variety of stuff very cheap. We have not even tried night bazaar in town, let alone Saturday and Sunday markets plus bunch of other markets such as Warorot Market, Muang Mai Market. We did most of purchase for household stuff at Big C Extra and Home Pro. I have purchased a used printer on Face Book group chat room. Our learning will continue, but I think we are covered as far as buying stuff is concerned.

Transportation... For the first two months, I traveled primarily on the motor bike and seondarily on Uber cars. Both came very handy. We have known Dhanu and Tek as personal friends as well. There also is Grab taxi or Grab car, but they seem quite expensive compared to Uber. There are public transportation called Songthaew. This pick-up-truck-converted public transportation is cheap and widely used. I rode only red Songthaew when we made a trip to Doi Suthep etc with Gesryn and her friends. The route from our house to town is run by Green Songthaew. I should try it sooner or later. We are pretty covered with a variety of transportation modes.

Driver's License... I successfully received my driver's licenses for both car and motorcycle. They are good for two years. To do this, I had to get a medical certificate and a residency certificate. Medical certificate was easy to get at 150 baht but the residency certificate required two trips to the immigration office in Promenada Mall and 500 baht. The residency certificate was required also for the title transfer of the car and the motorcicle.

Church... We have attended worship services held at Chiang Mai Community Church and at Korean Dream Church. Their worship services times are at 4:20pm and 10:30am, respectively.  There are other English services, but we have not ventured out yet.

Visa... is an issue here in Thailand. We arrived in Chiang Mai on a 2-month tourist visa. We had to make a so-call visa run to get a new visa. We chose to go to Kuala Lumpur and received a non-immigration visa for 3 months. We had to submit documents to apply for a work permit and we will also submit documents to apply for extension of the expiry date of the visa. I heard that the immigration office gives an extension for one month and two months and repeats this cycle for two more times until they will begin to issue a one-year visa, if they find the intended activities are genuine and beneficial to Thai people. What an arduous process! In the meantime, I may have to adjust my travel schedule in 2017. We will see what happens and how it develops in 2017 to make a decision that is appropriate.

Also, Thailand is pretty strict about foreign ownership of not only land, which is understandable, but also business with a majority ownership. So the original plan to establish a business entity for SfK Asia has been put on hold. We will see what happens. Patience is a virtue.

Ministries... Kristin and I came to Chiang Mai to minister to missional businesses in Asia and remotely in Africa. Also, I will have to serve in Korea and the U.S. It will remain the primary focus.

However, we will surely encounter other ministry opportunities, such as serving the mountain tribe people, like Hmong people we visited for Christmas service, orphans and widows and poor people. One thing for sure is through Eternal Glory Foundation that has sponsored my visa. I look forward to witnessing what the Lord has in store.

Leisure... Kristin and I play golf and there are many options from cheap to expensive. We wil figure out how to use leisure time sooner or later.

I also hike. I have done one hiking in a mountain on the way to Chiang Rai. We got lost on the way up, but we enjoyed the hike. It is too bad that we do not walk around the neighborhoods freely. Thailand seems to discourage people walking around. The pedestrian sidewalk is rare and unfriendly. I still need to find some places where I can frequently visit.

I am interested in resuming guitar and starting saxophone. Kris is against my making noise at home, so I have to learn to be creative. We will see...

I am also interested in learning Chinese calligraphy. I am pretty good at writing Chinese characters, but I have never learned it formally. Why not trying it here in Chiang Mai?

Language... is also a challenge. Thai is a tonal language and we are not familiar with the tonal language. Moreover, Thai alphabets are just an art to me. Speaking is one thing and reading or writing is totally different thing all together, I heard. I do not have intend to learn reading or writing, but I should learn to speak to get by in daily life.

I am interested in learning more Chinese than Thai because of its usefulness throughout Asia. I may be over-ambitious, but we will see which door the Lord opens for me. The necessity is the mother of invention and also learning.

We have received warm welcome from many friends, such as Elder KyoungSup Kwon, Dongho Kim, Gary Moon, Ben Lee, Yong Kwan Han, Caleb Ji, Dong Cheol Lee, Won Gil Park, Jin Rok Kang, Panho Shin, Sung Ok Cho, Andy Hong, etc. We also met many new people, such as Tae Min Kim, Sakda, Isaac, Sumalee, Sungil Koh, Donghwan Ahn, Sungsik Park, Gukchan Lee, Mark Plummer, Joonhyung Cho, Dhanu, Tek, Mam, etc. I am sure this process will continue.

 Our learning will continue and never stops. But after two months of the initial settle-down efforts and a lot of help from many friends, we feel we are now settled in Chiang Mai. Praise the Lord! - Jeffrey

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