You heard it hear first, we will be opening our first overseas RE/MAX Lifestyle branch in Chiang Mai, Thailand later this year!
View from our room at the Le Meridien Hotel, Chiang Mai, looking towards the sacred Doi Su Thep Temple
It’s hard to believe this trip becoming any more exciting than it already has been, but that’s just what happened over the past couple days. Alex and I left Bangkok late Wednesday evening and were picked up by Nu, the nephew of my sister-in-law Phetrin. As I mentioned in our last Bangkok, Thailand article, my brother, Greg, has been married to Phet for over 24 years now, and she and her family run an immensely successful Elephant Park in the Mae Taeng River area of Chiang Mai. This April, when I last visited Thailand with Greg, Phet’s older brother, Boontha, ever the entrepreneur, expressed interest in a joint venture project where we would open up a real estate office in the “Capital of the North.”
Plumeria in Thailand—kind of like Maui! And as they would say here: “same same but different.”
A retired professor, with many connections around the country, Boontha made it clear that there was a lacking international presence of brokerages in Chiang Mai, despite the fact that are roughly 2 million people living in the province, including roughly 1 million in the metro area alone. Coupled with the fact that it has been attracting over 5 million visitors for quite some time now, including between 1.4 and 2 million foreign tourists, and he speculated an office here would be a lucrative endevour. The international airport here is already Thailand’s third largest, and there are over 33,000 hotel rooms throughout the city. The popularity of Chiang Mai cannot be denied, and I felt it was my due diligence to figure out how we could make it all happen!
Our first meeting in the city checking out an office space
Nu dicussing our office space amidst a backdrop of the ubiquitous Thai bamboo scaffolding.
We awoke Thursday morning, at the perfectly located Le Meridien Hotel, and awaited the arrival of both Boontha, and his son, Nu, in the hotel lobby. After a tasty breakfast buffet, we set out to look at the office space Boontha had picked out as the potential franchise home for RE/MAX Lifestyle Chiang Mai.
In front of the new home for RE/MAX Lifestyle Chiang Mai!
We arrived at the ‘Fifth Avenue‘ complex, which is a town home style development. With office space below, potential living quarters above—and is located close to the city center, near the boundary of the municipality, it looked like a perfect fit. And while our potential unit wouldn’t be done unitl November, I enjoyed the look and feel of the completed buildings, and felt we were off to a great start.
Completed building at our ‘Fifth Avenue’ office space in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Visiting new home neighborhoods, Sansiri and The Greenery
Next, Boontha wanted to show us some examples of new home communities that were either completed, or in the stages of being so. We left the office complex, and headed about 5 minutes down the road to the first neighborhood, built by the Sansiri Group. Upon arrival, we were greeted at the door by a sales rep and went inside the sales gallery for on overview of the community.
Walking into the Sales Gallery at Sansiri, Chiang Mai
As an initial impression, we all appreciated the quality of craftsmanship, nice staging, and friendly sales presentation. We were then shown 3 models they had available, and again Alex and I both remarked on the high quality of build and excellent choice in furnishings and decor. This team sure had their act together! Additionally, the pricing was more than reasonable, at about $450K-$650K for 1,600-2,800 square foot homes.
Nu showing off his listing presentation skills
Next we headed down the road to a more moderately priced neighborhood, named The Greenery. We were greeted by a friendly pair of sales reps, and one even spoke English, which was a definite plus (even though we had Nu as our unofficial translator). They took us around their model which was well built, had nice open space, and great natural light—but overall, it certainly reflected the price point of $100K-$200K.
Listening to the presentation at The Greenery
The kitchen and bedrooms were especially bare bones—but you could easily upgrade those with custom appliances and furniture in a pinch. This community would be an excellent choice for the first time home buyer, and a family with a tighter budget.
The lovely sales reps of The Greenery, along with myself and Boontha
Traditional Northern Thai lunch—Khao Soi & Moo Satay
The favorite dish of Northern Thailand, Khao Soi Gai
After wandering around the Chaing Mai heat for a few hours, we decided to break for a late lunch. Alex suggested his favorite spot for khao soi, a speciality of this province which contains noodles, a couple chicken drumsticks, veggies— all in a delicious coconut-curry base. Somehow this was my first time trying the dish, but after slurping down a bowl in record time, I knew I had to have another. The combination of flavors was simply heavenly, and at $1 a pop, I realized why this was a favorite among Chiang Mai locals.
Moo satay, marinated pork skewers, traditionally served with peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers
We also ordered the ever popular, Moo Satay, or marinated pork skewers and peanut sauce. This is a more common treat around Thailand, but nevertheless, the restaurant we were at did them exceptionally well. The tender pieces of pork matched perfectly with the semi-sweet peanut sauce and accompanying pickled cucumbers. We left stuffed and lunch all together, including four drinks, was less than $15—I could certainly get use to those prices! Both Boontha and Nu had meetings to attend after lunch, so we said goodbye to our hosts and relaxed for the remainder of the day at our hotel.
Meeting with Jaroen, VP of Marketing—RE/MAX Thailand
Laab gai, minced chicken salad from the Issan region
When we met with the Regional Director and his team a few days earlier in Bangkok, we were especially impressed with the VP of Marketing, Jaroen. He was a Thai national who had made his living previously as an electrical engineer, as IT of a large company, and working for the luxury hotel chain, The Peninsula. It was at the Peninsula in Hong Kong, where he realized a passion for real estate, which he began in earnest 25 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. When we were leaving our meeting in Bangkok, his knowledge of multiple industries, as well as wonderful command of the English language, made it an easy decision to invite him up to spend the day with us in Chiang Mai, so he could get to know Boontha, the family, and the area a little better.
Sai ua, the famous spice sausage of Chiang Mai
We picked Jaroen up from the airport around noon and headed to one of Boontha’s favorite Thai restaurants, where he quickly ordered us a feast! Sai ua (Chiang Mai spiced sausage), pad kra pao moo (Thai basil pork), laab gai (minced chicken salad), and an array of spicy soups and noodles made us all quite happy!
Pad kra pow moo, Spicy Thai Basil Pork
Gathering the family together in Mae Jo
Amazing pool at the family retreat in Mae Jo, Chiang Mai, Thailand
After that amazing lunch, it was time to get to business, and meet with the other members of the family interested in working for RE/MAX Lifestyle Chiang Mai. We decided a great place to gather would be at the family’s beautiful custom house, about 35 minutes from the city center, in Mae Jo.
Deliciously creamy mangosteen
Upon arrival we met Boontha’s younger sister, La, and her husband, Wichian, as well Nu. They had brought an array of fresh fruits for us to enjoy, like mangosteen, rambutan, and mango. After a tour of the property with Jaroen, we sat down at the communal table to discuss specifics.
Fresh Northern Thai rambutan
With Jaroen as our ever helpful translator, we ironed out details about the potential business venture in Chiang Mai. The excitement on everyone’s face was palpable, as we all recognized the opportunities available in this somewhat untapped marketplace. We ironed out what potential roles would be—and after about 4 hours of lively, intriguing, and productive conversation, we all shook hands on our exciting new partnership. The vibe in the air was incredible; we all felt the potential here to do something amazing!
Wichian and La Chailert, Myself, Jaroen, Boontha and his son Nu Chailert
Wichian and La Chailert, Myself, Boontha and his son Nu Chailert
Shaking hands with the mastermind of it all, Professor Boontha