It is extremely helpful if you have an expat help you once you arrive in country. We met our friend Ursula online from an expat group one year before we moved. When we visited for a month before our move we met her and she immediately took us under her wing and showed us around. Little did we know how much help she would be once we arrived.
She showed us how to cross the street, which is a very big deal here. At times I was terrified and held on to her arm like a little child, squealing inside all the way across the road. I desperately wanted to close my eyes and be magically transported across the 8 lane freeway. After we made it safely to the other side I was adamant.....“NOPE!” never again. I will gladly wave down a Songthaew going the opposite direction.
When we rented our condo she told us there are free shuttles that go to the 4 large malls and stop at many hotels in between to pick up and drop off passengers. These are run by the malls and you can get off and on as often as you like. It might be a short walk to your destination from one of the stops but it is free!
Having been here a year she knows her way around by Red Songthaew, Blue Bus, Yellow Bus, White Bus, and of course her feet! She has graciously taken me to the large grocery store/department store called Big C Extra. The prices are good and I can find anything I need for daily household items and food stuffs. The malls are: Central Airport Plaza, Central Festival Mall, Kad Suan Keaw Mall, Promenada Mall and Maya Mall. We have been to all of them and now have our favorites which are Central Festival and Central Airport Plaza.
It is strange wanting to go to a mall and willing hang out for nearly half a day! We avoided them for the past 20 years because in the US all they are for is shopping and nothing more which equals boring. The shopping centers in Chiang Mai on the other hand are an event! Four to seven floors organized by floor with banks, electronics, home furnishings, beauty products, clothing, arcades and movie theaters and entire floors of restaurants and if that were not enough, there are large food courts on the bottom floors along with large grocery stores.
We went shopping at the Home Pro store attached to Big C Extra where we bought two shelf ladders, 7 large plastic containers, a metal shelf unit, small floor rugs, a heavy duty outdoor clothes drying rack and other miscellaneous items for the kitchen. When we were done, one of the men working there helped us take our carts to the construction elevator and down to the parking garage. We then wheeled them to the front of the store where we need to hoping to cram all of it into a Songthaew. We met Ursula there and she told us that they would deliver it for free. So we went back to the store to sign up for delivery. This is another example of how helpful she has been.
That is not to say you should just befriend any expat or foreigner you meet. In our research we have read that there are expats who prey on other foreigners under the guise of being helpful when all they want is to empty your pockets with scams. Like anywhere on this great big planet....use your brain and follow your instinct.