Having planned our digital nomad journey almost a year in advance, we had done plenty of research and heard many things about this magical city called Chiang Mai. This small city in Northern Thailand, at least from our understanding was largely considered the mecca for remote workers (i.e. Digital Nomads).
I like to keep my expectations in check whenever I travel to a new city and so, when we arrived in Chiang Mai, I tried not to get too excited. It turned out however, that Chiang Mai was all that it was cracked up to be and as I write this article from the airport, about to leave, I just have to appreciate that there’s probably nothing like it in the world today.
Here are is my evaluation of one month as a digital nomad in Chiang Mai
Coworking in Chiang Mai
My experience of coworking in Chiang Mai was vastly different to that of my time in Bali.
In Bali, it’s still predominantly a tourist island and so, the Digital Nomad community seems to center around 6 Coworking spaces. In Chiang Mai, there’s probably close to a hundred different coffee shops suitable for digital work. There are of course, a few coworking spaces but predominantly, I found that the digital nomad meetups and Facebook groups were the place where I connected with the most people.
By far the most famous coworking space and the one that I signed up for on arrival in Chiang Mai is Punspace. This is the coworking space of choice for many digital nomads such as the famous location-independent entrepreneur, Johnny FD and NomadList founder, Pieter Levels.
I found Punspace to be a very work-focused coworking space. Unlike spaces in Bali which have a more relaxed feel, Punspace members are there to get work done. This shouldn’t be too surprising.
Chiang Mai of course, is one of cheapest destinations in the world and tends to attract digital nomads who are simply looking to reduce their expenses rather than seek some sort of unique travel experience. In fact, many of the digital nomads in Chiang Mai have been there for months on end to the point that they consider the city their new home. Given what the city offers, this is no surprise.
Cost of Living
For a city that provides the same amenities of the western world, Chiang Mai is probably the cheapest destination in the world for digital nomads. I had a running theme on my snapchat during our month in Chiang Mai that the city really does have ‘everything’. For us as Australians, we usually paid a third for accommodation, food and drink of what we would’ve back home.
Even though we’d been to Chiang Mai before, we were still astounded by some of the prices we paid for good food and drink. In fact, on our last night in Chiang Mai, we had dinner with another couple at a lovely burmese restaurant where the total for the 4 of us was 210 baht (aprox. $8.50 AUD)! Other than that cheap Thai food ranged from about 30-70 baht ($1.2-2.8 AUD).
Our favourites near our building were a Thai noodle shop serving a lovely 35 baht (~$1.4 AUD) noodle soup and ‘the chicken man’, a street stall serving delicious fried chicken for around the same price!
Our accommodation was also surprisingly well-priced although we did get hit with a big electricity bill on our final day (see below).
Here is the full breakdown for one person (ie. me)**:
|Dates||20 March – 20 April|
|VISA Extension (for second month)||$76.00|
|Accommodation (196 for rent + 82 for electricity)||$258.38|
|Food + Drink (including the occasional splurge)||$450.34|
|Relaxation (inc. Massage & Cat Cafe)||$20.34|
|Entertainment (a few beers here & there + Songkran)||$73.82|
|Connectivity (Sim cards/internet)||$23.24|
|Flight in from Bali||$107.2|
|Total (inc Flight)||$1,299.31*|
* This total does not include an $80 phone bill liability and other virtual expenses like web-hosting
** Currency in AUD
Things to See and Do in Chiang Mai
Here’s where we really dropped the ball. After a month in Bali followed by another month moving around Asia, we arrived in Chiang Mai with a large work focus as apposed to a tourist one. We had already been to Chiang Mai and done the more touristy things last year so this time was a lot different.
To give you a better indication of what to do in Chiang Mai, I’m gonna cheat a little bit and share some photos of what we got up to the year before.
We LOVE Chiang Mai. We see it as more of a home now rather than a tourist destination. There’s a huge community of Digital Nomads there and if you get involved, you’ll meet new people and make new friends.
It’s also one of the best places in the world to bootstrap a business or to just simply live cheaply. That’s why we’re coming back in late May to spend another month (at least) living and working in our favourite digital nomad destination so far.
Until next time,
Also published on Medium.