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Chiang Mai in Thailand is a good city for digital nomads to unwind and appreciate a less bustling environment from its sister city, Bangkok.
We felt the distinction in the vibe as soon as our flight to Chiang Mai arrived. The size of the airport, though still a major hub in Thailand, was small and easily navigated. With less congestion, it was easy to find a taxi to get us to Central.
Chiang Mai has a sensibility all its own, as it was once part of the Lan Na Empire, which included present day Burma (Myanmar) and Laos.
The influences from Northern, Southeast Asian countries, prevail here more than that of the southern part of their own country. The capital, Bangkok almost seems much further away from here than the hour plane ride it takes.
Food in Chiang Mai
Regional Food signifies the influences from its neighbors, more than anything else and is best represented by the quintessential Chiang Mai dish, Khao Soi.
Transplanted from Burma, it’s a soup dish highly preferred by Northern Thai people and their neighbor, Laos.
Kaho Soi is a creamy coconut curry soup, not ubiquitous in the South, with a slew of aromatics (such as tumeric) mixed in with shrimp paste. In the broth is a protein, either chicken or fish, along with boiled thick yellow noodles and fried noodles (akin to the fried wonton given as starters in most Chinese Restaurants in the West).
It’s best when complimented with condiments such as hot chili paste, fresh cilantro, fresh sliced onions, and lime.
When reading the ingredients out, one can get the impression that it may taste something akin to Mexican Cuisine. The flavor profile of Khao Soi, however, is like nothing I have ever tasted, before or after. It was silky and powerful at the same time, a metaphor of the Great Kingdom it was.
Thapae Gate Markets, Chaing Mai
We had a few renditions of the dish while there, one being at a weekend market at the Thapae Gate. If there is one market to experience while in Chiang Mai, it is this one.
This market is gigantic and is an evening all to itself. Yes, there are good deals to be had when it comes to clothing, art, etc. It is, however, the food options and it’s colorful vendors that separate it from all the others. It was so hard to stop sampling the food in Chiang Mai!
Where to find the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai
However, if you were to ask me where we had our best version of Khao Soi, it would have to be the one we had during a Lanna Bike and Boat tour we took with Buffalo Tours in an ancient city about an hour away from Central Chiang Mai called, Wiang Kum Kam.
The bike tour took us through temple ruins, which were also significant in terms of lineage, as the temples are aesthetically and architecturally closer to those found in Burma and Laos as opposed to ones found in Southern Thailand.
Being on a bike also allowed us to weave in and out of the lovely community of traditional houses and lush land. It was also fun riding as a family and working up an appetite.
We biked toward the dock for the second portion of our tour. Which was an amazing boat ride on the majestic Ping River.
On this segment, we saw the dichotomy of living in a place like Chiang Mai. On the same river, where people still fished as they did in ancient times, there were 5-Star accommodations lining the banks.
The trip culminated with a visit to an amazing traditional farmhouse. Stepping off the boat, we were brought to a place that seemed secluded from everywhere else, The Thai Farmhouse Restaurant.
There were rabbits, hogs, chickens, and all sorts of herbs and fruit growing wildly. This gave the place, which was hidden under the shade of the trees that surround it, a feeling of being self-sustained and away from modern times. It was here that we had the best Khao Soi.
This gave the place, which was hidden under the shade of the trees that surround it, a feeling of being self-sustained and away from modern times. It was here that we had the best Khao Soi.
A great place to work for digital nomads
This city isn’t just about ancient ruins and upholding traditions, it is also a city looking toward the future. Of all the places we have traveled, Chiang Mai is hands down the champion of being “connected”.
For an almost unbelievably small fee of 50 Baht ($1.50), one can pick up a sim card from a communication company, named AIS, and have unlimited WiFi just about everywhere in the city. It put to rest our worry of roaming charges.
Camp Workspace, Maya, Chaing Mai
It’s also a city that hosts many people like ourselves, who work on the road.
There are many platforms set up for those who need a semblance of an office. One of the best places for this is a workspace named, Camp, on the top floor of the most famous mall in Chiang Mai, Maya.
This space, which is free of charge if you have your own wifi, and only the cost of a cup of coffee if you don’t, was where we as a family were able to work and do our homeschooling with our daughter.
If work gets a little tedious, just head out onto the mall and take a breather. It is, like most malls, filled with eateries and shops. If fresh air is what’s needed, there is a rooftop where there are a few places to sneak in a drink.
One time, we took a breather for the rest of the evening by seeing a movie at the cinema that sat just across the way from the workspace.
On Mondays through Wednesdays, the last show is discounted to the equivalent of about $1.50 USD. It always served as a good treat after a good days work.
This part of town has many dining options, but our favorite is having a bite and a drink at the many eateries at a manmade village named, Think Park.
We especially enjoyed a small hut-like restaurant that specializes in Pad Thai. There are also mini alleys to meander about, filled with lovely little boutiques and usually there is some live music being played. A good place to spend an evening with family and friends.
Chiang Mai temples
Chiang Mai has its share of temples, and the best way to see them is to probably just hop on a tuk-tuk and be brought around from one to the other. If there are more than two of you, taking one for a few hours can cost significantly less than any tour.
There will be many people offering to take you on the tours to see the tigers, but we much preferred going to see the felines at Catmosphere.
It’s a little left off center, as far as sights are concerned, but a fun few hours none-the-less. These cats are treated like princes and princesses. No need to worry about how the animals are treated here, as opposed to some of those tiger kingdoms.
There is no shortage of street food in Chiang Mai, as there is no shortage of Wifi. There certainly isn’t a shortage of friendliness.
As it has been for most of our travels, it’s the authentic smiles and kind gestures from strangers that make a place such as this so enriching and special.
Thank you, Amy and Buffalo Tours for a fantastic time in Chiang Mai. Thoughts and words by Andrew.
Plan Your Trip to Chiang Mai
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Have you visited Chiang Mai with your family or as a digital nomad? What advice do you have? Share your tips or ask any questions in the comments below.