Why Chiang Mai is a great place to work for digital nomads

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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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Wat Chai Mongkol Temple in Wiang Kum Kam in Chiang Mai.

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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Khao Soi at Thae Pae Gate

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.Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog

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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Wat That Khao in Wiang Kum Kam during our Lanna Bike and Boat Tour.

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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Thai Farmhouse during our tour with Buffalo Tours.

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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog

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.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Pad Thai at Think Park.

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.

Think Park

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, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog
Wat Chedi Liem Temple in Wiang Kum Kam in Chiang Mai.

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.Chiang Mai, Thailand. Northern Comfort via @ytravelblog

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

Accommodation

  • Booking.com has over 800 properties in Chiang Mai including hotels, apartments, and guesthouses. You get free cancelation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

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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.

19 thoughts on “Why Chiang Mai is a great place to work for digital nomads”

  1. Glad I came across this, I will be in Thailand in April and my friend I’m meeting wants to go the the Elephant Sanctuary in Chang Mai. It will be interesting to see the rest of it too! Good luck with your travels guys! 🙂

    1. Hey George: You will love the town. Lots to see, so if you can carve out some time to at the very least get some real food in you, go to that market I spoke of.

  2. Really glad I came across this. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand, but it’s always seemed so…intimidating, to me. I hear different accounts from everywhere, but this seems to be the first thing I’ve read that wasen’t about Bangkok. Getting around is pretty easy too, with a free promo code from Lyft and Uber. For a free promo code for Uber and Lyft, check out http://ridesharepricepermile.com. They have free promo codes for Lyft and Uber, and a handy tool that tells you how much they cost to use wherever you are!

  3. We lived last year for 8 months in Chiang Mai and just returned again for another while. We simply love this place, I have never been anywhere else, where I get so much life quality for such a small amount of money. We live in a nice apartment with pool for less than $200/month, the food is amazing, healthy and affordable here and we have everything nearby you could only dream of. The climate is great, not too hot and the amount of activities you can do here is overwhelming. We keep coming back here, for a good reason. Chiang Mai is truly a wonderful place to live.

    1. Andrew M. Tolentino

      I agree, Sab. It is a great place to really just settle for a while. The cost of living doesn’t hurt, and the community of nomads like us are also quite welcoming. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Such a good place. Left Chiang Mai exactly a month ago and can’t wait to get back in a couple months. Nicely played including Think Park, it’s getting popular!

    1. Andrew M. Tolentino

      Thanks Jub. Glad you enjoyed yourself there and enjoyed the piece. Hope you get back there soon. Best, Andrew

  5. Nice article. A heads up to those interested in the Catmosphere Cafe, there’s a minimum age of 5yrs. We didn’t know this and walked 2km only to have our 2yr old turned away. 🙁 We ended up visiting The Harbour complex just down the road from Catmosphere (towards Maya) and had a good time.

  6. Having spent nearly 4 years traveling Thailand, I regret not spending more time in the north of the country.

    Will back for sure soon and plan on making Chang Mai my base and seeing more of the north.

    Great post

  7. We found Chiang Mai to be too touristy, but we wanted to go to the Elephant Nature Park, so needed to make a stop there. That said, our girls (6 & 8 at the time) loved taking the Thai cooking class, which I highly recommend for families. Unfortunately, Chiang Mai is the only place on our 6 month Round the World trip were one of us got sick from the food, and it was at a good restaurant, not from the street food we had in Bangkok! I guess this can happen anywhere though.

    1. Hey Sabrina, happy to hear the Thai cooking class with your kids was a hit. We did one in Phuket. That’s too bad about getting sick though, but like you said, can happen anywhere.

  8. Hi Andrew. Thanks for sharing about your travels and there is some really interesting things to see and do in Chiang Mai. One thing i really liked was the great local handmade products from local artisans, some are really unique and you just don’t find them back home.

  9. It is fine to extol the attractions of Chiang Mai, but remember that CM is within the junta-run police state governed by Prayut and his corrupt watch-loving pal Prawit. Remember too that if you say anything critical of the junta or of the monarchy or of the way that Thailand represses minorities and poor people – you will be in trouble. The Thai Army were called in to a place where I was living in recent years just because we falangs happened to disagree with some Thai owners. They had guns and backup. If you are in Thailand just don’t say anything critical. And that is not to mention the dangers of the roads – highest death-rate in the world.
    So many naiive falangs on such forums: ‘oh I love Chiang Mai so much, the people are so lovely…etc, etc’. Yes, it is lovely… until you have a problem.

  10. We’re in Chiang Mai now, having spent the last 2 months catching up on work and doing Muay Thai to get in shape (if you want to get in shape Muay Thai is the way to do it). Chiang Mai is not the perfect place, but I think it’s the EASIEST place to live as a digital nomad. Cheap, friendly, and – as everywhere else in Thailand – anything is possible.

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