I have a special guest to kick off my podcasts. In this episode you will hear from one of the leading authorities in on-line teaching on Udemy.com As an existing teacher I was able to ask Rob some specific questions to help us learn new tactics for marketing our courses.
Rob Cubbon is one of the authorities in online teaching on platforms like Udemy. He publishes regular income reports where he earns over $5000+ from Udemy and Skillshare. He also shares useful tips and tactics from online teachers. He was the first expert I came across when I was researching and trying to make the decision whether to invest time and energy into online teaching. He was sharing his income reports and some great tactics on teaching on Udemy. When I moved from Taiwan to Chiang Mai I tried to connect with him, but he had already left. I was at the Friday Nomad coffee meetup started by Johnny FD when I recognized Rob’s face. He was down to earth and friendly and we met for an informal chat November 2015. Rob was kind enough to let me record the interview at the Mana café co-workspace in Chiang Mai Thailand. I quickly prepared a list of questions. I already had over a year of on-line teaching experience under my belt so my questions will appeal to existing on-line teachers looking to take their craft to the next level. Rob is a great guy, down to earth, and very generous with his time. I wish him lots of future success.
In this particular episodes you will learn:
The pros and cons of open transparency
Keep on providing free content to build your list until it is large enough to focus on paid marketing
There is value in developing your personal brand and website especially when trying to get Udemy students to your website
There may be changes in the on-line learning landscape so focus on building your email list
Rob saves time by outsourcing the editing of his video lessons
The truth behind publishing income reports on the Internet
There are people in Chiang Mai doing very well, but as public. There is value in sharing information in your niche even if you are not the highest earner in your craft. As preparation for the interview here are a list of the questions I prepared for Rob. As I prefer a natural conversation I approach was not to interrogate Rob, so I may not have asked all these questions. Here are a list of sample questions: What have you been up to? what brings you to Chiang mai How many courses do you have published now? What is the size of your list and how often do you email them and what do you write in them? What marketing strategies are you employing (Fbook ads, email list, google marketing) Udemy as a top funnel strategy . Are you cross promoting in the video summary? I see a large part of your revenue on Udemy comes from promotion. Are you using other teaching platforms? What marketing channels are working for you on Udemy and skillshare? What are you thoughts on skilled shutting down How are you creating your courses now using what tools?
The Taiwan Digital nomad guide is designed for digital nomads or on-line workers that are interested in working and living abroad in Taiwan. I’m a Canadian that visited Taiwan in 2012 for a wedding. I returned in 2013 for a 1 year working holiday and ended up living there for almost 2.5 years. Taiwan is a gem in asia that often gets overlooked for Thailand and Indonesia. There are many benefits to Taiwan like generous tour visas.
Here are chapters in the guide
Why is Taiwan a great place to be a digital nomad (air, water, food, safety, rent etc
Digital nomad lifestyle in Chiang Mai Thailand & Taiwan
The Digital nomad lifestyle in Chiang Mai and Taiwan are two of the cities I’ve chosen to follow my dreams and pursue my passion for video. These just a peek at a typical week in either of these cities.
Chiang Mai Lifestyle
Imagine waking up to at 10am to sunshine and looking at the mountain outside your balcony. You walk 3 minutes across the street to order an americano at a trendy coffee shop/co-work space and setup your laptop for the day working on something you love and enjoy. Imagine eating delicious Thai dishes like Chicken Pad Thai or Chicken cashew nuts with rice for $2 US for lunch. You call it a day at 3pm and go for a swim and beautiful swimming pool with wifi for $2. At night you share a Hawaiian pizza with a friend for $6 and then listen to some live music and a large Singha beer for $2.80 US. You take the next day off and ride your scooter up the mountain to get some fresh air and relaxation at a monk temple with a view of Chiang Mai. You attend the nomad coffee meet at healthy B cafe to hear the latest in online business and meet new friends before heading for some drinks to start your weekend.
Imagine waking up and heading to the local taiwan restaurant for a chinese pancake and coffee for $2.45. You take a 5 minute metro ride to the local co-work space Maker Bar. For lunch you head to the famous electronic area to find some delicious Taiwanese dumplings and soy milk for $2.30. It’s 4pm and you feel like unwinding so you grab a Taiwan beer while you wrap up work. You are meeting some friends for tomato Taiwanese beef noodles at the famous Yong Kang street. After you rent a ubike to ride past Da-an park and ride home. The next day you take an amazing bike ride to Tamsui to enjoy a beautiful sun set and drink before enjoying some a delicious chicken wrap.
This is the question I’ve been pondering the past several months. This post is largely personal, but perhaps you are at the same point or you may get to this phase of your digital nomad journey.
First let me giving you a little background in case you’re just getting to know me.
In 2 days I will have spent 4 months living in Chiang Mai Thailand and almost 2 years in Taiwan.
My journey to freedom and living abroad in Taiwan
My first taste of corporate freedom came on May 2011 when I told my director I sold my Vancouver apartment and I was leaving my job to pursue my own thing. I eventually made my way to Asia for 2 months that left me wanting for more. It would have to wait because I needed to return to corporate and get a job in May 2012. It was a good gig. I had a 9 to 5pm job that paid well and even had a decent cafeteria and on-site gym I could play basketball after work. I made the 25-minute commute in my Acura TL sedan from my Yaletown studio condo to Richmond every weekday morning. Still my heart was not happy and yearning to live abroad. This was my 2nd chance to live a normal Vancouver life.
On May 2013 I left my Business Team Lead job in Vancouver sold my car and set off on a journey to Hawaii, 2 months in Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, before living abroad in Taiwan. I got an apartment, enrolled for Chinese classes at Shida, and lived life. I made friends, had romantic relationships, had great food, and was still trying to get figure out this business thing. Eventually I started teaching English at a cram school. I hated it so much that it forced me to really figure out this business thing. I discovered a way to earn an income from my videos in 2014 using stock footage and my on-line courses. My on-line earnings grew to the point I could get my time and location freedom back again. I met a digital nomad from Vancouver named Nigel during this time. He introduced me to the idea of the digital nomad lifestyle and the nomad list. Through my research I discovered that Chiang Mai seemed like the destination to be.
Return to Vancouver
I went back home to Vancouver for Christmas in 2014 to visit family and friends for a month. I enjoyed craft beer, shot stock footage, flew the drone, and saw my family and friends. It was great, but I still didn’t feel like it was time to come home to stay. The grey clouds, long rainy days, and cold didn’t help to convince me to stay. I had seen and experienced too much.
I still had unfinished business in Taiwan and Asia. I needed to improve my Chinese. I needed to improve my on-line business, and I need to travel deeper into Asia.
At the beginning of this year I began dating a Taiwanese girlfriend, and began focusing on scaling my on-line business. We went to the Pingxi festival and we wrote our dreams on our lanterns before we lit and set them off into the sky. It felt my life was starting to come together in Taiwan. I started volunteering as the photographer at a professional expat social club called Internations. I joined the local co-work space in Taipei called the Makerbar. I worked at the space during the day and would hang out with my girlfriend at night.
During the year I thought more about Chiang Mai. Sometimes it is difficult to live the life of the digital nomad especially in Taiwan where it is more common to work a traditional job. The environment offers a lot, but there is a very small on-line digital nomad community.
I met a well-known Asian American entrepreneur, Johnny FDK, who was living a good life in Chiang Mai. During a family visit to Singapore I stopped by Thailand for the first time. As I took my taxi from Chiang Mai airport to the neighborhood of Nimman I already was being charmed by the city. I returned to Taiwan with plans to relocate to Chiang Mai. I scored an amazing video opportunity with a foreign company just before I left Taipei. This would give me the funds to follow my 2015 vision.
I traveled to Okinawa Japan before moving out to Chiang Mai. I even got sponsored by an on-line company called curious to produce a drone course that I would film in Chiang Mai. My sister ended up visiting Taipei and helped me move into Chiang Mai.
I traveled deep into South East Asia with my sister and Taiwanese girlfriend visiting countries and filming Bangkok, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
I had settled into my life in Chiang Mai. I had a nice modern apartment in Nimman, I started to meet a group of solid friends, and went to work. I rented a scooter from Mango bikes for about 2400 baht a month. I was filming a drone course in the mountain jungles of Chiang Mai and the university. To get paid to film a course teaching people to fly and film with a drone in Thailand was freaking cool.
During the day I would visit the co-working spaces of Mana and Camp during the day and produce my videos. At night I would frequent the restaurants and bars of Nimman and drink cheap Singha and Leo beer. I would enjoy the live music at the rooftop bars at Nimman hill, chill with friends at Deejai Gardens, listen to live jazz at Mojo’s, or enjoy a carafe of red wine at Kafe Vino. I found some of my favorite food spots for cheap pad thai at the Maya, curries at K’s Kitchen, and even good western breakfast at Bake and bite. Once a week I would treat myself to a foot or oil massage for $6.80 US. I got back into the dating scene and started dating a local Thai girl.
Coming home to family
Still during one of my weekly Facetime calls my parents asked me to come back. I started to think about returning to life in Toronto or Vancouver. Thinking started to translate into flight and apartment shopping. Returning to Canada wouldn’t be as simple as booking a flight back.
Prices for just about everything especially accommodation is more expensive. While I can make a comfortable living in places like Chiang Mai with my on-line business is not at a stage I can enjoy time and location freedom in Canada. My dad tried to place the urgency on summer in Vancouver ending. Chiang Mai is like summer everyday so I didn’t feel that I needed to rush. In Canada thoughts crossed my mind to return to a corporate job. Yes a corporate job mostly probably related to my 13 years in IT leadership. There is a good chance with my MBA and career experience I could return to the workforce and earn a $70-90k (CDN) a year job. I also need to pay off the loan for my MBA still, which hangs over my head. My on-line business and what I love would need to take a backseat to my corporate job. Most likely if I did nothing I would bringing in an additional $28-32k Canadian a year in passive income. This could be a good scenario financially earning 100-120k (CDN) a year. I would have tons of stories, experiences, and information to share with Canadians who wanted to pursue a similar once in a lifetime adventure.
I feel like I’m taking steps forward to achieve my dream of financial freedom in Chiang Mai. I’m busy working hard on my on-line business here. I feel like I have the workspaces, fast upload Internet speeds, and supportive community to take my business to the next level. The atmosphere of working in co-working spaces together with people who made similar sacrifices certainly helps to keep me on track. You end up talking with digital nomads, and it is hard not to increase your knowledge of the familiar Internet business topics of e-books, seo, Kindle books, affiliate marketing, blogging, or building a sales funnel.
The problem is that I’ve failed to reach my financial targets. All the work I’ve produced in Chiang Mai hasn’t necessarily translated into the financial success I imagined. The longer I’m out here the further I’m delaying earning the salary I mentioned earlier.
After all the recent traveling for Chiang mai visa runs I’ve become a bit travel weary and a bit homesick. I want to be able to cross the street as a pedestrian and not have cars try to run me over. I want to have random friendly conversations with strangers. I miss being able to walk straight on a sidewalk an not have someone cut me off frequently.
It’s harder for me to imagine, but I’m usually a bit more senior in terms of my age in this digital nomad community. If I were 25 years old perhaps I wouldn’t think twice continuing what I’m doing. However, I’m 37 and because of that I think a bit differently. Maybe I’m a bit grumpier too I would love to have some kids, have financial freedom, take care of my parents, and be able to see my family more often. Is returning to Canada, starting a job, getting married, buying a home, and living with kids the solution? Should I be not be content with what I’ve seen, done, and experienced already?
Chances are I would bored and chained up to a company after a year or 2.
Is there another way to think of this? A redefinition of what I refer to as home. One of my longer-term goals I envisioned having more than one home in the world. A home you could come to 3-6 months at a time to escape the weather and high prices. Every city has something to offer and pros and cons. Vancouver has awesome Cantonese foods, mary jane, beautiful scenery, the seawall, and generally a higher quality of life. The downside is the fall and winter grey clouds and non stop rain. All if forgiven because our beautiful 3 month summers where all we want to do is get outdoors, exercise, drink coffee on the patio, or do something near the seawall or water.
Taipei has an excellent transportation system, is super convenient, cheaper than the west, and excellent noodles and dumplings. However, the buildings are old and owning property is super expensive. There are the regular typhoons and earthquakes and almost everywhere is crowded. There is a small digital nomad community and there are the language barrier issues.
Singapore is the most developed English-speaking city in Asia, one of the safest and cleanest, and is a great travel hub. However, expensive prices for most things from accommodation, driving, and booze set back this city. The Island is pretty small and the perfection can be boring for some.
Chiang Mai has regular hot weather and beautiful mountain and jungle scenery. Nimman is a trendy and upcoming neighborhood that offers everyone one could need. It is a renter friendly city allowing one to rent a scooter or apartment with ease and no hassles. The lifestyle here is easy and cost of living some of the lowest in the world. You have a strong community of Digital nomads and it’s easy to rent here. However; Thailand’s one-month tourist visa is inconvenient leading to visa workarounds to extended stays. I would be great to have more pavements and pedestrian traffic crossings that are longer than 7 seconds long. The burning season from February to April results in thick smoke making it unbearable to live here during these months. The heat combined with the air pollution from the tuk tuks, motor bikes, and red trucks leads to lower air quality that I’m used to from Vancouver.
Perhaps I have to redefine what I call home? After all my travels one thing is for sure. Chiang Mai is definitely a place I could see myself coming back on a regular basis living here for part of the year. Some places like Tokyo are great to visit, but destinations are great to live. Chiang Mai is one of those places.
What conclusion have I come to? I am grateful for the great lifestyle that I’ve had in Chiang Mai. The business opportunities that have come my way. I’ve traveled and experienced more in this part of the world than I could ever imagine.Would I like to travel more. Of course I would!
Working in a corporate job for a short time, can help me with financial stability. Perhaps I would be happy to pay off the MBA loan and regroup. Can I see myself going through 2-hour meetings and waking up at 8am every morning to commute to work? After the freedom I’ve experienced I would have to say no. Perhaps I could develop my video business in Canada and North America. The video opportunities I’ve had in Chiang Mai will lead to an impressive video portfolio. Sometimes I have to wrestle with the rational side of my brain tries to over analyze and calculate before making a decision. I still have faith and belief that following your passion and heart will lead to success. I’m enjoying the journey. This journey has taught to have the courage and faith to follow your heart. It has taken time to develop the instinct to trust my feelings to make a decision that feels right.
Right now it feels like its time to return home to Vancouver for now. To answer the question of what is it time to go home for yourself I believe you also have to be honest with yourself and learn to trust your feelings. I don’t know what the future holds. I do know what I want. I want to spend some time with my family. I want to do paid talks to inspire Canadians and Westerners about the freedom lifestyle that is available to them. I want to teach people to learn to find their passion and calling and to develop the courage to pursue it. I want to do aerial videography in Canada perhaps for golf courses or resorts. I want to enjoy a cup of JJ bean coffee, Christmas parties with some craft beer and cabernet savignon with my friends, and home cooking with the family.
I want to build a business with solar energy and bringing and cleaner air to countries. I want to empower locals in popular digital nomad countries to build their own businesses and improve their lives. I’ve seen how clean and developed cities like Singapore are. I want to bring some of that cleanliness and fix the pavements in Chiang Mai. I have grand ambitions beyond just being a digital nomad. How will it all happen? I don’t know.
For now If I’ve inspired you to live a free live and to listen to your heart this long post would have been worth it.
Where to work in Chiang Mai as a Digital Nomad Video Creator & Instructor
Many of the digital nomads who I’ve met in Chiang Mai usually fall into the category of affiliate marketer, e-book writer, seo guru, coder or developer, freelancer, dropshipper, blogger, or podcaster. I’ve met only a handful of video creators or on-line instructors. The goal of this article is to give content creators an idea of where to work in Chiang Mai as a content creator. My main business is video stock footage, which in a nutshell is selling my video clips on Internet marketplaces. I also teach video on-line courses on platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare.
A video creator has unique requirements and I spent some time in Chiang Mai figuring out the environment especially in the Nimman area. Nimman is the trendy neighborhood that is home to most digital nomads and co-working spaces. The problem is that your typical coffee or co-work space with wifi won’t cut it sometimes.
Where to produce as a Stock footage Videographer
As a stock footage videographer you just have to get out and shoot footage. If you’re staying in Nimman you can walk through the Soi’s to find plenty of interesting things to film to begin. You could even film video of digital nomads since it’s a growing trend. To see more of Chiang Mai you’ll need to take a red truck or rent a scooter. If you live here you’ll eventually you’ll need to do a visa run so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get fresh footage from neighboring countries.
Where to produce as an On-line instructor
As an on-line instructor you may need to record somewhere quiet or if you’re teaching a niche topic like my drone course you’ll be filming out in the field. Most likely you will need to film in a quiet place indoors and will discover that there are no co-work spaces with video friendly soundproofed rooms ready to produce Youtube stars. I rented a one-bedroom apartment that has a nice living room space to film my videos. I paid a bit more for this resource so I took advantage of it rather than pay extra for a meeting room. If you do require a meeting room you can check out the Mana co-workspace, which has Skype rooms (25 baht hour) that could function as your recording room. A nice option with great Internet access is at the Camp creative workspace located in the Maya mall. You can occupy the room for 3 hours with a 500 baht spend. The rooms are nice with everything you may need from power, LCD TV, and Internet. Pun Space at the Tha Pae gate also offers large meeting rooms that you could use to record a course. There are also many café’s in Nimman and it is possible you can make an arrangement to film a course there. A few digital nomads have used the Sangdee Art Galley, which is a quiet 2 level café to hold workshops. I don’t see why one couldn’t film some lessons here.
Where to edit
After you’ve got your footage you’ll be ready to edit. You can actually do this anywhere, and you don’t really need Internet access. I prefer to have a larger screen than my 15-inch laptop screen to edit. Most apartment rentals have a modern LCD flat panel that you can connect your laptop to with an HDMI cable. I use the LCD as a second display to maximize my screen real estate. When I get out of the house I also find I can get a lot of editing work done at the Mana co-work space. They have quiet environment with all your basic needs (power, internet, bathroom, water, tea, safe, cheap good eats) taken care so you can focus on your editing. They also have great friendly staff with genuine warmth and customer service that you learn to appreciate if you’ve live in Asia for a long period of time. The camp creative space can also be an inspiring environment to edit especially with the Mountain View on a nice day. When it gets crowded it can also be counter productive. Another less well-known option is the Mac Café. At this café there are a couple of IMacs that you can connect your hard-drive and work off of. I’ve copied my entire system onto my external hard-drive so I can connect my LaCie 1tb thunderbolt hard drive and just use the IMac as a big screen.
Where to upload
When I’ve done editing I’ll need to get the video files to the Internet. The fastest option for this is at Camp. If you purchase the super Wi-Fi Ais sim card on the 3rd floor you can use the 100 mps upload speeds to get your content uploaded very quickly. Most co-work spaces have decent download speeds in the 5-20mbps ranges, but their upload speeds are a lame 5mbps. The current co-work space spaces with exception of Camp are not really catered for content creators. I can get a 1gb batch of video files uploaded in minutes at Camp! If I’m just uploading a one-off video file I can just upload from home before I go out and it will be done before I go home. Watch this live upload from Camp. Almost 1gb in a minute.
check out the amazing upload speeds for my videos live. almost 1gb in 1 min uploaded from Chiang Mai
There you have it. I hope I can save content creators some time figuring out their workflow and where to do it. The Camp workspace really is a special resource that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. It’s upload speeds are the fastest I’ve seen, it is the largest, 24 hours, and if you get the AIS sim card it is the cheapest. This also has made it the most popular, and it’s not uncommon to be very crowded.
I’ve had a vision of a space catered for artists and content creators. A place for aspiring Youtube stars or on-line instructors to record their videos in a soundproofed studio room with adequate lighting. Read more about that in this article.
If you take a look at Chiang Mai Thailand on the map you can see that is nearby destinations such as Myanmar (Burma), Laos Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. In fact South East Asia is home to Siem Riep and Hanoi, which are currently within Trip Advisor’s 2015 top 5 destinations. I’ve been working and living from Taiwan for the past 2 years and for the past 3 months Chiang Mai has been my base. I’m going to explain why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deeper in South East Asia.
Chiang Mai is currently one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads, people who earn their living on-line through an overseas income. The reasons for this are many from great weather, good Internet, it’s safe, cheap, and easy to find monthly accommodation. Digital nomads like to live in a location from a month to 6 months and then move onto the next destination. Even if you are not a digital nomad Chiang Mai is still a great base if you prefer slower longer-term travel and want to explore more of South East Asia as I have done.
As a creative digital nomad in my late thirties I prefer a little comfort and have become more settled. I’ve found 2 places in the world other than Vancouver I have lived and called home. That is Taipei, Taiwan and Chiang Mai Thailand. Thailand offers 30-day tourist visa’s for most Western countries if you just show up with your passport. Some digital nomads like to get the coveted triple entry 60-day tourist visa. This allows you to maximize your stay in Thailand for up to 9 months. I’m not the visa expert here and this is not the scope of this article. My point is that if you choose Chiang Mai as your base you can travel to a neighboring country and return for another 30 days to relax in Chiang Mai. Here are some countries I visited during my stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand – an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Chiang Mai is one of those special destinations in the world that has a lot of offer with few trade-offs. It’s surrounded by mountains and blessed with mostly sunny dry weather. You can enjoy local living in the trendy area of Nimmanhamen, which has an abundance of bars with live music, restaurants, coffee shops, massage shops, and co-working spaces. Many foreigners enjoy living here or want to live here for this reason. I credit discovering this area to a prominent digital nomad named Johnny FD who shares a lot about living life here. Of course Chiang Mai is not all about Nimman and you might want to take a Red Truck or Tuk Tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple up on the mountain. You can even rent a scooter for $70 US a month and have real mobile independence. The night market is good to get some good cheap buys like a wood smartphone cover, elephant pants, or a cool t-shirt. If you want to live here it’s as simple as walking to an apartment to ask for the price and take a look at the suite. Get a simple studio for $200 US or get a comfortable luxury condo for $500 US and you’ve got your base in Chiang Mai
Highlights of Chiang Mai
My comfortable apartment and enjoying living in Nimman and Chiang Mai
Meeting new like-minded friends to work and party with
Working at cool co-working spaces like Camp and Mana
Good cheap local food like Pad Thai’s and Chicken Basil Rice
Enjoying a Leo at a local live bar or from the Nimman Hill Rooftop
Renting a scooter to drive up into the mountains to visit a Buddhist Temple or enjoy the scenery
Taking some photos in the cage with Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Going for good cheap Thai, foot, and oil massages
I believe Myanmar (Burma) just opened up to tourists in 2012. Myanmar’s main city is Yangon, which is a comfortable one-hour flight for less than $127 US. The people in Myanmar are so friendly and curious about where you are from. I think it’s because they recently opened up to tourism and are not used to seeing tourists. In July 2015 the first KFC opened in Yangon and Western fast food. It was crazy busy, and compared to some local options is a luxury experience. This is the exception though and most of the country is still unspoiled by the west. The country is safe and the food was excellent.
Highlights of Myanmar
Walking around taking in the sunset and night atmosphere of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Buying good and cheap Myanmar whiskey, rum, beer, and coffee
Checking out a chic Shisha rooftop Martini bar
Riding an e-bike temple hunting in Bagan
Enjoying the wide selection of curries and rices
Siem Riep Angkor Wat
Siem Riep is a 1 hour flight from Bangkok and Chiang Mai is 1 hour from Bangkok. The main reason to come here is to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple and the other surrounding temples. You can enjoy a comfortable stay with a swimming pool at a good price. You can hire a Tuk tuk to enjoy the sunrise and visit Angkor Wat and visit the Angelina Jolie temple (Ta Prohm), where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.
Highlights of Siem Riep
The experience waking up early to see an Angkor Wat sunrise
Temple hunting on Tuk tuk
Renting an E-bike to self ride through the city and the temples on my own
Relaxing at my hotel with a swimming pool
Chilling for drinks and food at Pub street during day and night
The delicious jungle burger
Using US currency
Going to Vietnam is a different experience than the other countries. It’s worth it for the food though. Hanoi is less than a 2-hour flight from Bangkok and you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. It costs about $45 US and $18 US to ride into town. I recently discovered that like Saigon it has heavy scooter traffic where crossing the street is an experience in itself. You can try Chicken noodle soup for breakfast and some pretty good western food. You can walk through the old quarter and enjoy good eats and shopping. Trip Advisor’s poster image gave me the impression that Hanoi would be more laid back and offer natural landscapes. However, I made the best out of the situation. I stayed in the old quarter at a central well reviewed trip advisor hotel for $18 Us.
Highlights of Hanoi
Good and cheap chicken and beef pho
Cheap and good Vietnamese sandwiches
Excellent spring rolls
A food tour where I got to discover street foods
Enjoying Vietnamese coffee French style people watching
Good shopping for Fedora or military style hats
Going for a sunrise walk around Ho Kiem Lake
Enjoying a Hanoi beer with cheese sticks
Making local friends at Gecko bar and Highlands coffee
Enjoying a Hanoi beer at Avalon lounge with a view of the lake
Filming the craziness of Ta hien
Getting my selfie stick from the market
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Saigon was my introduction to Vietnam. I heard some good things about it from other Digital nomads. If you haven’t been to Vietnam before you may find it chaotic and noisy. I found a great cheap well-reviewed hotel in Trip Advisor that made this stay more comfortable. It was hard to find but was located in a narrow alley that introduced us to the morning street markets right outside our hotel. I enjoyed French influenced foods like crepes and sandwiches. Some of our favorite restaurants were located in the French area near the Notre-Dame Basilica. The military museum is interesting some fun photo ups with military tanks and planes as well as learning about the war. I hated the night market and if you’ve been to the Taipei night markets this doesn’t compare. This city will keep you on your toes and isn’t boring.
Highlights of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Trying out Vietnamese coffee and buying a coffee maker and bag to take with me
The Chu Chi tunnel tour – The friendly and funny guide and making a new Irish friend
Getting buzzed at a Chic Australian owned lounge at Happy hour
Cool photo ops at the War Remnants Museum and the cultural experience
Pho for breakfast and crepes for dinner
I know I’m just scratching the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about Chiang Mai , Thailand, or South East Asia then sign up to my newsletter. I’m thinking of creating guide to include the following
Chiang Mai living guide
The actual hotels I stayed at, flights I took, and how I got around
Sample costs so you don’t get taken advantage of
Where I got travel insurance for myself and my gear
Survival tips – How to get around and not get taken advantage of
Must try foods and restaurant recommendations
Info on Sim card plans
Tips on where to get the best Photo and Video ops
Food and drink maps
I’m also thinking of writing why Taiwan is an ideal base to explore Japan, China, and Hong Kong
Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
If you are living in Taiwan and want to know where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan I got you covered. This article is targeted at the digital nomad on-line workers. I’ve met younger guys in their twenties that drink a lot, but don’t seem to exercise that much. As someone in my late thirties with a Dad constantly reminded me to take care of my health I’ve taken a healthy lifestyle to heart wherever I go. This includes exercise and eating healthy. I’m not a perfect role model by any means, but I believe I live a balanced lifestyle.
My first 6 months spent in Taipei were at the National Taiwan Normal University more commonly referred to by locals as “Shida”. If you are a student at the school you can purchase a monthly pass for 500nt. The gym offers free weights and some machines. There are limited hours for the gym, but the price is cheap and if you are studying it is a good option. The gym is located almost across the street from the Chinese school in the basement.
Public sports centers
These are the equivalent of community sports centers back in Canada except you don’t need any membership. There are numerous sports centers throughout Taipei, but not are equal. The sports centers offer a pretty modern gym with most of the free weights and machines that you need. Depending on the sports center they may offer additional facilities like swimming pools, full-size gyms, or even yoga classes. To use the weight rooms cost 50nt and they all enforce a strict one-hour policy and mandatory towel. It’s amazing how productive you can be with a paid time constraint. All these sports centers offer free water and free and paid lockers. They even offer a weight machine and high tech blood pressure machine.
My favorite gym was Songshan sports center (臺北松山運動中心) located at the Taipei Arena MRT. They have a large but busy weight room. They have punch bags that I loved to use for a cardio workout as well as a stress outlet. Songshan sports center also has a running track outside that can be seen from the weight room’s patio. I also loved that there is an Olympic sized running track 1-minute walk away. You are also minutes away from the local hip area of Dunhua Sogo area and plenty of good eats. They have a swimming pool at this center although they strictly enforce that men wear tight speedos and hair caps. Even if you wanted to wear these speedos they are not cheap. One of my favorite places to work is also near here. They serve good coffee have comfortable seating and good desks with reliable Wi-Fi. I‘ll talk more about places to work in my digital nomad guide.
Zhongshan sports center (臺北市中山運動中心) located a 5 minute walk from the Zhongshan MRT is also one of my favorites. Located in a trendy area with good eats the gym is a little quieter, smaller, and harder to find. What I like about the Zhongshan gym is that is has a pretty good swimming pool and spa facility. I used to make a long journey to the Da-an sports center just to use their pool, steam room, and water massage machines. Zhongshan offers all these facilities and is usually not as busy. Best of all you can use this pool with western style swim-shorts.
Running tracks & trails
If the gym is not your thing Taipei have plenty of good and free options for you to run. As previously mentioned I think the Taipei arena at Songshan is a good option. In addition to the sports center just beside the center there are 2 cushioned running tracks. One is smaller and the other is an Olympic sized arena. I loved running in the Olympic area. It is a cushioned track with water machines and bathrooms. The stadium also filters out a lot of the city noise and wind. It closes at 10pm
Other running options and basketball
You can also run around Da-an Park and on the trails. Even though this is the largest park in Taipei there is a lot of people and bicycle traffic to compete with. There are many bike paths on the city outskirts by the riverside that are also quieter and serene.
There are many schools throughout Taipei with basketball courts and tracks. After school is finished (usually by 5pm) the public can use the facilities. The Taiwanese are crazy about basketball, so it should be easy to find a pickup game.
Being a formerly ranked competitive junior tennis player I became a pretty decent player and brought my tennis rackets with me to Taiwan. There are courts near the Dajia riverside and Guting Riverside Park with lights. It’s difficult to get to these areas if you don’t have a motorbike or bicycle. Even if you do make it there you need someone that is at a similar level. I was lucky to meet a Taiwanese girl through a site called Tennis tonic in Singapore who introduced me to some Taiwan friends that were good players. Once you find one good partner its not a bad idea to challenge other good pairs to doubles and expand your network.
Biking can be a good way to get exercise in Taipei. New Taipei city tends to have smaller and crowded sidewalks. You can buy a bike or if you have an easy card you can easily rent a U-bike. An easy card is the public metro value card. The rate is 10nt for every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours. Once you’ve registered you just tap your card at the many bike stations throughout the city. Once you tap out it automatically deducts the value. You don’t need a helmet, but perhaps it is a good idea to wear one if you are riding in the city. The app lets you know where the bike stations are in the city as well as how many bikes are available. My favorite rides were along the dajia riverside where you get a nice view and it’s peaceful. If you want a nice long ride go from Yuanshan Park to beitou, but just be warned that there isn’t u-bike park stations there. For specific map routes and pictures you can see my digital nomad guide.
Taiwan has many hiking routes. I’m not a regular hiker, but when I do I always recommend going up to the Elephant mountain trail (象山). There are no elephants here, but this is a well-paved 30-minute one way-walking trail that offers the best view of Taipei 101 and the downtown area. Lucky you the city recently built an MRT station (象山 Xiangshan in Chinese or Elephant mountain) a 5-minute away from the start of the trail. Bring a camera, water, towel, and maybe some beers to celebrate at top around sunset.
I’m sure by the time you read this you would have heard about the Beitou hot springs located in new Beitou. The cheaper hotspring which is called Millenium is more backpacker style with a senior crowd and coin operated hot showers. The nicer hot springs are at the nice hotels, which are more expensive and require you to go nude with the same sex.
My favorite spot to relax and meditate was at the pool at Da-an sports center. I would use the spa area to water massages at the many machines. For about 110nt you can use the pool. I think it was either 3 hours or unlimited. Either way it is long enough to enjoy the water-bed and steam room.
The Dharma Drum center is a Buddhist organized offering foreigners free meditation classes in English. Don’t worry you don’t need to be Buddhist, but I recommend you try to respectful of the their beliefs and listen to the monk or instructor and you will be fine. The main center is near Taipei main and ximending MRT and classes are usually half day. I enjoyed just doing some light stretches and guided meditation in a group setting. It is very relaxing and a chance to work on your meditation in a comfortable environment.
I will mention a secret and quiet beach area in Taipei. It has almost nothing there, not many people and very peaceful. My ex-girlfriend introduced it to me and we had a beautiful day on the beach. Since it is past Tamsui you can head there after for a nice drink at sunset.
Taiwan is a convenient city and you can easily find many clean parks in your neighborhood with benches and pagoda’s. One of my favorite things to do was get some lunch and city at the park and watch the kids play at the playground. You can easily loose your thoughts and relax in the park.
A solution to the frequent Question mark of death for Mac laptops
I hope you don’t have the same issue as I had, but if you have been getting the frequent question mark of death when trying to boot up your MacBook. I want to give you a solution that has worked for me. I’m happy to share the solution!
I was frustrated at the advice that was currently on the web so I decided to once again put on my IT hat and write a post with one possible solution that won’t cost you a lot and that you can do yourself.
Being a digital nomad in Taiwan my laptop is my livelihood, so I was freaking out for the last 48 hours. I had plans to travel to Thailand, but after this scare I was thinking of an early return to Canada. Yes some drama. I have an early MacBook Pro 2013 15inch Retina currently on Yosemite 10.10.2 I used for creating many videos and on-line courses. I have a 13-year background in IT so I have some technical chops that I could lean on to figure this out
Who is this for?
MacBook Pro’s or MacBook air owners with frequent blinking question mark folders when powering on your laptop. I’m going to write a solution in lamen’s terms that you can do yourself.
This solution should work with most recent MacBook Pro’s or MacBook airs with a thunderbolt connection, the one with the lightning bolt.
I started to get frequent blinking folders with question marks infrequently and then more frequently. The common advice on the web is to hold down the option key, which will give you an option to select the start-up disk. They then recommend you go to system preferences to set the startup disk. Great I did this, but then it started to happen more frequently.
I would hold down option at start-up, but it wouldn’t find the internal storage. I even started to press command R to bring up the emergency options. I would then see a spinning globe call Internet recovery. This would install the operating system from the Internet and wipe out my hard drive. I didn’t want that, and besides the laptop couldn’t find the main internal hard drive anyways.
When did it happen?
I think it happened around the time I installed OS X Mavericks. I’m always weary when it comes to upgrading operating systems. In my experience with upgrading the operating systems whether it ‘s an iPhone, windows desktop, or in this case a Mac laptop there is a high chance that something will not work.
What did I do?
I had a hunch it might be a hardware issue, but there was a chance it might be software related. To make sure it wasn’t a software issue I recommend doing the following
1. Turn on time-machine and make sure you have a full-backup
The time-machine back is awesome because it will backup the OSX with all your apps and data unlike the old Windows backup. Make sure you have a successful backup. Disconnect any external hard-drives that you are not going to back up to during this backup otherwise it will take up more space. It will give you the estimated size of back up. If you can’t find time machine search by the spotlight logo and open the clock logo in the top-right.
2. Upgrade your operating system to the latest and backup again
Yes I know I don’t like this, but you have to go in logical steps. Make sure you have a previous back up in the operating system. After upgrading to the latest try starting up your laptop. If you’re still having the problem make sure you back up your system again with the new operating system
3. Replace your hard-drive at the apple store or do it yourself
At this point it looked like my hunch that there were a hardware problem was correct. I found a great resource if you wanted to open up the laptop yourself and try fix the hard drive cable or replace it. This has never been my strong suit so I thought hard for another solution.
I went to a premium apple reseller, as there are no Apple stores in Taipei. They wanted 800nt just to look at it and tell me what the problem was. On top of that they need my laptop for 3 days. This wasn’t an option.
In case you want to do it yourself this site is awesome and provides all the information
4. Restoring your system onto an external hard-drive
You will need to find a space external hard drive. I recommend a 1tb thunderbolt hard-drive, as you need fast access. I’ve always relied on this hard-drive for intense video editing and it has been fine. Thunderbolt is awesome, but expensive.
You will need to Press command and R at the same time at boot up. This will give you the option to access the disk utility and restore using time machine.
You will need to format your hard-drive with Mac OS journaled using the disk utility. After formatting select the option to restore your system on the external hard drive. Make sure you backup your stuff on this hard drive, as it will wipe out everything.
I tried restoring my system onto an external USB 3 hard-drive. It took a long time, but it worked. The system was as slow as a turtle so I made some space on my LaCie 1tb thunderbolt hard drive and restore it on there. I went for a workout as it takes a while. When I came back I restarted the laptop. Anxious to see if my solution worked I logged it after seeing the Apple logo for a long time. The system was a bit chopping doing things on the laptop, but slow on anything on the actual laptop. My instinct was to restart right away. When it came back up things were crisp.
The benefit of this solution is that I didn’t have to open up my laptop and I can now use my laptop with all your programs. I was asked for the serial key to my MS office, and I tried loading Final Cut Pro X for video editing. Everything has been fine so far. Technically I could select the internal hard-drive, but this would give me random success. I could also replace the internal hard-drive at some point if there was an apple store. I think the internal hard drive at 500gb SSD goes for about $105 on this site. In the process I can still use my external hard-drive, but I’ve lost about 200gb on my 1gb to the system. Whew I can take off my IT hat for now.
In this 4 part video series I’m going to chat with Johnny FD about Chiang Mai and Taipei digital nomad lifestyle. If you read the current blogs on the web in 2015 and recent years there seems to be a consensus that Chiang Mai is the digital nomad capital of the world. Some of the factors include the low cost of living, weather, great food, and large digital nomad community. Taipei offers most of these benefits as well to varying degrees including friendlier visa policies. After my interview I came to the conclusion that the largest difference between the two was the lack of a digital nomad community.
My research about the Chiang Mai lifestyle led to me finding Johnny FD, and American who came to Chiang Mai and built his new life and business.
As March and April are the 2 months to avoid Chiang Mai I managed to connect with him during his visit to Taipei for a 4-part series video interview filmed at the Maker Bar.
I will be traveling to Chiang Mai during April/May 2015 to sample the lifestyle first-hand in Chiang Mai.
In the interview some of what you will learn are:
• Drop-shipping business model
• Cost of living prices of Chiang Mai and Taipei for apartments and foods
• Comparing Taipei and Chiang Mai as ideal destinations for digital nomads
• Where to get cheap flights from Chiang Mai to Taipei
• Food tips in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Talking about co-working spaces in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Visa-runs in Chiang Mai and Taipei
Please sign up to receive links to the 3rd and 4th videos as well as great footage and posts on Chiang Mai after my visit.
Resources for Chiang Mai and Taipei Digital Nomad lifestyle