Is the magic still in Chiang Mai Thailand?

Is the magic still in Chiang Mai Thailand leading into 2018?

Does Chiang Mai still have the charm and magic for digital nomads and location independents as we approach 2018? Was it overhyped? For many people Chiang Mai was the starting point or ground zero to bootstrap and get your business off the ground. I started my journey in Taiwan for 2 years on a working holiday before I came to Thailand. After spending more than 6 months in Chiang I got bored and the little cultural frustrations started to mount. I and other nomads started exploring many other destinations around the world from Bali, Budapest to Medillion. After living long term in other destinations it’s easier to see where a city excels or is lacking. Is Chiang mai still a top choice? After exploring Bangkok, Penang, Bali, and Vancouver I was wondering the same thing.

 

After enjoying the cheap craft beers and plentiful high quality marijuana in Vancouver, the great ocean vibes and food of Penang, and world class co-work spaces of Bangkok where does Chiang Mai stack up?

Cheap Accommodation

Basic needs come first and Chiang Mai is the top destination to find comfortable and affordable accommodation.  After the frustration I went through to find a good place in Vancouver Chiang mai is a nice relief.  Not only is the cost affordable, but the rent process and structure is so straightforward. Rent a week, month, 3 months or long no problem.

Low Costs

Chiang Mai is not the cheapest for everything. Co-work space memberships, western food, and craft beer are often pricier than other destinations. When you factor in your overall monthly costs Chiang Mai is probably one of the cheapest destinations I’ve lived in without compromising quality of life and safety. My estimated monthly budget for value comfort living is under $1000 US. You can go a lot lower than this if needed.

Safety

Aside for watching out for car traffic or if you choose to ride a motorbike I feel safer in Chiang Mai than in Vancouver or Capetown South Africa. The local thai people are in general not as aggressive as Canadians and when you leave your laptop at a cafe or your phone in your bike there is a good chance it will still be there. When I work from a cafe or library in Vancouver I constantly worry about theft. When I was living in Gastown Vancouver there are a lot of sketchy characters and areas around with a chip on their shoulder. Vancouver suburbs are a lot safer in general, but Vancouver downtown depending on your location and time of day there are times I do not feel safe. Yes I know Vancouver is ranked one of the most livable cities in the world.

Community

Nowhere I’ve been compares to Chiang Mai for meeting great digital nomads, expats, or just down to earth friendly foreign or local thai people.  The Chiang Mai sophmore’s or veterans can get meeting new people fatigue, but I found it interesting that these old faces migration patterns have been in synch with many familiar faces returning to Chiang Mai at the same time. The time with the best weather perhaps? Sure Canadians are known to be friendly. In my experience this means they are polite to you when you’re small talking. There are social walls when it comes to breaking the lines between working and hanging out. People in Chiang mai are open to meeting and if you’re a digital nomad there will be plenty of opportunities to meet them.

Weather

I arrived in December (winter), which is about high 20’s to low 20’s at night.  Compare that to 3 to 6 degrees celcius and rain from Vancouver, and people that appreciate the sun will appreciate Chiang Mai. December to February is a great time to be here. The burning season (Feb-March) is probably not the best time to be sure for air quality and extreme heart.

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Proximity to airport

The ride from the airport to Nimman is about 15 minutes. This is probably the shortest ride from the airport to your hotel or apartment of any destination. A great benefit after a long journey or experience for trips away.

Where does it fall short?

Just like I’ve found in most destinations it’s hard to find utopia. Chiang Mai is a bit rough around the edges, but that is part of the charm. Whether it’s receiving the wrong dish because of a server’s english, no ocean, a desk that is uneven, a rat running across your path at night, booze midnight curfew, no crosswalks, no public transit system, or lack of pavements I accept it for what is is. As Michael Jordan said we can choose to focus on the positive or negative of most things and for the most part I choose positive.

Who is Chiang Mai for?

Chiang mai’s slow place and affordable pricing are great for new digital nomads, returning digital nomads, people that want a holiday or time away from home in the west. Chiang mai internet speeds continue to increase, there is still a strong organic community, people are friendly, and plenty of places to work. Everything you need to ramp up your business to create more options. I encourage people to set up a base here, but not become a prisoner of Chiang Mai’s cheap prices. I found after staying here long term that I developed a bit of fear of expensive prices because almost everything becomes expensive once you leave Chiang Mai. There are many great places to live and explore.

 

Alternatives to Chiang Mai for Online Entrepreneurs (Digital Nomads)

Chiang Mai, Thailand and Thailand in general is a great destination to start your journey as an online entrepreneur or digital nomad. However, it’s also good to have some alternatives or other options to base yourself for burning seasons, get tired of visa runs, or if you want a change. March is typically the bad time of year to be in Chiang Mai because of the burning season.Before moving to Chiang Mai I lived in countries like Singapore and Taiwan for an extended period. Since then I’ve scouted other locations on visa runs. In this episode I give my reasons for leaving and share some alternative destinations for your to try during the burning seasons or for a change. Check out the podcast episode to find out more

World Tour 2017 Report – South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia – GH29

world tour 2017

I’m back to Chiang Mai after traveling on a world tour that took me to Singapore, Bangkok, Penang, Johannesburg, and Capetown. In this podcast world tour 2017 I share gems from each destination from food, getting around, co-working , and local areas I stayed. I took my filming gear and shot from amazing footage of the modern singapore skyline in marina bay to the beautiful postcard views of Capetown’s Table mountain.

I stayed in modern condos in Penang, a penthouse in Penang, and a unique estate in Houghton, the neighborhood of Nelson Mandela and another past South African president.

I ate world class xiao long bao, dumplings, noodles to delicious rump and fillet steaks in South Africa. The amazing wines in Capetown South Africa from the sauvingnon blanc in Constantia and stellenbosch. Listen and watch to learn  more.

My Amazon book on South Africa: http://chicvoyageproductions.com/southafricabook

Learn Stock footage free course : http://chicvoyageproductions.com/stockfree

Where to Live & Work – Vancouver Living Guide for Expats and Digital nomads

So you made the decision to relocate to Vancouver. If you’re an expat, international student, digital nomad or new to the city then keep reading. Vancouver is a beautiful city on sunny days especially when there is still snow on the mountains. There are few cities that can compete with its natural beauty. It offers world-class winter sports, high standard of living, beautiful nature and international foods. Vancouver is also an expensive city to live and cold and wet for most of the year. If you’re looking for a cheap city to live then you’re better off looking at other countries in Asia.

I’ve lived in Vancouver for over 23 years, but have lived abroad in Asia for the past 2 years in Taiwan and Thailand. I’ve visited Vancouver two Holiday seasons for a row during that time. This trip I’ve been here for over two and a half months so I wanted to write this while the experience is fresh in my head. I’m 37 and I’m not a backpacker. I’m an ex corporate guy who is used to certain comforts like a steamroom, leather chaise, a convenient apartment located close to the Canada line and the seawall. Staying at a hostel is not an option for me. My style is value comfort.

Best time to Visit?

Vancouver is often ranked highly on the livability surveys. What is doesn’t measure and is not often talked about is the weather. You can expect long cold grey rainy days with short daylight most of the year. The best time to visit is between April and September when the weather is sunny at a comfortable 23-27 degrees Celsius. During this period Vancouver can be one of the best places to live not factoring in the expensive cost of living. If you want to enjoy beautiful views with snow on the mountain you may want to visit in March. Its still cold and wet, but you can expect a few sunny days where you can get great photos.

Vancouver Living Guide for Expats, Digital nomads,
Science world Vancouver near Olympic Villar

 

Where to live for long term stay

Vancouver Living Guide for Expats and Digital nomads,
BC place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though my family lives here I’m often asked “Why didn’t you stay with your family? Well there is no room so during the last couple of years I’m in a similar boat as you except I have local knowledge. Vancouver real estate is extremely expensive with costs in desirable areas like central Vancouver, Downtown, Burnaby, and Richmond going up since 2005. The rental market is also expensive. The location depends on where you will spend most of your time. Most of Vancouver’s businesses, International school and entertainment centers on Vancouver downtown. Downtown is easy enough to walk to most destinations, and has a decent transit system. Within downtown, waterfront areas like Coal Harbor and Yaletown are highly sought after. I’ve lived most of my time in Vancouver since 2009 living in the Yaletown area of downtown. It is a modern trendy area that is central to the seawall and parks, the Canada line, good restaurants, and the business and shopping district. It is also at the edge of downtown right across from central Vancouver so it isn’t far to commute to the City center or Richmond. Another area I would recommend is Olympic Village. This area has developed nicely since the Olympics and offers similar benefits to Yaletown, but is a newer community and is just outside of downtown. You can also look for rooms or basement suites anywhere that is walking distance to the Canada line. Some convenient Canada line stations include City center station, King Edward, Oakridge, Langara, Marine Drive station, and Richmond center.

I was lucky to stay at an Airbnb for $30 canadian a night. I managed to find a private room with shared kitchen and shared bathroom in a new house near the newly developed Marine drive Canada line station for $30 Canadian a night. I ended up paying $365 Canadian for 12 nights, which is incredibly cheap. A good option if you were staying a week or 2 in Vancouver. I could have booked longer, but there weren’t many reviews and it ended up getting booked up for months after I booked my room. I consider myself lucky.

https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/7858563

If you needed a longer term more comfortable option to stay you can search on craigslist. You can find a basement suite in a Vancouver suburb for about $1300 Canadian. The problem is that the majority of landlords want 6 month to a year leases. These places are unfurnished and you’ll end up spending hundreds more to get set up with your essentials.

If you are living here for 1-3 months most likely you’re going to need something fully furnished, wifi, and central. There are not many options here in Vancouver. If you google short-term accommodation your top results will be the Standard, The Lex, and Rentwithconcert. Those apartments cater to corporate executives that have afford to have their companies footage a 3-5k a month bill.

 

I was fortunate to find the new GEC Student hotel. Don’t let the name fool you this used to be the best Western Plus hotel converted into short-term hotel accommodation.

The suite is located at Granville and Drake at the foot of the Granville bridge on the downtown side. This area used to be a bit seedy, but I can see it has gentrified. Downtown Vancouver is small, but the funny thing is you can be in shady area one minute, and a nice condo residential area the next. Try to avoid Granville street at night especially on the weekends. I recommend taking Seymour or Horny for a more pleasant walk.

The suite is a fully furnished studio with wifi. It has a 40 inch lcd, private bathroom with a shower and hot tub. The desk is solid with a nice view looking up the entertainment district of Granville with a view of the mountains. In my second month I upgraded to a studio with a kitchen and king sized bed. It is also a downgrade in terms of the view and a lower floor.

A so so gym area with hot tub is on the rooftop. The seawall is a 3-4 minute walk away, and the Canada line is 8 minutes walk away. There are bus stops right outside that can take me anywhere in downtown or even to my parents. This is a good lifestyle for a month or 2. It doesn’t come cheap.

The cost

Studio $1450 cdn

Studio with kitchen $1580

I had a good stay here. The staff and service have been great the past 2 months. The wifi has been up and down, but more than good enough. They have just recently opened up a business center which offers computers and printers. They have a decent fitness center, parking, sauna, and laundry. In short everything you need in a convenient location.

Where to work from?

This section is for the Digital nomads and location independent workers that work from a laptop.

If you’re looking to find work in Vancouver I can offer deep knowledge as someone who built a 13 year career in Vancouver. For 5 of those years I worked as a manager where I was hiring people for a company. I’ll share knowledge about that in the Vancouver living guide.

Vancouver offers a lot of coffee shops, cafe/restaurants, and public areas with free wifi.

I recommend trying to use your apartment or room as a home base. This is where you can do the majority of your work and have access to everything you need. This means somewhere with a desk, solid wifi, and power. I also look for a large screen tv with HDMI access for video work or playing movies from my laptop.

The room at the GEC hotel served as a good base, but I needed to get out once in a while and find high speed Internet for uploading.

I’ve worked out of coffee shops like Starbucks Marine drive station. Although it ticks all the boxes it’s got too much in and out traffic for me to relax. This is good for a couple of hours. I’ve also worked at the Starbucks across from the downtown Library. There are 2. I worked at the one further west on Robson.

The downtown Vancouver library offers workspace and free fast wifi. In late 2015 it made a major upgrade by introducing the Inspiration Labs on the 3rd Floor. This facility offers rooms, computers, and equipment you can use to content. This means sound proofed recording rooms for podcasters, musicians, online teachers, and even computers with software to video edit. They even offer a green screen recording room where they offer a camera and lighting to create a professional production.

 Vancouver Library Inspiration Labs

Vancouver Living Guide for Expats and Digital nomads
Inspiration labs recording room

I’ve also worked from the Inspiration labs at the downtown Library. The recording and sound rooms have been a great resource to create some high quality content. The Wifi is super fast in the work area within the Inspiration Labs. I’ve been able to reach close to 85 mb/s upload speed. The rooms allow you to use equipment like lighting, condensed microphones, greenscreen, and sound mixers. In the hands of someone who has some knowledge like myself you can take full advantage on this free resource. Thanks to the Vancouver Library. This resource was one of the reasons why I decided to extend my stay. I’ve even developed a content schedule to make the most of my studio time. The one drawback is that this library also attracts a lot of bums and the bathroom can be disgusting. You often have to ask someone else you can trust to watch your things while you run to the bathroom. The best workspace is by the tables with the video editing computers. This space serves it’s purpose and is free. If you can obtain a library card the library offers free access to the online learning resource called Lynda. This is an excellent free benefit and I suggest you use it.

Co-work Spaces

In general there are a growing number of co-work spaces located in Gastown area. They don’t generally offer daily or weekly rates, but start with monthly rates start at $300 Canadian. Some of the names I came across included Hive, Suite Genius, Werklab, nd Kickstart (International Village mall).

My freelancer friend had a daypass to the cowork space called HIVE located in gastown

Hive was a decent work environment. The hotdesk area where I was sitting was busy. The wifi was solid and it’s a trendy design with different workspace areas. I worked out of the hot desk area. There were other areas for fixed desk workers. The vibe was fairly quiet and people kept to themselves. There was a mix of solo independent workers and some groups. It’s a comfortable work area with a kitchen if you were to fix yourself a lunch and a lounge area. There are plenty of options around the area such as noodle box or subway.

They had a couple of phone/skype booth areas for private conversations. There is a sustainable theme where they attempt to provide a contribution to the community and the environment. There were plenty of racks for people that commute on bikes. In short I found this to be a solid establish option if you were in need a co-work space in Vancouver.

Cafe’s and Coffee Shops

Urban Fare (Olympic Village)

This grocery store/cafe chain has a modern lounge feel with plenty of desks, food, wifi, and beautiful views. You are footsteps away from the seawall and the popular Craft Beer Market

 Allegro

Vancouver living guide for expats
Working at Allegro Cafe in Wholefoods

This café is centrally located near the city center Canada line location. It offers everything you need and some good priced happy hour wine and beer. My favorite Vancouver beer Four Winds IPA is sold here. It’s also located within the Whole foods store should you wish to do some shopping after. After you’re done work you can find any convenience store you would need from post office, liquor store, restaurant, electronics store, or drug store. It’s fairly busy so it’s not the quietest place to do work.

 BC’s best coffee (Near Granville and Drake)

This hidden gem offers plenty of comfortable seating and marble desks space if you like to stand up and work. It’s not that busy and offers everything you need. I like it because it is spacious, has all the essentials and isn’t too busy.

 

 Roundhouse Community Center

I actually haven’t worked here,but this is the community center that serves Yaletown residents. If you can find a desk here you can benefit from free wifi and work here for a couple of hours. It’s close to the Yaletown Canada line and is close to the seawall if you want to take a walk.

 Waves Hastings locations

Vancouver Living Guide for Expats and Digital nomads
Waves is modern with all the essentials, but busy with students

 

Waves is a coffee chain that offers everything you need. The coffee is average, but the location on hastings was a good location to work from. This is close to SFU and international schools so you might find many students studying out of this location.

Nightlife

Gas town and Yaletown remain the trendy district that people like to go to hang out. I enjoyed a drink at the Oxford and even the local chain restaurants like Earls, Milestones, and Cactus are still strong bets for a good night out. Granville Street is the entertainment district and is home to a lot of the clubs and bars that appeal to the younger crowd.

Why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia

11823031_1670797379821863_7351650863594100438_oIf 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, Thailand - an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Clockwise: Camp workspace, Nine one coffee shop, warm up cafe bar, Tha Pae Gate Jazz

 

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

 

Myanmar Yangon

Chiang Mai, Thailand - an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Clockwise: Aerial of Yangon Pagoda, Drone flying at Bagan temples, View from Shwesandaw Pagoda, Curry lunch

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
      • Myanmar beer

 

 

 

Siem Riep Angkor Wat

Why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Clockwise: Angkor Wat, Pub street nightlife, Bayan face statues, Mystic temple views in the morning

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

Hanoi, Vietnam

Why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Clockwise: Beer and people watching, Vietnamese soldier, fruit salad, Hanoi beer at the Avalon

 

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

 

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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
Why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Clockwise: Koh lanta, Tuk tuk ride, Bangkok Wat Pho, Phuket beaches

I’m also thinking of writing why Taiwan is an ideal base to explore Japan, China, and Hong Kong

 

Tokyo 2015 – Travel & food cheat sheet

2015 is a good time to visit Tokyo. I remember years ago I also wanted to go there. The problem was I was all the way in Vancouver, Canada and I just imagined it would too expensive for me.In 2011 Japan was struck by the East Coast Earthquake, which resulted in radiation to Tokyo. According to a Bloomberg article Tokyo’s radiation level is less than Paris or London 3 years after the meltdown.

Tokyo(2)
Tokyo 2015 – Cheat Sheet

My memory is still fresh from my long recent trip to Tokyo. I spent most of my time filming video and eating food. I flew a low cost airline from Taipei to Tokyo for about $100 us, stayed one night at a capsule in, before staying 3 nights at a private Airbnb apartment in Akasuka Roppongi living like a local. I would compare the area I stayed to Yaletown in Vancouver. It was close to a park at the upscale Tokyo Midtown Center with plenty of options for food. I enjoy my Japanese beer, gyoza, ramen, beef rice bowls, sake, sushi, and udon. I spent a lot of time trying to research and figure out where to spend my time to eat and what to take footage of.  I know there is a lot of free information out there, but you’re probably not going to use it. How do I know? Because some of it’s outdated, and it doesn’t feature beautiful pictures. Worst of all it’s all over the Internet.

It’s a good time to visit Tokyo, Japan. The currency is not as strong and Japan offers great food, some of the politest people in the world, an original culture, in a world class city.

In this guide I’m going to give you a nice PDF cheat sheet with the following:

  • Information on where I got my cheap flight and how much I paid.
  • Tips on getting from Narita airport to town
  • Tips on getting a shuttle (yes even for 7am flights) to Narita airport for 1000 yen
  • Where to get free Wifi for your trip in Tokyo
  • The Japanese coffee house you must try (no not Starbucks)
  • Tips on finding good cheap food like gyoza, rice bowls 24/7 for under 700 yen
  • Where to find some of the best Sushi in Tokyo and where I got that delicious seafood donburi
  • The stations and areas that you must visit and how to get there. As I take video footage I will also give you tips on where to get the best angles. For example: Shibuya crossroads you want to go to the 2nd floor of Starbucks to get a birdseye view
  • How to figure the Tokyo metro
  • The best Japanese beers to try and where to get them
  • Where to get craft beer (IPA’s) in Tokyo
  • Which Airbnb I stayed at and my experience staying at the upscale neighborhood of Roppongi
  • I’ll give you at the actual business cards of some of the places I visited
  • Where to get a skyline view of Shinjuku skyscrapers for free

In order to get the free guide please sign up with your email address.

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Digital nomad in Taiwan for about $1000US a month

TOP 5 LOCATIONS

 

Greg-working-at-grass-fields Subscribe to receive my 5 locations for Location Independent Videographers and Why

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s hard to imagine I’ve lived in Taipei for almost a year and 4 months. During this time I spent some time learning Chinese, teaching English, and building several businesses on the Internet. It wasn’t until I met a fellow Canadian that came to visit Taipei that I began to think of myself as a Digital nomad.

What is a digital nomad?

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Digital nomad lifestyle in Maui

A digital nomad is someone that earns money on the Internet. It is the idea that you can do work where you are free of the constraints of being in your office. In fact you can do it anywhere in the world. I spend most of my time working from home or the many cafe’s throughout Taipei.  The type of businesses can vary. There are developers and coders that have clients in other countries like South Africa, but they are able to do their work from a country like Taiwan. Usually it makes sense to live in a country that has lower costs, but where you can earn overseas money to maximize your situation. A digital nomad is not limited to a coder. I myself create video stock footage and sell them through stock agencies on the Internet like Pond5. Some people earn income from youtube, google adsense, and being an affiliate for different products. I also create courses that are in video format that are available and sold on learning platforms like Udemy.com and have also began publishing and selling Travel adventures on Amazon Kindle. I believe the idea of traveling and being able to work anywhere over an Internet connection was popularized by the book “the 4 hour work week” by Tim Ferris. There are different types of Digital nomads of course. I prefer to spend 3 months or longer before traveling to a nearby country. There are some digital nomads that travel more frequently.

 

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Working with a cafe in Taipei

What is passive income?

Again this idea I believe was also made popular my Tim Ferris. It is the idea that you can do work upfront that earns you can income while you sleep. While it’s not always while you sleep you can create a digital products like an e-book and then put it up for sale. The courses I create are in video format and once on the internet the sale of the course happens automatically through the platform. You can automate the sales transaction and the delivery of the product to the customer so you could be having dinner when  you can get an email from Paypal telling you that you have money. Another advantage of this type of income is that once you have created your product or service it can continue to bring in a regular income so you can move onto the next project. An example is that I built a course on making money with travel videos that sells every month. I am now free to build a new course that there is a cumulative effect.

The experience of being a Digital Nomad in Taiwan

Let’s start with basic needs. Shelter, connectivity, food, transport, and social life. Compared to Vancouver and other North American cities I found just about everything cheaper in Taipei. I traveled to many places around the world from Singapore, Australia, and South Africa. Taiwan is one of the most Internet Wifi friendly cities that I’ve traveled to. The Taiwanese love their wifi and their smartphones. Just look at the number of people looking at their phones with power banks attached to their phones. Rent is cheap compared to apartments in North America. You can get 3 or 6 month contracts ready to move in that are fully furnished and have fast Internet. I’ve observed directly and heard from many local Taiwanese friends that there are more foreigners now in Taipei in the past year or so. Taiwan is often overlooked, but I believe it is a gem in Asia and the word is getting out. Taiwan is a food paradise with local specialties like noodles, soup, and rice available at cheap prices. Food is cheap enough that I can eat out almost every meal giving me more time to work on my business. Transportation is convenient and cheap with numerous options from the MRT, bus, u-bike, or Taxi. There are also plenty of social and business events to meet new friends and fellow entrepreneurs around Taipei. There is a happening nightlife in Taipei if that is your thing. Because of convenient and cheap transportation you can have a good time without worrying about driving.

The bottom line is Taipei is a good choice for being a digital nomad. You can get connected, live and eat at a low cost. I’m not promoting this, but you can purchase a can of Taiwan beer for 35nt and drink it in a 7-11 or out on the street. Taiwan is a clean, safe, and modern city. Taiwan is also a foreign friendly city with low cost healthcare. It is easy and cheap to get around. However, to get the most out of Taiwan it definitely helps to speak Chinese Mandarin. You can get by on English though.

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Working with a cafe in Taipei

Costs of being a Digital Nomad in Taiwan

I’ve read about costs of being a digital nomad in techinasia.com’s article and the Digital nomad guide’s site. Techinasia has claimed a cost of $2121. I wanted to share with you a breakdown of my actual monthly costs of being a digital nomad in Taipei that is approximately $1071 US. Note that Taipei is the most expensive city in Taiwan. You could travel to Kaoshiung, the second largest city in Taiwan and reduce your accommodation costs by 40%. This is hearsay from a local friend, and I haven’t had a chance to look up the rental costs myself. Ok lets begin

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Local Taiwan breakfast

Digital nomad monthly budget in Taipei, Taiwan

Accommodation in the central Taipei – 16,000NT Food (based on a 400nt daily budget) –  12,000nt Transportation – 1500nt Entertainment – 2000nt Cafe – 2000NT Mobile monthly wifi 2gb 320nt Total 34,020 NT  US $1071 $1283 CDN 706 GBP There is no tax added on for most expenses for the customer. Most places don’t ask for tips except for nicer or western style restaurants. Of course you are probably wondering the assumptions behind the figures. I live near central Taipei, which is considered more on the high end. If you live in New Taipei City (20 minutes MRT across the river) you can expect to pay about 10,000nt a month. If you share a 2 bedroom apartment with a roomate you could pay 25,000nt in the Da-an area. Included in the the accommodation is High speed Internet, furniture, television, garbage service, and a small kitchen. It is normal to eat out every meal in Taiwan because it is good and cheap. Some apartments don’t have a kitchen area. I normally like to eat a healthy hot oat breakfast with fruit and then I’ll buy a noodle or rice dish for lunch and dinner. A bowl of beef noodles at a local shop goes for $130nt $4.11. You can go more expensive for western foods like a good burger and fries at Bravo Burger for 270nt $8.56Us or get a bbq chicken leg rice dish with vegetables, soup, and drink for 90nt $2.85. You can get around 1 way on the MRT to most locations in Taipei for 25nt one way .79 cents US. If you take the bus it is 15nt or .47 US. If you take the U-bike (free bike rental) to your destination in under 30 minutes it is free. The MRT is modern, fast, and has extensive coverage throughout the city. As I am central I save money on my transport as I don’t have to travel that far. I budgeted about 50nt per day to arrive at the that figure. If you need a taxi for those times on the weekend you can get to most locations from the Xinyi nightlife district  for 200nt or under $6.34.

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Taiwan tomatoe beef noodles – Taiwan offers great good and cheap prices

Starbucks cafe’s allow you to get a tall black coffee for 80nt and offer a good environment to work in. Note that not all Starbucks are equal. Some will be offer more space and offer plug outlets. If you buy a Starbucks card you get 2 hours daily free wifi. Local coffee shops like Mr. Brown you can get a coffee and unlimited daily Internet. If you go to the trendy cafe’s you’re looking to pay 130nt $4.11 US for an Americano. There are many choices with varying prices for Wifi. I heard that that 7-11 offers free wifi if you sign up and that’s completely free. If you’re heading for a night our you can expect to pay about $230nt for a pint of Heineken. $150nt for a small glass of wine. I use a mobile sim card on a 2gb plan which I think is super cheap. This isn’t your full-time connection for work, but good for communication with your friends or checking email when you don’t have coverage. Most cafe’s and restaurants will have wifi to converse your data, and when you have depleted you can always refill at different increments. 180nt $5.70Us will give you another 1GB. Do you have similar or different experiences in Taiwan. Please comment. Would you like to share your Digital nomad experience in another city that you live. Please comment.

Where to go for great cheap local food Where to go for good Western food in Taipei Where to go to relax and exercise ( Gyms, Pools, hotsprings) Current prices of food, shelter, food, clothing and more Where to meet new friends Which areas and neighbourhoods to stay and work Which bars and clubs to visit in Taipei’s nightlife How and where to find an apartment (without overpaying) How to meet other Entrepreneurs living in Taiwan How to stay safe in Taipei Where to get the the fastest and cheapest SIM-card plans with mobile data with the exact address Tips on hacking Chinese with technology Cultural differences and how to cope with them

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A wine event in Taipei. Taipei’s nightlife has a lot to offer
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A sample local restaurant menu
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A local cafe menu in Taipei

 

Starbucks Taipei 101 – Great views on the 35th floor

Starbucks Taipei 101
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada. Currently in Taiwan.

 

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Taipei MRT Map – Current as of Oct 2014
Starbucks Taipei 101 is a must-see If you’re going for a visit to see Taipei 101 which I highly recommend. It offers the some of the best views of Taipei for the lowest cost. The best views for free are at the elephant mountain hike, which I’ll cover on the future post. You’ll need to make an advance appointment to do so. You can watch the video to get the phone number and they understand english.

It is easy to get there. You can take the MRT underground subway and closest station is Taipei 101 World Trade Center on the new red line. The red line was installed around September 2013 so you’re in luck.

The verdict: It is a bit of a hassle to get there, but armed with this information and if you’re already going to visit Taipei 101 this is a must do.

For the price of a coffee and food you can get amazing views and skip competing with the crowds trying to go to the viewing platform.

While you’re in this area here are some ideas of what to do.

    • Eat at the Xinyi food court in the basement level for good cheap eats
    • Try the Xiao long Bao at the Din Tai Fung by the same MRT exit 4. It’s probably the biggest and busiest of the Din Tai Fung branches in Taipei so be prepared.
    • Jason’s market place is nearby which is the closest thing Taipei has to wholefoods. You can grab a nice ipa beer and drink it while you wait.
    • Visit the ATT4Fun area. There are more places to eat, watch movies, and drink.
    • Go for a visit to Elephant Mountain for a hike and the best views of Taipei.

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Dancing grass – Yilan, Taiwan

yilan taiwan dancing grass
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

The day after my birthday celebration my local friend and I met at the Taipei Mrt station of Guting at 8:30am. From there we caught our hour and half train ride out to Yilan. Prior to this trip a couple of locals mentioned that Yilan had natural beauty.

I did’t have time to plan as I usually do, but my friend had a chance to speak to my other local friends to give us some guidance. (Thanks Tina and Riwen).

We decided to get some brunch at a vegetarian buffet near the train station. For 100nt we had a delicious veggie buffet. All the good dishes started to come out at lunch. After we decided to rent a car nearby for about 1300nt for the day. Public transport is not as extensive as Taipei and we were there just for day for heavy camera gear so we thought the car would be handy. We rented a 4 door mini automatic car with a 1.3 liter engine that was capable of 100km/hr. Good enough. Armed with my iPhone, google maps, and a 3g internet connection from taiwan mobile we eventually settled on our next stop at plum blossom lake.

On our ride we passed by western style houses with green dancing grass that reminded me of areas in Bali. It was nice just to see western houses in Taiwan, which I haven’t seen in a year. Plum blossom lake has a flower shaped lake. It started raining hard so we took shelter by a food stand with a delicious lean pork grass wrap. Look at the pics they so more than I can do than words.

After we went drove up to the Sancing temple which took 15 minutes. I drove as close as I could to the temple and was happy to get free parking. It featured an awesome view of the lake and city. The temple itself was impressive and reminded me of the Forbidden city architecture especially with the animals on the roof. With my friend Serena sheltering me and my camera I managed to get some footage. the rain quickly stopped and cleared up. The weather in Taipei and Yilan changes very frequently throughout the day in May.

We had already used up most of our day and had just enough time to make it to the Su-ao area. We managed to take some pics of the Su-ao cold springs and the Su-ao port for some great shots. We rushed back to the car rental to catch our train and passed by the Luodong Night Market.

As I wrap up this blog I realized that Yilan will require more time to fully appreciate its beauty and what it has to offer. Special thanks to Serena for making the trip happen.!

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Bali Indonesia – an experience in words and media

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

May 12 2014

Bali is a good travel destination if you’re in search of tropical vacation and are already in Asia. The prices aren’t too expensive, food is good, and there are interesting cultural experiences. Beyond Bali there are many other destinations in Indonesia. For example, the Komodo islands are home to good diving and the komodo dragons.

Our plan was to visit Bali Indonesia and head over to the Komodo Islands to visit the mythic Komodo dragons.
We stationed ourselves in the proclaimed upscale area of seminyak, bali. My friend and I were happy with the the modern spacious loft from Clio . It is a great value and great location. I spent many hours and days researching  accommodation in Seminyak so you can take my recommendation and save yourself the time if you like.
The area of Seminyak was not as luxurious as I had imagined in my mind. True there were upscale and trendy shops, but compared to Yaletown Vancouver Seminyak is still undeveloped. It is an experience dealing with the high figures like 100,000 rp for a massage, 20,000rp for Bintang bear, 80,000rp for sun beds by the beach for 2 people all day.

If you are in Seminyak the Seminyak square was the central landmark in town and where most of the restaurants, shops, and bars were. I recommend trying out a massage as they are a good value compare to  North america.

The trendy Ku de Tah bar that I had heard so much about was not that much further away from Seminyak Square. First we decided to walk to the beachfront. We decided to detour in a hotel resort, which was pretty luxurious and gave us access to the beach. After we went to the Ku De Tah. It had no cover and it was surprisingly trendy, family friendly, and hip at the same time. A DJ played music in the background as my friend and I ordered an overpriced weak cocktail and sat by the beach.

To get around it is a good idea to hire a driver. Our car broke down after getting our sim car and had to get another taxi back to the hotel. Make sure you negotiate your cab fare first as we made the mistake of getting in and finding out we were overcharged once we arrived at the hotel. There was a huge argument between us, the driver, and the hotel who had organized the driver. In the end the hotel covered the fare, which I think is fare. Anyhow, lesson learned take only bluebird taxis and negotiate the fare before you get in. Getting a sim card for my unlocked phone was also super difficult, and almost not worth the trouble to get connected. The day after I got my sim card it ran out of data. The sim card vendors don’t speak english and we had to rely on our driver for translation. Even then something obviously got lost in translation.

We salvaged the day by checking out the Legian beach, which is between Seminyak and Kuta. The beach sand is not that great, but it is bearable and the waves were decent enough for surfing. There are some good choices for lunch near the beach and the sunset was spectacular.

Later that night we decided to sample the Kuta night life. We saw the memorial dedicated to the tourists who were killed during the terrorist bombing incident. This is the central part of the strip where you will be see rows of bars all down the street. We found all the bars pretty tacky with watered down drinks. The most interesting bar was the Reggae themed Apache Reggae bar which had live reggae music where the crowd could dance and have a seat.

The next day our driver picked us up. We asked to go to the cultural town of Ubud, see some rice terraces, and go to the Mother Temple of Besakih. This took up our entire day. The highlight for me was the a coffee tour we got to see the kopi luwak coffee. It is the boutique coffee that is made from the poop of a cat. We got to see how the coffee was made and sample it after. In the same area we got to see some rice terraces.

Many hours later we arrived at the mother temple. We had to purchase a sarong, which I later found out was a rental fee as they take it back. The sarongs were 300,000rp I believe so try bring your own. We got a good guide who took us right to the top. The weather wasn’t too great but we made it to the mother of all temples in Bali!

Next: I talk about our journey from Bali to the town of Labuan Bajo where I’ll do some scuba diving and we go in search of the Komodo dragons.