Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Digital Nomad – Is this the most overlooked destination?

I’ve visited Malaysia many times, but I’m on the eve of wrapping up my month and a bit living in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. I wanted to share some updated information on Kuala Lumpur from a 40 yr old bachelor perspective who has spent 3 years in Thailand and 2 years in Taiwan OMG. There are a lot of general posts about KL already so I’ll try to add something unique.

 

kuala lumpur malaysia digital nomad

Who is Kuala Lumpur Malaysia for?

It’s for the location independent that is bit more established, values modern apartments that are comfortable, great variety of food, weather, and most of all locals that can speak English. I’ll cut to the chase if you’re a young single person in your 20’s you’ll have a lot more fun in Thailand. Costs are cheaper in Thailand as well. However, I’ve come to the realization that once you’re out of the Chiang Mai bubble, you will have to learn Thai to function successfully in Thailand long term. As a 40 year old I’m trying to slow down my travel (unsuccessfully) and settle down in a location for 1-3 months. It’s better for business, forming better and longer relationships, and your health. Kuala Lumpur is a good place to chill out. To be honest it can be boring as despite the happy hours and nightlife areas in Bukit Bintang and Bangsar Village Jalan Telwai this is still a conservative country with boundaries.  People of different cultures are very respectful and seem to co-exist peacefully. I feel like I could belong here. In Thailand, although I felt welcome I still feel like a farang and an outsider even though they think I look thai. This is mainly because of the language. Kuala Lumpur is a city that is a good size, but not as overwhelming as Bangkok. It isn’t as small as Chiang Mai or Penang. If you’re looking to focus on your business you’ve got everything you need here minus a strong organic digital nomad community.

Essentials

There are plentiful choices of airbnb condos in downtown KLCC and in the upscale suburb of Bangsar. There are many tall condos that sport legit facilities and yes if you select a newer condo with TIME as the provider (100MBPS) you will be flying. It’s very common to have great gym, pool, wifi, apartment, and restaurants in the same building or nearby. Sim Card plans by Digi are easy to get and easier to self manage through the app. There are cowork space options like Uppercase in Bangsar and the chain Common ground. The most refreshing thing was being able to speak English with the locals. Yes Malaysia is more expensive than Thailand for some things, but you can consider the extra cost the premium for having an affordable country where locals speak English.

Kuala Lumpur is fairly safe especially being in Bangsar. In downtown KLCC it is still safe, but did with such as mix of culture, tourists, and crowds you should still stay on alert. I used the Maybank and Alliance ATM’s to withdrawal from the North American bank account. Bangkok bank has no relationship to the one in Thailand, and opening up a bangkok is not possible as far as I know without an employment pass.

You can use Grab app taxi to get around. The train system is easy to understand and is worth taking if you’re trying to commute between downtown and Bangsar during rush hours.

Nightlife

Like I said you can go to Bukit Bintang. I had a chance to sample many of the popular spots like Havanna Social, Taps Room for Craft Beer, and Pisco Bar. You can get a high end experience at Ren at the Mandarin Oriental. If you like sheesha and loud music try the Trek nightlife area. Bangsar offers the APW area with more casual options as well as the Bangsar Village Jalan Telawi area (La Cave, Rock Bottom). There are the spots with viewpoints like the Heli Lounge and Traders Skybar. The Pavillion offers many spots like the Barn, La Bodega, and Johnny Rocket to name a few spots to eat and drink. I guess I did my fair share of eating and drinking. The name of the game is happy hour, maybe some pre-gaming a bottle from the grocery store for a big night. Try unique experiences like rent a vape or sheesha. You will find the local beer taps to be Carlsburg, Guinness, and Tiger. I got tired of it quickly and tried some craft beer spots like the Great Beer Bar in Uptown Daminsara.

I met some good people from Internations.org. I didn’t have a chance nor a strong desire to go to couch surf events or meetups. Unfortunately events can be quite far out sometimes. One interesting event I went to was called Drinkentrepreneur. I hope to do that it. On average the locals are quite friendly compared to a city like Bangkok. It’s nice on a daily basis to talk with your taxi driver, or the guys at the coffee shop, or occasionally to be called “boss”.

Summary

I plan to return here and use Kuala Lumpur as a base. On paper it appears to be an ideal place for myself and perhaps others to settle long-term. I even found a cheap storage spot to store my things here while I travel. I got a lot of work done while I was here. No fighting for space at the cowork space or looking for legit meeting rooms to record. Kuala Lumpur might not be a good fit for some long-term, but perhaps a visit. Kuala Lumpur is itself a great travel hub being home to Air Asia. I hope to visit Nepal and Sri Lanka While I’m here. Malaysia is also a huge country with spots like Langkawi, Sabah, Malacca, Penang, and more to visit.

What we can learn from Food Youtube Superstar Mark Wiens

What we can learn from Mark Wiens

As a Videographer and Entrepreneur what can we learn from Food  Youtuber Mark Wiens, based out of Bangkok Thailand? Mark started posting regular food videos about street food mostly in South East Asia in 2011. This is long before the vlogging gained popularity. 7 years later he has well over 1.7 Million subscribers, which has made him very successful in the travel food space and earning a good living. I’ve studied Mark and these are some of the key tips I think we can learn from him:

Learn from Mark Wiens

  • Get the right gear to produce videos and focus on a niche (In this case food travel videos in Asia)
  • Post consistently good content. Mark posts videos twice a week
  • Be interesting and passionate in the videos and smile a lot
  • Use your large following to monetize on products like merchandise. Mark sells his red pepper logo on his own line of hats and t-shirts

Mark has given me inspiration to create more Youtube videos consistently and trying to incorporate my love of food in my videos.  He is also currently living in Bangkok with wife and a kid. I think he is a great role model for travel videographers today.

Check out the Podcast for more of my thoughts on Mark’s success.

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Living the Luxury Chiangmai Lifestyle in the best neigborhood was it worth it?

chiang mai luxury condo

I just wrapped up living 3 months at a luxury condo in nimman, Chiang Mai. Was it worth it? read on. Since leaving Vancouver in 2013 I haven’t slept on a bed I’ve owned for the past 5 years. Why? Because I relocated in Taiwan and Thailand where it is common to find fully furnished apartments. I’ve since obtained a level of time and location freedom where I have a choice of which city to live and where I want to live. In western cities like Vancouver this isn’t really the case because it is more of a landlord/property owner market. It’s a job interview to find a place to live and the high costs limit which area and type of accommodation you can pick.

Once of the best benefits of Chiang Mai is vast amount of selection that people have choosing where to live on a short-term basis. Most apartments are ready to move in, some have weekly cleaning, and there is no interview process as long as you have money. The most desirable area is Nimman (Nimmanhamen) because of dense amount of coffee shops, cowork spaces, restaurants, and bars.  Even when my out of town friends come to visit we end spending time in Nimman. I’ve lived in Nimman since 2015 in a variety of apartments from basic studio to upscale apartment. However the Siri Condo is in a more luxurious class and feel due to the pool, image, and construction of the condo.

I paid $550 US a month for my 1 bedroom apartment, which is considered expensive for Chiang Mai Thailand. To put things into perspective I can find a nice studio nearby for $300 US. You can pay even less if you live further away (1km). So what do you get for that extra $250 US? For starters you get a decent pool and usable gym. It wasn’t the nicest pool or gym, but it was functional and convenient. Because it was so convenient over the period of 3 months I’m at a very good level of fitness. I would have need to pay at least $50 US to use equivalent facilities outside of the condo.

chiangmai skyline

The apartment

The interior has a luxury feel and is built with high end finishings. Marble flooring, and solid construction in the walls meant it was fairly quiet living here. I didn’t hear noise from the neighbors. I had a small functional kitchen with microwave, which allowed to cook. Since I had lots of practice cooking in Vancouver, I ended up cooking a lot of breakfast and late night meals for myself. The apartment included a quality washing machine (luxury), which allowed me to do laundry in my room instead of going to the public area or a shop to do it. I mentioned the amenities, but haven’t mentioned access to the sky garden area. I used this area to journal and have coffee in the mornings. I occasionally shot some talking videos on the top and some skyline scenery from the rooftop.

The business impact

The wifi in the apartment was a private connection clocking in around 30/20mbps. My first 2 years I only used the shared free wifi in my apartments. I only later gave in to get a private connection. This condo included it and having this fast reliable connection in my room allowed me to produce a lot of content. As I’m a Youtuber, Stock footage videographer, and online instructor I upload a lot of videos to the Internet. Sometimes it’s difficult to finish uploads at a public space because it may take an entire night. The fast private connection allowed me to do my work and even do uploads while going out for massages or drinks with friends.

Most apartments these days include an HD LCD tv with hdmi connection. This room was no exception and gave me access to a 40inch HD tv to connect to my laptop. It also gave me a nice dining table with solid chairs. All this added up to a great environment to work from home. During my stay in Chiang Mai I probably worked from home 70% of the time. I probably was more productive overall than going through the cafe circuit. I was also able to do voiceover recordings from the apartment because it was so exceptionally quiet for Chiang Mai. I had to make some adjustments like unplug my fridge and turn off the AC, but I effectively turned my living room into a workspace and recording studio.  I would have to pay at least $100US or more for access to cowork space and to use a room as a studio.

Location

Chiang Mai is very much a motorbike city although access to Uber and Grab are making it more convenient. As I don’t ride a motorbike anymore living in a central area of Nimman still allowed me to hangout with friends without riding a motorbike. There have been so many times I’ve gone out in Nimman where I’ve had the luxury of just being able to walk home within 7 minutes. This also ends up saving you some money on a motorbike, gas, and taxis.

Final Thoughts

As you can see I got a lot of value for the extra $250 US. Yes I was able to justify the cost. It was worth it for me. I had pretty much everything I needed except for regular cleaning for this price. I think the combination of the location of the condo and on-site luxuries ended up saving me time.  Chiang mai offers a range of accommodation from $200 for basic to $550 for luxury. Somewhere in this range I’m sure you’ll find where you are looking for. Lifestyle is a personal thing and varies from person to person. I think if you live in Chiang mai too long you start to compare prices in local currency. 5000 baht extra sounds like a lot, but if you convert it to US currency it is $160 US it isn’t. The beauty of Chiang Mai is that you have choices, and usually if you’re looking for something cheaper you can find it. This being said I believe you get what you pay for, so you have to make sure you’re not trading off something that is important to you.  Do  you need that pool? maybe not. Do you need the private wifi? No question here. As a location independent entrepreneur you have to make sure that you’ve got everything you need to live a healthy life and be productive.

Where can you find comfortable upscale accommodation in Chiang Mai?

There are plenty of blog posts that people recommend. Check out this video as a good starting point. I recommend booking an Airbnb for 2 days in the nimman area.

You can then visit these apartments in person and ask to see a room. If you’re comfortable you can rent a motorbike for a day and drive up to these apartments to look around. I usually keep the email or facebook contacts of the apartments I like so I need to to repeat this for repeat visits.

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Is it time to Leave Chiang Mai and commit to Bangkok Thailand as a Digital Nomad?

chiangmai skyline

Chiang Mai was my introduction to Thailand.  It was an easy introduction thanks to the entrepreneur community, low cost of living, helpful information, and ease of finding a place to stay. I never really gave Bangkok a chance. It wasn’t until I stayed in the residential area of Ekamai near the Hubba workspace that I started to think I could actually live in Bangkok. I’ve already flirted with Bangkok several times living there a month at a time expanding my comfort zone of the city.

Bangkok overall is a bit tougher than Chiang Mai. It’s larger, more crowded, and a bit more expensive. However, it offers more opportunities for business, dating, a better travel hub, better public transport, and better co-work spaces. Bangkok is a huge city and you need time to find the area that you can feel comfortable as your base.  It’s definitely a bit harder to find good short-term accommodation in Bangkok, but you can find somewhere good to live on a longer term contract.

I now have an opportunity to live in a good area of Rama 9 in Bangkok for 6 months at a similar if not cheaper cost than Chiang Mai at 14,000 baht ($446 US). Chiang mai has some of the lowest cost short-term accommodation (monthly) for fully furnished studios. Once you start to add 1 bedroom and a kitchen to the equation the average living costs in Chiang Mai jump to 14 – 17000 baht, which is comparable to Bangkok.

As someone who no longer wants to ride a motorbike I find Chiang Mai a bit limiting. After 2 motorbike accidents I no longer want to gamble and take the risks. I’d rather walk, take a taxi, uber, the MRT or BTS train system in Bangkok to get around.

I originally came to Chiang Mai for the digital nomad community. After diving in deep my first year attending events and meeting people I got fatigued of the scene. I found it was mostly new people coming in and out of Chiang Mai wanting to sample the digital nomad experience. The material in the talks started to become repetitive, and I stopped attending so many events.  I’m still grateful for these events for the good people I met, but I understand that people are at different stages in their entrepreneur journey.

In the end I found out there were videographers, but noone was truly making an online video business with their videography. I found I was the one doing most of the teaching when it came to monetization for videographers through stock footage or teaching online. I learned a bit about online marketing and cryptocurrency from my time in Chiang Mai. I’m thankful for that

I find that there is a strong scarcity and price sensitive mindset in Chiang Mai that I’m not fond of. I’m all for low cost living, but I like to enjoy life and would prefer to live comfortably instead of aiming to live within a $600 monthly budget. The people that are in Chiang Mai are friendly and down to earth, but I find that the low cost of living attracts people that don’t have an abundance mindset.  I find when I’m here too long I find that what I thought was cheap is not really cheap. There is always someone that knows where to stay and eat cheaper. When does it end? I think focusing too much on finding cheap things all the time takes away focus from earning and living a comfortable life.

Chiang Mai is an easy city to live and relax, but I get restless staying here for longer than 3 months. It feels too small, and yes I know i’m guilty of staying in the bubble of nimman.

After a chaotic year of traveling the world (Bali, South Africa, Penang, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Vancouver, Seoul, Koh Tao) I wanted to roam the world less and have more of a base and hopefully more of a normal lifestyle.

It’s another burning season and I will be leaving during the month of March. The question is do I go away for short-term and come back or is this my opportunity give Bangkok a chance?

In a perfect world I would be able to have a place in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I could escape the concrete jungle and enjoy the nature and peacefulness of Chiang Mai. One thing is for sure. Chiang Mai’s climate is a great place to be from November to February. It’s a place where I can definitely spend part of my year here. I’m just not sure if I want to spend the whole year here.