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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.