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

Posted in: Destination introduction, Passive income- Sep 01, 2015 No Comments

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

 

Sign up for my South East Asia guide and more related posts

* indicates required




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