The Anti-Digital Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai

Since there are already so many blog posts out there about digital nomads in Chiang Mai, we decided to write a post with a slightly different angle and call it: The ANTI – Digital Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai!

When arriving in Chiang Mai, we decided not to stay in the Digital Nomad bubble of Nimman, but rather stay in Santitham, a more local area. Also, we never went to Punspace, which is the biggest coworking space in Chiang Mai, instead deciding to work at various cafes with good coffee (very important!).

So, if you are someone who does not want to follow the crowd and would like to experience a more local Chiang Mai, then this guide is for you 🙂

Coworking

Maya Mall

Great Internet speed is abundant in Chiang Mai, so most cafe’s and places have really fast Internet. As stated above, we decided not to go to the biggest coworking space Punspace, but instead, explore the cafe scene as wifi is so good pretty much everywhere and because we love good coffee.

Here is a list of cafe’s we worked at and loved.

And here are two coworking spaces that we tried:

CAMP at Maya Mall

Yes, we admit: this is a mainstream place and every digital nomad blog post about Chiang Mai mentions this coworking space. But it is a cool place to work from, with superfast internet if you bought the AIS simcard with AIS Super Wifi.

Internet speed: around 100 mbps

Cappuccino price: Doesn’t matter, the coffee is pretty bad and overpriced, so don’t get coffee here!

A/C: yes (can be a little cold at times)

Opening hours: Open 27/7

Location  (on the 5th floor of Maya Mall)

MANA Coworking

M-A-N-A is a cute little coworking space in Nimman, with around 10 seats. You can pay for a day, which costs 120 TBH, and you also get free coffee, green tea and water. As it can get crowded and it is small, be sure to go early to get a seat. You can also reserve the Skype room which is 25 TBH per hour.

Internet speed: 25 mbps

Cappuccino price: 40 TBH

A/C: yes

Opening hours: 9:30AM – 10PM (Closed on Saturday)

Location

Things To Do

Wat Chedi Luang

At the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Local market near Chiang Mai University

Nina cooking at Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School

There are plenty of things to do in and outside of Chiang Mai. Here’s a list of the things we did

  • Night Markets: Our favorite night markets: The Sunday Night Market or Saturday Night Market, the Night Bazaar, and the local market near Chiang Mai University
  • Massage & Spa: There are literally 10 massage places in every street you can find, and they range from super cheap to super expensive. We like to go to the mid-range ones, such as Nimman House. It’s not too pricey, there is a zen-like atmosphere and service is very good. Nina had a facial massage for one hour and they put all kind of creams and masks on her, which was really relaxing!
  • Go on a temple tour: visit the temples in the old city in one day, such as Wat Chedi Luang.
  • Weekend trip to Pai: Relax in the nature, visit the hot springs and take some yoga classes! The drive to Pai takes about 3 hours.
  • Weekend trip to Chiang Rai: visit the white temple!
  • Visit an elephant sanctuary: Nina went with a friend on a half day elephant sanctuary tour, where she took a mudbath with the elephants and then washed them in the river. Really unique experience! Check out Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. There are also many other ‘No Riding” Elephant tours.
  • Take a Thai cooking class: We went to Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School for an afternoon/evening cooking class, and it was a lot of fun! It was 900 TBH for half a day cooking class, and we made 5 typical Thai dishes in total as well as visiting the local food market.. Afterwards, we received a handy little cookbook with all the recipes of the food we made. It was a really fun afternoon, so we would definitely recommend it to anyone who happens to be in Chiang Mai.
  • Shopping: At any of the awesome night markets or a the biggest mall in Chiang Mai: Central Festival
  • Go Cafe hopping and try out all the best coffee places such as Ristr8tto coffee in Nimman.

Restaurants & Eating Out

Bento Box at the local market

Khao Soi Noodle soup

Restaurants and food stalls are abundant in Chiang Mai, and there are cheap Thai food options as well as more expensive Western food options. In short, you definitely won’t starve in Chiang Mai! Below you can find a list of places we have been to and liked in the Santitham and Nimman area. We didn’t really go to the Old Town for dinner, but there are some nice brunch places around that area.

Food markets

Budget

ImmAim, Vegetarian, Open all day, $, Tip: Very cheap vegetarian food and they have amazing smoothies and shakes!

The Brotherhood, Western, $, Tip: Great spot for a cheap Western food fix

Retro Sushi Bar, Japanese, $, It’s right next to 7-Eleven on the map. Do try the Soba fish and the gyoza’s!

K’s Kitchen, Thai food, $, Tip: The Pumpkin Khao Soi!

Khao Soi Mae Sai, Thai food, $, Tip: They have some awesome noodle soups here, such as Khao Soi. Watch out, it’s spicy though!

Brunch

Waffles with Fried chicken at Rustic & Blue

Smoothie Blues, $$, Tip: They have really good and fresh smoothies and some decent Eggs Benedict

Rustic & Blue, $$, Tip: They have some really interesting brunch dishes, such as waffles with fried chicken.

Overstand, $$$, Tip: They serve delicious open sandwiches, using amazing sourdough bread

Fern Forest Cafe, $$, They have a lovely terrace/patio, with trees and green all around

The Larder Cafe, $$, A lovely and cute brunch place in Nimman

Dinner

Rosy Cheeks, Thai Western Fusion, $$, Tip: We tried the Phorrito and the Pasta Pesto with Prawns, and they were both amazing!!

Corner Bistro, American, $$, They have nice burgers and every Wednesday, they have a trivia night

SushiJiro, Japanese, $, Great sushi for great prices

Rock Me Burgers, Burgers, $$$, Really delish burgers with homemade buns! Though it’s slightly pricey, definitely worth it! We usually order from them via Foodpanda

Italics Restaurant, Italian, $$$, Fancy Italian restaurant in Nimman. We’ve never been, but heard from friends that it’s really good

By Hand Pizza, Italian, $$, Excellent pizza place in the old city. Andrea approves, and when an Italian approves, that means that the food must be outstanding!

Accommodation & Location

D Vieng building and pool

You can read all about our accommodation search here.

Regarding where to live; we’ve only ever considered two areas in Chiang Mai, namely Nimman and Santitham. Nimman is, as some of you might know, a digital nomad bubble and most live within this area. Nimman is a cool area, with loads of cafes, boutique stores and restaurants, both cheap and expensive. Apartments in Nimman are slightly more expensive than elsewhere though.

Santitham is just next to Nimman and close to the old city. It’s more of a local place, and we’ve been told that many students live there. We did meet some nomads who live here as well, as it is generally cheaper and there are some nice apartment buildings.

Transportation

Renting a scooter is the easiest to get around Chiang Mai, and we have found a great scooter rental service run by an English woman: Chloe’s Scooter Rental.

Other than that, it’s very easy to get around by using Uber or Grab, just don’t go near any Tuktuk drivers if you are waiting for a ride because they will shout and sometimes become aggressive! Uber and Grab are very cheap here and it’s very common as well. For example, a ride from our place in Santitham to the Old Town is around 60 TBH.

Digital Nomad Community

Chiang Mai is the capital of Digital Nomads, so you will have no problem finding meetups and events where you can meet and mingle with fellow nomads. For example, there is a meetup every Thursday just for Bitcoin enthusiasts and there are also many meetups for digital nomad girls only. What we did occasionally notice is that many nomads have been living in Chiang Mai for some years and therefore already have a base of friends and are not really open to meet other people. But of course, it depends entirely on the type of meetup you’re attending and the kind of crowd it attracts.

What’s great about Chiang Mai is that as it’s such a Digital Nomad hotspot, it’s very likely that any friends you made during your travels, you might actually have a high chance to see in Chiang Mai again. For example, Andrea and I made three great friends during our time in Koh Lanta, and we saw them again in Chiang Mai, which is amazing!

We hope you have found this blog post interesting! In case you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know by commenting below 🙂

Nina & Andrea in Chiang Mai

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