A lot of people have been asking me: “What did you do in Chiang Mai?” “Are you on holiday or what? Why does it take so long?” and blah blah blah.
Well, the truth is,
Yes, I was on a holiday, but no, not that kind of holiday where you have all the time in the world to explore the new place without having anything to do or anything to think about. I don’t have the luxury to spend my own money on a one month holiday, just yet. And I don’t like a short 3 to 7 days kind of holiday either. That kind of short trip might get more expensive because of the flight ticket and stuff and I didn’t want to waste my money only for a week of tiring holiday. Why should I, right? Plus, there is no way I could leave my work for a week, either.
But I could, of course, work 5 days a week in a different place, different country, and travel around the city on the weekend (and weekday nights). So it sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
To fulfill my thirst for travel, and to cut down my cost and to buy me more time (read: weekend) to explore the city, we just simply moved and lived in Chiang Mai for a month while working. Why Chiang Mai? Well, because this city is suitable for people who work online! (Nah, actually it’s because Adam & Susan convinced and told us so). But you’ll see why.
So in Chiang Mai, we mostly worked from a coffee shop – we just simply bought some drinks and sit there for hours, and if it gets boring or the internet gets a little bit troublesome, which rarely happened, we moved to another coffee shop.
I think it’s no different with the idea of people moving from Jakarta to Bandung and live there for a longer period of time, except that it’s much more fun here in Chiang Mai. And it sounds fancy and expensive as it resides outside Indonesia, while in fact, it’s not. It’s a lot cheaper than Jakarta, for sure. And slightly cheaper than Bandung.
Before we got there, we had zero ideas about what’s in there. The only thing that came to my mind is Wat (temple). I did try browsing some, but still, found nothing. Turned out, this city is packed with what people call as “Digital Nomads”, or simply people who move from one place to another while working remotely – away from the office.
Well, I can see why. Our (almost) one month stay in Chiang Mai was anything but stressful. The city is simply hassling free. It offers a lot of cheap amazing food, and the free internet connection around the city is mostly reliable and fast as well, compared to what we usually get in Indonesia – it’s twice as fast I think. And as a result, we spent way much time focusing on our work, rather than wasting our energy on the bad traffic and any other small things that bother us, every single day.
We don’t need to wait for lunch time just to have our lunch. It sounds simple, but in the office, we have to wait until 11.30 am sharp to have our crappy lunch box. We can’t really go anywhere near to get some other food because of the traffic. It really bothers me and affects my mood for the day.
In Chiang Mai, we eat when we feel hungry. We can easily get several cups of good coffee every day, instead of that crappy coffee available in the office. In short, we got a much much better quality of life. It’s just… incredible.
(No offense, office mates!)
So in this particular post, I want to reveal my way to do this so you can hit the road without leaving your work behind. Remember, the company pays for your skill, not your life. Screw the cubicle.
Now let’s talk about work – our big main issue.
If we don’t get to work, we won’t have enough money to travel. But if we travel a lot, we might leave our work behind. And that won’t work either. It’s just silly that at then end, that we would spend all the money we earn on a short expensive holiday at the end of the year. It’s silly, really.
So if you’re like me, if you want to work from anywhere, any part of the world, you must, of course, have a job which does not require you to sit all day long in the office, meeting people. If that’s your job, sorry mate, can’t help you. It’s either you live it with or quit your job. Or, find your own way to freedom 😉
But if, say, you’re a freelancer or a programmer, or you sell stuff online, or you’re a super rich guy who doesn’t need to work for the rest of your life, then you’re on the green side.
I, myself, work as a software developer in an Indonesian company. My job is very result oriented. The boss won’t care if I work from home as long as I do my work well. Well at least that’s what he said, and that’s what I keep in mind right until now.
So I assume, if I’m allowed to work from home, I’m allowed to work from anywhere. The world (and money) is the limit.
It’s relatively easy to find a place to live in Chiang Mai. Most hotels here offer weekly and monthly rate for those who prefer to stay for a long period of time. It’s a lot cheaper than paying your accommodation fee daily.
We lived in a place called The Dome Residence (thanks for the recommendation, Adam & Susan!). And of course, I didn’t get my room cleaned every day. Mine was regularly cleaned once a week, but it’s still completely understandable. Plus, I didn’t have the free breakfast as well. This way, you can cut your costs and have more flexibility to explore the local breakfast spots. Win-win.
At The Dome, it costs around THB 8000 – 15,000 per month (around Rp 3,200,000 – Rp 6,000,000), depending on the type of room you choose. If you travel with your friends, you might cut down your accommodation cost as well!
There is two main well know area in Chiang Mai: The Old City and Nimman area.
The Old City is where all the temples are. It’s the main tourist attractions. While Nimman area is more like a place with a coffee shop, restaurants, which is always packed up with young people.
Our hotel resides just a bit outside of Nimman area, but still reachable by 5-10 mins walk. And it’s 15 mins ride to the Old City. It’s a pretty strategic place, I think.
Because it might get troublesome to travel from one place to another with a public transportation, we simply rent our own motorbikes. We chose the cheapest one and got it for THB 3000 / month. It’s relatively around Rp 1,200,000.
We rent our bike from Bikky, simply because Adam & Susan told us so. Nah, that’s because they got their motorbikes from Bikky and because Bikky has one shop just at the other side of our hotel. It’s a lot easier for us.
They will ask you to give your passport as a warranty, but if you don’t feel like giving your identity, you can give them another THB 3000. They’ll return that when you return the motorbike, of course. I wonder if it’s common or even legal for people to ask to keep your passport as a warranty? I don’t feel safe that way. So I simply gave them another THB 3000.
Check out their website for more info: www.bikkychiangmai.com
FOOD (Eating Out)
Yay, here comes my most favorite topic in the world. I might say, food in Chiang Mai is AMAZING.
You can easily get a decent local food for around THB 30 – THB 40. And a decent food in restaurant/cafe for THB 60 – THB 80.
And you can also easily find a decent place to work (read: coffee shop) selling coffee for around THB 40 – THB 60. It’s cheap! Even cheaper than Bandung.
We ended up spending roughly around THB 20,000 for eating out, for two. So one person actually spent around Rp 4,000,000 for eating out.
You can cut out a lot of expenses for food if you want. You can buy some bread or oats for breakfast instead of having breakfast outside, you can buy some fruits or takeaways food for dinner instead of going to a restaurant. It depends on your lifestyle, really.
This is about another expected (and unexpected) expenses. Like laundry, toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc), shopping, DIY hair dye (of course!), entrance fee to the zoo, and many many more. Roughly we spent around THB 4000. That’s including buying souvenirs for families and for ourselves. Ha! You can save a lot though if you don’t buy as many souvenirs as we did.
Oh, that THB 4000 includes THB 856 for electricity, and only God know where the rest of our money goes.
So, our total costs for a month living in Chiang Mai is roughly around THB 40,000 for two. That’s THB 13,000 for accommodation, THB 3000 for a motorbike, THB 20,000 for food, and THB 3500 for misc expenses.
OUR DAILY ROUTINES
In Chiang Mai, we normally wake up at around 7. Then we’ll go out for breakfast and head to the coffee shop for working. It’s incredible that our morning has always, always been hassle free because of the fresh air and the smooth traffic that we always start working with a fresh mind. At around 11 or 12 am, we’ll go out for lunch. It usually takes around half an hour to an hour. Then, after feeling refreshed again, we’ll head to another coffee shop for more work. The good coffee & desserts get us refreshed one more time. We usually work until 5 or 6 pm, then we’ll have a nice dinner before going home. On the weekend, we’ll explore the city with all the time we have.
Is Chiang Mai a Great Place for Digital Nomads?
Overall, I think Chiang Mai is a great place to work if you want to spend most of your time hopping from one coffee shop to another. And, if you’re not a fan of big city like I am. I think you can still afford to live here even if you only have half of my budget. This city is super affordable!
For me, what a Digital Nomad need is as simple as:
- Decent internet connection
- Easy access around the city
- Great working place
- Great warm weather for working
And from my personal experience, Chiang Mai has them all, so it’s a YES! In fact, I might want to come back next year, if I can’t afford to make my way to Granada, Spain.*fingercrossed*
No matter how good you’re doing, people will talk. So screw them and live your life the way you want it. (Pst, I learn it the hard way)
Enjoy your ride!