My girlfriend and I recently spent 3 weeks traveling around Thailand while working remotely. Here’s our experience.
Thailand is one of the hottest Go-To spots for digital nomads. I wanted to try that lifestyle for some time now, as I’ve only had the opportunity to work and travel for a limited time.
My current work arrangement allowed me to continue working remotely while traveling, so we took the chance and gave it a try.
Digital Nomad Rating: 3.5/5
After a long flight, we checked into our hotel in the central Sathorn District. I loved the area. Low-rise buildings, houses and small mansions, lots of amazing cafés and restaurants. One of our favorites was this one (Nocafe.), just around the corner from where we stayed.
The city feels safe, with lots to offer in terms of nightlife, culture and cuisine. However, the coworking situation was disappointing. It was hard to find a nice coworking space that offered day passes, so I mostly spent my time working from my hotel room or different cafés. Here is another one (Teak Café)
Digital Nomad Rating: 1/5
TLDR; Don’t go.
Known as a beach resort town with a vibrant party scene, we thought it would be fun to spend a weekend. It wasn’t worth the 1.5-hour drive. This city of roughly 120,000 inhabitants didn’t fare well Post-Covid. Approximately half the existing Hotels and venues were boarded up or unlit (seemingly closed down). The open bars were running at around 20% capacity. Most of the guests were older tourists or younger folks, apparently lost like we were.
The local infrastructure has been neglected for too long. Dark streets with huge open potholes, loose power lines, stray dogs, not to mention the manifestations of poverty, mothers and children begging on the street. Not exactly the place I want to party. I can see the city bouncing back, but it will likely take a few more years, if not a decade.
We left the next day, back to Bangkok, where we coincidentally had the best night out during my whole trip at DECOMMUNE.
Digital Nomad Rating: 5/5
Ah, Chiang Mai, the supposed Mekka of Digital Nomadism.
As the second largest city at only one-tenth the size of Bangkok, it’s northern Thailand’s cultural and economic center. With its mountainous surroundings, one can immediately feel relief from the stuffy, humid air in Bangkok.
We stayed in a small hotel just outside the city center. What the city lacks in public transport, it makes up in significantly lower prices and a more relaxed vibe. A Grab (the Asian Uber equivalent) costs only around a third of what it costs in Bangkok. Restaurants and cafes were also significantly cheaper but qualitatively better. The inner city is like a condensed version of the hippest, most gentrified parts of Bangkok. More polished and truly optimized for a tech-savvy customer base.
In Chiang Mai, I came across the most amazing coworking spaces I’ve ever seen. Super polished, safe, fast internet and affordable at the same time. Here are two of my favorites:
- Alt_ChiangMai: https://goo.gl/maps/wYtq8zrL8BFfGxMD7
- Yellow Coworking Space: https://goo.gl/maps/W6xa9yXnuryr6F1u6
As a coffee guy, checking out cafés is an integral part of my travel experience. I was not disappointed. The cafés are on par with Dubai, Berlin or Vienna (my personal benchmark for the best coffee place in the world).
Here’s my favorite:
- Akha Ama Phrasingh: https://goo.gl/maps/2bqkP3PvvMFETRz67
The restaurants were amazing too. Fresh, clean and better value for money than Bangkok. Here is our favorite for Chiang Mai (we went there twice):
- Ginger Farm Kitchen: https://goo.gl/maps/41uohcz8aP8bzTE16
Even the gyms were very accommodating, with many offering affordable day passes and weekly options.
Overall, Chiang Mai exceeded my expectations by a lot. If I were to travel to Thailand again, visiting Chiang Mai would be a strong reason why.
After Chiang Mai, we were off to Phuket, Thailand’s largest island. Even though going there seemed like the “off-the-shelf” touristy Thailand experience, all the good surf spots are located on the west coast of the Malay Peninsula in southern Thailand. We were hoping we’d catch some good waves.
The first thing I noticed, it was crazy hot and humid. Up to 34 degrees Celsius and 100% air humidity in November (usually the colder, dry season). To my surprise, many restaurants and shops had Russian signs and descriptions (Russian, then English, then maybe German, then Thai). Post-Covid, with a neutral diplomatic stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russians apparently make up one of the largest groups of tourists arriving in Thailand. Seems like they all go to Phuket, you can hear primarily Russian in the streets.
We stayed in Kata Beach, a small town with a chilled vibe, 20 minutes by car from Patong (the hyper-touristy party town). It was an excellent choice to relax and get away from the hustle of the large metropolitan areas, but also, there was little to do.
I rented a scooter (actually two, I wasn’t happy with the first one) to get around the island. I had the interesting experience of driving on the left side of the road for the first time. After a couple of intersections, you get the hang of it. It was good fun. Most of the cool stuff on the island is accessible within a 30 minute ride.
Culturally the options are rather poor. Many of the Temples and other sights were built within the last few decades, specifically for tourists.
One evening we went out to Patong. The nightlife was on par with some of the hottest areas in Bangkok. A bustling vibe, more on the touristy side but super fun.
Phuket was a good chance to unwind, but I couldn’t have stayed much longer than a week. Especially if you’re trying to be productive. The island is just overrun with tourists, so are most venues and places to hang out.
Overall, the facilities were lacking. The internet was slower, good Cafés and Restaurants were few and far between.
There are a couple of coworking spaces on the island, but no competition with Chiang Mai. Also, the waves were, unfortunately, quite disappointing. If you want to go surfing, Bali is most likely a better choice.
Digital Nomad Rating: 3/5
We flew back to Bangkok and enjoyed our last few days before flying back home. We discovered some of the most unique bars during our whole trip.
Here’s our favorite: Teens of Thailand
To summarize, we had a great time in Thailand, but aside from Chiang Mai, neither Bangkok or Phuket would be a good match for me to keep a productive schedule. Finding good places to work from, working out and eating clean was just too difficult at times.
I’m interested to see what other parts of South-East Asia, like Singapore or Bali, have to offer in that regard.