If you know me you know that I’ve been to dozens of countries, lived abroad, and have arranged my life so I can travel as much as possible. Of all the places I’ve been, Chiang Mai is my favorite. I’m here right now, and this place is simply amazing. I’ve never been anywhere before that has everything– perfect weather, low prices, friendly, happy people, decent transportation system, reliable internet and electricity, great nightlife, I could go on. Despite all these amazing qualities, there is more to Chiang Mai than just a list of good qualities. The place just has a great vibe. I’m naturally a stressed-out guy but this place just puts me at ease. I wish everyone could come here and see what I mean.
One of the first things I noticed in Chiang Mai is that Thai people are stoked to be here. They are always smiling. This place is like if you took the Hawaiian islands and filled them with Midwesterners. Happy people in paradise. Not everyone speaks English, but I’ve met a few Thai people who lived abroad in the US or UK and we were able to have a good conversation. They realize that northern Thailand is a natural paradise, it’s not too crowded, and Thai food is a wonder of the world. Every Thai I talked to was satisfied with their station in life, which is definitely not true among my friends back home in the West. When I walk down the sidewalk, so many people say “good morning!” For the last week I’ve been going to the same soup place for lunch, and the people who work there now recognize and make jokes about whether I like spicy food. I love it.
As one expat explained to me, “in Thailand, the answer is yes.” Do you want to drink imported beers from all over the world? Head over to the expat neighborhood Nimman for a wide variety of bars to choose from. Would you like to to rent a furnished apartment with full kitchen, balcony, flatscreen TV, strong A/C, and swimming pool? For all that I’m paying $27/day, and I didn’t even negotiate the price or get a monthly rate (where you can save 40%.) You want a massage? (The real kind, nothing shady.) That’s available on every corner. Of course there’s amazing Thai food, which is legitimately one of the world’s great cuisines, but did you expect cheap food from virtually every country in Asia? I didn’t. It’s easy and cheap to get around the city, and there are uncountable excursions of every kind you can go on. And if you need some time in a big city you’re a short flight from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, and a slightly longer flight from Hong Kong.
You can travel around Asia very easy from here: the airport is centrally located and Air Asia flies here. (Air Asia tip for the taller folks: pay $25 for the extra legroom seats. It’s a game changer.) You can easily travel over land to Myanmar or Laos, which many Westerners do to leave Thailand for one minute in order to renew their tourist visa. And if you feel the need for the first world, there are direct flights to Singapore.
The weather is amazing every day. I go swimming in the pool in my airbnb’s apartment complex every day while looking at a beautiful mountain. That’s after reading about 12 inches of snow in Chicago.
There is a huge, huge community of people bootstrapping online businesses here. I’ve definitely met a lot more people here who are cashflow positive (or at least they claim to be and sound like they have a clue.) At other coworking spaces in Asia I’ve met more people who, I’m sad to say, I don’t think are going to make it. Here’s different. When I say you can live on $1,000/month here, I mean you will live a comfortable life, with your own nice apartment, eating delicious food at outdoor restaurants, with reliable electricity and internet access. If you are selling to the West it’s not that hard to make $1,000/month. Even if you’re American and you have to pay 40% taxes, and fly home twice a year, a $20,000/year income gives you a nice life here. Try to let that sink in.
The food is awesome, and cheap. I pay 40 or 50 Baht (USD$1 ~= 35 Baht) for a nice meal. There are so many restaurants and food stalls to choose from that it’s overwhelming. Thai food is a wonder, and other cuisines are available in abundance. If you are willing to pay 200-300 Baht you can get western meals like a hamburger and french fries, or beer imported from Belgium.
The only downside of Thailand is that they are strict about visas! Unlike Malaysia, where Americans can just show up and get 90 days, in Thailand by default you get 30 days, which you can extend for 30 more with a trip to a government office. A lot of westerners took advantage of lax enforcement in the past and now we’re all paying the price.
I’ve also heard bad stories about the smog when burning season comes around in March. During that time the advice is to head south to the shore for a few weeks, or take the chance to leave Thailand for a while so you can spend more time here when the weather is good.
In the end, my advice to anyone is to just come here. If you’re a digital nomad and need to work, check out the coworking space called Punspace in Nimman. If you’re on vacation, fly here and relax for a while, it’s a great launching point for lots of excursions. If you’re on a fixed income, come here and improve your quality of life. I’m seriously questioning everything I though I wanted out of life with respect to living in expensive western cities right now.
Got any questions about digital nomad life? Send me a message! If you don’t have my contact info just tweet at me @LinuxFan2718