Why do you live in Chiang Mai, Thailand?
Backpackers, digital nomads, expats, and travel bloggers have to answer this question once in a while. Not easy to explain, it feels like there is something magnetic in that city, something that every day attracts new travelers or entrepreneurs. Many reasons made us fall in love with Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, and many more made us want to return there!
It is incredible how such a small place can connect so many people and attract different kinds of travelers. Living in Chiang Mai is a type of experience almost every backpacker or digital nomad must have on their resume because living in Chiang Mai is totally different from being a tourist in the city. You have a different mindset, your packing list is different, and your targets are different.
So to solve this nomadic mystery, we talked with some expats, digital nomads and entrepreneurs to try to figure out why this city is so special and why they choose to live in Chiang Mai.
We asked a simple question to them: Why do you live in Chiang Mai?
Clelia Mattana [Italian]
Founder, Editor & Photographer » Keep Calm and Travel
“So why do I live in Chiang Mai? First of all, the old city offers some pretty interesting sights, I love the contrast between the chaos and the peaceful canal and pretty fountains that flow in the heart of the city. When getting around by red taxis you can spot so many lovely temples, as the city is filled with them at every corner, and it’s nice to discover yet a new one randomly! Second…it’s damn cheap! For a digital nomad, this is one of the main aspects to consider when it comes to deciding where to put your roots for a few months. And let’s not forget the most important aspect on why I decided to stay here for so long: networking! Contact with other digital nomads and bloggers is the best aspect of staying here: exchanging ideas and suggestions with like-minded people is a great opportunity to create strong relationships and friendships. Since I’ve missed TBEX 2 times in a row, being in Chiang Mai allowed me to still catch up with many bloggers and I couldn’t be happier!”
Jack Davis [American]
“ I came to Chiang Mai to do a writing project and planned to stay for six months. It’s now been a year and a half. I decided to stay because it’s simple: I fell in love with Chiang Mai 🙂
There are several reasons:
1º – the food is amazing.
2º – it’s the safest place I’ve ever lived.
3º – the cost of living in Chiang Mai is cheap.
4º – and the most important reason: the people. The sweetest, kindest and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. They call Thailand ” The Land of Smiles “. So fitting. I will also add, that the intangible feature for me is that my “stress level” is at its lowest point ever. I find I have more of a spiritual connection here. I find it quite easy to ” live in the present “. So grateful to be here.”
Carlo Cretaro & Florence Murphy [Irish]
Travel Bloggers » Next Stop Who Knows
“Over the past two years, we’ve traveled and worked in many cities around the world. Each time we go to a new city, we always compare it to Chiang Mai. Why? Because, in our opinion, Chiang Mai is the perfect city to work online, live cheaply and have a great lifestyle. The food is delicious, the locals are friendly, the weather is comfortable (apart from the Smokey season) and the WiFi infrastructure is excellent.
Add into the equation: endless networking possibilities, a vibrant digital community, a plethora of co-working spaces, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect “digital city”. Over the past few years, Chiang Mai has exponentially exploded with an influx of people, all looking to bootstrap their online business while enjoying the fruits of living in a very affordable part of the world. This is our third time to come back to live in Chiang Mai for a while, and it definitely won’t be the last.”
Anja Winter [German]
Teacher » Learn German with Anja
“One reason why I love Chiang Mai is because it was so easy to get started as a teacher here. Thai people still have the notion: “Oh, you’re German? Well, then you can teach German!“ I didn’t need any special qualifications as a German teacher, and this has helped me to discover my true passion without any hassles. “Learning by doing?” Here you go!
Another reason why I absolutely love to live in Chiang Mai is the way it was constructed. For people with a terrible sense of direction like me, this city is the best place to be. You just need to know where the square (the old city) is and the rest will be in some direction around it. Hop on a scooter and hardly ever get lost again.”
Dave Brett [English]
Travel Blogger » Travel Dave
“Chiang Mai just has everything a digital nomad could possibly need. Fast WiFi/4G connection, it’s half the price of Bangkok, easy, affordable condos with all the facilities you could possibly want. Fantastic, affordable, and healthy Thai food, an endless supply of coffee shops, and places to chill in the evening. Many say it only takes a few days to settle and feel at home and some seem to stay forever.
Thai people are very polite and welcoming, it’s very safe here. It’s super easy to integrate and feel at home instantly, this makes it a perfect spot for first-timers looking at kick-starting this lifestyle. New Co-working spots and condos are popping up all the time and meeting the current demand, I believe life in Chiang Mai is getting better and easy every day.”
April Black [American]
“The reasons why I came here and why I’m still here have evolved. I knew I wanted to move here before I even got here… before I even came to Asia! After several friends had come here and then told me about what it was like, I knew Chiang Mai was the spot where I would settle down for a while. Chiang Mai has everything I want and need for living abroad, especially as a first-time expat.
The list of why Chiang Mai is the ideal place in Southeast Asia to live is endless!! With the mountains overlooking the city, it has the best food in Thailand, with a huge variety of Western and Asian foods. People tend to be more outdoorsy here. It’s one of the most relaxed cities in Thailand, the people here are quite artistic, and the weather is the most ideal in the country. It has tons of nature: mountains, lakes, waterfalls, hiking, rice fields, and more… It only takes a 1.5-hour flight to get to the beach (for less than $45!). It’s culturally diverse with many like minded expats from all over the world living here as well as a digital nomad hub. It’s a medium sized city with a small-town feel.
Why I’m still choosing to live in Chiang Mai is because the expat community here is small and they’ve become my family. After living here for 2.5 years now, it’s become home for much longer than I had planned, but it’s also hard to leave as it really is the perfect place to live in Southeast Asia.”
Bárbara Rocha & Vagner Alcantelado [Brazilians]
Journalist & Video Maker – Melhores Momentos da Vida
“Chiang Mai has a cool, vibrant vibe, and it`s a more laid-back city. It’s hard to get bored with so many options of cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, more than 300 temples, local markets and cultural events. Even with such a busy life, the atmosphere here remains peaceful and pleasant, with little traffic and without the tourist harassment common in other big cities like Bangkok.
Typically, the Thai are very smiling and attentive, but in Chiang Mai, they seem even friendlier. The cost of living is super cheap. You can live in a nice, modern studio with internet, cable TV, and swimming pool in the building for less than $200 USD per month. An organic food meal on my street costs $ 2 USD. ;-)”
Alejandro Nuñez [Mexican]
Entrepreneur & Travel Writer – Mi Viaje por el Mundo
“After have been traveling for years, I have found just a few places that I could call home and, after my hometown, Chiang Mai is probably the number one on that list. Chiang Mai is the mix of the best food you will find in Thailand, friendly locals, cheap cost of living, warm climate, and good internet speed, it is the place where all the digital nomads and retired people come and stay.
The first time I left, I thought I wouldn’t come in a long time because I wanted to travel more. After a few months, I felt burned out, so I made the best decision I could possible make: come back to live in Chiang Mai. Even though most of my time here I spend it working, the city has every kind of attraction that you can ask for, but if you are missing the sand and the sea it is only a 1-hour flight away.”
For all those reasons, we decided to live in Chiang Mai too. Our first time there was on November 2014, the plan was to stay only two weeks, but after making friends, be spoiled by the delicious and cheap food, and the huge offer of co-working spaces (check this video from CAMP, our favorite co-working space!) we feel in love for the city and decided to stay for over a month. And of course, it wasn´t enough. On March 2015, we went back to the practical and easy city.
After one year of traveling [and working] around the world, for us, Chiang Mai is one of the best places to focus on work and live as an expat in Thailand. That´s why it has become a paradise for digital nomads, entrepreneurs and bloggers. We made so many friends and learned so much there that definitely we gonna come back soon.
After Chiang Mai, another hot spot for digital nomads is Bali in Indonesia, more specifically Canggu and Ubud areas. We wrote an article with all the details and info. Read our Bali Digital Nomad Guide here.
I miss a lot the Sunday Night Market, the Thai food for less than $ 2 USD [especially the papaya salad], the day trips to the mountains & waterfalls, and the iced coffee… While writing this post, Rob and I had a serious conversation and decided to go back to Thailand sooner than we had planned. We were supposed to stay around Europe till October, but he is already searching for flights for the end of July. We’ll be landing in Bangkok, but for sure, we’ll head north.