Should we go to Bali or southern Thailand?

Greetings! This is my first post here. My wife and I are in our 30’s, and I’m a UX Designer by trade. We will soon be putting our stuff in storage, moving out of our house, and hitting the road. I work remotely, so my job situation is fine for traveling for the time being.

We are planning our first stop. For our first stop, we are looking to go somewhere for a couple months to decompress (had some stressful personal events of late that we need time to deal with), do some studying, and reading – ideally in a beautiful, warm, healthy, relatively inexpensive place.

One major thing is that I have Type 1 Diabetes and have an insulin pump. While I’ll be loading up on pump supplies and insulin before I leave, it would be nice to be somewhere that has some medical facilities or access to pharmaceuticals.

The two main places we’re considering for our first stop (March/April 2015) are Bali or south Thailand (been looking at Ko Lanta, Ko Samui, etc). Which of the two would you recommend? I’m especially interested in solid Internet service, as my job depends on it, as I’m sure you all can appreciate.

Thanks!

Medical care is of a generally excellent standard in Thailand. I can’t speak for Bali, but this won’t be a problem in Thailand. However, consider a larger city rather than living on an island. Koh Samui has well stocked 24 hour pharmacies, often staffed by a nurse, but it’s a long way (a boat ride plus a long bus ride) to the nearest major hospital in Surat Thani. The other option is to fly to Bangkok. An island is just not a great place to be if you have a serious, life-threatening emergency. Living on an island also drives up the price of everything, because it has to come by plane or boat. Sure, the island lifestyle is idyllic, but it will cost you.

On the mainland, when you say “southern Thailand,” it really depends where you mean specifically. On the mainland, the closer south from Phuket you get to the Malaysian border, the more dangerous it becomes (Phuket is safe and affordable). Kidnappings and bombings carried out by Muslim separatist groups are not uncommon. You don’t hear about this much in the Western media, but it’s well known locally. It’s also less expensive in these parts of Thailand, and the pace of life is slower and quieter. Because of the security threat, there are a lot of relatively unspoiled and beautiful beaches. It is best to dress modestly in accordance with local religious customs, though.

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You’ll be happy in either place. Medical care in Thailand is better than Bali, but both have very modern medical facilities that cater heavily to expats and medical tourists, so nothing to worry about for your basic needs in either place unless you go far off grid. Pharmacies are plentiful in both, always with the caveat that fake drugs do exist and are an issue throughout Asia.

Internet is certainly better in Thailand as well. It’s plentiful in both places, just where a cafe in Bali has a unstable 1Mbps connection, cafes in Thailand have reliable 3-10Mbps connections.

Often in Bali I get frustrated at cafes end up using 3G because it’s more reliable, but then I’ll occasionally do that in Thailand too.

@TProphet - I don’t know about Ko Lanta, but Samui has two big hospitals. Bangkok Hospitals is about as highly reagarded as they come, on par with Bumengrad in Bangkok http://www.bangkokhospitalsamui.com/index.php?lang=en

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Thanks for your thoughts! I’m not interested in a big city, personally, since the goal of the first leg is to decompress a bit. So I think Bangkok is out. Also, I live on an Island right now, so I’m familiar with Island life in terms of not having complete control over when you can leave (unless there are problems with emergency medical evacuation – which I’ve never needed).

Good to know about Internet access problems in Bali. This is what I was worried about. From scouring AirBnB, it seems like the housing options in Bali are much better quality for the price. Any input there? I’m not looking for outright luxury, but looking to spend $500-750 USD on a place at or near the beach with AC that has a bit of privacy. Not super interested in a bar scene, or in overly communal living – I’d like at least basic kitchen facilities in the apartment/bungalow.

Any other websites that would be good to look at for housing other than AirBnB?

Thanks again!

Bali and Thailand aren’t very different in terms of total cost of living, but it varies on where exactly you want to stay. Koh Samui is one of the most expensive places in Thailand because it’s a resort destination AND has a well established expat community.

I tend to think Bali housing/lodging is a little cheaper than Thailand and higher quality, but Bali food is more expensive and lower quality.

FYI, Bangkok Hospitals is a private hospital group (not a single hospital in Bangkok).

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Internet need is hard to gauge. I think I’m a heavy utilizer, I know many who seem happy if email and facebook works… whereas what I care about is FTP’ing hundreds of files.

The first category has no problem in Bali. WiFi is abundant anywhere there are tourists. It’s just not particularly fast and is prone to short outages.

Obviously from the 1000’s of people remote working from Bali though it is suitable to most. Including me :smile: as long as I can get to Hubud (coworking in Ubud, Bali), it’s just not on par with Thailand.

The paradox with Hubud and Ubud is that it’s far from the beach (about an hour)… which makes me less happy but Ubud in general I love as long as the tune out the yoga retreat crowd a little.

@jb510 Thanks! Your insight is really helpful, much appreciated. Since I’ve never been to Thailand, it’s difficult for me to imagine the difference between various places. Depending on who I ask, Phuket is either wonderful or horrid.

Krabi area seems like a good balance, but very little is available on Airbnb from what I’ve seen.

Ko Lanta seems nice, but somewhat remote.

Any other areas I should search for?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say…

Perfect example. I’ve never been a fan of big cities and I hated Bangkok and New Delhi the first couple times I visited each. Then on the 3rd or 4th visit a local showed me a new part of the city and I fell in love with both, not to the point I’d want to spend months in either, but a week in either is something I look forward to now whereas I used to avoid even spending the night.

I don’t know Krabi/Phuket well enough. I generally don’t like tourist crowds and they sound crowded. I have friends that live in Railey whom I keep meaning to visit though… I split my Thailand time between the south (Koh Phangan/Saumi) and Chiang Mai.

One other note regarding coworking spaces if that’s your thing (I love them), Thailand (Hubba & Punspace) are half the price per day of Bali (Hubud & Lineup Hub). US$10 vs US$20. It’s not a huge dollar amount, but it makes a difference. internet and electric cost a lot more in Bali than in Thailand, so that cost gets passed on.

Similarly scooter rentals in Bali tend to run double the cost of Thailand if I recall correctly. US$2-5/day vs US$5-10/day. (long term rentals much cheaper)

Again, the total cost of living in either is pretty similar and what you choose to spend money on is going to make a bigger difference than the difference between locales.

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Looking closer at southern Thailand again based on the suggestions from @jb510. Any opinions on Ko Pha-Ngan?

See @DavidSidhom and my comments here: Are there any coworking spaces on Thailand's islands? Ideally on Ko Samui or Ko Phangan?

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Any discernible difference in mosquitos between Bali and southern Thailand?

@jb510 Do you find the Internet service at Hubud to be fast/reliable enough for heavy use? (Webdev, pulling down heavy dbs, FTP, etc)

Generally yes the internet service at Hubud is fast enough and very reliable. They’ve done an amazing job of squeezing every bit of performance out of their dedicated 20/20Mbps line. VOIP/Skype is prioritized, heavy users get throttled (forget the cap but GBs per day), etc… It’s really impressive how sophisticated they are with it.

The reality though is it’s still 20Mbps being shared by 50+ concurrent users at peak hours.

I never had difficulty getting work done there, but it couldn’t compare to the joy of getting home to my US home and 50 Mbps connection all to myself, or just 20 users sharing 100Mbps in Thailand.

As this started… YMMV, you’ll develop your own coping strategies based on your own needs.

BTW, mosquitos… generally don’t bother me so I’d be a bad judge. There are mosquitos both places year round, I think how bad they are is more seasonal that geographic.

Hi Daniel, I can only speak about Koh Lanta, I have been a DN here for 6 years now - on and off. It’s a nice balance on the island, not too touristy, but developed just enough. You won’t find certain big name franchises there for instance. But everything you need.

By some odd coincidence there is a new Hub opened and one of the members actually had Type 1 Diabetes. She seemed very comfortable here and was around for a few months.

It’s a relatively undiscovered DN scene here, but the new hub (kohub.org) has 55Mb/s internet, back up electricity and is open 24 hours.

Hope this helps.

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Hi @James,

Thanks for the reply. I actually called Medtronic Minimed yesterday (the manufacturer of my insulin pump) to find out how they handle distribution outside the USA, and it looks like they have a Bangkok operation, so my mind is put at ease about getting access to pump supplies. Great to hear about the other Type 1 member at the new Hub who isn’t having any issues there.

I’m curious – I saw a couple places in Old Town Koh Lanta on AirBnB that looked promising, but Old Town seems like it might be a bit further off the beaten track. I wonder if Internet service out there is any worse?

If you were to recommend an area to look in Koh Lanta where would you recommend?

Thanks!

Hi @DanielGenser.

Old Town is a bit out the way, lovely fishing village vibe though. The fibre has not reached that far yet and they rely on up/down over shared ADSL. For a DN I wouldn’t advise it.

All depends on what you are looking for, price, location (beach/road), style(apartment/hut), A/C or Fan and how long you stay. In Lanta monthly deals are common and cost 30-50% of daily prices (to get these you normally need to be here).

All the choices you can get in Long beach/Pra Ae area. The further south you go the quieter the beaches get. But even in the peak season (now) the ‘busy’ beach is a times a handful of people.

In March/April there are lots of options (on the cusp of the cheaper low season, where there are many bargains to be found) really nice apartments to bungalows right on the beach.

There are a clutch of Apartments you can check out when you get in, if you want I can try to point you in the right direction. Also, Kohub have a page on ‘where to stay’ http://kohub.org/phra-ae-long-beach-places-to-stay, maybe check that out?

Cheers.

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@James – thanks again. This is exactly the info I was looking for on Koh Lanta. We are definitely going to be heading to SE Asia around March 1, and the current plan is to spend 2-3 months in the region. We’re not looking to hop around a ton – so monthly deals would be terrific.

This is our first stop in our adventure, and we are kinda Northern souls who are trying out the tropics. Love the idea of the beautiful beaches and natural scenery, so I’m not looking for anything overly built up (this is why Phuket doesn’t seem super appealing to me). At the same time, I’d be lying if I thought I was ready for a fan-only hut, either. We want to ease into things, so a cabin/hut with AC with a covered porch to work on, good WiFi, and (ideally) a beach view is our big wish list.

Sounds like it would be a better idea maybe to book a place for only the first few days on Koh Lanta and then shop for a longer term place in person?

Yep Daniel just turn up with a booking for 2-3 days, get a bike, ask around and explore for long term! Sounds like Lanta is exactly what you are looking for.

Glad to help.

Hi,
I just want top chime in on the possibility of Chiang Mai, Thiland. If you are looking for everything except a beach then this place is definitely worth considering- quiet, great internet, surrounding beauty to die for, co-working spaces and a very digital nomad friendly atmosphere plus cheap and very easy to get settled.
I’m here twice a year and happy to answer any questions. I even have a friend here with a nice studio apartment which may be free when you are planning to travel.
If it doesn’t fit your criteria right now, then fair enough, but I’ve had such a relaxing and easy time here, I just wouldn’t want you to count it out- unless you really need a beach!!

Best of luck…

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