What started out as a fishing village with just a few shacks on the beach became a surfer's hotspot around 2005. Surfers would stay in Seminyak and drive north to Canggu's Echo Beach to catch waves. Around 2008, there was the first remote working nomads arriving. Mostly Eastern European and Russian programmers who'd work from Canggu's then few cafes.
After the digital nomad explosion of 2014, many nomads sprawled to Bali and settled down in Ubud. Meanwhile in Canggu, the first coworking space there opened called Salty Volt. It didn't manage to attract many people though and finally closed down. Canggu just wasn't ready yet, with only a few cafes and restaurants, and well, people. It took 2 years for Canggu to get back on the radar and when Ubud's coworking spaces and cafes started getting crowded in 2016, people started mentioning Canggu again. In those 2 years, the Salty Volt had now become Dojo, had a new owner, there was now lots of hip cafes, restaurants with European chefs, and the vibe in Canggu was now a more ambitious and fashionable version of Ubud.
Where Ubud was for hippies, Canggu was for hipsters.
From 2016 on, every year more and more people started to move to Canggu. In late 2017, it became so popular with nomads that for the first time Dojo had to deny new memberships. At the same time, it started becoming a hotspot for Instagrammers, who'd rent luxury villas with flamingo floats and snap pictures. In turn, this started attracting more tourists and have now made Canggu the most popular spot in Bali for nomads. For now, at least.
It's no surprise that Chiang Mai is currently the top city for digital nomads to live and work in. It has the far lowest cost of living in comparison to other cities, including low rent for decent apartments. With a variety of great co-working spaces on the rise, not to mention the number of coffee shops with decent Wi-Fi, you'll be spoilt for choice.
Bangkok’s digital nomad community has grown rapidly due to its comparatively low cost of living and position as a bustling metropolitan city with great co-working spaces and high-speed internet. As it is popular with tourists and has a large expat crowd, foreigners are welcome and most people speak at least some English.
Ho Chi Minh City is a big hot spot for digital nomads. Currently experiencing huge growth in the number of co-working spaces available. It has a slower pace of life compared to other cities. Ho Chi Minh City is well known for its coffee culture (many local cafés), traditional architecture, and friendly locals. Prices for food and accommodation are low in comparison to other South East Asian locations. Added bonus: weekend getaways at the beach are just a bus ride away.
This used to be the hotspot for digital nomads in Bali until 2016 when Canggu took over. It’s more deserted now and mostly filled with Chinese tourbuses, older Euro families and some yoga girls and yogi’s. Not as hip as it once was. Who knows when it will make a revival. I hope.
It’s hard to love Kuala Lumpur. Because everything here is average. Malaysia’s food is marketed as a mix of all cultures’ cuisines, that’s nice and all but that mix of the same cultures is tastier in any food court in Singapore. Because in KL the food is average. Malaysians are also far behind in cafes, you’ll see Starbucks rated 5 stars, while arisanal boutique cafes are rated 2 stars on Foursquare. Why? Because they have a prehistoric obsession with big brands and consumerism. The coffee in the few artisanal cafes is outstanding. Everywhere else? Average. A day in KL means you’ll be going from mall to mall. Chinatown still has some remnants of local street authenticity, but even that’s starting to be bulldozed by malls its edge. Admittedly Kuala Lumpur has come far since a decade ago, its citizens are getting close to middle class (that is if you're not one of the millions of illegal immigrants). But where Kuala Lumpur now thrives in money, it still lacks in class. And that makes it, well, average.
Nomad-ed here for a month. A totally ok place if you have the budget for it. Coworking spaces are good, 4g everywhere, transportation is effective. Lots of things to do. I was able to find friends. Lots of international people, very few digital nomads. If you're there, consider not renting in the center (as it gets expensive fast) and being creative with places to eat to find cheap options. Be prepared to use cash unless you live in a luxury.