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What is the first thing I should do when I land in Chiang Mai?


in Chiang Mai, Thailand by @joshuaballard | 4yr  | 11 comments

I have been tempted by the digital nomad lifestyle for quite some time now.

I purposefully built a business that allowed me to work anywhere that has my PC and an internet connection, but then ended up renting an office and just going about life business as usual in the town I grew up in.

I finally booked tickets for a few months in Asia, and will be landing in Chiang Mai on the 17th of March

(which someone pointed out to me is actually the smokey season, which iโ€™m reading about now)

For a first time digital nomad, what would you recommend as the first point of call when landing in a new city?

thanks for any shared wisdom all

Joshua

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@freedio | 4yr

First thing I do before arriving in a new place is making sure I have an accommodation for the first 3 days (AirBnB is always my first bet), that there are coworking spaces (www.coworker.com and the nomad forum are my best sources), and that the two locations are as close as possible.
In Chiang Mai, my best bet was Houzzel360, because it is nearby Punspace Tha Phae Gate โ€ฆ and this was an excellent choice, because both places are smack in the middle of the old town, where you can find most of the interesting things defining Chiang Mai. During the first 3 days, I was looking around for accommodations at a decent price, and soon found a private room just a few meters from there for THB 3000 p.m.; together with the coworking space (THB 3000 p.m.), I had a decent place to work and sleep for less than $200. Iโ€™m back in the same places after a year now, and I didnโ€™t need to re-evaluate my choices.
Itโ€™s always a good idea to learn a few words in the local language, like sawat-dee-khrab (good morning/afternoon/evening), khob-khoon-khrab (thank you), khoa [beer chung] (Iโ€™d like [a chung beer]), โ€ฆ noy (โ€ฆ, please) and my-pen-rye (youโ€™re welcome) for Thailand, because this is a real door-opener.
I usually dedicate my first 3 days in a new place to looking for an accommodation and place to work, roaming the city to get acquainted with the place Iโ€™m about to stay for a while, seeing where important shops like restaurants, cafรฉs and 7/11 are.
Getting meals from the street market in various places (Night Market close to Punspace or street market at Chiang Mai gate), I have to add another THB 120 per day (THB 3600 p.m.) for food, which keeps my total living and working costs under $300 p.m. โ€” not counting the drinks, massage and other stuff I afford beyond the basics at irregular times.
My standard of living is basic, of course, and not everybodyโ€™s cup of tea, but I like to keep life simple and focus on my work (not to mention the local girls, of course). At $300 p.m. fixed costs, it doesnโ€™t hurt to add some luxury from time to time, though. =; )
Your mileage may vary.

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@joshuaballard | 4yr

Thanks for the ideas Freedio :slight_smile: I must say I certainly am pretty excited to start this nomadic Journey. How low long have you been keeping it up for?

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@freedio | 4yr

Iโ€™m in for less than two years only, but I have been making a living as a sort of nomadic freelancer in Switzerland for over 10 years, always trying to relocate as close as possible to my current place of work, which implied looking for cheap rooms in or near all major cities, and, of course, camping during summertime.
I still keep acquiring 6-month freelance job from time to time when I run out of money, because my projects still donโ€™t yield anything โ€ฆ money made in an expensive country like Switzerland however goes a loooong way when living in cheap countries around the globe, so for every half year contract I acquire I can live several years abroad, even though living in two worlds means keeping abreast with the fast paced development in both (and, boy, software development is a fast paced environment).
I hope though that I can end doing these splits by 2017 or 2018.

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@freedio | 4yr

Welcome to the club anyway, joshua1, and congrats on the decision. Itโ€™s an exciting thing to do, and I already cannot imagine doing anything else. Doing contracts on location used to be a big improvement on employment, but now it almost feels like sitting out a term in prison. =; )

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@joshuaballard | 4yr

Thanks Freedio, I thought I would be sensible and just go for 2 months to begin with, but I already feel like Iโ€™m going to love it :slight_smile:

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@freedio | 4yr

Being sensible certainly is a wise and sustainable approach to exploring white spots on oneโ€™s personal map. Once those white spots take on color, you have far better arguments for any direction from there. :wink:
Two months look like a generous time frame for testing the digimad life style: Youโ€™ll be able to explore the spot to quite some depth, or you might even consider trying some โ€œnearbyโ€ alternatives like Koh Phangan or Koh Lanta after a month.

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@kathrynoh | 4yr

First thing I do is get a SIM card :slight_smile:

If you are staying in an Airbnb, definitely give the place a good look over. Itโ€™s a lot easier to get out of the place within the first 24 hours (they have a 24 guarantee thing) then later if itโ€™s not up to scratch. Make sure there are no obvious faults and everything matches the description.

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@joshuaballard | 4yr

Thanks Kathrynnoh

I had heard that AirBnB ends up more expensive in places like Thailand? has this been your experience? or would you generally recommend AirBnB over finding more traditional accomodation?

Thanks

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@kathrynoh | 4yr

For Thailand, I wouldnโ€™t use Airbnb. There are a few threads on here, I started one last year and got a heap of good options :slight_smile: that are better alternatives.

Thereโ€™s a lot of talk about living dirt cheap in Thailand but unless you need to get spending at a minimum, Iโ€™d say go for something a bit more mid-range. Itโ€™s better to have an environment thatโ€™s conducive to working than saving a few bucks. The lost productivity would probably cost you more anyway.

Iโ€™d look at a total budget for living and working - if you plan working at home pay a bit more for a decent ergonomic set up but if you like being a bit more social, look at the total cost of paying for accommodation + co-working space.

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Not Chiang Mai specific, but the first few things I usually do if itโ€™s a digital nomad trip (as opposed a purely โ€œvacation-yโ€ trip):

  1. Trial run the first AirBNB / hotel / hostel youโ€™re going to stay in to see if itโ€™ll work long-term. If it doesnโ€™t, move to your backup option and give that a shot. Finding a stable place to crash is critical, and if you spend a couple of weeks spinning your wheels on this, itโ€™s easy to spend too much time drifting and too little time working. Productivity is hard, so I usually want to remove the obvious excuses as early as possible.

  2. Internet. SIM cards if you need them, wifi, guest house wifi: whatever youโ€™re using, test it. If connectivity is mission-critical (Iโ€™m a web developer, so it usually is for me), you might want a fallback option as well. I usually use some mix of public wifi + 4G mobile hotspot device + wifi where Iโ€™m staying, and worst case, hotspotting from my phone. This may be less of an issue if youโ€™re working from a coworking space with reliable internet.

  3. If youโ€™re not the type to work at โ€œhomeโ€, then scope out a couple of work-friendly cafes, grab a meal, and tip well. Become a familiar face. If youโ€™re used to an office, it might be a good idea to start spending a few days working from cafes. I had a very easy time settling in to the digital nomad life when I first started a few years ago because Iโ€™d already spent a ton of time working from coffee shops in and around Chicago, before hitting the road. Digital nomading in your home city before you head out is good practice, and itโ€™ll reduce a lot of the โ€œHow do I do this working from the coffee shop thing?โ€ intro jitters. Youโ€™ll also get a feel for how crowded, how far off the beaten path, how scenic, or how close to the beach your ideal working spot is.

  4. Buy all the stuff you forgot. Power adapters. Cell phone chargers. You can never have too many chargers. A portable battery pack if youโ€™re using your phone as a hotspot, or if it just has a crappy battery. Get this all out of the way in the first week, so youโ€™re ready to roll.

  5. Jump on in. I prefer not easing into work, or thereโ€™s a risk that Iโ€™ll get lazy till I hit a deadline. I work better if I jump in and start working a full day, with a regular schedule, where I know exactly what goals I want to hit, put a couple of hours of non-distracted time into each goal, and then know exactly when Iโ€™m going to switch off to go ride a motorcycle around the Himalayas some more. That gets me into a productive work schedule much sooner, and hitting your deliverables from the first couple of days will cut down on your stress levels a lot.

Good luck! And welcome to the life.

D.

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@joshuaballard | 4yr

Thanks Dave

That is definitely some solid advice re: get cracking on the work asap.

I did a trial run of workign and travelling last year, but did too many different citites in a short period of time. The stress of not getting enough work done definitely came hard at me.

I could already feel that little voice in the back of my head telling me to just relax for a few days when I go there, but I think that may be approaching it as a holiday and not a new life style.

Internet is pretty crucial for me, as Iโ€™m an SEO and Digital Marketer myself

thanks

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