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Why I Changed My Mind About Chiang Mai

Unlike Bangkok, Chiang Mai seems to be a city beloved by everyone. When I arrived in Chiang Mai, however, I thought I might be the exception.

It’s the atmosphere and people who determine whether or not I enjoy a city—not the main attractions. After almost three weeks in Chiang Mai, this was a problem. I didn’t feel anything for this supposedly not-to-be-missed city. I thought it was highly overrated and I was ready to move on.

People Speak My Language

Chiang Mai is inhabited by a large number of expats and students, both local and foreign. For many travellers, it’s a city that completes the northern trifecta—a circuit that includes Pai and Chiang Rai.

For the few years before I made the decision to leave my job and travel, I read about people who came to Chiang Mai from all over the world to create a home base from which they could work as digital nomads. I didn’t understand why so many people chose this city over any other. It isn’t until now that I am beginning to understand why so many people end up here.


My appreciation for Chiang Mai began when I got the chance to meet with Ivana and Gianna from Nomad Is Beautiful.

They had shared a post about Koh Lanta and I noticed they were currently in Chiang Mai. I sent them an email explaining I was in the city as well and we went for dinner. They’ve since given me great advice on my website and introduced me to other bloggers working and living in Chiang Mai.

This kind of face-to-face networking is common in Chiang Mai because so many bloggers and digital nomads base themselves in the area.

It’s Cheap

The price is right in Chiang Mai. You can find rooms for under B200 per night. Alternatively, if you are planning to stay a bit longer then you can look into long-term lease agreements where the monthly rates are a fraction of the cost that you would pay in Western cities.

Work Spaces

“Have you moved today?” This is a common question I hear when I’m working from my hostel lobby. My response? “Yes, I went to the bathroom.”

I often spend hours on my laptop working on Most of the time, a hostel isn’t the best environment to work in. The Wi-Fi is poor and private rooms can be expensive.

Co-working spaces have been opening all over Southeast Asia. One of the main reasons I went to Koh Lanta was for the new co-working space, Kohub. Hubud in Ubud, Bali, Paper and Toast in Kuala Lumpur and Punspace in Chiang Mai are other co-working spaces I have visited. They all offer strong Wi-Fi connections and comfortable environments to work from.

I’ve spent most of my time in Chiang Mai working from CAMP (Creative and Meeting Place), which is on the 5th floor of the new Maya Shopping Centre next to the SFX cinema. CAMP is another reason I have learned to love Chiang Mai.

The Best of Chiang Mai


The Living Place 2 – B285/night

Vee is an excellent host and his abstract artwork decorates this hostel. They play really good music all day in the common area. The North Gate Jazz bar is close by and has an open mic night on Tuesdays.

Chiang Mai Gate Capsule – B190/night

The common area for this newly opened hostel reminds me of a hospital waiting room, but they have some of the biggest beds I’ve stayed in. Each bed has a curtain, which will give you some privacy in the dorm.

Thailandwow – Starting at B180/night

Khai is a great host and extremely helpful in helping you to plan your travels. Due to his desire to help all of his guests, though, he is often kept very busy. Any free moment he gets, he can be found sleeping in the lobby in a large orange jacket. It is a good thing that the travellers staying at Thailandwow are so laid back—they will wait patiently for their chance to chat with Khai.


The Bus Bar Chiang Mai

Yes, they do serve you your drink from a bus. If you’ve got a date, take him or her to the Bus Bar. It is located east of the old city near the Night Bazaar, sat on the Ping River, and is a perfect place to be with a significant other or “good friend.”

THC Rooftop Bar, 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road

I know what you are thinking—I haven’t asked and I won’t be asking! For anyone getting withdrawal symptoms from lack of house music you can get your fix here from about 9pm.

48 Garage, 40/12 Ratvithi Rd T. Sriphum Muang

I was sold when I saw the drinks being served out of a VW camper van. At no more than 200 meters from the lively backpacker club, Zoe In Yellow, 48 Garage has a completely different atmosphere.

Joanna from The Blonde Travels has written about a few other bars in Chiang Mai.


Chiang Mai’s got great food dotted all around Old Town. Here’s what I eat on a typical day:

Breakfast – Baan Bakery, 3/9, Suriyawong Road

It’s not the cheapest place to eat, but the croissants, breads and baguettes are freshly made. I had my first scone here in over a year.

Lunch – “The Smoothie’ place, Ratchamanka Road

I usually go for fried chicken with cashew nuts, with no cashew nuts (I’m allergic) B50, with steamed rice B10. Try the papaya and coconut shake for B30.

Dinner – Food markets near the north and south gates of Old Town.

Noodle soup B35, fresh coconut B25 and fried chicken B50.

The Sukonthan Buffet, 46/1, Huai Kaew Road

I’m not a foodie, but who would say no to buffet for B229! (Beer is extra.) Each table is given a stove to cook their own meats and vegetables, or you can choose from a wide selection of food that is precooked.

So, Chiang Mai, I’m sorry we didn’t hit it off straight away. It was me, not you. Next time, I’ll be renting an apartment!

Have you ever changed your mind about a place?


Profile photo of Nigel Allison

I left my job last February to intern with an NGO in India. I spent 5 months living and working in the Himalayas. Since then I've have been exploring Southeast Asia. Visiting Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. I have a passion for travel and films and combined the two to create

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