Where Basic Nomads Start Out

Chiang Mai - Where Basic Nomads Start Out.

Ok, so we originally thought we’d be spending the first few months of our journey on a beach on a small island in Southern Thailand, but about a week before our trip, we decided to acclimate ourselves to this new chapter of life without the distractions of living on a beach - hence, Chiang Mai! The leaping off point for digital nomads everywhere! It’s also touted as the most inexpensive place to live in Southeast Asia so it wasn’t all bad that we’d already bought our tickets to Bangkok.

We did about as much research as you can do in a week, but when every travel blog in the world says “Uh, you just kinda have to show up and ask around for a place to rent”, you’re pretty much going to have to wing it. So, we rolled into town on the cheapest flight from Bangkok, grabbed a Grab (like Uber) and checked in to our Airbnb in the neighborhood we were looking to stay in - Nimman. Now, Nimman is like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, mixed with parts of L.A., but it’s in Northern Thailand, so it’s pretty dirty everywhere and you can’t drink the water. Rats and cockroaches were an eye-opener.

We made a bee line for the co-working space we wanted to work out of and asked the hostess where to find a good place to rent for a month or two. She knew of one place, but when we showed up, we decided that some amenities might be nice while we get used to living in a very very different place. We followed the advice of the bloggers and hit the road, asking everybody with a big building about their monthly rate. Our question soon became: “Do you rent monthly?”. As I mentioned, this is a very touristy area and everyone seems to have figured out that hotels charging nightly make more than apartments charging monthly. By the end of our first day wearing our snazzy new Osprey 70 packs, we were in desperate need of a massage.

Expectations vs Reality.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of places to get a massage ($6ish/person), reasonably inexpensive places to eat ($10ish/person), and tons of tourists just like us (priceless?). Unfortunately, we soon found out it’s cheaper to eat out than cook at home, meaning you need to budget for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out - every day. Another thing no other blog seems to note is the deposits: Place to rent, add one month’s deposit; need a scooter, one month’s deposit; with the deposits, the ATM fees, the international transaction fees and the visa runs - it’s not nearly as inexpensive as everyone makes it out to be.

On our second day in town, we expanded our search to houses and places that “look like it might be rental…maybe”. Don’t worry, we didn’t get arrested for trespassing, though I’m positive we weren’t allowed to go in that one gate. Anyways, we ended up on a dead end road where we saw a bunch of sandals outside a back door to a pretty large home - good sign. We knocked on the door and a very nice Thai man came to the door. We asked about monthly rent, he said some stuff in Thai then motioned for us to wait. He called another guy who turned out to be the owner, Tani*. Turns out, Tani went to school at Purdue University, speaks fluent English and has rentals all over the place. Not only was the price right ($360/mo), but he recommended places to shop, eat, rent a scooter and just about everything else we needed. He also didn’t charge a full month’s deposit, so if you come here - rent from this guy! Since we now had a beautiful loft to stay in with a pool, tons of lounge space and dedicated wifi, we had no need for a co-working space. After all, who wants to hang out with a bunch of bloggers and bitcoiners anyways?!?

Routine In The Rain.

Now, Chiang Mai is known for two things, street food and temples. There are fried food merchants everywhere and there are apparently over 300 temples in this city. We’ve spent a little time visiting them when it’s not raining too hard, and we get out and eat at the local markets a few times a week, but most of our time is spent working at the loft.

We get the best breakfast in the world at the same spot every morning ($4.80 total), eat lunch at the mall ($3 total) and have dinner at one of three or four local spots ($3-5 total); after all, we’re still budgeting, even if it's not as tight as it once was.

This life isn’t luxurious, so far, but it’s pretty effortless, peaceful and we’re adventuring together - what more could we want?!

Thanks for reading!

Till next time,

Erik Hayton