First Impressions | Chiang Mai

Acai this being a great month…

I was looking forward to heading to Thailand for a couple of reasons.

First, islands. Duh.

Second, elephants. Super duh.

Third, our home base for the month, Chiang Mai, was supposedly one of the main digital nomad hubs in SE Asia. I never really understood what it meant when people would use that phrase “digital nomad hub”, but I was eager to experience it.

Like, was it just a bunch of westerners running around from temple to temple trying to out-douche each other with #digitaldouchebag pics?

Was everyone doing yoga or crossfit and eating avocado toast? (*literally takes a bite of avocado toast while writing this*)

Was I going to cringe in secondhand guilt at the amount of westernization taking place in a beautiful, historic Thai city?

Kinda-sorta-not-completely-but-a-little!

Chiang Mai and the livin’ is easy

Bold statement: IMO, Chiang Mai is arguably the most comfortable, easy-to-live-in city that we’ve been to so far.

I would have guessed that Prague or Sofia would have been unbeatable in that regard, but I think they’ve been dethroned.

I think that it’s a combination of the way nice apartments we are living in, the density of incredible restaurants and cafes we are surrounded by, and a decent amount of that westernization I had imagined there being.

If you were to walk outside of our apartments and cover up the Thai writing on signs outside the shops and restaurants, you could be talked into thinking you were in Anywhere-with-tropical-weather, USA. It’s really darn nice here!

I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that we went from one beautifully chaotic extreme where everything was foreign and new in Hanoi, to a slower-paced extreme filled with some familiar things from back home in Chiang Mai.

Case in point: typical days for me in Chiang Mai involve crossfit, bulletproof coffee, dips in the pool, acai bowls, smoothies in mason jars, eggs benedict, working from a cafes, froyo, some sort of foreign cuisine for dinner (Mexican/Indian/Thai/Chinese), and some Netflix. All things that make my obnoxiously millennial self giddy with excitement.

am i in thailand or east austin?

And with the exception of the crossfit, all of that can be found within a couple blocks from my apartment!

I live in a bubble. A really, really comfortable bubble.

That being said, there is still a ton of incredibly authentic Thai culture to experience throughout the city. My favorites so far have been the night markets and the million temples scattered throughout the city.

Same same but different

Chiang Mai has provided an interesting contrast to Hanoi in many respects. One of the most immediately noticeable differences is the traffic situation.

Coming from Hanoi, where every motorbike and car honks incessantly, it was bizarre to get here and not hear many horns at all. Chiang Mai has its fair share of motorbike traffic, but for some reason they won’t honk at you unless you literally lay down on the ground and play dead in front of them.

These same silent motorists also do this outrageous thing where they actually stop so that you can cross the street.

The nerve!

Don’t they know that I want to have to strategically weave my way in between them?

Don’t they know that I want my life to feel threatened every time I cross?

DON’T THEY KNOW IT’S WHAT MAKES ME FEEL ALIVE?

No expectations, no problems

I went into Remote Year with the mentality that I would keep any and all expectations about stuff that I can’t control (accommodations, workspaces, itinerary, etc) to an absolute bare minimum.

It is a strategy that has treated me extremely well so far and is one that I would highly recommend to any future Remotes.

Accommodations?

Expectation: I honestly went into this year thinking that I would always have roommates, that I would never have A/C, that I’d rarely have a washing machine, and that I’d be living in the occasional shit hole.

Reality: Next month is going to be my fourth month in a row living by myself, I’ve had A/C the past three months, and each of the past three months I’ve thanked Mama Jen for giving me my favorite apartment yet (seriously though, I’m not sure Chiang Mai apartments can be topped).

Workspaces?

Expectation: I had assumed that after month three, the workspace quality was going to go downhill. I mean, it had to, right? The RY-owned ones in Split and Lisbon were all ours and had designated nap areas (well, we designated them as such anyway), while the one in Prague had a backyard and a personal chef.

Reality: While the amenities vary, they’ve all been more than adequate. Some months you get office dogs and others you get weekly dinners and free Vietnamese coffee for the entire month 🤤. And pro tip: any workspace can have nap areas if you try hard enough.

Itinerary?

Expectation: I knew next to nothing about all of the cities on our itinerary, so I didn’t even know what expectations I should be having. I was more excited for some than others, but that excitement was mostly based on pictures I saw on Instagram.

Reality: Some of the cities that I expected the least from, Hanoi and Sofia, have been some of the most enjoyable.

If you keep your expectations to a bare minimum, you will you be a much happier digimad overall and you will be consistently surprised from month to month. That way, while some of your fellow Remotes are complaining about not being able to read their washing machine, you’ll be able to chuckle as you dive into your apartment’s pool, grateful that you even have a washing machine to begin with. To me, that’s a much better way of living.