Last updated: 12 December, 2015
Chiang Mai has long been a hotbed for digital nomads. The moderate temperatures, low prices, and interesting mix of cultures keep this city in Northern Thailand one of the top places in the world for those who work remotely.
Co-working is a relatively new idea, but one that is catching on quickly around the world. It looks to solve a problem that freelancers and the self-employed have had for ages: finding a place to work with a quality Internet connection, that isn’t your hotel room or home.
It’s a shared space for entrepreneurs, students and the like to have a place to work without the guilt of hanging out in a cafe all day nursing that latte with micro-sips every 30 minutes. And, as it turns out, they can also make great places to host meetings and find other like-minded location-independent workers.
(Fun Fact: Too Many Adapters was founded and launched while drinking smoothies in cafes in Chiang Mai)
Before we get into the list, we have a couple of techy things to address:
Most co-working spaces only offer Internet access for one of your devices, so it’s handy to use a program like Connectify to share your single connection with your other devices (smartphone, tablet etc).
Also, many of the connections are unsecured, which means the information you’re transmitting online could potentially be insecure. We highly recommend you use a VPN, which you can read more about here.
The original co-working space in Chiang Mai, Punspace Nimman has led the way for all of the others after its launch in March 2013.
This compact spot with a shared grassy courtyard is quiet outside, and focused inside. More than any other co-working spot in Chiang Mai, there seem to be a lot of regulars here. Not quiet, but not loud, it can get a little lively with a meeting or brainstorm taking place at the back of the space.
Speaking of space, if you like your personal space, Punspace Nimman might not be your style. It almost feels like you’re sharing with four people what you would have to yourself at the Tha Pae location (below). Not so good if you like to sprawl out, and to me it actually felt cramped and stuffy. I don’t want to feel like I’m scrunched up. At least there is a quiet garden in the courtyard to stretch your legs when you’ve spent too much time inside.
As for the internet connection, not only did I not find it snappy, but my music stream would often stop and buffer, throwing me off my game.
A couple of restaurants and cafes across the courtyard are very conveniently located.
The day rate at Punspace is 199baht / day. Meeting rooms start at 150 baht / hour. You can rent monitors for 50b / day or 1000b / month, which I thought was kind of cool.
Regular hours for day visitors are Mon – Sat 9am-6pm.
A weekly membership will run you 1499 baht, and monthly memberships start at 3499 baht / month. Both offer 24/7 access to the space and let you connect up to two devices.
Punspace Tha Pae Gate
This new location is an extension of the original Punspace Nimman, and opened in 2014. Down a quiet soi (lane) just inside the old city south of Tha Pae Gate, it’s easy to miss if you’re not watching.
Head upstairs and you’re in a bright, open space. It feels a bit like a (quiet) startup running in a warehouse.
Upstairs, there are six main tables with four large workspaces on each, and adjustable office chairs. There is a more casual area on the other side, with a couple of sofas and other chairs for when you need a break from the computer. There is also a covered space just outside which is a nice place to get some fresh air without being out in the elements.
The noise you’ll hear is limited to the odd motorbike going by and birds chirping. This is great until someone starts smoking, which is a total deal-breaker for me.
As with the other Punspace location, the daily rate includes a login for one device only. If you have multiple devices (phones, tablet, laptop), you can only connect one unless you use a piece of software like Connectify (Windows).
You can use your login/membership at either Punspace location, but I couldn’t find anyone who actually did that.
Clientèle seems to be almost exclusively Western. No-one talked in the 2.5 hours that I was there. No-one. There are nice bathrooms downstairs.
Internet speeds seemed average to me. Workable, but not mindblowing.
Water, tea and coffee are complimentary. There’s no food for sale here, besides instant noodles and the like. There is a cafe just below with more coffee options, and some snacks. You’re less than a five minute walk from a host of restaurant options inside the old city.
The day rate at Punspace is 199baht / day. Meeting rooms start at 150 baht / hour. Rent monitors for 50b/day or 1000b/month.
A weekly membership will run you 1499 baht, and monthly memberships start at 3499 baht / month. Both memberships offer 24/7 access to the space and up to two devices. As mentioned above, a membership or day rate gives you access to both locations.
Regular hours are Mon – Sat 9am-6pm.
One of the newer places in town, this quiet space is conveniently located by my favorite Burmese restaurant on Nimman Soi 13.
Mana Co-Working is a small, bright co-working space with room for 14 people. There are a few adjustable office-type chairs with decent lumbar support that are worth scouting out. It was quiet each time I was there, with only one or two other people working.
They charge by the hour or the day here, with discounts available with purchase of the moderately-priced drinks or desserts. There are two meeting rooms available for rent but they are fairly uninspired compared to the rest of the place. Multiple power plugs are available in case you’re holding a team meeting.
The single bathroom outside is nothing fancy, and the Internet speeds seemed about average to me.
Coffee / Latte 40-60 baht, smoothies 65 baht. Drinking water and tea provided at no charge and the staff bring it to you.
Desserts and cakes start at 45 baht, but no larger menu. Seriously though, it doesn’t matter. Leave your laptop (staff are always here) and walk 10 meters to the best Burmese in town where everything is 35 baht or less. Mana is sandwiched between two popular and well regarded vegetarian places too.
Hourly rate is 19 baht / hour, or 99 baht / day. There are two meeting rooms available for rent from 19baht / hr for a single person Skype room or 100 baht / hour for a room that holds 4-5 people.
Printing / scanning 5b/page. Copies for 2 baht.
Coffee Monster (CLOSED Sept 2015)
Coffee Monster is a large space with both indoor and outdoor seating, off Canal Road north-west of the old city. It’s open very early, and stays open quite late as well — handy if you’re working with a Western time zone.
It’s an interesting space that offers a long table with actual office-type chairs inside and plenty of power points, as well as an area that could host a meetup of 50+ people (even mic-ed up) if you needed a space for that.
Outside the seating is more casual, and the bamboo tables and chairs (and hammock) are more conducive for hanging out than working. There is a garden area with shade for a change of pace, though the traffic from the road reminds you that you’re not too far from the freeway. If you’re feeling playful, there’s table tennis at your disposal.
They also have a podcasting studio on site with a high end mic, and a meeting room for 10 with a white board available.
There is no daily rate at Coffee Monster, and outside food and drink are not allowed. Instead, you pay for the space by frequenting the cafe for your food (cakes, sandwiches, basic Thai food) and beverage (coffee, smoothies), which looked pretty average. Word on the street is that they’re looking to reboot the kitchen with more and better offerings soon.
The internet speed was decent before many people showed up, allowing a video Skype call that unfortunately needed to be switched to audio-only for the balance of the call as more people arrived.
The demographic at Coffee Monster was about 95% foreign by my eye, and is popular with the Internet marketing community.
Full menu available, including coffees and smoothies.
No daily rate (guests are expected to frequent the cafe)
Mon, Wed-Sat 6:30am-10:00pm, Tues 6:30am-12:00am. Closed Sundays.
Bibie Co-Working (CLOSED AUG 2015)
Just opened in Jan 2015, Bibie is more interesting and less claustrophobic than Punspace Nimman. There were just two other people when I was working there shortly after opening their doors for the first time earlier this year. The internet was flakey, but I connected to one of their other 3 APs and it improved. Secured by WPA, you can use more than one device at once here.
None of the chairs are adjustable and they are hard on the butt after a while. They have some lumbar support though . Lockers are free for weekly / monthly members.
There is a 7-11 convenience store five meters away — you’ll probably be looking at it if you’re working here — and plenty of good restaurants nearby.
Water, coffee/tea and light snacks are provided.
25 baht / hr (15min over is another hour)
200 baht / day
1200 / week
3500 / month
Small room (10-12 people) 300/hr
Larger room (25-30 people) 500/hr
(discounts on additional hours)
24hr / day
CAMP (creative and meeting place) is a large space on the top floor of the new Maya mall at the intersection of Nimmen and Huew Kau. It’s open 24/7 and has internet access available through both their own network, as well as having super fast AIS Wi-fi (the Thai telecommunications company is also a sponsor).
Working at CAMP is free, but Internet access is not. You’ll get a voucher for two hours of Internet access with a purchase of 50 baht or more at the cafe. Drinks range from 15-85 baht and include water, plenty of coffee options, and smoothies.
Food is your basic snack and fast food-type fare. For a meal you’ll want to head down to the fourth floor for a selection of restaurants, or the basement level of the mall for the food court.
While the price is right, the ergonomics are not. Most of the chairs and tables were designed with a funky look in mind, rather than with preventing a funky pain in your back after a couple of hours.
It’s also a relatively quiet space (no Skype calls or loud talking allowed) but headphones are recommended if you would like to block out the world. Power outlets are fairly accessible, though the meeting rooms could use some more.
The demographic at CAMP appears to be about 75% Thai students, and 25% foreign.
Five private conference rooms seating 6-10 are available for three hours with a 500 baht minimum purchase.
Bonus: SFX cinema is 20 steps away if you would like to take a break from your computer screen to watch a movie on the big screen instead.
Basic snacks available for purchase, as well as coffee, smoothies and the like.
Free, sort of. Two hours of Internet access included with purchase over 50 baht. If you an AIS SIM card that offers access to their Wi-Fi network (typically with 399baht / month service) you can use that here at no charge. The AIS Wi-Fi is pretty much the fastest internet access in town.
24hr / day
My favorite spots were two of the quieter places, Mana and Punspace Tha Pae. If you’re a social butterfly, then CAMP or Coffee Monster might be more up your alley. Try out a few and let us know what you thought.
Do you have a favorite co-working spot in Chiang Mai? Let us know in the comments.
(Thanks to James Schipper of LiveCollarFree.com for extra images)