There are a lot of travellers working on the road these days. They are juggling the desire to see and experience everything with the need to make enough money to support the travels. Their needs are simple. A safe and secure place to stay where they feel comfortable leaving their electronics when they’re out and about with their camera and a descent internet connection, preferably wifi to easily connect mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
If they’re lucky their hostel, hotel, guesthouse or B&B will provide this for them. If not, they have to search further afield. Even if it is possible to work from a bunk bed, a lot of working travellers prefer to head to coffee shops. It’s more comfortable and they can enjoy watching the world go by as they do it. It’s a very different local cultural experience to wielding a camera and visiting temples.
Chiang Mai is known for having workable coffee shops with decent wifi. The majority of them don’t seem to mind how long you sit over a cup of coffee or iced chocolate and some serve free drinking water. All of the ones we worked from have proper tables and chairs (sometimes sofas and low coffee tables as well). Most are located north of the Old Town, around Nimmenhaemin Road. Here’s our thoughts on just a few.
It’s on Huay Kaew Road, next to a Shell Service Station. It’s close to a large number of short, medium and long term guest houses. It’s small, air conditioned and has tables inside and out. They sell drinks and a small selection of sweet things at reasonable prices and the quality is quite good. The wifi is decent (ping of 47ms, upload of 9mbps and a download of less than 1mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). The downsides to this one are the fact that there is only one power point inside and one outside and it can be really busy at times. The outside plug is usually available but the main road traffic noise is not so pleasant. It also closes around 6pm (later if there are people about). If you can catch it at a quieter time and nab the corner table inside near the socket, you’re on to a winner.
A large London themed café on Nimmenhaemin Soi 9 this air conditioned number has a lot of power points, plenty of sockets to go around. They tell you that electricity is free for one hour per customer and 20 baht per hour after that but it’s not strictly enforced. Each customer must order something to so no sharing! They sell a selection of hot and cold drinks and sweet and savoury food, snacks and bigger meals. It’s open from 9am to 11pm so great for late night working if you need to catch a different time zone. The wifi is great (ping of 20ms, download of up to 20mbps and an upload of 3.15mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). We’ve always been able to find a seat near a socket too. The downsides are that’s it’s a bit more expensive than other places but of lower quality both in the food and drinks.
On Nimmenhaemin Road, this one’s for serious coffee aficionados. They specialise in the stuff. Quite literally. You will find no food, tea or iced chocolate on this menu. It’s open air and there are a two or three tables with power points. The wifi is good (ping of 37ms, download of 8mbps and an upload of .63mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). The coffee choices are numerous and overwhelming but also the best coffee I’ve had (coming from someone who generally prefers tea). They are open from 7am to 6pm. The downsides are that it’s noisy. We found it hard to concentrate, let along make a Skype call. They also don’t sell anything but coffee.
Almost next door to Marble Arch on Nimmenhaemin Soi 9, this small air conditioned café is a nice working environment. It’s quiet without being deserted and there are plenty of power points, including a few sockets outside. The menu is mainly beverages but a good variety. Prices are on the high side for Chiang Mai but the quality is also good. They also advertise dinner, ice cream and cake but we didn’t see that menu. Wifi is good (ping of 36ms, download of 10mbps and an upload of .43mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). You can also pick up a fair signal from Marble Arch. The staff don’t mind how long you sit over your pot of tea and they refill free drinking water. We can’t find many downsides to this one, perhaps the browsing was a little slow at times and the table isn’t suitable for a wireless mouse unless you have a mouse pad.
This is a lovely, peaceful, socially and environmentally responsible café on Hussadhisewee Soi 3. Lots of tables but only one power point. Unfortunately the wifi sucks (ping of 352ms, download of 1.5mbps and an upload of 1.25mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). If you’ve got some work that doesn’t require a fast speed, it’s a nice place to while away a couple of hours.
This one’s is the building between Marble Arch and 9th Street Café. I tried it because it sold tea and I picked up a strong wifi signal from the 9th. Unfortunately, it only has low chairs and tables, not the most comfortable for working. It’s funny how they call it a laptop but it’s more comfortable on a table. They also tell you to connect to the wifi next door so why would you bother coming here?
Double Click Cafe
This one’s on Nimmenhaemin Soi 5. It’s an open, airy cafe with a good selection of hot and cold drinks, cakes and snacks. The wifi is pretty good (ping of 25ms, download of 9 mbps and an upload of 0.5 mbps, according to www.speedtest.net). The smoothies are pretty good. They’re also doing some work at the back of the cafe where the toilets are. The toilets are not very clean but hopefully that changes when the building work is done.
Quirky little café in the Old Town, near the North Gate. Quiet, lots of people sized tables and chairs and a few electric sockets. Fun décor and you have to go through the ‘wardrobe’ to get to the toilets. It felt like stepping into Narnia and leaving Google behind. Serves a decent selection of beverages (though not amazing), cake and meals. Hot green tea comes with cappuccino froth which is a bit weird. Wifi is good enough (ping of 44ms, download of 5mbps but getting up to 9mbps and an upload of .60mbps, according to www.speedtest.net).
Not a beautiful place, not amazing beverages, the usual Chiang Mai café cake selection, but oh my god, the wifi. The wifi is amazing. Let’s ignore the upload speeds as that’s never any good in Thailand. Just check out the download! Ping of 19ms, download of 18 mbps and an upload of 1 mbps, according to www.speedtest.net. It’s in the middle of the Old Town, not too far from the North Gate. There’s a couple of power points, free drinking water and lots of tables and chairs upstairs.
Just on the outside of the old city walls, near the North Gate, this wee gem serves up excellent vegetarian and organic food (meals as well as cakes and juices). The cafe supports Thai Freedom House projects, namely educating Burmese refugees and minority Thais. The wifi was find while we were there, though I expected the tests to come out better (ping of 327ms, download of 2.7 mbps and an upload of .45 mbps according to www.speedtest.net).
Things change rapidly in this part of the world and new places spring up all the time. Let us know your favourites!