I’m just coming out of a week-long yoga retreat here in Bali, and had my first work day today. If you’d asked me a few days ago whether I thought Bali was as good as Chiang Mai for digital nomads, I would have said no.
However, now that I’m staying in Ubud rather than in the jungle a few miles outside of town, my answer is a resounding “yes!”
Here are a few ways in which Ubud, Bali beats Chiang Mai for digital nomads:
- Cleaner air in the city allows you to walk around without your lungs burning from motorbike exhaust
- Abundance of delicious healthy food options, which Chiang Mai seemed to lack. Nimman had a couple vegetarian restaurants, but they were not as common as they are here. (Note: I was mostly subsisting on pizza and waffles whilst in Chiang Mai, and was perhaps not looking out super-hard for healthy food)
- The city is simply prettier in terms of greenery and architecture. There are gorgeous rice paddies all over the place, as well as private gardens nestled into most properties. Chiang Mai is beautiful in the mountains, but the city itself is just a bit grungy.
- Hot yogis all over the damned place
Drawbacks of Ubud vs. Chiang Mai
- Feels more touristy
- A bit less driveable — most busy roads in Chiang Mai are 4-lane roads, giving you plenty of room to cut through lanes on a motorbike. The busy roads in Ubud are 2-laners, and narrow at that. Even though Chiang Mai is crazy, it’s predictably crazy, whereas here seems more dangerous, with lots of blind corners, more cars, and narrower roads.
- A little bit more expensive. However, meals (even western food or posh vegetarian restaurants) are still under $10 (USD) as the norm. And just like Chiang Mai, I am sure prices go down once you’re outside of the touristy bits.
Something to keep in mind is that there’s really no reason to feel like you have to choose between the two! The times of the year that are best to visit Bali overlap the times of the year when Chiang Mai is hot and miserable, so you could very well spend….
- September through February in Chiang Mai
- March through April wherever you want
- May through August in Bali
And you’d have the best of both worlds!