5 Idyllic Workation Destinations for Digital Nomads in Thailand
Are you ready for your next workation? In this article, we share 5 idyllic destinations in Thailand for taking a relaxing and productive break from the home office.
What Is a “Workation”?
Workations are the digital nomad’s take of “bleisure”: a form of travel that combines business with leisure – for example, exploring a city for a few days after a conference, or taking some PTO on a business trip.
With the pandemic behind us, it’s clear that the workation movement is only speeding up as more and more companies offer remote work options to employees. A staggering 85% of workers in India reported taking a workation in 2021. In a recent global study, 65% of workers in 8 western countries said they plan to take a workation in 2022.
To some, workations might seem counter-productive. After all, experts recommend maintaining a healthy work/life balance, and workations seems to blur the line between the two.
But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of adaptability. And digital workers, more than anyone, have the flexibility and foresight to take full advantage of a break that combines the best of work and play.
When we consider the benefits – like being able to fulfill our professional duties while exploring exotic locations – it seems likely that workations will become a permanent fixture in the world of remote work.
Thailand is already a well-known destination for remote workers, boasting 3 of the top 12 destinations in the world for taking a workation: Bangkok (#1), Phuket (#10), and Chiang Mai (#11). The ranking was based on a number of factors, including cost of living and accommodation, availability of wifi, nightlife, and nearby cultural attractions and activities.
But if you ask most digital professionals, Bangkok and Chiang Mai are better equipped for living than workationing. If you already live in one of the top cities in Thailand for remote workers, you still need the occasional break from the noise and busyness of the metropolis. Bangkok is beautiful in its way, but far from “idyllic”.
Which is why we’ve chosen several lesser-known destinations in Thailand, for a range of tastes, that are both off the beaten track and stunningly beautiful. For each location, we share the best accommodation, cafes, and co-working spaces for digital workers.
Top Workation Destinations in Thailand
In no particular order, here are our top 5 picks for workation destinations in Thailand:
Mon Jam: The Mountain Retreat
About an hour by car from Chiang Mai, 40km to the northwest, lies the beautiful mountaintop viewpoint of Mon Jam. If you are seeking a peaceful destination for your workation, then this is the place to go.
Mon Jam is a small agricultural community where a variety of organic produce are grown in the cooler temperatures of the mountainside. You will know you are almost there, when the surrounding hillside becomes dotted with white glamping domes.
In the central tourist area, you will find a number of restaurants and places to sit and enjoy the spectacular panoramic views, which makes this a truly worthwhile place to visit for a workation.
Among the rolling mountains in the distance, you can see local farmers – just specks in the distance – working on their land. You can even take a stroll through Royal Project farm and have lunch at their restaurant with its shady canopy.
Not many foreigners visit this place, which is a blessing if you want a tranquil day away from the city and among the local population.
How to Get to Mon Jam
We recommend renting a motorbike or car from nearby Chiang Mai and driving there yourself. For those not comfortable driving in the mountains, you can take a minibus or taxi from the city.
Best Time of Year to Visit
Mon Jam has pleasant weather and climate all through the year, especially during high season (October to early February) when there are plentiful lovely flowers and strawberries spread out over the mountains. Be sure to bring some warm clothes, because it does get nippy in the mornings.
Mae Rim (Mon Jam’s province) has a median download speed of 31.42 and a median fixed broadband download speed of 184.03. Your cell signal will likely be weaker in the mountains, but most resorts will have high speed internet.
There are no designated coworking spaces in Mon Jam, but you can still find a number of cafes with stunning views and decent wifi.
Mon Jam is for glamping, which is why we recommend The Doi with its sturdy yet comfortable tents of several builds and sizes. Pro tip: Bring your own drip coffee, because you will want only the best while watching the mesmerizing sunrise in the morning, looking down at clouds.
Koh Lipe: The Getaway Island
Koh Lipe (pronounced gaw lee–pay) is where workation dreams become reality. It is a real-life utopia of green palm trees leaning over white-sand beaches and crystal waters – some say the clearest in Thailand – which is why it has been called the Maldives of Thailand.
Koh Lipe is located in Thailand’s deep south, not far from Langkawi, Malaysia. It is therefore harder to reach; hence why it is still slightly under the radar of ‘must-sees’ in Thailand, although Thais know it well.
Get ready for beach days with a coconut in your hand, because Koh Lipe is the perfect place to relax in the shade on the beach while working from an idyllic cafe or restaurant (recommendations below). Just be careful not to get any sand in your keys!
Best of all, Koh Lipe is small enough to walk everywhere on your own two feet. That said, we still recommend taking a long-tail boat at least once, which will take you anywhere on the island for just 50 baht.
Nature lovers should definitely check out Sunset Beach. As the name suggests, this beach boasts the best sunsets on all of Koh Lipe. It is a relaxed beach that will give you a true understanding of the island life that defines Koh Lipe, and it’s only about ten minutes away from the bustle of Walking Street.
How to Get to Koh Lipe
There is no airport on Koh Lipe so you will need to fly to nearest airport such as Hatyai airport, and then connect by minivan and boat. It takes about 1 hour then transfer to a mini van or taxi to Pak Bara. At Pak Bara Pier, you can take a speedboat or ferry to get to Koh Lipe island.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The best time to visit Koh Lipe is from November to March, when the weather is perfect. The peak season for tourists lasts from mid-December to April when the precipitation is low.
Hua Hin has a median mobile download speed of 28.7 Mb/s and a median upload speed of 15.7 Mb/s.
Coworking & Cafes
Green View Beach Resort provides the classic Thailand beach experience – rugged but airy beachside bungalows, set directly on the sand. Think Leonardo di Caprio in The Beach. There are certainly more upscale resorts to choose from on Koh Lipe, but we recommend Green View for its picturesque authenticity.
Pai: The Lazy Village
The charming town of Pai is nestled in the northern Thai mountains, a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai. Well-known for its relaxed hippy atmosphere vibe, the small town is full of affordable guesthouses, artisanal shops, cosy cafes, and unique restaurants.
It’s easy to see why the long-term expat and digital nomad community in Pai is growing, with the ease of living, low cost, endless places to explore, and a great mix between eastern and western influences.
Over the last 800 years, Pai has become a cultural melting pot due to its proximity to neighboring countries. This has resulted in a rich heritage and a diverse range of ethnicities. Mae Hong Son, the province in which Pai sits is one of Thailand’s northernmost, sharing a border with Burma, while also being near to China and Laos.
Exploring Pai is about immersing yourself in nature. In the midst of the stunning mountains, there is an abundance of waterfalls, rice fields, buffalo, rivers, caves, hot springs, hikes and endless green landscapes to wander upon where the stresses of day to day life will quickly dissipate.
Pai has the full recipe for relaxation. I personally go there at least every few months for a short getaway from Chiang Mai. The pace of life is slower here and you feel right at home, meandering down quaint country roads between rising valleys.
It really feels as if Pai exists in its own time zone.
How to Get to Pai
To go from Chiang Mai to Pai, or from Pai to Chiang Mai, you can take the passenger van run by Prempracha Transport. Alternatively, rent a motorbike or car and drive there yourself.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The best time to visit Pai is from November to February when the climate is cool and pleasant. April to June are the hottest and humid months of Pai and travelling is very undesirable during that time. March is the month when the farmers of Pai burn their fields to prepare for regrowth, hence the air becomes polluted.
The average internet speed in Pai is quite fast, at 16Mbps
Pai Cherkaew Boutique provides the perfect combination in Pai: great location, a pool (somewhat rare in central Pai), stunning views, and comfortable rooms at a decent price. For me, Pai Cherkaew is the only place I stay in Pai.
Hua Hin: The Seaside Resort
While Hua Hin is not exactly “off the beaten track”, it is lesser known by digital nomads than the trifecta of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Nevertheless, Hua Hin has much to offer for those seeking a standard resort-style workation by the seaside.
Digital workers will love Hua Hin for its chilled-out, beachy vibe and variety of cool places to work, including two designated coworking spaces. It is an ideal choice for those who want to live and work in a beach community. Hua Hin may feel like a small town, but the city has modern amenities, including fast internet and modern hotels and resorts. It is also just a 3-4 hour train ride from the capital city Bangkok.
Hua Hin is full of culture and attractions, from the Tamarind Market and Huay Mongkol Temple to spending the day with elephants at the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation. In short, there is plenty to do if you decide to take a break from work. For the more adventurous, visit the lively village of Khao Takiab, home to several temples of historical and cultural significance and Khao Takiab Mountain with fabulous panoramic views from its summit.
How to Get to Hua Hin
You can travel from Bangkok to Hua Hin by bus, train, van, or private taxi. Buses from Bangkok to Hua Hin are cheap, but can take about 3-3.5 hours. The fastest and most comfortable route is to travel by van, minivan or private taxi.
Best Time of Year to Visit
November to February is generally considered as the best time to visit Hua Hin because the weather is pleasant and you are most likely to be blessed with dry, sunny days. December and January see the maximum influx of tourists, so book your tickets and hotels in advance to avoid the soaring prices.
Designated coworking spaces include True Sphere (Blúport Hua Hin) and Co-working Space Hua Hin. Nice working-friendly cafes include Pony café, The Coffee Club, Bello Dolce, Buffalo Tavern, Veggie Tales x Wagging Tales Café, Black Monster Hua-Hin, Two Beds & Coffee Machine, and Hot Cappuccino Huahin.
Not only is the Resort De Paskani located right on the beach, it is beautifully styled and decorated to resemble the Greek Mediterranean islands. It is the perfect place to stay in Hua Hin.
Koh Chang: The Nature Island
Known as the “Beast in the East” because of its size, Koh Chang is located in eastern Thailand close to Cambodia. There are laid-back villages all along the coast and, within the interior, acres upon acres of unspoiled rainforest.
Koh Chang offers a pleasing balance between the unspoiled beauty of island life and the convenience of being connected. Yes, you could choose one of the smaller islands where there is less infrastructure and completely pristine deserted beaches. However, when you go off the beaten path too far, you end up in a simple bamboo hut where the electricity isn’t even guaranteed –not to mention Wifi.
Koh Chang, by contrast, strikes the perfect balance. You can stay connected to the outside world while still getting away from it.
When you take a break from work, there is more than enough on the island to keep you entertained. On Kai Bae Beach there is an assortment of restaurants including Indian and Mexican, as well as the usual local Thai food. On other, more remote islands, there are only a few restaurants to choose from, and after a few days you end up eating most of the choices on the menu and having to repeat yourself.
How to Get to Koh Chang
There is a direct flight from Bangkok to Trat which is operated by Bangkok Airways. The flight time is 1 hour, and costs around $76. From Trat airport, take a pickup to the pier, and you can get from there to the island by ferry. For budget travelers, you can take a bus from Bangkok to Trat which will take around 5 hours.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The best time to visit Koh Chang is from November to February. The weather here is similar to that of Bangkok, and hence, it’s majorly hot and humid all year round. However, the winter months can give you some respite from the scorching sunshine! May to October is considered to be the low season in Koh Chang.
Koh Chang now has fiber optic internet with speeds up to 100Mbps/30Mbps, but not all places will have upgraded. We recommend having pocket wifi as a backup.
Sunrise Beach Resort delivers a luxury resort experience at an amazing 1,500 baht/night. It has comfortable rooms – a must on wild Koh Chang – a pool, and is located right on the beach.
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