I recently traveled to Asia as part of my hands-on research for the upcoming trip my company, The Remote Experience, will be taking. The Remote Experience is a program that brings together a group of remote workers that live each month in a different destination where they work and bond and explore the local culture.
In October, we’ll start the Asia segment of our #chasingsummer tour. Before we embark on the journey, I needed to check out our potential locations and make sure they fit our bill. So, that’s what I did.
I created this location guide based off of my travels to help any person who has plans to work remotely in Asia.
WHAT I LOOKED FOR
- Infrastructure to support a full time remote employee, such as 24/7 coworking spaces with reliable WiFi
- Available housing options within proximity to these coworking spaces
- Cost of living that is financially sustainable
- Digital Nomad culture and community
- Natural beauty and fun things to do
WHERE I WENT
- Canggu in Bali, Indonesia
- Ubud in Bali, Indonesia
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Koh Lanta, Thailand
- Penang, Malaysia
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll post a summary of my time in each city. You can follow along through here or check out my e-book linked at the end.
Canggu has a very capable coworking space called DojoBali, which sits 2 minutes from Echo Beach and has a 24/7 access membership. It is one of the more expensive coworking spaces I have been to, with a rate of $200 per month for the unlimited membership, however just like with most things you get what you pay for:
- Internet runs at about 50 mbps for both download and upload
- Indoor and outdoor seating
- Air conditioned and non-air conditioned rooms as well
- Swimming pool in case you wanted to be in the water but too lazy to walk to the beach
The community seems very vibrant and the coworking space is extremely active. They also hold events frequently where they bring speakers and Digital Nomads to talk about relevant topics. So, if you are looking for a serious place to get work done and meet some really interesting people, DojoBali is the one.
The good news is Canggu is very Digital Nomad friendly, which means it is not difficult to find a place for a month or two. Having said that, the accommodation is not cheap but it’s certainly worth your money.
Do yourself a favor and never book online if your expect to spend more than 3 weeks in Canggu. You can typically get the same villa and or a comparable one for 50% of the price you find online. If you really want to book before you go you are much better off joining one of Canggu Facebook groups where Digital Nomads and locals post available rooms and villas.
Since those groups are typically joined by people who actually live there, prices are almost what you see in person. I suggest you message them and negotiate the price first.
COST OF LIVING
Canggu is not as touristy as other Indonesian towns, such as Kuta. However, it is touristy enough to find that most things are priced at a higher premium than they are in the local areas in Bali.
Given that, Canggu is still very affordable, even when you aren’t hunting for bargains. Below are some of the prices I paid when I was in Canggu.
Coconut on the beach: $2.29
Soda at a cafe: $1.52
Scooter daily rental: $4.50
A meal at a decent restaurant: $4.57
Laundry (picked up washed and redelivered): $2.29
A surfboard rental (hourly): $1.52
Taxi ride for 20 minutes: $7.62-11.53 (Uber is not allowed in Canggu)
DIGITAL NOMAD COMMUNITY
I was pleasantly surprised by the community of Digital Nomads in Canggu. It seems like a place where many people pass by and end up staying for a long time. Not only that, but you find a lot of people who return to Canggu repeatedly.
Not every foreigner you see in Canggu is a Digital Nomad, most of them are actually Australians coming to Bali for the good surf, the cheap prices and the great party scene. They usually stay for anywhere between few days to a week.
If you are looking to connect with expats outside of the coworking office then head to Old Man’s Restaurant/Bar. This is the place where all the expats hang out. The community seems very strong and they help each other as friends would.
OUTDOORS AND THINGS TO DO
Canggu is beautiful in its own way. I would describe it as more of a village that anything else, which is perfect for someone that is relocating there for few months. You will get familiar with the places and feel at home rather quickly. I tend to like these kind of places.
If you expect to be in white sand paradise then you better look somewhere else. Much of East Bali suffered from a big volcanic eruption in the 60s which caused the beaches to gain it’s dark color. Having said that, I look at it as a plus since the beach is never crowded by tourists.
When you are in Bali you obviously have to try surfing, and living in Canggu is the perfect place to do that. You have Echo Beach right there with plenty of space, good size waves for most beginners and intermediate level surfers. You can also get some surfing lessons for about 25 USD a lesson and surfboard rentals are available everywhere.
Apart from that, try to enjoy the view of rice fields that are scattered all over East Bali. Usually villas with a rice field view rents at a premium, however if you are not on a very tight budget I say it’s worth it. When else in your life are you going to have a view like that!
The one thing I enjoyed the most about Canggu was going to one of the many beachfront bars/shakes,eating some dinner while sipping on a coconut, and watching the sunset.
One more thing you have to try while you are there is the Bali Sate! This was the single best meal I had in East Asia. Not going to lie, I had it for lunch and dinner on the same day! They bring it to you on a little grill that has a few coals lit just to keep the food warm. It comes with some sides, a scoop of rice, and a peanut sauce to die for.