On the heels of my post touting Chiang Rai as the next digital nomad hotspot, here is a quick list of cafés dotted around the centre where you can find a good cuppa, some snacks and speedy internets.
At the time of writing 100 baht is about $3 US. Internet speeds were checked at three different times at each café using speedtest.net, and I’ve indicated the top speeds. I consider anything above 5.0 mbps download speed acceptable for working, and anything above 15.0 mbps is good for bandwidth intensive activities, such as syncing Dropbox folders or making video Skype calls.
1. NANGNON COFFEE
Nangnon Coffee (Jetyod Road) is close to most of Chiang Rai’s budget accommodation and on the same road you can find a smattering of tourist restaurants and small bars. The tables are eclectic and few (sit, lounge or lay – whatever tickles your fancy), but like most coffee shops in Chiang Rai that doesn’t seem to be an issue.
The shop is open to the street, so it is breezy, but this means that it doesn’t have AC. However the trade-off may be worth it: no AC bill means the coffee is a few baht cheaper than most spots I visited, and it comes with a smile and a bear!
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 45 / 55 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): FAST! (44 mbps / 2.0 mbps)
- Power outlets: One set, close to the front.
- Other notes: They also have all-day breakfast: eggs and toast, muesli and yogurt and the ubiquitous pancakes for 80-129 baht.
2. DOI CHAANG @ ART
Doi Chaang @ Art (Rattanakhet Road) is totally hidden in a leafy corner a block east of the central Chiang Rai clock-tower. No sign. Nothing. But inside it is still packed, and it is no wonder why. It’s like sitting in an air-conditioned bubble inside a tropical greenhouse, but with Doi Chaang organic coffee, sweet treats, and (slightly pricey) lunch options.
Doi Chaang Coffee itself is actually a brand of ethical, organic coffee, owned by a partnership between Northern Thai coffee growers from the Golden Triangle (close to Chiang Rai) and a group of “Canadian coffee enthusiasts”, according to their website. You can buy Doi Chaang Coffee all over Thailand and Canada, it seems. There is a small sales corner @ Art as well, and for 1100 baht – about $35 – you can even purchase your own 50 grams of civit poo coffee beans. And from free-range pooing civits, no less! Now… who do I need a Christmas present for?
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 70 / 90 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): Medium. (11.2 mbps / 0.6 mbps)
- Power outlets: Two sets in the corner, available at a 20 baht per hour charge.
- Other notes: Perhaps because they charge for the power outlets the staff here is extremely laid back about loiterers. I spent five hours there and had a couple coffees, but never felt pressured to “buy or move on” as is so often the case in other coffee shops. There is also a nice outdoor sitting spot in the shade, but in June it was just too hot to try it out.
Raicholada Coffee (Suk Sathit) is cosy and funky, a little smaller than most shops but with just about the friendliest staff around. When I walked in both the owner and the barista quickly let me know what they had as far as coffee, tea and smoothies, and somehow they did this in a really pleasant way that didn’t make me want to immediately inform them that I was in fact capable of reading the menu in front of me. The music is upbeat and the lighting is perfect, giving the whole place a happy vibe. Just walking in here melts away stress and makes me smile – perfect for working on difficult projects or on a deadline!
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 40 / 50 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): FASTEST IN TOWN! (48.1 mbps / 3.3 mbps)
- Power outlets: Several inside, one outside.
- Other notes: The coffee here is cheaper but comes in smaller portions. I love this, since it means I can order a couple over a few hours while I use the blindingly fast internet to get some work done.
4. COFFEE BRIGHT
Coffee Bright (Tanalai Road) was almost too sterile the first time I visited. I felt like I was sitting in a Pottery Barn catalogue. Just me and the furniture. Even the baristas seemed to fade into the framework. But on my second visit – a Saturday – this place was more lively, filled with a well-scrubbed and well-dressed, pastel-wearing young Thai crowd. The coffee is more expensive than most places, but the airy atmosphere and its convenient location at the end of the Saturday Walking Street make it worth the visit, especially if you plan to stroll the stalls on your way back towards the centre.
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 90 / 85 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): slow. (4 mbps / 0.5 mbps)
- Power outlets: A set next to almost every single table!
- Other notes: This place also has an upstairs area that is so living-room like that you might just find yourself kicking your feet up on the table and looking for the remote to watch some TV. Also, even though the internet clocks in at ‘slow’ I managed an hour and a half video Skype conversation while there with almost no lag.
5. BAAN CHIVIT MAI BAKERY
Baan Chivit Mai Bakery (near the old bus station on Prasop Sook Road) pushes a lot of buttons for me. First of all, all of the profits from this Swedish (!) coffee shop & bakery go to an organisation that helps keep Thai kids away from drug use and prostitution. Can’t argue with that.
However, the whole thing is a little God-y for me. But if that is your cup of tea, or coffee, then this might be the perfect working spot for you. During the week the shop was filled with Bible study groups (thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for headphones), but on Sunday morning they had all gone off to church and it was a really nice place to sit and focus.
At the end of the day your coffee-baht is going to a good cause here, so even if it isn’t the nicest shop in town it is worth a spot in the Chiang Rai remote-worker café rotation.
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 70 / 80 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): Medium. (17.0 mbps / 1.3 mbps)
- Power outlets: Five or six throughout the indoor seating area.
- Other notes: In the Swedish tradition, both the coffee and food here are distinctly acceptable. Not the best in town, but they do the job. And the bullar – Swedish rolls – remind me of their PressByrån (sort of Swedish 7-11) cousins back home!
Foreste by Café de Doi (Singhaclai Road) looks a bit more like a botanical garden gift shop than a café from the outside. The trees are even labeled with their common names in Thai as well as their Latin names – oh how my botanist side loves this! On the inside, however, it is more of a cafeteria-feeling that prevails with straight-backed chairs and worn tiles. With a make-over this place could be pretty great, but for now it’s main selling features are the super-fast internet connection and cheap, though largely unimpressive, coffee.
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 50 / 55 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): FAST! (41.0 mbps / 1.6 mbps)
- Power outlets: Couldn’t spot any.
- Other notes: There isn’t much in the way of food here, but it is on a major street where there are a number of cheap, and tasty, eating options.
7. DOI CHAANG @ COFFEE STATION
Doi Chaang @ Coffee Station (Thanalai Road) is another one of the myriad shops around town serving up Doi Chaang coffee. Unlike Doi Chaang @ Art, however, Doi Chaang @ Coffee Station is a little less pretentious, with mismatched furniture, some teddy bears on the chairs and green astroturf lining the outdoor seating area. This café was filled with 30 to 40-somethings all staring at their phones or computers, which actually makes for a pretty good, unhurried working environment. I finally OD’d on coffee, so I tried out their banana smoothie, which came with some spices and was really slushy – yum!
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 70 / 80 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): Medium. (11.1 mbps / 0.6 mbps)
- Power outlets: A couple, both indoors and outdoors.
- Other notes: The sign below might read “Coffee Station” in Thai (anyone want to help me with this??), but as far as signs I could read the only name I found for this shop was Coffee Doi Chaang. “Coffee Station” was written on the back of the staff’s T-shirts, but nowhere else.
Destiny Coffee (Suk Sathit) is spacious and modern. It’s also located super-conveniently on the block smack in-between the clock tower and the fruit market. They have a nice selection of non-coffee drinks, and my pineapple-coconut smoothie was made with fresh-chopped ingredients – though they added a lot of unnecessary sugar on top of that. A sign out front touts the “best coffee in Chiang Rai” which normally I would write off entirely, if it weren’t for the fact that I later heard two expat locals at another café saying that Destiny does, in fact, have the best coffee in town. Maybe there’s something to it?
- Price for a cappuccino (hot/iced): 70 / 75 baht
- Internet speed (download/upload): FAST! (36.2 mbps / 2.9 mbps)
- Power outlets: Several near the tables, but none near the sofas
- Other notes: This shop is open till 9:00 (9:30 on Friday and Saturday), making it one of the night owls of the Chiang Rai coffee scene.
After ten days in Chiang Rai and about two dozen coffees I feel like I’ve only just dipped my toes into the café pool. I’ll be in Seattle in a week, and I already know I’ll wonder why there is so little coffee there compared to Thailand. So in summary: digital nomads, get your location independent, caffeine-requiring selves out of Chiang Mai and over to Chiang Rai! Or then again, maybe don’t. It’s nice having this place to myself!
Also check out: My day trip up to Doi Chang in the mountains of Chiang Rai
Where in the world is Allison? Probably sipping coffee in Chiang Rai, Thailand!