A combination of first-world problems and the rapidly increasing vibrancy and art initiative of Chiang Mai has spawned a hotspot getaway for young creatives and remote workers.
Tucked away in a corner of Thailand’s northern region is Chiang Mai. The largest city in the area, the Chiang Mai highs lies in the mountains, roughly 700 km north of Bangkok and its never ending stream of traffic jams, pollution and obnoxious tourists. Chiang Mai has developed into quite the cosmopolitan and diverse city that has attracted the youngest and brightest of creative nomad types from across the globe, seeking an easygoing alternative (and cooler climate) to that of Bangkok’s. But why are these young artists flocking to Chiang Mai in particular?
To answer this question, it’s important to understand the increasingly digital world we are living in and its effects on how the new generation is living and working. While we’ve all undoubtedly heard of terms like freelancer economy and sharing economy, the essential is as follows: technology has allowed for rapidly increasingly remote, freelance, digital and location-less work.
One field in which this transition is apparent is the creative one. Whether you are a photographer, filmmaker, videographer, graphic designer or any number of exciting professions, there is an increasingly popular wave of work-anywhere, travel-full-time generation of workers. For a city of its size, there is a noticeably disproportionate number of established and successful artists. Indeed, the rise of high-speed networks and low-cost mobile devices have gradually separated the linked between occupation and location. The internet has allowed for greater flexibility and mobility for the remote worker than ever before. So whether you’re at the top of Machu Picchu or a Starbucks in Albania, as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can work freely.
With this being said, why is Chiang Mai such an attractive destination? While the allure of remote and location-independent work is obviously glitzy and glamorous in its own right, there are a number of more practical reasons as to why they are flocking. With the cost of living in a western city and the unemployment rate for recent graduates at an all-time high. There has also been a growing movement for remote workers who are making a western world salary, while living in a developing world with low living expenses.
Financials and technology aside, Chiang Mai in itself has recently positioned itself to become a worldwide hub for young people, creatives and artists. The Chiang Mai Creative City initiative is a driving force in creating and fostering an environment that encourages the creative arts, collaboration and innovation, and has been influential in encouraging and attracting these people to the city. Whether you plan staying for a year or are just passing through, the colourful street art littered around the city as well as the stunning scenery and rich authentic culture is more than enough to reinvigorate any artist’s source of inspiration.
“Art is everywhere,” American photographer and poet Christy Idleman tells LYFSTYL. “The city is overflowing with unique coffee shops and picturesque street art.”
An influx of Thai youth, university art student and western expatriates have rapidly turned this quiet city into a vibrant and buzzing destination. With everything from design studios, musical shows, performance studios, contemporary art galleries and co-working spaces continually popping up and run by young Thais with purple hair, piercing and covered in tattoos. Make sure to check out Gallery Seescape and MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum to divulge into local and international art exhibitions, performances and screenings.
“Chiang Mai was thriving with live music,” Christy Idleman recalls with joy. “My favourite place while in Chiang Mai was a dope little blues bar tucked away in a treehouse near the night market called Little Boy Blues.”
At the same time, the historical traditional and cultural heritage of Chiang Mai is still alive and well, from tranquil Buddhist temples and cozy coffee shops to world-famous night markets. Chiang Mai’s Old Kingdom, featuring jewel-encrusted temples, magnificent statues and pyramid-like structures, hasn’t lost its charm either.
This modern new-meets-old fusion is seemingly the perfect recipe for artists, digital nomads, shaved monks and backpackers, and it’s easy to see why so many youth are flocking here. Thailand was already one of the world’s top travel destinations, but with an atmosphere increasingly conducive for creativity and collaboration, Chiang Mai very well may be paradise for the young creative to pick up and go, and where inspiration can be found in abundance.
Words by Braeden Alexander.