Digital nomad destination: Hanoi

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Hanoi is a bustling city to the north of Vietnam, and one of my all time favourite digital nomad destinations. Hanoi has it all – fast, readily available, reliable WiFi, excellent work places with high potential for business and social networking, amazing food, a wide choice of accommodation, fun relaxed nightlife, easy transport via motorcycle taxi, relatively low living costs, outdoor spaces, one of the best coffee scenes in the world, unique culture and a nice base from which to visit some of Vietnam’s natural & cultural wonders in the north.

I felt completely at ease and safe as a solo female nomad working in Hanoi. I didn’t need to be as guarded about the safety of my laptop & I felt completely relaxed to explore the town day or night on my own or with new friends. Although there are lots of motos, the city maintains a relaxed vibe, where nothing rolls too fast!

Home base

In terms of where to base yourself in Hanoi, good options are endless, however I preferred to be based around the Cathedral area next to the bustling Hoan Kiem (Old Quarter). For something longer term, I may have chosen Tay Ho/Westlake. A 5 minute walk from the Toong co-working space was my favourite guesthouse in Hanoi: Maison D’Orient, which I wrote about in greater detail on tripadvisor. Specifically the Cinnamon rooms provided all that I needed to work at night and enjoy my stay comfortably within the budget I had set to be able to extend my funds over a long term trip.

Working spaces

Whilst in Hanoi, I worked at Toong co-working spaces. The excellent facilities, well appointed spaces, professional staff, great service, convenience of in house catering & reliable wifi at Toong greatly contributed to my enjoyment of working in Hanoi so much.

Caffeinate

Outstanding coffee is available up, down, and around every windy corner you turn in the streets of old Hanoi and its surrounds. Don’t miss out on trying egg coffee (cà phê trúng) & yoghurt coffee (sua chua ca phe) on a low slung stool in one of the many hidden cafes across the town. The cafes in Hanoi were so popular, that Hanoi was one of the few towns where I didn’t find too many venues where I was comfortable to work (at least for more than an hour or two), given that people would be waiting for tables. 

 

 

 

Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi

Digital nomad destination: Vietnam

Vietnam was the very first stop on my digital nomad trails throughout SE Asia, and I had selected this location with good reasons in mind. I was looking for a destination that would allow me to focus on my tasks at hand and also offer a unique cultural experience outside of work.

From my research, Vietnam promised fast, reliable WiFi, various co-working spaces, an excellent cafe scene, good budget accommodation, a plethora of street food and nice travel opportunities. After spending one month working out of Vietnam, I can attest that it did indeed deliver all of the above.

What surprised me, was that Vietnam’s start up scene is maturing rapidly and there was a definite tech buzz around Hanoi and particularly Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Saigon’s co-working spaces are full to the brim with Vietnamese and foreign entrepreneurs and techies collaborating on a wide range of projects. It is an exciting and positive work environment. The co-working scene provides many social opportunities, and it’s also easy to meet other travellers. One day, as I was walking around the backpacker area in my exploration of the city, I was approached by a team of programmers and digital marketers who were developing a new social networking app. They asked me to perform some user testing so that I could provide early feedback on their app. This contributed to my feeling that Ho Chi Minh is like the San Francisco of the East! All round, working out of Vietnam proved to be productive, motivating and fun.

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Photo by Holly, in Ninh Binh

nomad desk review: black ant coffee, mae sariang.

Black Ant Coffee in Mae Sariang proved to be a feasible work location, that also provided a sense of relaxation along with a healthy dose of nature. Mae Sariang is a small rural town, with a strip of guesthouses nestled along the river. It is here that Black Ant Coffee, which also operates a separate resort, is perched. It’s a rustic space with a few tables indoors, and a focus on enjoying the outdoors, sipping on a coffee underneath the mango trees whilst gazing at the surrounding greenery. Even though the tables are outside, the tree coverage provides excellent shade and is a welcome retreat from the sun. There are various power points outside, so its possible to power up the laptop, and the WiFi is good and stable. Mae Sariang is a quiet town, so you’ll find little to distract you in your day’s work in this cafe. Welcome distractions include the daily sight of farmers herding buffalo across the river, the rippling sound of the water, and the sound of birds from the trees above.

Whilst simple and rustic, Black Ant Coffee provides a quiet space from which to focus on a day’s work, along with a good local style coffee. They also serve up a range of cold and hot drinks and a couple of simple cakes. If you’re looking for something substantial to eat, you can order from the restaurant next door which dishes up standard local Thai fare, based on noodles and rice.

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The workplace roundup:

Pros

  • Outdoor desks with wonderful views
  • Local style coffee
  • Powerpoints
  • Reliable, decent wifi: speedtest results from my visit
  • Work under the trees, surrounded by birds, bees and buffalows
  • Secluded, relaxing, chilled

Cons

  • Secluded, relaxing, chilled (some people may not find this town offers enough in the socialising aspect & there are not many other digital nomads around town)
  • Working outside can be hot – I’d recommend this workspace in the cooler or wetter months
  • Wear a hat…. there are birds above!
  • Food from outside – but hey, the restaurant next door is literally 1 metre away – so its not that hard!

More about Mae Sariang…

Accommodation is available in the adjacent resort: Black Ant Resort. Simple, yet lovely rooms are positioned below the cafe, overlooking the river. It’s a location that’s hard to beat! There’s a range of other guesthouses and hotels in town that also offer really good accommodation. My favourite picks were:

  • Riverhouse Hotel (teak house) – high end budget / mid range accommodation with good food
  • Above the Sea (not overlooking the river, but they offer a pool along with clean, modern accommodation & scooter hire.
  • River house Resort (higher end accommodation that also has a nice garden for relaxing out front)
  • There are various other great guesthouses and hotels in town – just check out your favourite online website. Travelfish, Agoda and WikiTravel list most of the accommodation for the town, whereas some of the other sites only list the bigger places.

There’s a couple of nice bars for relaxed dining and entertainment at the end of a day’s work. Just hit the main strip on the river, and you’ll find some great spots and hopefully meet some of the nice locals or some of the many Thai folk who pass through on their way to Pai or Chiang Mai.

You can’t beat a couple of days on the scooter around this town. Just ask the locals where to go, there’s a multitude of waterfalls, Karen villages, rainforests and viewpoints to explore. You can also look out into Myanmar from the Salawin River.  This is a very nice, secluded part of Thailand, and you’re likely to enjoy a very authentic experience here. Additionally, Mae Sariang is nestled along the Mae Hong Son loop, so it is a great place to sit back and relax if you’re doing the rounds on a bike or by car. Mae Sariang also makes a great place to go hiking. Although you can visit the villages by yourself, going with a guide will ultimately open up better opportunities to make the most of the opportunity. Salawin Tours and North West tours among others offer great local trips. This area isn’t as easily “accessible” on your own compared to other parts of Thailand, as its not so much on the tourist trail. However, you can obviously break down some of the barriers of going on your own if you know some Thai language, or if you’re happy to roll with the punches!

 

 

Code on the road… an adventure begins.

Just when the lease on my house in Bangkok was up, I had secured a contract with a company in Australia to work remotely as a tester. The company were initially cautious in allowing team members to work remotely, let alone an employee with no fixed abode. But, I was motivated to prove that the idea would result in mutual benefits for us both. In addition to my work commitments I wanted to invest some time in skilling up in Python and learning some iOS development skills. And thus, it was launched: my trip around South East Asia, to code on the road.

Along the way, I not only tested my client’s website, but I also put to the test various locations from which to work and play. I’ll be sharing some of the details in my blog, along with a few of my learnings (technical and non) from the trip.

So, from Hanoi in Vietnam to Yangon in Myanmar: here we go… to Code on the Road.

 

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