Did you know that there is more to Chiang Mai than just temples, elephants, and night markets? Welcome to Nimmanhaemin Road, dubbed as one of the coolest stretches in Chiang Mai. Whilst the main strip was lined with big coffee shops, pharmacies, and beer bars, it was the inner soi (streets in Thai) that was a delight in exploring, be it on foot or two wheels. Traversing around the peaceful tree-lined neighbourhood with cute eateries, artsy lodgings, and little boutiques, it’s easy to see why it is fast becoming a favourite for digital nomads. It’s Thailand without Singha singlets and banana pancake stalls, and it was a truly refreshing sight.
Coffee Culture and Cute Cafes
Along the quiet streets are plenty of cafes with quirky themes including one of my favourites, the SS1254372 Café. With its hearty all-day breakfasts, the pretty Hobbiton windows, the old office telephones hung atop the counter, the kaleidoscopic tiled tables, the digital folksy music, and the old issues of Monocle magazine, I could easily spend a few hours here. Sharing the space is a cute shop that sells handmade bags and notebooks, as well as the kitschy Seescape Art Gallery.
Another place that deserves a visit is Library Coffee, formerly known as Librarista. Plenty of travel and culture titles in English, as well as Thai, Japanese, and Korean books occupy floor-to-ceiling shelves here. My cup of hot chocolate was Starbucks-quality but at a fraction of the price (THB 65), and lasted me through a coffee table book on Laos (next destination, maybe?). They also have a salad bar where you can dine al-fresco on the colourful wicker furniture underneath shady trees and accompanied by a cat statue and a wading pool.
Art Roastery’s rustic wood and steel décor beckons the hipster traveller even from the outside. If you plan to do work or connect on social media here, I would advise asking for the password before ordering, as there have been issues of the baristas refusing to give out the Wi-Fi password to patrons, yours truly included. To look at it on the bright side, it may be a good thing to disconnect from the internet for a while and enjoy the lush indoor trees and chirping birds inside the cafe.
For digital nomads who are looking for a space to purely concentrate on work, Punspace is a sophisticated co-working space with a lot of options to suit your needs. They offer free coffee/tea as well as snacks, and you can opt for a Day Pass that goes for THB 229 or get a Week Pass for THB 1499 that comes with 24-hour access to the facility.
Another popular co-working place around here is the 24-hour C.A.M.P. AIS, located on the top floor of Maya Shopping Mall. A drink or meal purchase will get you 2 hours of free Wi-Fi, and you get to do your work at either the terraced field-inspired space, up on a tree house, or even outside on the fake grass.
Delicious Eats & Instagram-worthy Meals
One of the trendiest food establishments that deserves a mention is Rustic & Blue, where meals are not cheap but do come in pretty set-ups that make for stylish Instagram posts. I didn’t get to eat here because the place was almost full, but given the chance I would like to come back at night to chill out on the lawn decorated with fairy lights and a tepee canopy.
For a taste of Thai cuisine, I highly recommend Crazy Noodles. This quaint nook with traditional Thai wooden tables and stools serves some of the best Tom Yum I have ever tasted. You can choose from four types of noodles and they’re also pretty generous with the meat toppings, so at around THB 60 per bowl, they’re very good value for money.
One of my best finds at Nimmanhaemin would have to be Uncle Tigger’s, which serves totally awesome fried chicken wings! For only THB 119, their Rabbit Set which consisted of fried chicken wings, salad, fries, cereal flakes, as well as dipping sauce (choose from salted egg yolk, chilli crab, Indian curry, or Nasi Lemak sambal) was so good I couldn’t resist going back for a last bite just before heading to the airport for my flight back home.
Jumbo Juices and Divine Desserts
For a thirst quencher on a hot afternoon, Chuen Juice Bar did not disappoint. Their signature Mango and Strawberry Smoothie was rich and super smooth with just the right amount of yogurt added in. Elegant leather settee, cool jazz music, and an impressive drinks menu make this place a perfect afternoon hideaway.
You cannot be in Thailand and not eat Mango Sticky Rice! At Mango Tango, the mouthwatering dessert options include Mango Cha Cha, Mango Parfait, and Mango Rhumba, but I opted for the Mango Thai Sundae, a sinfully good combo of sticky rice and coconut milk topped with crunchy bits, fresh mango, and yummy mango sorbet! They even have tote bags and dried mango in cool box packaging that make for perfect souvenirs to bring home.
When there is a huge statue in shocking pink that looks like a cross between a dog and an old man, you’re bound to notice it. With outlets in Bangkok and Phuket, iBerry is an ice-cream shop with over 100 flavours to choose from, and this latest outlet in Chiang Mai, which is nestled within tall trees and a huge lawn, may just be their coolest one yet.
Simple Stays & Lovely Lodgings
Nimmanhaemin has an array of cool accommodation options that would appeal to flashpackers on holiday. Do check out Baan Mek Hostel for a taste of Japanese-style accommodation, where traditional Thai hard mattress coupled with fluffy pillow and duvet provided me with comfortable slumber for only THB 400 per night.
Next door at Two Gals and the Pig Boutique Hostel, you can opt for a bed inside their 10-bed dorm for THB 350, or have more privacy with their single room which only costs THB 400 per night! Chic minimalist interiors, clean showers, fast internet connection, as well as the little garden with an artificial puppy made my stay here a truly memorable one. My hostel room also came with a slim and tall window, providing me with great sunshine to start the day.
One of the buildings that caught my eyes when cycling around the area was The Artel Nimman Hotel, a nifty boutique hotel which boasts a funky artsy atmosphere inside all their rooms, pretty Hobbiton windows, plus a slide to bring out the kid in you! Rates start from THB 1249 per night.
Bonus: CAT CAFE!
Located on the same street as Baan Mek and Two Gals and the Pig is the newly-opened red-and-white themed The Cat Stop cafe, a must-visit for every feline lover. With a minimum order of a drink or light snack, you get unlimited hours of cat cuddles! On their façade, there were 8 resident cats advertised, each with its own personality and quirks (although I counted more including these two itty bitty cutesy kittens).
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