Digital Nomading in SE Asia

(Still editing this, was our on-going journal/notes during the trip, slowly editing it into a digital nomading guide.)

Spent 2 months travelling around SE Asia in June/July 2023. Met with many other digital nomads around to learn from their experience, was not aiming to quit our city life any time soon, but was just in my exploratory mode. Or maybe just a post-covid (Shanghai) lockdown “revenge”. It was great to just sit on the beach with a beer or two and laptop. Creating enough “me time” is actually great for business. 🙂

A little background:

About Edward – still a geek, doing blockchain, web3 projects, a bit of AI too. Been in crypto related projects since 2016. Recently finished an asset tokenization project for a listed company in HK. Next project will be in regulated crypto exchange, helping to build up exciting tech for better crypto trading experience. Looking out for good remote developers in SE Asia.

About Helen – INSEAD MBA 2024 candidate with product/marketing background and previously worked in healthcare startups and online community building. She is also interested in web3 sector, helping to build an NFT ticketing solution. She planned most of the trip and did all the hard work. I am certainly grateful for all she did to make the trip possible and enjoyable.

We went to 9 cities in 4 countries:

  1. Vietnam – Saigon (May 29th – June 2rd), Da Nang (June 2rd – 7th), Hanoi (June 7th – 11th)
  2. Thailand – Bangkok (June 11th – 15th), Chiang Mai (June 15th – 21st), Phuket (June 21st – 24th)
  3. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur (June 24th – 30th), Penang (June 30th – July 8th)
  4. Indonesia – Jakarta (July 8th – 12th), Bali (July 12th – 21st)

Wasn’t exactly the most optimised route as such, but had to consider flight and hotel prices, and other scheduled events.

Travel Essentials – Gadgets and Goodies to get ready for your trip

  • MacBook Air – Yes, I bought a MacBook Air M2 just for this trip. 13 inch one. Light and small to travel with and enough battery to last for full day of work at any coffee shop or co-working space. I am sure the new 15 inch is great too, but might be a bit too heavy for nomading. (I am carrying my iPad Pro M1 around too, just to read books and for anything I need to use handwriting for.)
  • AirTag – – Buy a pack of 4 or more. Put one inside each of your checked-in luggage, one in your waterproof cash/passport bag and your regular backpack too. Set a few geo-fencing reminders so you will not leave these behind. And at the airport, it can help you to track if the baggage is nearby for you to pickup.
  • Sun Block (sun glasses and a hat too) – SPF 50 or above, we use the spray on SPF 50/100 daily, on face and arms mainly. But have to force yourself to spray it. Get your sunglasses and hat ready too, it gets very hot and sunny in SE Asia all year around.
  • Sony Reon Pocket 4 (very optional) or other electric fan – Hard to say if it was worth it, I used it about 10 times when it got very hot during the day outdoors. For about about 150 USD, it’s not a bad gadget. It is like having a small ice cube placed at the back of your neck. It’s that little bit of cool/cold sensation that made the hot weather a little more bearable. But generally, people avoid going out during strongest sun hours, say 11am – 4pm. Just stay indoors, sit at coffee shops and work, then get ready to go out after 5pm or so. There are now much cheaper electric handheld fans you can get, even with thermoelectric cooling, at affordable price.
  • Travel Power Adapters – Check online for what you need. Vietnam and Thailand, the 2 pins that are commonly used in China and USA is fine. Malaysia use the UK/HK plugs and Indonesia use the Europe 2 round pins one. But good to keep 1-2 sets of these in your travel bag anyway. They are cheap. But test it out a little. sometimes the cheaper ones are not very stable/strong, if your charger might fall out/off when you plug it into vertical wall sockets. Check out this guide.
  • Chargers and Cables – Go for charger with fast charge so you can top up your battery at coffee shops or co-working spaces quickly. Go for the GAN chargers, they are small and can go up to 75W which is powerful enough for most modern M1/M2 Macs. Make sure you get longer cables too. Up to 2m so it is easier to charge and work at the same time. A quick reminder, if you iPhone charging cable is not using USB-C cable, it is not a fast charge cable. You can get to 50% charged in 30 mins if you are using the proper cable. That’s very useful for remote working and top up your battery for 10-15 mins every here and there. (Same applies with Apple Watch, particular the Ultra and the newer versions supporting fast charging. My Ultra can’t charge fully overnight using the old charging cable.) One of our chargers stopped working in the final week of our trip, so we didn’t bother to buy a new one and just shared one charger and managed our time with it. Somehow GAN chargers are expensive outside China. Have a spare charger if you are travelling alone.
  • SIM Cards with good data plans – There are many choices for these SIM cards and can usually be bought before you fly out. It’s recommended that you get it ready, so you can swap out your SIM card before/as you land and can start ordering taxi or check local travel status whilst you are still waiting to get to the airport terminal. It can be a pain to buy the local SIM card when you arrive, need to register the card with passport and some cards are only available for locals with their ID cards. For reference, I used about 10GB of data in 18 days and I am quite a heavy user, regularly staying online, etc. (Updated figure, I recently used about 0.9GB of data a day including regularly checking Binance; 0.67GB a day for just the active explorer checking a lot of local restaurants, places, maps, etc.)
  • Local Apps – Find out about the local apps used for taxi, food delivery and travel information. Grab is the main one we used in Vietnam and Thailand. We had Bolt for cheaper rides in Phuket, but you can only pay with cash. Gojek can be useful in Indonesia.
  • Swimming and Running Gear – There are many nice places to enjoy healthy activities. Bring your swimming and running gear. Including waterproof pouches for your phone and money, so you don’t have to leave them on the beach.
  • Security, Kensington lock or some kind of metal chain – Have some ways to lock your bag temporarily to large/fixed objects like a table or big chair. Just to make it a little harder for thieves to just run off with your bag. Too bad that current MacBooks don’t have built-in Kensington locks.
  • Multi-function Knife, Basic Cutlery, Nail clipper, Flash Light – Just some basic tools beyond surviving on hotel food and services. But remember not to have these in your hand luggage for flights or they will be confiscated.
  • Resealable bags and Food Snack Seal – Good to keep your passports in waterproof bags and other important items too. Or have plastic clips to seal bags with, good for keeping some food/snacks for a few days.
  • Disposable Raincoat – Get some of the disposable raincoats and put them in your travel bag, 2-3 sets.
  • Medication – Keep some basic medicine for your trip. I keep panadols, Imodium, lozenges (strepsils max), etc. You can get them here, but good to have some just in case.
  • Travel Insurance – Make sure you have it. Get an annual plan if that is a better deal. But remember to study the terms. They can be tricky when you need to make a claim. Even a small procedural mismatch, they will deny your claim. Most of them will have very tight time restriction for incident reporting, like within 24 hours of the incident. With police reports, make sure they are explicit, inline with the claimable causes. (e.g. be explicit about “theft” or “robbery” in your police case report.)

Sharing our miscellaneous tips:

  • Pack for about 9 days of clothing and aim at going to local laundry every week or so. Have a few sealable bags to keep dirty laundry in. Go for the standard wash and dry with folding. Pack some smart casuals too, long trousers, proper shirt, etc. Otherwise go for light and easy wash/dry items. Have disposable cotton undies too, they are good for 2-3 washes.
  • Check on meetup, Facebook, etc, for local events. Or contact the many co-working spaces and see if they are running any events and plan your trip to fit them in.
  • Many co-working spaces have a coffee shop too, which you can sit there and just work. Usually it works out cheaper to have 2-3 cups of coffee for a day pass. If you only plan to stay for a few hours, might be better that way. For a full day of work, you get the peace and quiet work environment from a full co-working space day pass. And they usually have basic coffee too.
  • Network connections and even electricity can be unable. Most places have Wi-Fi, but can’t guarantee on the network speed. 5G isn’t readily available, so back to LTE (4G).

在数字游民基地Canggu仓谷,去了好几家coworking space,参加了当地小有名气的SpeakUp Monday活动,与参会者交流crypto community的建立和运营。
最后几天意外住进了11年前住过的beach resort🏨,享受沙滩、泳池、美食,消除2个月旅行的疲惫🏖️。
The tenth and final stop in Southeast Asia was the beautiful island of Bali. 🌴 While staying in the digital nomad hub of Canggu, I visited several coworking spaces and attended the locally famous SpeakUp Monday event, where I exchanged ideas with participants about the establishment and operation of the crypto community. 💻🌐
In the last few days, I unexpectedly stayed at a beach resort 🏨 where I had stayed 11 years ago. I enjoyed the beach, pool, and delicious food 🏖️🏊🍴, and it helped me to relieve the fatigue from two months of traveling. 😌
My “revenge travel” after the pandemic came to an end here. 🚫🦠 I experienced the life of a digital nomad, which allowed me to work and travel simultaneously. It was challenging but rewarding. 👨‍💻🌍 I look forward to the next time I’m on the road! 🛣️✈️

东南亚第九站,雅加达 Jakarta!
雅加达有300年的荷兰殖民地历史🏰。去了当时遗留的古城区,在起源于1805年的Cafe Bavatia喝咖啡,到印尼银行博物馆学习现代金融体系历史🏦,还参观了Blockchain Innovation Center。
接下来前往最后一个城市,到巴厘岛🌴 好好休整一下。
The ninth stop in Southeast Asia is Jakarta! Jakarta has a 300-year history as a Dutch colony 🏰. You can visit the old town area and drink coffee at Cafe Batavia, which originated in 1805. You can also learn about the history of the modern financial system at the Indonesian Bank Museum 🏦 and visit the Blockchain Innovation Center. Don’t forget to try the local must-eat foods such as Gado-gado 🥗, Indomee 🍜, and Sate 🍢.
Next stop to the last city in our nomading trip, Bali 🌴, to relax and take a break.

东南亚第八站,槟城George Town
又碰巧遇上槟城的UNESCO heritage day🏛️,在大街小巷感受这座南洋古城的多元文化。
The eighth stop in Southeast Asia, George Town, Penang. Attended the geNFesT NFT conference here and participated in several exciting discussions, made many new friends who are working on NFT and web3. 🤝
Coincidentally, it was also UNESCO heritage day 🏛️ in Penang, and I experienced the multiculturalism of this Nanyang (Southeast Asian) ancient city in every corner.
Goodbye 👋 Malaysia! Next time, I’ll come back to try the famous Teochew Chendul at De Cheng restaurant without waiting in line. 🤪
Next stop, the last country – Indonesia 🇮🇩.

到3个co-working space工作,发现不少总部在新加坡的web3公司在吉隆坡搭建开发团队。🧑‍💻
The seventh stop in Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 🇲🇾.
After refraining from eating durian in Vietnam and Thailand, I finally got to enjoy it in Malaysia! I went to SS2 to eat durian, Alor Street for grilled chicken wings, and Jalan Cerdas for stingray. I also visited Connaught, KL’s longest night market, with friends to eat, drink and take photos. 🥪🍳🍲☕️
I worked at three different co-working spaces and discovered that many web3 companies with headquarters in Singapore are building development teams in Kuala Lumpur. 🧑‍💻
I am halfway through my travel journey and looking forward to unlocking more places next month!

参加了Crypto Phuket的meetup,在朋友推荐下去了Crypto Coff —— 极具科技感的两幢楼,有挖矿咖啡厅、共享办公空间、VR游戏厅、可以用crypto支付的Eat-thereum餐厅,令人叹为观止。期待明年第三幢楼crypto hotel落成。
The sixth stop of the Southeast Asia trip is Phuket Island 🌊. Spend three days as a tourist: watching the sunset 🌄 by the pool, riding a motorboat 🛥️ to go out to sea, eating seafood 🦐, and watching shows 💃 at night. Participated in the Crypto Phuket meetup and, on a friend’s recommendation, visited Crypto Coff – two buildings with a great sense of technology, including a mining cafe, shared workspaceVR game room, and Eat-thereum restaurant that accepts crypto payments, which is amazing. Looking forward to the completion of the third building, Crypto Hotel, next year. Ending the trip in Thailand 🇹🇭, and off to Malaysia 🇲🇾!

去了当地专门面向web3行业的创业空间-Yellow,参加了weekly meetup,与资深从业者就最近的产业热点进行深入讨论。
The fifth stop of the Southeast Asia trip is Chiang Mai 🍃. This is the second time visiting Chiang Mai, and it is still the sunny ☀️ and charming small town with endless street food 🍜 and enjoyable massages 💆. Visited a local startup space called Yellow that specifically focuses on the web3 industry and attended their weekly meetup to have in-depth discussions with senior professionals about the latest industry trends. Really love the environment and ecosystem here, and it feels like a city to retire in? 🤪

The fourth stop of the Southeast Asia trip is Bangkok, Thailand 🇹🇭. Bangkok is really a hotbed for web3, with related meetups almost every day. Had the opportunity to visit DistrictX – a web3 startup spaceestablished by the Thai SCB bank 🏦 and attended an event by Fireblocks to learn about the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Thai crypto 🚀. This time, it was noticed that durian in Thailand has become very expensive, and there are no longer durian buffets available 🥹. Next stop, heading to the most popular city among digital nomads – Chiang Mai 🍃.

🛫 东南亚之行第三站,也是越南之旅的最后一站,来到了首都河内(Hanoi)。🇻🇳
到河内的西湖(West Lake)边跑步,吃了特色美食Bún Chả,喝了椰子水🥥。
体验了3家co-working space,和Solana越南的负责人见面,了解越南蓬勃的web3创业热潮。
👋 两周的越南之旅就此画上句号。下一站,泰国见!🇹🇭
🛫 The third stop of the Southeast Asia trip, and also the last stop of the Vietnam trip, is the capital city of Hanoi 🇻🇳. Went for a run by the West Lake in Hanoi, had the local specialty food Bún Chả, and drank coconut water 🥥. Visited three co-working spaces, and met with the head of Solana Vietnam to learn about the thriving web3 startup scene in Vietnam. 👋 The two-week Vietnam trip has come to an end. Next stop, Thailand! 🇹🇭

东南亚第二站,在烟花节🎆当天来到越南海滨城市Da Nang(岘港)。
好玩的:美溪沙滩🏖,Hoi An古城
参加了前同事地道的越南婚礼💒,到co-working space和digital nomads们一起工作💻,在web3 meetup上认识了旅居的NFT artists和crypto developers。
The second stop of the Southeast Asia trip was the coastal city of Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) in Vietnam, on the day of the firework festival 🎆. Had delicious food including lobsters 🦞 and dried durian. Also visited the beautiful My Khe beach 🏖 and the ancient town of Hoi An. Attended a Vietnamese wedding of a former colleague 💒, worked at co-working spaces with digital nomads 💻, and met NFT artists and crypto developersat a web3 meetup. Next stop, Hanoi, looking forward to experiencing the charm of Vietnam’s capital city!

在Saigon / HCMC 开启了东南亚之行的第一站。每天嗦pho,越南咖啡,与当地的科技人士见面。
我计划在2个月的时间里,走访越南、泰国、马来西亚、印度尼西亚4个国家的9个城市。一边体验digital nomad的生活方式,一边了解东南亚地区的web3生态。如果你碰巧认识相关的人或者社群,欢迎告诉我!
Started the first stop of the Southeast Asia trip in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. Eating pho and Vietnamese coffee every day, and meeting with local tech professionals. Planning to visit 9 cities across 4 countries – Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – in the next 2 months. Experiencing the digital nomad lifestyle while learning about the web3 ecosystem in Southeast Asia. If you happen to know anyone or any communities related to this, please let me know!