Searching for the Perfect Office in Chiang Mai


I can’t stand working in my hotel room. Instead I hang out at cafes and coffee shops around town. The ideal office has wifi, accessible power, preferably a shady outdoor table, a breeze or fan and a wait staff that doesn’t mind me hanging out for hours drinking coffee and fruit smoothies. It’s a tricky combination.

Searching for the perfect office in Chiang MaiI headed out today at 7:30, planning on stopping at my usual early-morning spot, Ratana’s Kitchen. It’s just around the corner from my hotel and I like to sit outside in the morning and start my day. Today they weren’t open yet and the waiter was standing outside watering the plants.

I thought I’d kill a few moments and walked down to the 7-11 to buy an energy drink and peruse the huge assortment of odd things for sale in the coolers (Essence of Chicken? Why?). Ten minutes later, I checked back at Ratana’s and the waiter was still standing unmoving in the same place, watering the same plant. A bit concerned, I checked his pulse — it was weak but steady, so I left him to his duties and headed to my back-up office.

The backup in this case is Black Canyon Coffee, just inside Tha Phae Gate in the old city. It’s a tourist trap and pricey, but they have decent wifi and it’s a great place to people watch. But Black Canyon has a fatal flaw: they tend to play the same CD over and over for days at a time. Recently it was, inexplicably, John Denver and yesterday it was a collection of rock songs sung in a crooning lounge style interspersed with Whitney Houston hits.

Searching for the Perfect Office in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Later in the day I’ll have plenty of options: Archer’s Restaurant, which was one of my first spots and a favorite, Bargin Booze Cafe (yes, that’s how they spelled it. They’ve changed the name to Bamboo Cafe — this saddens me), Ahka Ama Coffee (best coffee in town, but a 30 minute walk), or even Blue Sky Bar, which not only sells the cheapest beer in town and has amazing service but also shows the SciFi channel on TV all day. (Supposedly, they’re open 24 hours a day but visiting a bar at 8 in the morning didn’t seem like a very productive idea.)

Girding myself, I opened the door to the fading strains of I Will Always Love You which not only made me cringe but triggered a memory of a small cafe I’d spotted a few days before, tucked down a quiet soi off the main road. Maybe they were open?

Searching for the Perfect Office in Chiang Mai, Thailand

And they were! The Peppermint Coffee House turned out to be exactly what I wanted: they open at 7am, have great food and fair prices, fast wifi and friendly service. They even bring you free ice water to drink — unheard of in this town. Check them out next time you’re in town and tell the waiter, Abu, that Johnny sent you.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker July 15, 2011 at 10:24 am

That looks like my office in October 2011…


Ian Borders July 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Nice. I’ll have to check it out. My spot is over in the Santitam area near Gad Suan Keaw / Central Mall called ‘ The Puppy House’. Opens early, fast free wifi, A/C, good food, and don’t care how long you stay. The only downside is it’s closed on Saturdays and closes everyday around 7pm, which is usually when I start to hit my productivity stride. bummer.


Bubba July 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Hey Wes,
Nice set of office spaces, and will definitely go back to Peppermint Cafe. Looking forward to catching up with you… and how about adding a +1 button, eh? ;-)


wes July 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm

done! ;)


Daniel N. July 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Peppermint is very high on our list and the first place we ever went to in Chiang Mai. Abu and Tapanee (the Thai lady with a british accent) are sweet and awesome. Shhhhh stop revealing the coolest places!


emilie reimer July 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

looks like someone needs a mini-mouse!


Shannon O'Donnell July 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Ooo! I’ll have to come back and try it out :) Looks like the perfect cute and away from all the distractions type of place!


wes July 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

You’ll love it.


Jeremy Branham July 16, 2011 at 1:43 am

Can’t argue with the scenery! Looks much better than a hotel room!


Mike July 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Hey Johnny,

I am living in CM. Lemme know if you’re up for a beer some day after the “Buddha days”. I would love to hear your stories. My treat. Cheers.


Alex July 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

What a useful post for the many expats setting up shop in Chang Mai!


Michael July 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

ha! John Denver…we met up with a man in Pindaya Myanmar who invited us to his house to sing karaoke one evening. He had many American songs that he loved to sing along with, but had never heard them sung with an “American” accent as all of his discs were from China. He was particularly enthusiastic about my twangy rendition of Country Roads.


Megan July 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

Man, NOTHING is open in Bangkok before 9 or 10 in the morning, not even the coffee places. That’s just wrong! I’ve been in the Chitlom/Siam area at 8 a.m. or earlier and could only find McDonald’s or Starbucks to go to. Annoying.


Mack Reynolds July 18, 2011 at 11:59 pm

awesome. it’s always fun discovering the country/town you’re staying in. i like the photos, especially of the essence of chicken. sometimes things just aren’t chickeny enough, you know?


Erica July 20, 2011 at 5:00 am

Black Canyon Cafe looks like an old Pizza Hut! I have yet to have to use a cafe for internet *knock on wood*. It should be interesting in Honduras. :P


Theodora July 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I was hoping our guesthouse could be my office, but sadly their wifi is broken.


Fedrico August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I can’t even begin to imagine what delicacies and even better prices they must have…


Karl August 15, 2011 at 10:58 am

Nice office! Hoping to have an office like that soon too, still stuck in corporate America but it’s a work in process. Do you like Chiang Mai better than Bangkok?


wes August 19, 2011 at 4:41 am

I love Chiang Mai — it’s very relaxed and comfortable. I like Bangkok, but after 4-5 days I’m usually ready to move on.


Eve Sibley October 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I’m here now, got my laptop and ready to work- Good Call! Its away from the street noise, fast wifi, non-offensive music, delicious breakfast clearly prepared with love. Will be my spot for the week- thanks for the tip! Showed Abu your site- he says to tell you that you are missed and described you as a “very good man”


wes November 23, 2011 at 2:02 am

Awwww, thanks for passing that on. I miss them — really sweet people.


Eve November 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

Hey, sure, my pleasure! Btw, I’m back in Varanasi now- got any tips on good offices here?? Thanks!


Sean January 4, 2012 at 3:00 am

Thanks for sharing this Johnny – will check out Peppermint coffee shop this week.

Travel tip for anyone reading this: Next to Black Canyon Coffee is an awesome little restaurant that opens at 7am – great place to fuel up and start the day (you can connect to black canyon coffee’s WIFI) and not have to endure Celine Dion :)


wes January 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

I *highly* recommend this place. I’ve eaten there at least a dozen times. Their soups are especially tasty and cheap. Small place with few tables, so I wouldn’t linger too long using a laptop :)


Tanya February 26, 2012 at 3:17 am

I found this post fantastic. I can relate to it very well. We are in Chiang Mai now. Have been here for a month. Prior to this visit, we lived here for 8 months a few years back. A decent office can be hard to come by.

I know of all the places you mention. Would also like to add: Happy Hut out on Nimmen, Chocolate Fact at the southern end of Nimmen Soi 7 i think. And there is another place just near Happy Hut (name escapes me) that has an outdoor area and is open from 8am daily. Pretty good wifi in all the places.

Not sure where we will be going tomorrow… thanks for the post!