The Land of Smiles certainly is an attractive destination for workcation nomads. The infrastructure is excellent, the cost of living is low, and a welcoming Thai culture, plus soothing nature and heavenly islands await remote workers.
But where exactly is it cool to blur the lines between work and a holiday? Hidden in gardens in the middle of concrete jungles, snuggled into valleys near gorges and hot springs, or steps away from ocean waves rolling gently up the sand, these are Thailand’s nine best bleisure cafes from north to south.
The Pedlar, PAI
©photo courtesy of The Pedlar
Set in an old Thai-style wood house in the heart of Pai, a small hippie town in a North Thailand valley, The Pedlar’s homely vibe is palpable at a mere glance. White-painted brick walls create a country feel, as do the wood tables where digital nomads share adventure stories.
Need to toil away? The owner Nui welcomes everyone, whether they stay for 30 minutes or four hours. The light-flooded cafe has many power outlets, reliable wifi, and tables of various sizes and heights. To boost your energy, have a cappuccino made of Thai and Ethiopian beans, and be sure to try the in-house baker’s bread rolls and wraps, distinctively Pedlarian.
CAMP – Creative and Meeting Place Hangout Cafe, CHIANG MAI
©photo by Ploypechrat Kawmanee
Looking at those ceiling pyramids and angular wood nooks, you’d be forgiven for thinking the brain behind CAMP hinted at art deco, but exposed pipes and round lamps make for an industrial twist. Situated inside Maya shopping mall in Chiang Mai, CAMP is popular with students and remote workers alike, yet the ambiance is surprisingly quiet. You can find standing desks, tables of various sizes, and brick-walled meeting rooms with futuristically shaped lamps. For best wifi performance, come in the morning and slurp a peachy mango smoothie on the terrace – the mountain views will knock your socks off.
OASIS Café, PHITSANULOK
©photo by Philipp Meier
Hugged by cacti beauties and feathery ferns, OASIS hides in a garden near the gurgling Nan River. Virtually unknown among foreigners, Thais love the natural setting in the middle of Phitsanulok, a grassland-surrounded city rich in history, some 425kms north of Bangkok. Whether you sit inside or outside this cafe and bistro, the personable owners will make your workcation agreeable with power outlets and free wifi. Keen to indulge your sweet tooth? Order honey toast topped with vanilla ice cream.
©photo courtesy of Sarnies
Off the main drag of Grand Palace, Sarnies sits in a quiet corner of Bangkok Old Town, steps from Chao Phraya River. Housed in a historical, some 150- year-old building, the cafe radiates the charm of a bygone era with distressed brick walls, vintage chairs, and wooden ceiling beams. Apart from power sockets and complimentary, speedy wifi, you’ll also love the artisan coffee and ‘pimp-my-breakfast’ – brekkie of your choice, say scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and sautéed mushrooms. A bustling cafe during the day with all-day brunch, Sarnies morphs into a laid-back dinner and drinks venue come dusk, with live music that fits the Aussie-Asian feel.
Tree Cups Phang Nga Coffee, PHANG-NGA
©photo courtesy of Tree Cups Phang Nga Coffee
Tree Cups isn’t just a cafe to recharge your laptop’s batteries. Hanging out here on Khao Po’s hilltop, in the topmost part of a 17-meter-high, over 300- year-old Takhian tree, becoming one with nature takes on new meaning. The air is fresh, and perfectly aligned palms and rubber trees stretch away over millions of acres of deep green woodland, with limestone peaks towering behind. The treehouse cafe offers a chilled-out atmosphere and free wifi, plus manually brewed pour-over coffee, Thai teas, exotic smoothies, and a globetrotting selection of foods. You can bash out some stuff, sip a latte, and listen to the wind whispering through the treetop as you gaze into the distance.
Chiangmai Coffee, PHUKET
©photo by Philipp Meier
Chiangmai Coffee near Phuket’s Kamala beach has a peaceful aura. The owner Nam from Chiang Mai has given everything a personal touch, from the veranda’s recliners and cushioned wood couches to the Chiang Mai market painting on the white brick wall. Thai music plays at a gentle volume as digital nomads type away engrossed in thought, tasting daisy-like Midnight Dream or flower teas. You get free wifi and can power your laptop while sipping Doi Chang whole bean coffee from Chiang Mai, which they also sell roasted to take home, aside from homemade souvenirs.
Café Kantary, KOH YAO NOI
©photo by Philipp Meier
White, clean, and bright, Café Kantary is a chic little bolthole in Koh Yao Noi. What it lacks in size, it makes up for with rapid service and heavenly confectionery. It’s reasonably priced yet offers Internet working at lightning speed. Prefer the slow-life mode? Laptop down; soak up the salty breeze on the couch outside. It’d be a shame to miss out on views of World-Heritagelisted Phang-Nga Bay, listening to ocean waves washing ashore. The peace is only interrupted by the odd hornbill cry or, on a calmer note – the boopboop-boops of a greater coucal.
Into the Forest, KRABI
©photo courtesy of Into the Forest
Young Thais visit Into the Forest for the delicious pastries and superb mountain views. Reminiscent of a treehouse, the two-story cafe is embedded in nature, surrounded by rubber trees and lush, soul-soothing greenery. Soft ferns embellish the enchanting interior where wood dominates, from the wood desk patterned like terracotta roof tiles and large bell lamps hanging from ligneous ceilings, down to the tiniest detail like saucers. Soaking in the relaxed atmosphere, you can type away at an outdoor table with free wifi or spread out on the net to marvel at Krabi’s limestone giants.
Sawasdee Bar Lipe, Coffee & Tea, KOH LIPE
©photo courtesy of Sawasdee Bar Lipe
A honeypot cafe on the idyllic island of Koh Lipe, Sawasdee’s appeal is in its cozy vibes, dainty toasts, and rice meals, plus a charming Thai hut design. Sitting comfortably at low tables on Thai cushion floor seats, surrounded by bamboo shoots and wood galore, you’ll become part of a laid-back traveler community. The owner Bee joins in as you sip coffee, Thai tea, or an irresistible shake, making both farangs and locals feel at home. You can use free wifi and power outlets all day – Sawasdee is open from 6 am to 10 pm. Oh, and the crystal sea lapping a white-sand beach is a bleisurely stone’s throw away.
Philipp Meier is a Phuket-based travel writer passionate about Thai culture and wandering off the well-trodden tourist trail. His work has been published in the South China Morning Post, Culture Trip, BootsnAll, GoNOMAD, Bookaway, among others. You can find him at Writer Philipp Meier and on Linkedin.