Responsible travel writer, Lola Mendez, of Miss Filatelista shares 5 unique ways to be a responsible digital nomad in Chiang Mai, Thailand

 Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Chiang Mai is well established as a hub for digital nomads–and rightfully so. What’s not to love about Chiang Mai? The city offers visitors the chance to enjoy the incredible natural scenery, drool-worthy local cuisine, and interact with some of the kindest people on earth. All of this and more continues to draw travelers and nomads alike to Thailand’s cultural center. The increase of foreigners basing themselves in the northern Thai city for a few months has contributed to the growth of the area, but also to gentrification. Conscious remote workers must bear in mind what they can do to support their adopted community.

Hydrate Responsibly

 Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Carry a reusable water bottle and refill at stations sprinkled all around Chiang Mai. If you don’t already have a reusable water bottle you can pick up an eco-friendly one from the Thai organization, Trash Hero. They can be purchased for 200 baht (around US$ 6) and refilled for free at Healthy B Cafe, Imm Aim, Amrita Garden, The Yoga Tree, Earth Home Thailand, and more.  Trash Hero is now a global organization but started right here in Thailand back in 2013 to clean up beaches and educate locals on waste management–especially about removing single-use plastic from their lives. Trash Hero doesn’t profit from the bottles and sells them at costs to retailers for 100 baht, retailers are then only allowed to sell them for 200 baht and must provide free potable water refills to customers. This affordable and reusable method has helped to reduce single-use plastic waste. If you can’t get to a refill station you’ll find many drinking water ‘fountains’ set up around the city, these are open 24 hours and cost less than the price of a plastic water bottle from 7/11. To fill up a liter bottle with cold drinkable water costs less than a single baht and fills up in a few seconds. 

Treat Yourself to a Massage that Employs the Blind

 Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

No time in Thailand would be complete without a Thai massage at least once. Or every other day if you’re like me! There are several social enterprises that support various marginalized groups through employment opportunities but my preferred salon is the Association Chiang Mai Massage Conservation Club. Here they teach and employ blind Thai people to provide them with a skill and a means to make an impact. An hour-long Thai massage will only cost you 150 baht. It’ll be the best few bucks you’ve ever spent as you ease your body of tension and channel your tourism dollars into an impactful community-based institution. This massage parlor is no frills so don’t expect comfy clothes or warm herbal tea after your massage. Actually, you’re better off wearing something comfortable like fisherman pants and a t-shirt and then grabbing a tea on your own at the local Thanin Market after your treatment. 

Support Sot Sueksa Anusan Sunthon School for the Deaf

 Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Pick up meaningful souvenirs from the school for the deaf. Darling handicrafts are available such as tee shirts, key chains, tote bags, painting, toys, and more. The cheerful pink Sot Sueksa Anusan Sunthon School building also is a coffee and tea shop with a beautiful outdoor seating area complete with a waterfall! Proceeds from the boutique and the cafe benefit the school for the deaf. 

Take an Ecotrek at Doi Inthanon

 Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Image courtesy of Lola Mendez/Miss Filatelista

Explore the surrounding hill stations by trekking with an eco-tour company! An overnight trek around the tallest peak in Doi Inthanon is a fantastic experience to have while in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The VWI crew went trekking with Next Step Thailand, a local eco-tour company dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment and local people. During the trip we visited the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon which was established by a former Thai king after eliminating opium fields in order to generate an agriculture industry to support the various hilltribe groups that live in the area. We stayed in a traditional home in a Karen village on the mountain and hiked through the area past countless streaming waterfalls. A highlight was eating a home cooked meal out of banana leaves with chopsticks our guide made for us by hand!

Learn about Permaculture at Life Development Center

 Image courtesy of Life Development Center

Image courtesy of Life Development Center

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway you can visit the agrotourism site of one of Venture With Impact’s charitable partners, Life Development Center in Chiang Do. Throughout the month I’ve spent in Chiang Mai I’ve been working with them to develop their offering to give travelers the chance to immerse themselves in nature and learn about the benefits of integrated farming. You can book the farmstay on Airbnb and 100% of profits will be funneled back into the charity. You can save US$40 off your first booking of US$75 on Airbnb and by using this link at no charge to the charity.

Digital nomads in Chiang Mai should also avoid unethical experiences that comprise the wellbeing of humans or animals. The most common unethical animal interactions in Chiang Mai are with elephants, tigers, and gibbons. To learn more about how to identify an experience that exploits animals check out my guide on how to be kind to animals as you travel on Miss Filatelista. Likewise, digital nomads in Chiang Mai should be cautious of instances that exploit humans, most typically seen in northern Thailand through the misuse of Burmese refugees as tourist attractions. Before visiting a Karen ‘long-neck village’ do your due diligence to discover whether or not the experience helps or hinders the vulnerable community. Unfortunately, human trafficking and sex slavery are a major risk in Thailand, especially for underserved tribal people. Avoid ping pong shows and other activities that promote sex tourism. 

These are just a few suggestions of what digital nomads based in Chiang Mai can do to make a positive impact on their adopted community. Have you been to Chiang Mai? Let us know about any responsible travel experiences you’ve had in the comments!

About the author:
Lola Méndez is a travel writer and full-time globetrotter sharing her adventures on Miss Filatelista. She travels to develop her own worldview and has explored over 50 countries. Passionate about sustainable travel she seeks out ethical experiences that benefit local communities. You can follow her onInstagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.