Chiang Mai Coworking Review: CAMP
When the lavish MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center (that name is a bit of a mouthful) opened in February of last year, it brought a brand-new addition to Chiang Mai’s coworking scene. CAMP, an acronym for Creative and Meeting Place, is a large and modern environment with plenty to offer the digital nomad.
This was the first coworking space I visited in Thailand, and it’s kept me coming back again and again.
First off, it’s really hard to beat this place for convenience. While MAYA keeps pretty standard hours for a shopping center, CAMP itself is open 24/7. If you want to come or go while the mall is closed, there is a dedicated ground-floor entrance tucked around back, next to the loading area. The elevator is just around the corner to your left.
Despite being very English-friendly, CAMP doesn’t cater solely to expats and digital nomads. It’s sort of a café-library. While the coworking scene is certainly present, it was my experience that the crowd here at any given time tends to be mostly Thai high school / college students doing schoolwork alone or in a group setting.
Let’s take a look at what makes CAMP shine:
Situated across from the corner of Nimmanhaemin Road and Huay Kaew Road, CAMP is pretty much right at the heart of the Chiang Mai digital nomad sphere. If you’re staying anywhere in or near the Nimman area, it’s a very easy walk or scooter jaunt to get here, and MAYA is hard to miss.
One of the greatest things about this place is the mall around it. If you get hungry for something more substantial than a smoothie or plate of fries, head downstairs to the food court for some cheap eats. And if you’ve been working too long, just pop into the movie theater right across the hall for a breather. Tickets cost around 150 baht ($4.22 at the time of writing), and less on Wednesdays. I took a break from this very review to see The Martian on a cloudy afternoon.
Special mention goes to the bathrooms at MAYA – it might sound silly, but these are the nicest facilities I’ve seen in Thailand to date.
The main floor in CAMP is dotted with open tables and bars. Anyone can plop down alongside other patrons, and there’s little in the way of dividers for the most part. It’s remarkably easy to strike up conversation with your neighbors, should that be something that interests you.
CAMP is pretty big, and has many different types of seating – you’ve got your pick from stools, padded chairs, harder chairs, benches, booths, risers, and even just standing upright at a bar. There is air conditioning, although based on some early-morning sessions, it seemed to me that the AC doesn’t activate until the rest of the mall opens up. If you’d prefer a breath of fresh air, just head out onto the patio via the rear doors, where there are plenty of tables and some pretty nice views.
There are several enclosed rooms too, as you can see in the photo above. You can get access to one of these for up to 3 hours at a time, though a minimum purchase of 500 baht is required. If you’ve got 5+ people collaborating in there, all that really means is that everyone orders a coffee or snack.
Food and Drinks
The menu at CAMP is more or less what you might expect from any café in Thailand. Plenty of coffee, frappes, smoothies, and juice to drink, while food is restricted to a small-plate Thai dishes, simple sandwiches, snacks, cake slices, and muffins. The prices are quite reasonable, with most items falling in the 45-100 baht range – not the cheapest you’ll find in Thailand, but not expensive by any means. And the blueberry muffins are stellar.
If you want to get on the WiFi here, a 50 baht minimum purchase is required. That’ll net you a 2-hour session pass for a single device.
WiFi access is quite pervasive in Chiang Mai, but the connection is rarely what one would call “fast”. I’m a bit lucky in that my current work almost never involves Skype calls or massive file uploads/downloads – just web browsing and text files, with the occasional image for good measure. All that really matters to me is a connection that can handle at least a few Mb/s in each direction, and that won’t crap out constantly.
And that’s pretty much what you’ll get here. I found the wireless speeds at CAMP to be more or less in line with the average local coffeeshop or semi-upscale hostel. Good enough for me, and at least I was never once disconnected. Do remember that each wireless session is 2 hours – if you want to stay online past that, you’ll need to make another food or beverage purchase to receive another access code.
There is an AIS hotspot here as well, so users of their phone service can access a faster connection (supposedly “gigabit broadband”). I didn’t have a chance to test this out.
In short, CAMP turned out to offer everything I needed in a coworking space, and a few things I didn’t even know I wanted. Just be prepared to hit up the food & drinks counter several times if you’re hoping to stay online for the whole day. I’d recommend this place to anyone passing through Chiang Mai!