Category: Review

Review

Day 357: Kokogreen Kafe Review, Da Nang, Vietnam

Nomad friendly? Yes!

After looking at my spreadsheet (yes I track this kind of thing) I realised that I had logged 99 unique #officeoftheday setups since I had started this journey. I should pick somewhere special for tomorrow, I mused.

A slow to start the morning and pressing deadlines had left me stressed, hungry and pushing up close to midday. It was time to spring into action. I searched for healthy eating on TripAdvisor and found a shortlist of cafes. I can’t say exactly what made me pick this one but it was chosen and we got into the Grab.

Wow. I’m so happy I selected it. They have really healthy options, pretty much across the board but they also have a separate low carb meals section. Each of these low carb options has an enticing photo, and also something very rare for Southeast Asia: a calorie count next to them!

They have a video running on a loop which shows a happy gym user running on a treadmill, with perfect hair and not a drop of sweat. Later she is in the cafe, smiling and laughing as her boyfriend lovingly spoons some greens into her mouth. Classic marketing maybe but while we were there a buff, gym-using looking guy did actually pull up on his moped, sit down for a healthy meal and then went on his way again. A vote of confidence for the quality of the food here.

Visually, the place has got some nice stylings. There are bookshelves in the background adding a nice intellectual ambience. Upon closer inspection, Giang tells me they are mostly old law books. They have also got a sprinkling of old film cameras laying about giving it a slight hipster vibe. Some greenery and interesting lighting finishes off the look of the place – one of the windows, for example, has tea cups and saucers hanging upside down as the light shades.

Temperature

As we spent the afternoon there it did get a bit hot. They had fans in the roof and a row of four air conditioning units but only two were running. There was also some ground level, floor standing fans but the one next to the table we picked wasn’t working.

You might think that because I’m out here travelling the world that I’m a super confident person. That I can do anything and not even flinch.

That is not the case.

As a fine, upstanding British person I just sat there getting hotter by the passing hours. I tried the fan again in case it magically worked but that’s as far as I got. Sure I could have just gone and asked the waitresses if they could do anything but I was busy running scenarios in my head instead.

Had I spent enough money to still be here? Was I being cheeky asking them to give me more free electricity when I was already entrenched in the corner, powering my laptop and phone? Would the request be understood or cause confusion?

Finally I ventured to Giang, “It’s a bit warm in here isn’t it?” Translation: there was sweat dripping down my face.

She looked up from her laptop, “Yes” she said, more in comfort than in agreement. We decided to order another round of drinks and she would use the opportunity to ask about the fan situation.

A minute or two later a fan started spinning up behind me.

“Oh. I guess the fan wasn’t broken after all”, I said, cringing internally at my inability to simply plug something in.

“No”, she replied, “its a different one”.

I looked around and saw the waitress was, in fact, swapping over the units and taking away the broken one.

My embarrassment was already melting away as the cool air massaged my back with each twist of its oscillation.

Sample menu items

I guess the shop isn’t aimed at tourists because the prices are sooo low. My main cost 49k VND which is £1.64. For this:

Low Carb Menu – Brown Rice, BBQ Chicken, Salad – 326kCal, Protein 40g – 49k VND

I really can’t get over the price of this place. I’m used to a cheap meal, but that usually comes with turning a blind eye to the amount of oil used, some grime here and there, or breathing in the air pollution from eating next to a main road.

This place is spotlessly clean, has everything focused on health, and is courting a local clientele so the prices are perfect.

Some other meals we have eaten in the last few days:

Cheapest menu item: Low Carb Tofu Meal 39k VND

Average main menu item: 89k VND

Smoothies: 49k VND for a range of very tasty smoothies

Coffee: 25k VND for Vietnamese coffee

Ahh, the coffee. This is really the undoing of this place. It’s such a shame they don’t offer a nice filtered Americano. I’m not a huge fan of the Vietnamese coffee. I’m double not a fan of what they served here. It was super strong which I guess is good but it flooded my mouth like an army invading my taste buds.

I decided to take it down in two gulps and quickly reached for the water.

A few minutes later Giang picked her cup up and went in for a sip, not having seen my reaction. A noise rooted somewhere in shock came from her. Yeah, its a bit strong isn’t it I said. She ended up topping it up three times with the free service water. She likes her coffee cold so diluting it down this way was a good solution for her.

The second day, however, we went back and agreed that it was just for lunch and a few hours of productivity. We still plugged in but when the energy levels started flagging we got back into the Grab and went on our way.

Nomad friendly?

As you may have gathered, this is a nomad friendly place. The tables are all square, good for the wrists. Later in the day, I saw one other westerner come in. A girl that quickly unpacked her computer and sat there flipping between her delicious looking meal and typing on her computer. The next day some locals were gathered around a laptop. Today I’m sat behind somebody who looks busy on their laptop.

Power socket wise this is a bit of a weakness. The sockets are all on the tables down the right-hand side of the building, as you face it from the street. This gives you the option of a few tables, a longer 8 person group table and four solo-ish counter-top style seats pointing out the window into the lane down the side.

The rest of the tables are laptop friendly but the clock starts ticking on your battery life when you sit down.

When we first arrived somebody was eating at the table we wanted. We started ordering the food and snagged the table after the other person finished. The second day that table was gone again but we got another power-enabled table easily. The third day I have snagged the corner seat which is my personal favourite.

Recommended?

Yes! It’s not perfect but definitely go for the healthy food and stay for a few hours – until you need a power socket or a coffee.

Review

Day 285: The Glass House, Chiang Mai, review

Nomad friendly? No.

Not every day can be a glorious winner as a digital nomad. I somehow messed my sleep up and woke up early, then went back to sleep and slept until gone 12. After that, I had my breakfast and just never really managed to get into the swing of things.

I’ve said this before, even if I get my 8 hours in, unless they are at the right time, with me waking up in the morning, they don’t seem to count. Despite knowing this I have run the worst-managed sleeping cycle that I possibly could for basically all of adult life.

After wasting most of the day I decided to at least stay true to my new plan of trying out more mid-range cafe’s. I had walked past The Glass House so many times, during my first visit to Chiang Mai and during this return trip, always peeking over the fence at it and planning it for “one day”.

It’s not hard to catch your eye as they have got a great setup with lights in the trees and stylish surroundings throughout:

Now maybe I’m not being fair on the place as I ordered beef burger and wedges. I know it’s western food and maybe they do some really tasty local dishes, but it’s one of the things they advertise outside on a specials chalkboard and they have a broad range of western food items on their menu so I think they brought this upon themselves.

It started off well, stylish table, koi friend swimming in the pond next to me, water feature gurgling away. They brought me a free little shot of something to welcome me. As soon as they delivered though I was greeted with the sadness:

The plate looks like its missing some stuff with that huge gap. The burger was basically the size of a 99p one in Burger King. The bun had a chewiness to it that betrayed the fact that it had just been defrosted in a microwave. The meat was actually quite tasty but it was one of those ones that are processed frozen meat like you would get at a fairground in the UK.

I opted for the cheese upgrade which was a good job because if I had not then it would have been a lonely burger. Inside that bun was exactly two things, a cheap patty and an unmelted cheese square. You can see it was joined by a total of about 9 wedges.

Food scoffed. Tummy rumbling. Wallet 175thb lighter.

Sample Menu Items

Didn’t get a photo of the menu, it was too dark as I was leaving. I might be able to update this with a day shot later…

Most items were in the region of 100thb to 250thb with a 350thb steak outlier.

My beef burger was 150thb, with a 25thb cheese upgrade.

They had a pork/chicken burger option for 125thb.

I remember seeing Chicken with Cashew Nuts for 165thb.

Nomad friendly?

It was a proper restaurant setting so definitely not feeling nomad friendly. They did have free WiFi though.

Recommended?

Not highly. It seems like it could be a good place to bring your parents if they were over visiting but for standard nomad life, I don’t think I will be returning.

I don’t know why I feel bad for it, but I kinda do. I feel like I’ve kicked a puppy. I’m sorry restaurant but you just didn’t deliver and if I’m not going to be honest then what’s the point in this?

Bonus snaps

I snapped a few scene setters to try to show off the awesome decor. There was also a huge cross-section of a tree trunk that was for groups down the middle that I didn’t get a picture of. And a little wooden swing outside.

 

Review

Day 284: Lyceum Camp, Chiang Mai, review

Nomad friendly? Yes!

I came back to Thailand with a renewed determination to spend more money than I had last time. Everything is so cheap here. I use an app to track all my money and it is just so tempting to play little games with myself to get a lower and lower score. Over the last few days I spent hardly anything on my food for the day. It went 166thb, 135thb, 112thb, 60thb and then finally last night 50thb. For reference £1 is 42thb.

I was going down the rabbit hole again without even really trying to.

I had joked just the night before while messaging with my Mum that 60thb was really the lowest score I was going to get. The next day I woke up late, like lunchtime late, but the wonderful Pii Pum still cooked me my “breakfast” as part of the daily package here at In The City Hostel. That evening after stopping off at a food market for some food, I was walking back when I realised I had just spent 50thb in total for food that day.

I had to take action, so the first thing I did was buy some cakes from the 711; just to break the chain and bump the numbers up. Then I made a commitment to inject some more variety into my daily rituals. To spend more time eating at the mid-range cafe places, instead of just heading to the nearest roadside food seller. Visit spots with nice interior design, free Wi-Fi and some unique menu items.

So that’s how I ended up here today, at Lyceum Camp:

I was walking around looking for somewhere and as I went past this place I saw the menu, on a stand outside. Straight away it met my budget aims. There was something I liked the look on, right on the opening page: chicken steak with black pepper, side salad and chips for 149thb (£3.38). I decided to go in and pick something.

I had commented recently how the change over from a public to private space in Thailand is seamless. This restaurant was not an exception. The place has got some nice styles to it. To my left, stylish tables, decorated ceilings, intricate windows. To my right a few more tables and then it just changes over to a kind of office. A wall of filing cabinets and an office with people busy working on something. When I approached the counter, a lady got up from this table and came over to hand me a menu. It makes sense I guess to maximise the space but it just seems strange from an English upbringing seeing these places mingle together without any kind of partition. I saw the same in Koh Lanta in a supermarket and then later on in a coffee shop though so I wasn’t too fazed.

The whole place was laid out nicely, with a central area for casual sit down customers, a nomad / study / solo customer area to the left, a big fancy round marble table in a conservatory-style setup and also a section out front with some laid-back lounging chairs to watch the world go by. I greedily sat down at the 4 person marble table to enjoy its luxury haha. What?! There were no other customers at the time!

What I got

I spent a borderline embarrassing amount of time flicking back and forth (Thai wait staff seem to expect you to order very quickly). Originally I had set out on the walk with the notion of a burger, but I want to try new things when I could and this creamy red noodle dish had instantly caught my eye. The menu said it was a dish called Korean Noodle Kimchi Soup. I’m very glad I tried it because it was delicious. It was very spicy but just right for me.

In that bowl, there was noodles, some tofu, a scrambled egg, various greenery bits, onions and a creamy red spiiiiicy sauce.

I think it was probably too tasty to have been healthy so I just refused to look that up.

There were multiple other things on the menu that I definitely would like to try. My aim is to go to at least one new place a day now but maybe I can work around this imaginary limitation I’ve set myself. If I exploit the loophole of going back to work there for a few hours then that’s legit, right?

Sample menu items

As I left I stopped to take a few shots of the menu so you can get a feel for what’s on offer and the prices:

Lowest price: 55thb for fried rice with pork

Highest price: 149thb for a chicken/pork steak with chips + salad

Average: around 100thb for ramen bowls, spaghetti carbonara, or a chicken teriyaki, omelette and rice bowl.

Nomad friendly?

Yes, it seems to be. I didn’t have my laptop with me so I didn’t actually do any work but if you look on the picture below you can see it is set up as rows of individual / 2 people tables and each one has a power socket right at table height on the wall:

They also gave me this WiFi code which clearly stated a 1.5hr expiry. I would say that’s the maximum you should wait before either leaving or spending more money but that limit + the sockets at least set-out boundaries that are encouraging.

It was school finishing time when I arrived (I knew this because I had just passed the school which is further up the block). While I was eating, two separate school girls arrived and set their tablets up in work mode and started revising:

The place was pretty empty apart from that so if nobody else is trying to get sat I would definitely feel happy working there for an hour or so.

UPDATE: I went back a week later and worked there for a few hours, nobody batted an eyelid. I got something to eat and kept my WiFi code in my hand. Then after I’d finished eating I got a coffee, logged in (starting the countdown) and worked for the full amount. I was writing a particularly tricky quote and actually ended up overstaying a little bit.

Recommended?

Yes!

Review

Day 257: Sitting on the dock of the bay… At Jack’s Bar, Review

Nomad friendly? No.

If you want the pretty location you have to pay the prices. I dropped 200bt (£5) on the beef curry and naively thought for that price it would be a bigger portion, more than the basic street restaurants. I was wrong. And then she asked me if I wanted steamed rice which ended up costing me another 20bt.

Food was tasty though and it gave me a few photo ops.

I actually ended up there after a recommendation from a girl I met in a cafe a few days earlier. She said it was the absolute best the area had to offer and she ate there most nights after finding it.

Personally, I was tense the whole time as it was over the water and there were gaps between the floorboards. I’d already spotted it but the waitress even pointed it out to me as a warning. I spent the duration on guard, fearful that if I relaxed I would do something stupid like knock my phone or wallet to the depths of the Chao Phraya River. 😂

Everything survived and I did spend a nice few minutes watching a flock of marauding sparrows combing the tables and chairs for dropped scraps.

I guess in conclusion I’m just a bit sour I paid a fiver for a meal that would have been about 60bt around the corner. If I’d found a deal like that back home I would have been stoked, but here it just rustles my jimmies 🤣

Also, I did not get to meet Jack.

Nomad friendly?

It didn’t have that vibe. I don’t think they would have stopped you but it seemed more like just for eating.

Recommended?

I’d be tempted back to have some drinks there in the evening if I was with people. From the wine bar to the big chalkboards with beer prices on, it seemed like it was a bit of a drinking place later on.

I must have missed something because Christie was passionate about sending me there, but from what I experienced, no.

Review

Day 100: In The City co-working & co-living space review

Nomad friendly? Yes!

I was the first off-the-street guest at In The City Hostel. I found out about it after the owner of Overstand Coffee mentioned it in a Chiang Mai digital nomad Facebook group and booked the same day.

It turned out that he wasn’t actually supposed to be announcing it quite yet as MJ, Pii Pum and the team were still putting the final touches to the place. They rose to the challenge though and welcomed me in with open arms. What started out as a simple 2-day tester-booking quickly unravelled into a 12-day adventure, seeing me right through to the end of my time in Chiang Mai.

Here is the original review I posted on Facebook at the time:

Extremely nomad friendly hostel. It has a coworking space downstairs which you get FREE access to during your stay; saving 150bt a day. The coworking space has the “best internet in the city” with connection speeds clocking 150mb up and 60mb down. Breakfast is included and filter coffee is available throughout the day. There are spacious desks, comfortable office chairs with lumbar support and chilled beats being played in the background.

And that’s just the start of it! The staff at In The City go above and beyond. The team will look after you throughout the day, bringing fresh fruit to your desk, refilling your coffee and making sure the fans are pointed optimally.

Like to celebrate after a hard day on the laptop? This hostel is in the northeast corner of Old City, which is easy walking distance to the local party hotspots Zoe in Yellow and Loi Kroh Rd.

During my stay the owner MJ and her staff treated me like one of the family, taking me to local thai bars, restaurants, cafes and out-of-town spots like Huay Tung Tao Lake and Kafe Bannok Coffee Roasters.

Many hostels have glowing reviews but In The City combines price, coworking, community and location to make an experience that will soon be on every nomads bucket list.

As you can tell, I was enthused by the place. And that was after spending almost two weeks strolling the empty halls and sitting around on my own. I thought I saw the true potential of combining a hostel with a coworking.

It turned out that during this visit I was only scratching the surface of what In The City would offer me.

Curious? Step forward in time to 2018 and read about my 2nd experience at In The City Hostel.

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