Walking into Remote and Digital’s La Casa co-working space on the tropical island of Koh Pha-ngan, you wonder how anybody gets any work done. I sip a cocktail and wait for my burrito as James Brown plays in the background.
There’s a real palm tree growing at the edge of the cafe, and behind it sits shallow crystal blue water stretching off for miles, with Koh Samui’s jungle-covered mountains jutting up in the distance. Adding to the ambiance, kite surfers are getting massive air off small waves, before gently floating back to earth.
30-year-old Belgian blockchain developer Jérôme Van Vlierbergen is one of the regulars at this Ban Tai co-working space and runs his Equinox Launchpad here. He explains Koh Pha-ngan (or Koh Phangan) has a thriving crypto scene, mostly populated by digital nomads like himself.
“There are a bunch of people here that own crypto or they’re doing something with crypto — because when you have money, you like to be somewhere where it’s a nice place to live.”
Ironically, of course, you need very little money to live here. You can rent a desk at La Casa for less than $3 a day, rent a scooter to get around for under $4 a day, and rent a whole house for $500 a month. With beautiful food, postcard-style views and half a dozen other coworking spaces with gigabit internet, it’s no wonder Koh Pha-ngan has become something of a mecca for crypto digital nomads.
“There’s this crypto island vibe — you can find a lot of workshops, a lot of people that work with crypto, and most of them are in the market,” says Van Vlierbergen. Crypto social media groups based on the island suggest hundreds of residents are deep into the scene.
Known for its legendary Full Moon Party, Koh Pha-ngan’s 12,000-strong population doubles or triples at times with American, European and Russian backpackers drawn by the endless parties, yoga scene and general chilled out vibe. It’s probably one of the last bohemian island hideouts left in Asia, with package tourists seemingly unwilling to take the ferry ride over from neighboring Koh Samui.
“There’s no airport here,” says Edwin de Lepper, who runs the crypto-friendly Buddha Cafe. “So, it is a journey to get here with the boat, which makes it kind of exciting…”
Since the end of the pandemic, he’s noticed an uptick in crypto digital nomads mostly concentrated around the co-working spaces of Tropicana, Sunset Hill Resort, Signature Restaurant and High Life Resort.
De Lepper explains recent visitors include big influencers such as MMCrypto (948,000 Twitter followers) and James Crypto Guru (74,000 YouTube subscribers).
“There is a tremendous amount of people that come here, and they talk to me and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m building a new DEX, or I’m building a new crypto project,’” he says.
“I would say there are crypto whales here. The people that are here that I might suspect that they have a lot of money, they don’t talk about it. You don’t want to scream it from the rooftops I guess.”
Koh Pha-ngan isn’t the only place in the region attracting crypto digital nomads, with a growing scene in the Thai island of Phuket, another in Chiang Mai in the north of the country, as well as other locales in Southeast Asia, including Bali.
Guy Allison, founder of Blockchain Careers, says that many in the crypto scene flit between Koh Pha-ngan and Chiang Mai.
“A lot of people do six months in Koh Pha-ngan and six months in Chiang Mai because the weather can get quite rainy here in October–November, then they go back to Chiang Mai. And then they come back here in February March for the smoky season.”
That’s when farmers burn their fields and biowaste during the dry season to prepare the land for the next year’s crops, which helps create a thick fog of air pollution around Chiang Mai for months.
Work from home, but move home
Paid Network and Master Ventures founder Kyle Chasse called the island home for some time, though he can now be found in the more upscale villas of Phuket. He says people realized during the pandemic that if you could do your job from home, you could pretty much work from anywhere.
“Hello, you’re working from your house, you have the freedom,” he says, pointing out that Thailand is also super cheap compared to the United States.
“You have amazing infrastructure; your cost of living is gonna go down — your transportation, your food, your utilities, your cell phone — everything’s cheaper.”
Chasse moved to Koh Pha-ngan in 2018 after hearing of a budding Bitcoin community on the island. “I went and checked it out and fell in love with it,” he says, adding it’s so safe due to the influence of Buddhism that there have been numerous times he’s left his phone or wallet behind only to have someone return it to him.
“One of the things I love the most is the people. And of course, it’s truly like paradise,” he says.
Source: Crypto News