Around SE Asia In 8 Co-Working Spaces

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Ankur Sharda has been spending the last couple of years building Tuggle from a variety of co-working spaces and backpacker hostels all over South East Asia. He shares some of his experiences with us.

Startups are taking over the world, and co-working spaces are often where startups are born. For almost two years I’ve been working on tuggle.com.au and now tuggle.co. Neither of which requires me to be in Perth on a full-time basis. As a result I’ve spent a lot of time around SE Asia, eventually becoming a part-time #digitalnomad, without ever really intending to.

When overseas, I often seek out co-working spaces to find comfortable chairs, fast wi-fi and to be surrounded by interesting people who are working on cool projects. Here is a description of a few such venues, in the order that I visited.

Hubud – Ubud, Bali (hubud.org)

The entrance to Hubud is like climbing into a treehouse. Once you’re inside there are two main levels, of which the bottom one opens up onto a luxurious rice field. The space is as good as it looks in the photos. The people are friendly, the Internet is fast and reliable the cafe is full of tasty treats. Had a I stayed longer I could have been  addicted to the “green juice” that super charges your brain and immune system.

This was the first “remote” co-working space I’d visited, so I didn’t know what to expect. However the design and construction of the space was absolutely top notch and at the time it was a revelation about what is possible.

While it’s hardly a major issue, I had a funny experience trying to get directions. If you ask people “where’s Hubud”, the answer will be “you’re in Ubud”, no I mean “Hubud”, “yes, you’re already in Ubud”. Eventually I walked into a clothing boutique and went on a long rant about how there are people working on computers blah blah, and the young woman said “do you mean Hubud” and I responded “yeah I know I’m in Ubud”, she replied “Hubud is upstairs”! That was shortly after the space opened, I imagine by now it’s a well known destination.

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This is one of the very first “work from paradise” destinations.

Jogja Digital Valley – Yogyakarta, Indonesia (jogjadigitalvalley.com)

I didn’t work out of here, but had a nice visit en-route to Gadja Mada University. It’s supported by a major Indonesian telco, so you just have to show up and sit down and work, there are no fees.

There was an event happening the day I visited, so it wasn’t a regular day. What stood out was that there were eight companies that receive 30K each as seed capital which is easily like getting 100-150k in Perth. Over time I suspect there may be some major companies built from here. In addition to the tech skills from students studying at the many nearby Universities, there’s a strong tradition of art and design in the city and that follows through to the web-based work people are doing.

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You won’t meet many nomads here, but you will meet real startups with big ambitions, and everyone will be very nice to you.

Saigon Coworking – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (worksaigon.com)

A three storey office space for digital types. There seemed to be more companies rather than individual freelancers. I spent an afternoon here and then did a cafe crawl nearby. My main connection here is that I made good friends with Ni Le and her friend/colleague Vy who also works here. Ni also by a sheer stroke of coincidence knows the very capable Tri Le who you may know, he often works from Sync Labs. Now let’s just stop for a minute and digest this situation. Imagine you know one person from Vietnam who lives in Perth and then you go to Vietnam and the first person who you have a proper conversation with happens to know the only person in Perth that you know. That is positively freaky, emphasis on the positive.

Needless to say we became good friends and she helped me out a lot. Giving me directions about how to prosecute my top secret mission to hire a team to do some magic (further details are on a need to know basis ;)). And it’s always nice to have a friend to contact when you realise your visa is expiring in two days. Oops!

If you’re a company setting up an office in Ho Chi Minh City, this is the place to do it.

Work Saigon –  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Tuan who runs this place is a cool guy. He’s worked in advertising so that makes him and his team a little different from the typical engineering types who you might associate with startups. That design thinking runs through the spaces that are both minimalist and full of surprises at the same time. There are a range of rooms upstairs for members, and if you just want to hang downstairs, all you need is to buy a coffee. Pretty good deal. Oh and it’s a good cafe. Sorry, great cafe. Saigon is a coffee kind of place, and the cafe at Work Saigon makes it to lists of the some of the best in the city. The food is spectacular as well.

As you walk out of the place, there’s a nice bar and barbecue place, so if you’re feeling peckish you can enjoy Tiger bier while you watch your dinner simmer to perfection, while watching the rush-hour traffic on Dien Bien Phu st.

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This is the place if you want to be productive and surrounded by a very smart and international group of people.

KoHub – Ko Lanta, Thailand (kohub.org)

Imagine you’ve just had a swim on a tropical white sand beach. You’ve enjoyed a fresh water shower sprouting out of a tree, you push your laptop aside to take a break and enjoy your organic thai lunch that has just appeared, and you’ve got this weird smile inside thinking, umm this is ridiculous. Where would you be.

The answer is Kohub. The founder James was a digital nomad before it was a thing, so he knows how much time/energy goes into organising accommodation, working spaces and food. So he’s combined them into an all-in-one package that includes accommodation + two meals a day and of course the Kohub space to work from, hence cutting out so much of your hassles (and expense). The result is a place that many people (including me) will be back to again and again.

Oh I nearly forgot, the juices. And smoothies. Some of the best juices and smoothies you’ll have. Imagine sipping your mango smoothie, watching a gecko twirl around listlessly as the sun shines over the beach and through the trees.

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This is the only place I know of where you can be on an island with pretty much empty beaches, fast Internet and all the mod cons, but also a real sense of island life and being somewhere totally different. I’ve had two trips here within three months.

If you’re in Perth and thinking, “I need a place to get away from everything for two weeks and just get shit done”. This is it.

Lineup Hub – Seminyak, Bali (lineuphub.co)

I have to admit. Initially I didn’t get it. Putting a co-working space away from the beach/hills or just about anything else you come to Bali for. I was wrong. This is easily the most physically comfortable space and hence it’s very productive. Some of the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever sat in. I would come here just for the chairs and bean bags – but the people, staff and other co-workers are great too. You sit down, hours pass, you’re finished and have the rest of the day free. Everyone seems pretty focussed on work, till it’s time for food and then there’s a chance to get to know everyone. I got a lot of work done in just a few visits. You can’t walk to a beach bar, but in Bali everything is pretty close by, and the food and massages are more upmarket but also better value i.e a little more expensive, but very luxurious. So you can enjoy some sashimi, have a traditional thai massage nearby making you very productive for the day, then once you’ve finished your day’s work, catch an Uber (for like $2.50) to the beach and watch the sunset.

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At Lineup Hub, you get in get your work done and meet great people. Uber initially setup their Bali office here for a good reason.

Dojo (previously Salty Vault) – Canggu, Bali (dojobali.org)

The space is beautiful and very well maintained. There are a range of air-conditioned rooms to work in on two levels, with seating and bar tables surrounding the pool. The large kitchen is great, if you wanted, you could whip up a salad or sandwich, the way you like it.

I spent only two evenings here, hence can’t say much, but both were very productive. It’s a short walk from Echo Beach in Canggu. A great little beach break for beginners to intermediates, where I had a little adventure one day – full story below.

A beautiful place, 2 min from a famous beach. Checkmate.

Digital Valley Bandung (bandungdigitalvalley.com)

In classic fashion I visited on two highly atypical days. Firstly a Saturday when almost no one was in, However I did meet Megs (from miawmiaw) and we had a nice chat. I had also lost my phone and other things in a storm, so she advised me about what I needed to do get myself re-organised.

Next time I visited the miawmiaw band were playing at the BDV 4th birthday party. Along with a party there was also an exhibition of startups. One of which was a cool looking drone project. I’ll get you guys more details next time I visit.

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This is not where you come to “discover yourself” and take selfies of yourself while you’re “living the life”. You come here to build the next great thing, or watch someone else do it. Having said that the area is famous for hot springs, so you can kind of have it all. But no beach.

Co & Co Space Bandung (coandcospace.com)

I’m finishing this off while in this space, while lazing on a very comfortable bed, I don’t want to move. I just checked the website and I’m currently sitting in the lounge room. Being in here feels a bit like an upmarket art room, perhaps the art room from Hogwarts, after hipsters remodelled it.

It’s a creative space and I really do feel a bit more creative. I feel like doing UX work rather than backend or data related work – I haven’t cared about UX for a long time (it’s showing), so this is a good thing.

I’ve been here much of the afternoon, it’s now getting to 5:30 pm so people are leaving and those who were previously working hard are starting to relax and chat among themselves. Seems like people have the right idea. Get in get your work done, then relax. As opposed to working all day but with low intensity and not having much genuine free time, which happens.

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I wish I’d come here more earlier and more often. Next time I guess.

Bonus – Rescue (sort of) at Echo Beach, Canggu

I had just one full day at Canggu, so I had to try the surf. Alas, it was too big and too choppy for my abilities, so I decided to stay in front of the waves and ride the white water. My plan to stay safe was destroyed within two minutes. I heard some guy on the beach yelling, “Can you help him he can’t swim”. As the waves dropped I could see what looked like a buoy floating out to sea. At first I thought, surely someone will do something, then I realised everyone is assuming that I will do something. My concern was he would panic and strangle me if we got dumped, I had read about this happening two days earlier.

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So I went through the surf, but not without some difficulty – I had a foam board, mini-mals were not available fo rent – I was sure it was going to snap. While I may not be much of a surfer, I have through careful practice and lot’s of youtubing mastered the art of the Turtle Roll. It’s a weird move, you think you should get carried away with the wave, but you don’t. After a little ducking and turtling and just paddling a psychopath, I got out there. It was getting darker and it felt cold, and there was no one else around. The waves were big and close together, so most of the time we couldn’t see anything but water, rising and falling. He was obviously in shock. By this stage I was too.

After sometime I realised we were going to have to do something. Since I didn’t know the beach well, I was worried about hitting rocks – since we were definitely getting dumped, several times on the way back. I figured there was only one hope. Wait till the set ends, then paddle hard for the beach. And if we get dumped, jump clear of the board – and the other guy – so doesn’t get scared and pull me down. It seems funny now, but at the time I was really, really worried.

As I started positioning us for a hero paddle, some surfers started arriving from the beach and helped him out, while I paddled myself out of the rip and tried to surf to the beach. After getting dumped twice, I caught some fast white water and rode towards the beach, “Like A Boss”, ok at least an Assistant Regional Manager, no? Ok I’ll settle for Assistant to the Regional Manager.

We both got back to safety intact, but I was pretty tired, if you define tired as absolutely destroyed, so I self medicated with satu Bintang kecil. As I was looking out to sea, I could see Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) running laps on the beach. All I could think of for fifteen minutes, over and over and again, was the phrase “you can’t make this shit up”.

I still hadn’t done any work for the day, so I went to the Dojo, had a dip in the pool and worked till 3am. During that session the US version of Tuggle, tuggle.co went live.

Ankur is in Perth for the next few months setting up a seed investment round in tuggle.co, you can find him at Spacecubed, Sync Labs or on ankur@tuggle.com.au

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