I would like to give a special tribute to Bangkok since it is my last full week. I have been living in Thailand since October and it has been a whirlwind experience. While I have enjoyed all the cities, towns and islands I was fortunate enough to visit in Thailand, nothing can compare to my love for Bangkok. And I only imagine there will be more tributes to Bangkok in the future, especially once I am in the US and have the chance to reminisce.
I encourage everyone to visit Bangkok. It shouldn’t take all that much persuasion– it was voted number one tourist destination this year for a reason! In any case, here are my ten favorite things about Bangkok:
1. Thai people
In all of Thailand (not just Bangkok) people are exceptionally kind and hospitable. Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” because it is true! Even if a person may be annoyed (say, because you can barely speak Thai) they still smile.
2. Nearby beaches
There are several popular beaches only an hour or so away from Bangkok; for instance, Hua Hin and Pattaya. Hua Hin is a less touristy than Pattaya. Pattaya is a huge tourist destination. If you have several hours for travel time, one can venture to Koh Samet: an island off the coast of Rayong Province. Living in Bangkok, it is possible to do a weekend trip every weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Bangkok always has beach weather.
3. The price is right
Coming from a Western country you can’t deny the exchange rate. While bottled water priced at USD 10 cents is mind-blowing–be careful. When things that are considered quite luxurious back in the US are within your budget, it is easy to spend a lot and not even realize. A few spa treatments, taxi rides and bottles of alcohol later and your bank account is nearly empty. Still it is possible for a middle-income person back in the US to live like Jay-Z here in Bangkok (maybe just for a weekend… but still.)
4. Killer nightlife, if you’re into that
Tourist spots Khao San Road and Soi Cowboy are… insane. Therefore, they are a must-see because chances are you have never experienced anything quite like it. (Maybe look into it before you go. And I’d say not suitable for families.) Yet there are many more nightlife options than just those two areas. Soi 11 off Sukhumvit Road is my favorite because it is filled with more clubs and lounges. Much more of a sophisticated scene, too . There is also RCA, which is a little area with some nightlife action. Another spot, although a bit more removed, is Thonglor/Ekamai. It has more of a Thai crowd than the previous areas. It also has some awesome restaurant options.
5. Massage places abound
Not everyone enjoys being touched or whatever, but to me having the mere option of getting a massage on every block is awesome. Bangkok is filled with massage places. Depending on the “spa” (some are comparable to a cheap US nail salon) the cost can be anywhere from around USD 3 dollars to USD 20 dollars for an hour. Still it is a steal when you think about how much you can dish out in the US for an hour massage.
6. Motorcycle taxis
Traffic is bad in Bangkok. Some days it is terrible. But hooray there are motorcycle taxis which make getting around traffic easy! When I first heard about the motorcycle taxi I thought it was crazy and dangerous. God forbid if I ever got on one. But now I take one every day to work. Yes, they are dangerous… and at the same time a lot of fun. Most importantly they take you where you have to go in no time.
Bangkok is a perfect gateway to the rest of the Southeast Asian region. Hosting two major airports, it is so easy to travel to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cambodia– you name it. Plane tickets can be fairly inexpensive if you buy at the right time. You can easily score a round trip for 100 bucks. From Bangkok it is also super simple to travel all around Thailand. There are these mini vans at Victory Monument which can take you to outside cities and towns. There are also buses and trains that can take you all the way to Chiang Mai (up north) or Phuket (down south). One can even take a bus or train to neighboring countries, like Laos!
8. English spoken by many people
I know some may disagree with me on this, but compared to other places I have visited in Asia, Thai people have a pretty good handle on English. English speaking skills get even better when you are in tourist hot spots (islands in the South like Koh Phi Phi.) Note: I have been in Thailand pretty long and as a result my idea of “good” English may be different than the typical tourist.
9. All kinds of food, 24 hours a day
When I first came to Thailand I was worried about finding food or going hungry (especially if I got a craving late at night.) Absolute nonsense, at least in Bangkok. Food stands line main roads at all hours of day and night. There are night markets and morning markets. There are cheap places to eat and more upscale ones. Literally, you can get any kind of cuisine imaginable. Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Mexican… whatever you desire. Not to mention a 7-11 on every block which are typically (or perhaps even always) 24 hours. There are also many delivery options– including American favorites like Domino’s and even 24 hour McDonald’s delivery. Cheap food available at all times makes it near impossible to not gain weight.
10. Perfect blend of developed and developing world
If you’re at one of the malls in Siam you feel like you could be in NYC. Then venture to where I live by Ramkhamhaeng University (cringing at their website, by the way) and you feel definitely feel like you are in Thailand. Overall, though, Bangkok boasts stable infrastructure as well as atmosphere. I know some people have bad experiences with getting items stolen– but not I. I always feel safe. Plus, people can pickpocket or steal your handbag anywhere. (Of course, always be cautious wherever you may be!) I love Bangkok because I feel like I am in Southeast Asia, characterized by the more relaxed vibes. But it’s also a huge city, which I adore.
In the end all I have to say is that to anyone thinking of visiting or relocating to Bangkok– I highly recommend it!
Image Credit – Photograph from friend Emma Shattuck.