we spent 10 days in Bangkok and our home base was next to Asok Station and the Terminal 21 shopping complex.
Bangkok had the energy and infrastructure of any large city, which made the city feel vastly different from the sleepy streets of Chiang Mai. sidewalks were heavily populated with tourists and expats and most locals spoke enough English to communicate.
the infamous tourist attraction in our neighborhood was Soi Cowboy, which was across the street from our condo's entrance. for those of you who haven't heard of Soi Cowboy or seen Hangover 2 before, it's a street lined with seedy clubs, scantily clad women, and adult shows.
luckily we were on a top floor of our high rise condo so the noise didn't bother us. we stayed in an impeccably designed condo with a stellar rooftop pool and view of the city.
while our accommodations heavily impacted the positive feelings we have towards Bangkok, we think the city is still a must for anyone traveling through Asia.
17 Quirks about Bangkok, Thailand
there is slight overlap with our list of quirks from our Chiang Mai recap.
- very touristy. malls, restaurants, cafes, nightlife, living complexes along the main streets
- locals are very serious about their monarch. we were there for Coronation Day (May 5th) so there was more fanfare than normal but it is common (expected perhaps?) for establishments to permanently have framed pictures of the current king
- air quality is slightly better than in Chiang Mai but still not healthy. it was "burning season" (when farmers burn their fields in preparation for the new season) and the AQI (Air Quality Index) was in the orange-red range
- massage spots on every corner for $7+ per hour. there were even more spas than in Chiang Mai and more of Bangkok's spas blatantly advertise "adult" massages
- the city doesn't skimp on malls. there were 4 gigantic mall complexes within 30 minutes of walking distance of our condo
- locals were not as friendly as they were in Chiang Mai
- cashiers perform a mini bow with hands pressed together in prayer-like form before and after transactions
- red light districts known for self-identified "lady boys"
- while prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, anti-prostitution laws are not enforced and the locals' disregard for these laws is not subtle
- just as many, if not more, restaurants serving modern Western fare as Thai fare
- plenty of cafes with good working spaces
- a heavy Japanese influence on the restaurant scene
- home to floating markets, where you ride tiny wooden boats to shop around
- modern city home to large businesses. plenty of businesspeople in suits walking around
- it is expected to take your shoes off in homes
- alcoholic beverages can only be sold between 11:00 – 14:00 & 17:00 – midnight
- locals take good care of public spaces. bathrooms and streets showed no signs of vandalism or destruction
our Airbnb was $81 per night (+ $14 in fees per night). meals were $13 /each on average.
here's a comparison of our New York City vs Bangkok lifestyle.
Bangkok had amazing restaurant options and we especially loved Cocotte Farm Roast & Winery for its tomahawk steak, Jamie's Burgers for its bacon wrapped cheese (Ryan), The Commons for its incredible outdoor hangout / food court / drinking space, Roots Coffee for innovative coffee, and Broccoli Revolution for health food (Hideko).
we ate well in this city. there weren't too many meat skewers from food stalls.
a solo digital nomad, or a thriftier couple, could definitely beat our cost of living by at least $500 for the same 10-day stay.
hospitality is not dead!
our host put so much thought and care into the design and comfort of this condo unit. we'll probably use it as inspiration for the house we eventually settle into.
we were on the same floor as the pool and gym on a roof deck overlooking downtown Bangkok. on this trip we were reminded how much our environments matter for our productivity. we had floor to ceiling windows with plenty of sunlight, ample desk space, and nearby cafes with late-night hours.
most days started with a run, a swim, or reading on the rooftop deck. not bad.
as far as large cities go, Bangkok was still in line price-wise to the other Asian cities we'd visited on our trip so far. a gourmet burger was $10, a dinner salad with protein was $6, and a coffee ranged from $3 to $6.
i made a habit of walking to far-away cafes most days, which meant coming home drenched in sweat.
what struck me about Bangkok is that, while heavily dense in skyscrapers and people, you can turn off any main street and the vibe is like a small village: lots of trees, short houses, gravel roads, and so on. it's not uncommon for a brand new 30 story building to be parked 10 feet from a 50 year old 2 bedroom house.
overall Bangkok was a lot more modern than i anticipated. we did see scores of rats while walking some of the streets late at night, but this happens in Manhattan too (on trash day).
Bangkok is very comfortable: foot massages ($7 per hour), gourmet salad bars, smoothie bowls, organic food, air conditioning, and modern and clean buildings.
but we see the city through "tourist goggles".
there is a dark side to Bangkok and we saw a glimpse of it on the streets of Soi Cowboy and the many "special" massage salons. Thai women come to Bangkok looking for work and resort to other means when they can't afford the big city.
i'm fortunate to be able to travel full-time. but i'm even more fortunate to be able to have options with what i want to do with my life. many others are never given the chance.
Rickshaw followers are accountability partners. here's what we achieved in 10 days in Bangkok.
Hideko finished reading Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, completed v1 of an HR tool app, refined operational workflows for Team Bookshelf, started a Rails course, and ran some Fomo Publishers campaigns.
depending on the time of year, prepare for intense heat and poor air quality. that's about it.
Bangkok is by no means a utopia, but it was easy to get around as an English speaker and food and accommodations are affordable. you could probably spend a few months there and not get bored of the restaurants, cafes, and tourist attractions.
Bangkok earned an
86 / 100 score according to our Rubric.
we're still working our way through Asia but this city was most similar to NYC in our travel so far.
tons of energy, shops open late, fluent English speakers, diverse cuisines, fast food delivery, unique cocktails and coffee blends, Uber -- you name it, Bangkok has it.
when we make it back to this corner of the world, deciding between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will be difficult.