Monday, October 13, 2014

Living like a local in Bangkok

Today's living like a local post comes to us from Allan of Live Less Ordinary, about one of favourite cities in the world. Take a look at some of the best tips for enjoying friendly, beautiful Bangkok!

Do you want to contribute a piece about the best things to do in your hometown? I'd love to hear from you!


For three years now I have been living in Bangkok, Thailand a city I'd now find very hard to leave. While I first visited Bangkok over 10 years ago I have since made a move permanent where in 2008 I plucked up the courage to invest in property and in 2011 I left everything behind in the UK to start my new life here. When I'm asked my reasons for moving to Bangkok I can offer them endless numbers of them, but in the end I just love being in Thailand. So I've now known Bangkok from both sides of the spectrum, from a penniless traveller, to comfortable living where I now indulge in all the affordable luxuries this 24 hour city has to offer. I can't say it's a bad life. I am based in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok and, while there are other exciting areas, I find most of my experiences are nearby.  

Allan rocking some dance moves in Bangkok.

Everything from local markets to high-tech skyscrapers can be found in Thailand's capital city.

The Best Things in Bangkok are Free

People watching, street life, local parks, just immersing in local culture is the most satisfying experience of Bangkok. Admittedly most bad rep for Bangkok comes from tourists or travellers who fail to see or appreciate the real Bangkok. As a diversely multi-cultural city there’s always something happening, holidays, celebrations, festivals and with strong expat and social communities in central Bangkok areas it is quick and easy to immerse and integrate. In the Sukhumvit area the main park would be Benjasriri Park (next to Phrom Pong Skytrain Station) a place perfect for people watching and observing local life. The park itself is small and well maintained with native trees, art sculptures and a large central lake where you can feed fish and turtles.

Fitness classes in the park

A welcoming temple in Chinatown.

The Convenience of Everything

Much of why I live in Bangkok is the convenience, not only for travel in Asia but for everything. All you want is nearby from 24/7 McDonalds' delivery to Tesco’s next day delivery (if necessary) but also huge malls at every main intersection with shopping, restaurants and all sorts of entertainment. My nearby mall in Sukhumvit would be the Terminal 21 (Asoke Road). It's never far to find anything really. If you do need to travel further than local areas the convenient skytrain (BTS) and subway (MRT) cover the main areas of Bangkok and taxis are extremely cheap (35 Baht) although traffic can be irritating during rush hours in the city centre. I work from home so hours are flexible which works well as I can eat and entertain off peak times, and live for the week days which are a lot less busy than weekends.

I'll attest to the airport being the nicest I've ever seen.

Editor's note: These are some STYLISH cabs, realtalk.

Food and Drinks

In Bangkok you can easily eat on a dollar (30–40 baht), in fact most local foods cost around a dollar, food courts, bags of street food, backstreet and shop house restaurants. The choice is never-ending. While local foods can be intimidating to newcomers, give them a month or two and they'll be obsessed. Food courts are at every mall, street food is at every corner, and shophouses line every street, you'll not find cheap hard to find. For an easy to find option the food court at my local mall Terminal 21 (Pier 21) is hard to beat. For the less adventurous Big Mac meals cost $5 (150 Baht) and all the usual western fast food options are similar and if your stuck 7/11's do some mean cheese toasties. For international foods and alcohol my personal favourite would be Wine Connection which has a number of outlets throughout not only Sukhumvit but Bangkok and Thailand. Great prices for hard to find international products. In the evenings Isaan Barbecues are the popular choice with lots of beers and local banter (foods around 50 Baht). For more upscale options I often go for the rooftop bars and restaurants and while most tourists rush to the crowded riverside rooftops (e.g. Sirocco Sky Bar) there are more local alternatives in Sukhumvit my preferred rooftop bar Above 11 (Fraser Suites Hotel) and Long Table both sharing lower tiers of the Sukhumvit cityscape, where you can actually see the skyline.

Dizzyingly beautiful.

Bangkok is so much more than noodles (though those are excellent, as well).

Exploring, Out and About

Bangkok is a vast city so trips to the Chao Phraya Riverside, Chinatown or even Khaosan Road often feels like a new city. I'd probably see each of these areas about once maybe twice a year if lucky, and it is generally with visitors. There's just too much at hand to need to venture further. If I do have visitors would want to show them some culture and the Siam Niramit Show is perfect for this, even for those familiar to Thailand as it helps piece together the full picture of Thai’s past. I also like to explore floating markets (and the food the offer) and, while touristy markets offer little more than photo-ops of old ladies in triangle hats, there are closer to options closer to centre for instance Taling Chan floating market. For escaping the city we generally avoid the tourist resorts in the North and South and instead travel to the closer rural charm of the Northeast and recently we set-up our own tailored food and cultural experiences in these parts with Isaan Tours. After travel in and around Bangkok we all need to rejuvenate so my go-to spa, as with many Bangkokians, is Health Land Spa which has branches in Sukhumvit (Asoke) but also dotted throughout the city. While more high-end and luxury than most, prices do not reflect this and Health Land Spa. Another affordable luxury.  

Hey there, lil' buddy!

The best part of visiting Thailand is making friends.


Allan Wilson is a lifestyle, travel and food blogger living in Bangkok, Thailand. Originally from the UK, he is now based permanently in Asia where he plies his trade as a wannabe travel writer. His regular travels and chronicles in the region follow major cities to off-beat locations tracking down the best street food, local restaurants and other cultural experiences. Adventures are shared with his wife Fanfan at Live Less Ordinary.

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