Bangkok is great if you want a busier, more hectic life and want to meet up with other business-minded people or have a wider choice of activities and places to drink and eat.
It’s a very big city, but still relatively easy to get around with the metro, skytrain and taxis. Tollways criss-cross the city, making it quick to get from one part of the city to another – except during the peak periods (7-9am, 6-8pm) when it’s like a slow-moving parking lot! Inside the city, it can get quite congested also (especially end of school time around 4pm); but as long as you stick to the skytrain and metro you won’t really notice it. It’s also quite quick and convenient to take motorbike taxis, but they can be dangerous – they weave in and out of traffic haphazardly, so it’s usually best to only use this service for the short trips from your condo to the train station.
Bangkok is more expensive than the rest of Thailand (barring Phuket). Rents are about double (a smart 1-bedroom condo in the downtown area will cost $1,000 pm (we can help you find just as nice a place for cheaper), food is about 50% more expensive than elsewhere and you will spend more just getting around.
With [10-17 million] people living in Bangkok (depending on how you count), there is a lot going on. Did you ever want to find that one-in-a-million soul mate? Well, there are at least 10 Mrs (or Mr) Rights for you in Bangkok…. somewhere!
Over 100,000 Westerners live permanently in Bangkok and because they’re all strangers in a strange land, the expat community is quite close-knit. There is a huge transient population of around 5 million Western tourists every year, many of whom ‘winter’ for several months and so have a second home here. Political disturbances or natural disasters only cause a slight blip in tourist numbers. More keep coming every year. Bangkok is big enough for everybody so that you can live a totally anonymous life if that’s what you want. But you can also make many friends at all levels with like-minded people.
There are a myriad of business networking groups for a start, one for each chamber of commerce and several special interest groups (BNOW caters primarily for women). Many of these networking groups are a good excuse for a piss-up, but it’s a great way to meet other professionals and entrepreneurs. You won’t tend to find the real shakers and movers – they have their own private networks, so it will take time for you to get introduced to these. Unless you are a serious entrepreneur with a significant amount of capital to invest, this won’t be of much interest to you.
There’s virtually everything you might possibly want in Bangkok. Every type of food – from Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Indian to Italian, French, vegetarian food, fast foods, Australian steaks, and breads, cakes and ice cream, not to mention teas, coffees, beers, wine and spirits. The selection of wine is very good, with wine ‘supermarkets’ to shop in. Good beer is harder to find, but many pubs carry a selection of European draught beers and there are a number of specialist outlets springing up that sell good quality imported beers.
You are spoilt for art and music – the art scene is a little clique-ish, but once you get to know who’s doing what, you won’t be able to keep up there are several events every day.
There may not be the same sports and physical activities as back home (there’s no football, rugby or baseball), but there are so many other activities you can enjoy. Golf is the most popular. In fact, many tourists come exclusively to play golf – even with the cost of flights and accommodation it’s still cheaper to play in Thailand, on beautiful greens and with pretty caddies (yes, nearly all the caddies are girls)! For practising, there are several driving ranges right in the city center. There’s a small Canadian ice hockey team, many of whom played at national level back home. Soccer is very popular, and expats play regularly. One group of around 200 ‘veterans’ play a 7-a-side tournament once a month. It’s great fun.
Many people also come to Thailand to train in Muay Thai or Taekwando. Tai Chi and yoga are popular pastime in several of the public parks or fitness studios. There are several chains of top-of-the-range fitness gyms.
If you have money then there are several exclusive clubs (around $7,000 p.a.) where you can play squash and tennis and use the swimming pool, as well as have access to beautiful grounds to sit (or sunbathe) in and private restaurants where you can entertain your guests. These clubs are also an excellent way to meet reasonably well-off people.
As for hospitals and medical/dental care, some of best hospitals in the world are in Bangkok. Not because of any world-wide pioneering experts, but because the big, private hospitals can afford to get the latest gadgets and equipment, and because the quality of personal care is so high. It’s relatively cheap to hire well-trained nurses, so there’ll probably be several (usually quite pretty) nurses per patient. Doctors don’t rake in exorbitant salaries either, so there are often plenty of good doctors to diagnose and treat you quickly. And there are no complicated negligence laws, so hospitals and doctors don’t need to spend a fortune on insurance. (There are negligent doctors in the West also; it’s just that someone else pays if something goes wrong. It doesn’t reduce the level of mistakes!)
It’s usually cheaper to fly to Bangkok, stay in a top hotel and get an expensive operation or treatment for a fraction of the cost of doing it at home. And with hardly any waiting times!
Read the section on Medical Care in Thailand and David’s hospital experience in Bangkok.
Bangkok is huge. And it’s getting bigger. What used to be separate areas outside the municipality of the City of Bangkok are now being gradually merged into one big massive metropolitan. It helps that the skytrain is being extended to the outer limits of the city and beyond into the new western part of the city.
It’s becoming more and more feasible to live just outside Bangkok, but be able to easily get into the city center.
For instance, the relatively industrial region of Samutprakaan just south-east of Bangkok is now home to Suvarnabumi (pronounced “Suwanapoom” in Thai), the new international airport. The skytrain was extended to reach this region in a heart-beat – and with a little digging around you can find a cozy (unfurnished) 3-bed townhouse for around 5,000 baht per month – yet still have quick access into town, the airport and the major expressways, as well as a modern Western shopping mall complex (including Index and Ikea furniture stores), state-of-the-art cinemas and an olympic size ice skating rink – where the Flying Farangs play hockey (practice is on Wednesdays, everybody is welcome!).
Or there is the brand new city nearing completion on the west side of Bangkok (Bang Yai, which translates roughly as “Big Place”). The skytrain is being extended to the western ‘suburbs’, although it’ll be several years yet before the network is fully completed. (But if you get in early enough before people fully realize the convenience and desireability of living in the burbs, this could be an excellent investment opportunity.)
When you first move to Bangkok, you’ll probably want to be near the center – or at least within a 10-minute walk from a skytrain or metro station. It’s more expensive to live in this area (but still cheap by international standards if you know where to look). Later – especially as you get more proficient in speaking Thai – you might want to move out a little, either to a cheaper place or a larger house with garden for the same money.