I lived in Bangkok for almost 5 years and I love it. It seems to polarise opinion and I can understand that. However, for me it is one of the worldâ€™s truly great cities. For expats living in Bangkok, there seems to be a split. A large number live and socialise in and around the Sukhumvit area, whilst the many more live and socialise in Silom. Both have their merits, but for me it was always Sukhumvit. These areas are linked by both the BTS Sky Train and the MRT Underground. These services are exceptional. Clean and inexpensive they run very frequent trains from 6 am until midnight.
The restaurants and bars in the city will rival anywhere on earth. I have enjoyed some of the finest restaurant meals of my life here. A couple of favourites would be Chesa on Soi 20 and Enotica off Soi 27, both in Sukhumvit. The large 5 star hotels down by the river are amazing places. Affording great views of the Chao Phraya River, sumptuous rooms and fine dining, they really are a cut above.
For expats, it is the small bars and the friendliness of like-minded people of course that attract. Bangkok has a vibrant nightlife and there is never any shortage of entertainment. The large go-go areas of Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy and Patpong are great fun. Though Nana Plaza seems to have lost its way recently, with prices spiralling and a lot more trouble than there used to be. Patpong I would never really trust, there are way too many scam artists working the streets and itâ€™s far too easy to get into trouble. Living in a city is not like visiting. I donâ€™t know many expats who even go near these areas.
On Sukhumvit Soi 22, you will find Queens Park Plaza. This is the last remaining beer bar soi in the city. There used to be many more like it, but sadly they have all gone. A small hotch potch of a place containing about 30 establishments, it is my favourite part of the city. There are good pool bars like Sport 20-2, late night drinking dens like Hideaway and The Cockwell Inn and loads of tiny places, no more than a row of seats and a single bar top. Some of the bars here stay open all night, the atmosphere is safe and friendly.
The temples are of course something for which the city is famous. Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew are the two most well-known. Together with the Royal Palace they provide a fascinating day out. The best way to see them is to get a boat from the ferry pier near Saphan Taksin Sky Train station. Boat trips on the river can vary from cheap as chips to highly overpriced and it is always worth doing a bit of research. River taxis run everywhere through the city on the river and the klongs (canals). These are very cheap. Some of the dinner cruises are worth doing whilst others can be a bit boring. The river is so good though that simply gazing at Bangkok life as it glides by, is enough for me.
The street food in Bangkok is as good as I have enjoyed anywhere in the world with the possible exception of Penang in Malaysia. There are street vendors everywhere. Chicken and beef sate sticks are fiercely hot and delicious. Larb Moo, a pork hot salad, is a favourite as is Khao Ka Moo. This is pork knuckle cooked all day in a rich gravy. It is served with rice, pickled cabbage and a hard boiled egg. Pla Ninh, barbecued fish, is readily available. It is all extremely tasty and costs next to nothing.
The residents of Bangkok are simply mad about shopping. The city must have more shopping malls than any other I have been to. They just keep springing up all the time. There are more than enough to satisfy the 16 million visitors that pour into Bangkok every year. A personal favourite would be Terminal 21 at the junction of Sukhumvit Rd and Asok. Built a year ago it is themed around an airport terminal, with each floor representing a different city somewhere in the world. The food court on the 5th level is about as good as anyone has the right to expect.
Transport links to and in and out of the city are excellent. Don Muang airport was joined a few years back by the new Suvarnabhumi International to the east of the city. Flights arrive from just about everywhere. There is a fast raised train link into the city, ferrying passengers in very quickly and extremely cheaply. In the city the taxis are cheap and plentiful. Tuk Tuk are ok for the ubiquitous photo op, but make sure you get a quote in advance, and donâ€™t get talked into â€ťvisiting my brotherâ€™s fine shopâ€ť.
Bangkok is everything you would want from a city, and a whole lot more. It is vibrant, exciting, full of life and offers any holiday maker the experience of a lifetime.