Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 05/29/22
Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in nearly a dozen other countries: primarily in East and Southeast Asia, but also in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
USA, East Coast. One-stop flights from Washington, New York, and Boston are plentiful and door-to-door are about 24 hours total with very efficient connections through Seoul and Tokyo on the usual U.S. carriers and their alliance partners. Hong Kong used to be a connection point also but Hong Kong's tough COVID restrictions have decimated Cathay Pacific as a codeshare carrier. In sum: it's extremely easy to travel to Bangkok, and it's a major regional transport hub for Southeast Asia.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Bangkok is a major, sprawling metropolis (think New York in scope/size). U.S. Embassy housing falls into two main categories. First is large single-family homes in a gated community, in Nonthaburi Province, which (depending on traffic) is between 30-75 minutes' drive from downtown. This housing is large, you get a small yard, and it's within walking/biking distance of one of the best U.S.-curriculum schools, ISB. But the downside is you're not really living in Bangkok: it's an artificial world. In my opinion, you'll find yourself missing out on what most people know Bangkok for: it's vibrant restaurant, cultural, and downtown scene. Some people who come to Bangkok choose Nonthaburi for its proximity to ISB, or they really are adamant on having a single-family home. But more often people intentionally choose the second category of housing, which is apartment/condo housing downtown.
The second category is housing that's downtown, primarily scattered among dozens of apartment buildings anywhere from a five-minute walk to the U.S. embassy, to a 30-40-minute car, subway, or bike commute. The apartments generally range from two to five bedrooms in size (some can be fairly large and most include live-in maid quarters), with some quite modern, with others feeling more dated (think 1980s) in interior. Most embassy housing is rented so amenities and furnishings will vary quite a bit from place to place, but there are a few units that are USG-owned and serviced by the embassy (think much more responsive maintenance, but older buildings). Almost all buildings have a pool of some sort, and the fancier buildings have gyms, party rooms, and other amenities. Most apartments don't allow dogs so if you have a pet the embassy will place you in a smaller subset of the housing pool.
Bangkok's very large housing market constantly fluctuates so the housing pool changes quite a bit. While most people seem to be quite happy with housing, there is an occasional dud housing unit or landlord so the embassy has moved people around on occasion.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get just about anything you want here, from any country in the world. There are several high-end grocery chains (Villa, Tops, Gourmet Market, etc.) which carry a wide variety of American, European, Southeast Asian, Korean, Japanese, and of course Thai groceries. Anything imported will cost 25-50% more than back in your home country, but American companies have long produced local versions of American products, so you can find local varieties of Tide laundry detergent, U.S. shampoos and cosmetics, some housing/cleaning supplies, American chips and snacks, etc. This is Southeast Asia, so produce and especially fruits are abundant, delicious, and cheap (when in season), and you can find more temperate produce and fruits for a decent price, imported usually from Australia (think U.S. prices) or China (cheaper, but... it's from China). Dairy products (fresh milk, a variety of mostly imported cheeses from Australia & New Zealand & Europe) are plentiful. All sorts of meats (both locally grown and imported) are available, and there are great online delivery services such as PaleoRobbie that provide high-quality, customized produce, dairy, and meat options (including the thickest and richest Greek yogurt I've eaten outside of Greece/Turkey).
If you're willing to shop more like a local middle-class Thai rather than a high-society Thai or foreigner, groceries can be significantly cheaper than in the United States. For example, if you shop at one of the wholesale/warehouse stores (Makro - kind of like Costco) or even one of the mass-scale super-stores (Big C or Lotus - kind of like Walmart) you can still find a decent range of international products, but save much more on produce, which is expensive in the nice supermarkets. To get the cheapest produce you can go to the local wet markets, or like I do, be ready to stop whenever you see a truck piled high with produce selling on the side of the street, straight from the farm.
Hardware and home supply stores (HomePro is a typical example, think Home Depot) are modern and well-stocked with just about anything you could want.
I will say, I do miss Costco and Trader Joe's, but there are some great things I can get here (again, the amazing tropical fruit, as well as some European and Australian/New Zealand products) that I can't easily find in the United States.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Groceries and supplies are plentiful and varied here and you don't really need much of a consumables shipment. Imported alcohol can be expensive in local shops though. There's a local commissary with decent duty-free selection, and the commissary also sells a modest selection of US frozen, packaged, and household products (at a premium), as well as Ben & Jerry's ice cream (that is even more expensive on the local market). That said, you might want to bring some alcohol and liquor to post. Along with laundry or detergent options that are scent-free (almost every cleaning product or beauty product in Thailand seems to be heavily fragranced, so those with allergies or sensitivities to fragrances may want to ship.
Also, if there's any very specific items you need from Trader Joe's or Costco or a similar such store, e.g., sweets, snacks, cleaning supplies, non-fragranced detergents, American-style diapers (diapers here aren't great quality, and the Japanese ones tend to be pull-up and, in my opinion, more likely to cause diaper rash), then you should put those in your shipment. Or you can order via DPO or pouch, both of which are quite fast (1-2 weeks, typically) to get to Post.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Bangkok is a world-class, top-notch food city. You can find dozens of Michelin-star restaurants of all kinds for your fanciest of meals costing nearly a thousand dollars a person, all the way down to that $1.50 delicious bowl of noodles (or any other amazing Thai food) on the street. Bangkok has excellent Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian/Pakistani, and Chinese food (including Chinese-American, Northeastern, Szechuan, and especially Cantonese and dim sum, favorites here); high quality western foods (anything from French, gastropub, nouveau American, to burger and pizza joints, to Argentinian steakhouses); Middle Eastern / Eastern European foods (Greek, Georgian, Turkish, Lebanese, Yemeni); and even passable Ethiopian food (though no comparison to what's in Washington, DC).
There's even a wide variety of Mexican and of course, an amazing range of Thai food of all price points and styles. Food courts here are beautiful to behold in variety and price point, street food is to die for, and the bar scene has great food also. I would say Bangkok rivals New York, Singapore, Los Angeles, and (before its recent demise) Hong Kong as top food cities of the world in terms of diversity and variety of price points. (I don't even consider Tokyo, London, Melbourne, Istanbul anywhere in the same league when it comes to sheer breadth and diversity of food options.) I honestly could go on and on about the food scene in Bangkok.
Bangkok, like many top Asian cities, is paradise for cheap food delivery. The main apps expats seem to use are Grab and Foodpanda. Each has hundreds and hundreds of restaurants and cuisines to choose from. It's the same situation with takeout. These apps all provide grocery and household goods delivery too, which was great during the peak-COVID lockdown period.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Nothing that any major city in a middle- or high-income East Asian city wouldn't have: occasional cockroaches, ants, or mosquitos can find their way into your apartment or home. Worse if you don't seal your windows or leave food out. Plentiful geckos provide some antidote. You can buy bug killer or buy roach or ant traps easily. So in sum, nothing unusual or to worry about.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We mostly use Embassy DPO and pouch, which (because Bangkok is a regional hub) is quite fast from the United States. Packages usually take 1-2 weeks to arrive, and I've even received some mail in fewer than seven days.
Thailand has well-developed package delivery infrastructure and you have multiple local providers (including Kerry Express, the one we've used) available. Think UPS or FedEx but cheaper. Oh, and UPS, FedEx, and DHL are of course available (for a price) if you need to get something really quick across the globe. I've never directly used the local Thai post but it seems relatively reliable (I get regular mailings from my grocery store rewards program, for example).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Plentiful and widely-used. Nearly every embassy household uses a housecleaner (either once or twice a week for those without kids, or full-time for families, is most common) and/or a nanny. Most household help is either Thai or Burmese. Monthly rates range quite a bit; the Embassy has an internal survey you can refer to if you want to gauge what to pay. We pay our nanny/housekeeper around $800 a month to work five days a week (inclusive of occasional late nights if we're out) and then sometimes hire a second nanny for weekend work, but other families are able to have a housekeeper/nanny who works 5.5 or 6 days a week. Some pay less than we do, some pay more. Word of mouth and the Community Liaison Office (CLO) newsletter are common ways to find household help, but there are also private services that can help match you with someone.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy's annex compound, which is under construction, has a temporary gym that is well-equipped but cramped. People living within walking distance of the embassy can easily use that. Some apartment buildings also have their own gyms, although quality varies and typically local apartment complexes' gyms aren't well-equipped. There are plentiful private gym options out there (including hotel gym/spa memberships), but expect to pay U.S. prices or more. On the plus side many of these gyms are beautiful, spacious, and well-equipped, and may offer classes or other services as part of your membership.
There are private sports clubs, swimming schools, lots of golf courses and driving ranges, etc., all around Bangkok as well. Bangkok doesn't have a ton of green space but it does have some big and beautiful parks downtown; these tend to have plenty of jogging space and the bigger parks (including those in the suburbs/exurbs) have lots of open space for running and biking. There are plenty of running and biking (and hiking) communities and meetups here among expats and internationally minded Thais. The main thing you'll miss is the temperate weather for outdoor activities, except for a couple of (blessed) months in winter, hot and humid is how Bangkok always is.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are fairly widely used at all high-end establishments, and also at most mid-range and chain stores. That said, you should definitely open up a local Thai bank account and download its corresponding app so you can use QR code bank transfers, which are accepted just about everywhere (including at street stalls, which usually don't accept credit cards). I'm really going to miss the electronic bank transfers through the apps here - so much more convenient than in the U.S.
ATMs are common and generally safe (with the usual precautions you'd take in any major city anywhere in the world). I almost never use them, though, as I exchange USD to Thai baht at the embassy cashier (the best rate) and then deposit or transfer Thai baht into my local bank account, where I can use them via QR code or bank transfers to pay for just about anything.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Plentiful in just about any religion or denomination: mosques, shabbat/Jewish, Catholic services (in multiple locations), a wide variety of Protestant denominations and flavors (from traditional mainline to evangelical/charismatic), LDS/Mormon. After all, Bangkok has a huge English-speaking expat community.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's definitely helpful to have at least some "taxi Thai" and to know how to order food and count numbers / transact in Thai. Local classes and tutors are plentiful, and the Embassy language program is not bad. I've survived here for three years with very basic Thai and it's been fine. If you're able to learn Thai in depth, however, it will open up just that more of the local culture and food scene to you, especially if you travel outside of Bangkok or tourist areas.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Bangkok is in some ways a very modern city, and in other ways seems like a dystopian future megalopolis straight out of a Japanese anime or maybe Blade Runner (but with brighter colors and more smiles). Sidewalks can in some areas seem very modern and accessible, and then all of a sudden turn into a death maze of potholes, high curbs, tangled electric wires, cars and motorbikes whizzing by (including occasionally in the wrong direction), and various other hazards (street dogs roaming some alleys). By the same token, Bangkok is NOT stroller-friendly. If you mostly stay within the (wide variety of) malls and hotels and modern office buildings, most things are accessible, but moving around outside on the streets is tough.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Subway system (BTS, MRT, Airport Link): Modern, affordable, very convenient (especially during rush hour). Everyone uses these, including expats.
Taxis/Rideshare: Very affordable; rideshare (Grab is the main one) is more expensive but more reliable, but in any case much cheaper than the U.S. rates for Uber and Lyft. An occasional unscrupulous taxi driver in a tourist area may try to take advantage of a foreigner, but with a bit of taxi Thai I've almost never had a cheating attempt, and the taxi rates are insanely low ($5 to get halfway across the city).
Public Bus: Plentiful, but slow and easily trapped in traffic. Extremely cheap ($0.50 or less). I've taken them a few times but more out of curiosity than for any practical reason. You probably won't ever need to take these unless you feel nostalgic for your backpacker days.
Intercity rail: Inefficient, outdated, and doesn't go to many other cities, but fun to try at least once for the nostalgic/touristic value.
Domestic Flights: Plentiful, generally cheap (except during peak vacation seasons, like anywhere), and dominated by low-cost carriers. This is the way to get around and see the rest of Thailand.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
While it's possible to have a very good time in Thailand without a car, I recommend bringing (or locally purchasing one) anyway. Thailand is a great roadtripping country with great national parks, mountains, and beaches all over the place and has very developed highway/road systems (including plentiful gas stations and sparkling clean rest stop bathrooms), and it's much easier to cover more ground (especially outside the cities) if you have your own wheels.
We had a sedan, which was fine for our family, but having something with a bit more clearance will allow you to get off-road a bit in the parks if that's your thing. Parts and maintenance services are widely available for the major brands that sell/operate in Asia (Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Ford) as well as more luxury brands (lots of Mercedes-Benz, BMWs, Lexus here also). You might have to import a part or two if you have an unusual make or model from the United States. Interestingly, Thailand is trying to develop its electric vehicle infrastructure and Tesla is about to open up direct sales. I've seen some EVs on the streets and expect more and more Teslas on the roads soon as well. You'll see high-society Thais driving their Lamborghinis and Maseratis around but they can afford the $10,000 every time they hit a pothole or speed bump on Bangkok's famously unpredictable pavement. I presume you don't have the same luxury, so leave your custom sports car back at home. You probably should leave your hummer or RV at home too as Bangkok's alleys can get pretty tight, so in general a smaller car is better. The minivans here are designed for Bangkok's streets and are narrower than what you see in the United States.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, with the usual menu of speeds you're used to back home. Installation generally takes 2-5 business days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
So many options. I use a local plan (AIS, which I hear has the best rural coverage, which is important to me here) but there are other providers (True, etc.) which are just as good. Thais love their mobile phones and 5G speed and cheap data plans are the norm. You'll find mobile service to be cheaper and more flexible here than in the United States, in general.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, the expat community is large and there are multiple vets (and pet hospitals) as well as kennel and pet shipment services available. We found a favorite pet kennel ($10/night) which we used all the time for vacations both long and short. Not looking forward to how pricey pet care will be in the United States.
No quarantine upon entry or departure if you have the right paperwork and your pets are healthy.
Bangkok does not have a lot of green space, so keep that in mind for larger pets. Also, most downtown apartment buildings do not allow pets so your options will be limited if you have pets.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
The U.S. Embassy is massive here (biggest US mission outside of a war zone anywhere in the world) so there are a fair number of EFM positions, or USG contractor positions (PSC) for which EFMs are eligible to apply. That said, as is the case globally, the number of well-paid, intellectually challenging EFM jobs at the embassy is somewhat limited. Many embassy spouses run their own home businesses, or are digital nomads (since Thailand has excellent Internet infrastructure and is a bit of a growing hub for tech and digital nomads). A few embassy spouses teach, or work at one of the many UN or other international NGOs here (again, Thailand is a regional hub in this area also).
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty, whether through religious institutions, local NGOs, or international schools. There's a very active rescue dog / cat scene. Bangkok has a huge and diverse expat community and lots of people with varied interests, whether it's helping refugees, teaching English, or finding homes for street dogs.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
In most embassies / corporate environments, somewhere between business casual and full suit is the norm. Official government meetings are usually conducted with business dress code. Outside of work settings, dress is much more casual:
shorts/jeans and t-shirts or polos are the norm going around town off work, but, as in many countries, host nation residents seem to be better dressed than expats a lot of the time. Bangkok is not a conservative country fashion-wise so you will not feel out of place showing some skin; many Thais do. One major exception: You have to cover up visiting Buddhist temples, and they enforce modesty rules more strictly for women than men.
You might want to have at least one tux or formal gown for the Marine ball or one of the other formals that pop up around the expat circuit. If you don't have a tux or gown, well you're in luck: Bangkok has a huge tailor/fashion scene and it's affordable to get something custom made for the same price that something nice off the rack might be in the United States.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Bangkok (and Thailand as a whole) is safer than any American city I know of, whether petty or major violent crime. Take the usual precautions against pickpockets or other threats that you might in any other major city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Thailand has top-notch medical care at a fraction of the cost that it is in the United States. In fact, Bangkok (together with Singapore) is the USG medevac hub for many regional posts, and the medical unit accordingly has multiple doctors and nurses and is well-equipped. Many expecting mothers choose to deliver here in Bangkok instead of returning to the U.S., and you can have a variety of complex medical and dental procedures and surgeries done here by U.S.-trained and English-speaking medical professionals.
About the only reason you might need a medevac is if you need long-term or highly novel therapies (new cancer treatments, etc.) back in the United States.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is good from May to November (the wet season), and then bad from December to April (the dry season). When it's bad, it can get pretty bad (AQI in the 200-300 range) and people do get respiratory problems. The embassy diligently provides BlueAir filtration for all embassy housing units, but most housing here is not sealed particularly well so you'll find that your filters turn black and dirty pretty quickly during pollution season. Pollution in Bangkok is caused primarily by transportation emissions and secondarily by seasonal agricultural burning throughout the region, compounded by weather patterns. It's annoying and can definitely impact health.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I have grass/hay allergies on the East Coast (USA) and haven't had a single problem in Bangkok. On the other hand, I know colleagues who never had allergies in the United States but find themselves allergic to something here (maybe a local mold or grass?). In any case, besides seasonal pollution, I don't think Bangkok is particularly of concern for people with environmental allergies, but take your usual precautions.
For food allergies, you may have to avoid (or be very careful about) local Thai food, which liberally includes peanuts and shellfish. Western (and higher-end) restaurants are much more diligent about catering to those with food allergies. Many international schools tries to maintain nut-free cafeterias for students.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Broadly speaking, I think Bangkok / Thailand as a post tends to be good for mental health, given that the city and country are vibrant, beautiful, with warm and sunny weather, and lots of mountains, beaches, and beautiful sights to explore. Not to mention the amazing food and availability of amenities (massages!). A lot of people choose Thailand after serving at a hardship or war zone posting for this precise reason. As always, your individual mileage may vary.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
February-May: Hot, humid, and mostly dry (dry season).
June-November: A bit less hot, humid, and heavy downpours a few times per week (wet season).
December-January: Beautifully temperate (~80 degrees F during the day), mostly dry, and unsurprisingly peak tourism time (heaven, I mean, cool, season).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
So, so many. American, British, French, Japanese, Montesori, IB, you name it, Bangkok has it. A lot of embassy children go to ISB (if they live up in Nichada, in Nonthaburi) which is reportedly well-equipped, excellent overall, and is a high-quality American curriculum. A lot of downtown embassy children go to NIST (I think IB curriculum, but don't quote me on that) and there's also Patana (British curriculum). There's dozens and dozens of other international schools so your challenge will actually be WHICH international school(s) to choose for your children. International schools are incredibly expensive in general if your employer doesn't cover tuition.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Varies from school to school, but I understand that both ISB and NIST do make accommodations and provide special services for some special needs kids. One of my children's elementary schools has an excellent integrated program for kids with certain needs, but I believe this needs to be individually negotiated with each school.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Bangkok has plentiful and excellent preschools and daycares, though while cheaper than U.S. prices, are still somewhat expensive (at least for the top-notch international ones). Most families have nannies who drop off and pick up young kids so preschools are rarely full-day (tend to be half, or 2/3 day). Thus, before- and after-school care is very rare.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, very plentiful (though Bangkok doesn't have a ton of green outdoor space so most activities/classes are in private facilities). Swimming, soccer, tennis, golf, all manner of sports camps, martial arts, dance classes, etc. I think ISB (up in Nichada/Nonthaburi) has a Little League also, though baseball really isn't a popular sport here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Massive. One of the biggest expat populations in East Asia, since Bangkok is a diplomatic, business, and UN / NGO hub for Southeast Asia. Morale is correspondingly high: Bangkok is a delightful place to live in if you like megalopolises. Those most unhappy here are those who don't like large, busy, dense cities.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Literally anything you can think of. Whatever you did in New York, London, or Washington, DC you can probably find here. There's something for everyone, of any stripe.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes, and yes. Again, Bangkok has a huge and diverse expat population, as well as a large population of educated and international-minded Thais, so there's something for everyone. This also extends to domestic tourism, even outside of Bangkok, there's a diverse and huge range of tourism and vacation options, from beaches to mountains to lakes to ecotourism to family-centered tourism to yoga retreats to backpacking to Four Seasons.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
In general, yes. Thailand has a fairly large segment of internationally educated professionals who mingle with (and marry) expats frequently. More "local" Thais who don't speak English are still very friendly and welcoming, but it might be hard to connect with them if you don't speak decent Thai. There is some discrimination against people with darker skin, especially if you are a refugee or migrant, police harassment can happen, but there are plenty of people of color in the expat community. I don't think Thailand (like much of the world, honestly) has the same culture of political correctness when it comes to race and ethnicity that the United States has, so keep your expectations accordingly. If you are of East Asian (or even South Asian) descent you will feel like you blend right in, and Thai people will be even warmer and familial to you, which can be quite freeing and enjoyable.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Definitely. While gay marriage is not legal here, and there are still traditional aspects of Thai society, in general Thailand is one of the countries in Southeast Asia most welcoming to LGBTIQ+ individuals. There is a huge scene here and lots of opportunities to socialize and meet people in relative comfort, safety, and dignity accordingly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Thailand has its Buddhist nationalists and Muslim extremists in pockets. Buddhism is also the official state religion and there are rules that limit what can be said against Buddhism, and what other religions can do. But in general, Thailand is very tolerant and progressive, especially if compared to most other countries in the region. This goes for gender equality, too, yes, there are definitely more traditional segments of Thai culture, and the security forces, Buddhist clergy, and "the revered institution" are quite patriarchal in many ways, but on a day-to-day basis I don't think this is a problem for expats. If anything, because the expat community is so large here, you may find that any prejudices or equality issues are ones exported from expats' own homelands to Bangkok rather than coming from Thais.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Far too numerous to recount. Amazing food of all types. Numerous beach trips to islands and resorts, including splurging on ultra-luxurious ones. Exploring nooks and crannies and eating street food all over Bangkok and the rest of the country. Treks, hiking, and roadtrips up in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, with their own unique cultures, climate, and foods. Visiting the Golden Triangle and seeing the Mekong River. Hiking through Thailand's plentiful and beautiful national parks, including all the way up the seven-tiered waterfall in Kanchanaburi Province.
Thailand is also a great hub for regional travel but we didn't do that because of COVID, so spent most of our time focused on domestic travel.
If I spent another three years here I still wouldn't have time to hit everything on my bucket list. I truly am sad to be leaving Thailand.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
You'll find hundreds of blogs and food shows and guide books on this, so I won't try to best them. But some of my most fun experiences have come out of a simple formula:
1) Surf Google Maps and just find interesting looking restaurants, attractions, parks, and cities/neighborhoods around Thailand and Bangkok. Highlight some key attractions from guidebooks and blogs, but then just randomly choose some of my own.
2) Visit, explore, find amazing street food and sights, and just enjoy.
3) Ask Thai friends what cool things they've done.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Absolutely. Great furniture that you can get custom-made. Affordable, high-quality tailored suits and dresses. Plenty of antique shopping. Big fashion scene with plentiful malls. Lots of artists, from modern to Thai to Chinese-style. And knick-knacks, trinkets, and gift items of innumerable quantity and variety (though not always quality). Chatuchak Market is the first stop on the shopping list for many visiting Bangkok; do a few visits and explore its various nooks and crannies to get an idea of what you can find in Thailand, and then spread out from there.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I've gone over this in huge detail in previous boxes, so to sum it up:
-- Amazing food scene with variety, at any price point, and with a people (Thais) who love food themselves and love sharing it with you
-- Top-notch domestic tourism infrastructure
-- Decent cost of living for an expat
-- Very family-friendly: good schools, affordable help, Thais very friendly with kids
-- Great for singles also: socializing, bar scene, lots of activities / interest groups
-- You can find/buy just about anything you need from anywhere in the world
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How quickly three years would pass, and how much we would love it. I would have been more strategic about traveling more, doing, more, and probably hiring more household help so my wife and I could get away from the kids more to have more "grown-up" fun.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
A thousand times yes.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes, pickiness about food, and small-town habits
4. But don't forget your:
Smile, sense of humor, flexibility, and politeness. Thai people have one of the most indirect cultures (think stereotypical "Southern" U.S. culture): they are friendly and flexible and accommodating, but if you criticize or shame them in public, it will really come back to bite you fast.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
On the Trail of the Serpent: the Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj. Read the book, then watch the Netflix series (The Serpent). But do it after you've been in Bangkok a year and the visuals in the TV series will be that much more familiar and thus making the series that much more intense and close to home.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Before coming to Bangkok, I was skeptical about the hype about this city and country. I'm now as fullthroated a convert as anyone. It's no wonder so many retired Americans choose to live in Thailand: I'm seriously considering it myself, for the future.