More often than not, when an expatriate living in Bangkok answers a foreigner’s question regarding his or her residence, the response will be one of many variations, “Are you insane boy, what on earth are you going to do there?”
That was my 98-year-old grandmothers respond when I told her I’m moving to Bangkok. Bangkok has an international reputation as one of the most beautiful, ugly, hot, exciting, sophisticated, dirty, friendly, crowded, interesting and just plain confusing cities in the world.
These and other descriptions are all accurate reflections of Bangkok, depending on the person’s perspective and own experiences. Bangkok is many things to many people and that is one reason why you will find such a diverse group of inhabitants in the city whose real name (Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit) is recognized by the Guinness book of records as the longest name for a city in the world.
Living in Bangkok, one will sooner or later develop a personal opinion on four important components of the environment, the food, the environment, the people, and the transportation systems. To a large extent your lifestyle will be shaped by these pieces of the puzzle called Bangkok.
Food is everywhere in Bangkok. It is a part of every activity. Thai foods are unique and exotic. Spices and other seasonings are an integral part of each recipe and the flavors and textures of Thai cuisine provide a never ending variety of culinary surprises. Fair warning, if your taste buds are used to less exciting fare you may find the spices too hot to handle. Food vendors and restaurants are everywhere along most every Soi or street in the city. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also prevalent in stores and sidewalk carts everywhere. It sometimes seems like half of Bangkok is busy feeding the other half!
The locals in Bangkok sometime identify the weather here in terms of “hot”, “very hot”, and “damn hot”! Most European and Western expatriates will find the midday sun and temperature hard to get used to. If you do go out during the day it is mandatory that one wears clothing to protect your skin from the intense equatorial rays of the sun.
Ask anyone who is living in Thailand what they like about the country and you will invariably hear praise for the beautiful people that inhabit this corner of the world. Thailand is often referred to as “the land of smiles” and this is a well deserved moniker that reflects the kind and gentle nature of the population in general.
Of course nobody is perfect and Thais do have their irritating idiosyncrasies. After living in Thailand for awhile you will start to realize that the smile you always get, as a response to a question or statement can be the Thai way of indicating that they 1) have no clue what you are talking about and don’t believe you do either or 2) find your comments too stupid to validate with a verbal response.
Of course no article with the word insane and living in Bangkok in the title can escape mention of the horrors of Bangkok traffic. Rush hours can be intimidating to a newly arrived “farang” and rush hour is a 24 hour a day event. Cars, motorcycles, buses and food carts all jostle each other in an endless game of chicken as streets deliver a crawling mass of humanity to their various destinations. If you are able, it is best to locate yourself close to one of the mass transit stations located within the city. While prices will be a bit higher for living quarters near a station you will save endless hours of frustration by avoiding traffic completely.