When I first started writing these Could I Live Here? posts, I was basically on vacation, and I was rallying against a high cost of living and a poor job market in Miami. Even now that I’m settled in Prague, I never anticipated that to be permanent. For all its flaws, the US would always be home. But now that my country has shown me with their vote that me and millions of others like me do not matter, I don’t know that I can ever live there again.
So these livability considerations are a little more significance now that I’m looking for a new place I can proudly call home. Allow me to get down to business and tell you if Bangkok could be that home.
Bangkok is best described as a controlled chaos. It’s very clean and orderly, and simultaneously a mess and an infrastructural disaster. But it’s a nice balance of the two, and once you get the hang of how things work, it’s actually all pretty logical. And though it’s busy and fast-paced, it’s also very relaxed. By comparison, Shanghai which is just as busy, feels more aggravating. Here, people just accept it and go about their day. You barely hear anybody honking even though traffic patterns are a complete mindfuck. Some intersections have nothing resembling a light or stop sign and everybody just takes turns jumping into the street. As a pedestrian, you do the same thing and you survive, even though you feel like you’re living in Frogger. But when you sit down at a coffee shop or bar or restaurant, it’s the nicest feeling. When I had dinner the first night after being here just a couple of hours, I felt the kind of feeling you only get somewhere that feels very comforting and familiar.
By far, my favorite thing about Bangkok (and probably all of Thailand) is the people. They have so little but they give you everything without expecting anything in return. Being here makes me realize that the world has turned me into a cynical asshole. I’m constantly thinking that everyone is trying to scam me when they’re just trying to be friendly and helpful. On one of our first dangerous road-crossing experiences, a local Thai man in the middle of the same intersection saw our fear and with a big smile on his face just motioned for us to follow him. He was going the same way past two more large crosswalks on a traffic circle, and he just led the way.
Today while visiting Wat Hua Lamphong, a local man thanked us for wearing black in respect of their King’s death, and then he took us all around the temple to teach us various rituals that would give us luck. Afterwards, he sat down with us to have some amazing fried rice from a street cart and gave us tips on what to do for the rest of our visit. We made an excuse to leave him, thinking he was long conning us into giving him money or stealing our phones or something. But he just shook our hands and wished us luck, and we felt like dicks.
Thai food is amazing. And legitimate Thai food is even more delicious than what you can get abroad. It’s also ridiculously cheap. There are street vendors all over the place selling everything from fresh fruit to pork skewers. And maybe I’m a little too trusting when it comes to food, because I’ll basically eat anything. Thus far, that has worked out for me. Meals are always good and very flavorful. As a test of how Thailand does other food, we had burgers last night and pizza tonight, and they were also amazing.
Bangkok is crowded and huge, so it’s impossible to get around on foot alone. But thankfully, the Metro is spotless, organized, and easy to use. The downside is that there are still some places that you can’t access by Metro, like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Luckily, cabs and tuk tuks are plentiful. Like in many places, cab drivers will try to scam you by setting a flat rate instead of using the meter. Most trips within the city won’t be more than 100 bhat, which is a little less than $3, but many will give you a flat rate of 200-300 bhat. When that happens, you can just move on and flag down another cab. The odd thing about taking cabs here is that you have to give the driver directions, so it’s impossible to get around without a working GPS. The good thing about that is that if they do use the meter, you know they’re not going to scam you by driving you around aimlessly. We’re not very good at negotiating, so we’ve basically agreed to pay 200 bhat for most of our trips. When you consider the fact that that amounts to $5 for what is sometimes a 30-40 minute ride, you can live with it.
The most expensive thing about this vacation is getting here. But even as a tourist, spending a night in Bangkok is ridiculously cheap. I imagine that rent would be about half of what I pay in Prague. Though you can get more expensive meals, like in the restaurants of nice hotels, for the most part, it’s worth eating at a local place and paying just a few dollars. And massages cost about as much as a good meal, so this is a great place to not only live affordably but also really well.
As someone who fled Miami in search of the three other seasons of the year, I imagine living in Thailand is almost exactly like living in Miami. Even now during some of the best weather months, it’s outrageously hot outside. And Bangkok is too crowded to spend 12 months of the year around so many people.
Total Livability Score 6/10
If I lived in Bangkok, I would definitely stay in a relaxed residential area 100% of the time, enjoying the local sidewalk bars and restaurants instead of the bustling and busy streets of the center. But I could benefit from spending an extended period of time in a place that can restore my faith in the good of humanity. So I could definitely live here. And I’ve had an odd sensation since I arrived that I just might.