As the cliché saying goes, the world is your oyster. But you cannot live everywhere at once. As a prospective expat, I had to pick one country to use as a base for my travels in that region.
Asia versus South America and Eastern Europe
Leaving the USA for Western Europe as a location independent digital nomad with his own business makes no sense because life would essentially be the same, and just as, if not more expensive.
So it came down to a choice between South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia. South America isn’t as safe as I would like it to be, at least not yet. Eastern Europe and Russia have harsh winters and short summers. Northeastern Asian countries like China, Japan, and Korea have issues of their own, plus things have been getting tense politically as of late. So I quickly narrowed it down to Southeast Asia.
Since I had a fledging business that isn’t yet generating a lot of income, the most important factor in choosing Bangkok as my base is getting the most amenities for the best value. There were also other factors such as the world-class restaurant scene, exciting bar scene, and the sheer population of expats and beautiful Thai girls.
Cost of Living
Getting an apartment in Bangkok is very easy and cheap. Bangkok offers a glut of apartment and condo rentals at only 50% to 75% of what you’d typically pay in cities like Manila, Jakarta, or Ho Chi Minh City.
On a multiple entry tourist visa, I was able to obtain a Thai bank account and a one-year apartment lease costing me only $400 a month for a 32 square meter apartment that would easily command at least $2000 monthly in a major US city. The same place would probably rent for $600-1000 in other major Southeast Asian cities like Manila.
Outside of Bangkok, the cost of living is even lower.
Infrastructure and Amenities
Bangkok is the only city in Southeast Asia that has a BTS skytrain with newly built infrastructure that allows you to get to places quite fast. In other cities, you’d have to deal with taxis, jeepneys, buses, or renting a motorcycle on top of the gridlocked traffic on a daily basis. The convenience factor in Bangkok is exponentially higher than any other place I’ve been in SEA.
Many condos and apartments have clean gyms and sparkling pools, along with convenience stores, pharmacies, and laundromats on the first floor of each building. Within a one block radius of any apartment, there are dozens of restaurants, food courts, bars, cafes, and street food stalls to satisfy your variety-seeking palate.
Food and Bar Scene
The restaurant and bar scene in Bangkok has something for everyone, and is truly international. There is so much information about this in sites like Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet (I’ll note here I don’t personally use these sites myself), along with millions of restaurants, cafes, and bars, that it would be impossible to list here.
There are several night markets on almost every day of the week not just in Bangkok, but also in every town of Thailand. The food cooked and served at night markets is delicious, cheap, and contrary to popular belief, safe to eat.
Bangkok is the home to large expat communities, in which people come from all walks of life. Networking with fellow expats has been fun, and very helpful particularly when I had any questions or problems with anything between visa runs to finding a good tailor.
As a first-year expat, going to a city with a sizable expat population made a lot more sense than going completely off the beaten path. Doing so helped me adjust to being abroad in a foreign country with a different culture.
Once I adjusted to being abroad and gained travel experience in these parts, I could start venturing off the beaten path again. I can guarantee that if I had expatriated to a city with no other expats, the adjustment would have been much harder.
A lot has already been said about Thai girls on afarangabroad.com and on other travel sites— many are sweet, friendly, and love to party, especially in the tourist hot spots. Outside of the hot spots, they are much more conservative, but still are very kind and polite. They’re not perfect and do have their shortcomings, but they are light years better than hordes of American women drinking the man-hating feminist kool-aid.
A couple of issues I have with Thai women are mainly related to the language and cultural barriers, and they have a somewhat different sense of humor than what I’m used to. Apart from a couple of exceptions, generally the more English a Thai girl knows, the better we get on… and I can say I’ve found a few to have fun with in the evenings after work.
One needs to be aware that there is a blurry line between hookers and normal girls when it comes to Thai girls in the touristy spots. It isn’t uncommon to see the same Thai girls with a different foreigner (customer?) on different nights at places like lower Sukhumvit or Khao San Road.
Cheap Airfares to Neighboring Countries
After messing around on skyscanner.com, I noticed flights in and out of Bangkok are much cheaper than places Manila. Sometimes I see flights cheaper than a dinner for two at an Italian bistro — both domestic and international.
Obviously long haulers to other continents cost much more, but regional flights to neighboring countries make it cheap and easy to travel while keeping my base in Bangkok.
In the past seven months, I flew to Vietnam three times, to the Philippines twice, and to Indonesia once. I also flew to Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen for less than $100 combined.
For all the good things about Bangkok as a base of operations, I find myself longing for a more adventurous locale.
I scratched my travel itch by taking a northern-eastern Thailand loop from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai to Udon Thani and to Khon Kaen, a trip lasting three weeks in total. Plus, I am eyeing Vietnam as my next base of operations. This will be in the next two posts:
1. What I Learned in my 3-Week Northern Thailand Journey that I had embarked with only a laptop, iPhone with a camera, backpack, motorcycle helmet, and a duffel bag with three sets of clothing.
2. Why I Am Moving Out of Thailand, For Now… yes, you read that right. I am leaving Thailand in a month or two for a new base elsewhere.
Stay tuned for further updates! Also, don’t forget to sign up with your email address below to get the latest blog alerts.