"You live where??"
I usually receive looks of concern from my students when I tell them that I live in the neighborhood of Bang Sue, about an hour away from our school. From my friends, I receive childish giggles. Yes, I get it. Ha Ha. Many people wonder why I would live so far away from my job and my friends. They wonder what it's like all the way out in Bang Sue! Well, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my life in Bang Sue and my thoughts about living in Bangkok's outskirts.
Let me introduce you to Bang Sue. Take the MRT north the whole way to the end of the line. You'll be joined with many commuters who live even further afield but work in the city. Exit the station and you'll notice the Bang Sue Train Station and hear an announcement for the next train to Ayutthaya or Surat Thani. The open air train station is a lively scene with a mess of food stands, travelers with multi-colored bags piled up and stray dogs nosing around. Turn the opposite way and flag down a motorcycle taxi from the group of men clad in orange vests or wander around by foot.
Cross under the new MRT train construction site that is quickly being completed. Pass the large Tesco Lotus, outside of which is a booming clothing and food market. Zoom past manicured sidewalks lined with leafy potted plants and stately portraits of the King. Take in the placid canals and garden walks complete with picturesque bridges. Have a smile at active Thais working out on the free exercise stations.
You'll surely pass gaggles of school kids decked in blue and white with strawberry Fanta in their hands. You may even notice a few large and imposing government buildings, brand new condo high rises alongside old colonial-looking homes and a few 711's. This is Bang Sue. It's not fancy or glitzy or trying to impress you. Bang Sue showcases regular life in Bangkok and for that I love it.
Reasons Why Bang Sue is a Good Place to Live
• Easy Access to Public Transportation - Bang Sue is just a quick moto taxi ride away from the Bang Sue MRT or Mo Chit BTS. These stops are the ends of the lines and they connect me with the rest of Bangkok! While my MRT ride to work is generally half an hour, because I'm the first one on the train I always get a seat! I'm also close to the Mo Chit Bus Terminal and Bang Sue Train Station, which makes it very easy to leave the city on day trips. If you're interested in using the Chao Phraya River boats, Bang Sue is not far from Kiak Kai Pier.
• It's Quiet - Unlike living in the busy city center, I'm not bombarded with the roar of highway traffic or other noisy city sounds. The worst thing I hear from my window is the fruit vendor calling out, "Ou sapporot mai krap?"
• Lovely Canals - I enjoy taking walks around Prachacheun Street along the many canals. They are lined with beautiful gardens, benches and exercise stations.
• Proximity to Nature - Beyond the above mentioned canal gardens Bang Sue is also quite close to Chatuchak Park and Rot Fai Park.
• Proximity to Great Shopping - My main bragging point in living in Bang Sue is that I can shop at JJ Market any time I want! It's also easy to grab a quick beer at the antique Rot Fai Market. There are also little clothing markets nearby.
• Street Food - My soi has a nice mix of Thai street food. My favorites are the fried chicken, Thai custard, Khao Man Gai and of course the friendly fruit vendor. There is also a huge food market near our Lotus shop where you can get any Thai dish you like.
Positives about Living Away from the City Center
• Cheaper Rent - I pay a third of what I would pay in most apartments in more central areas. This isn't true in every case, of course, but generally you pay for that prime location downtown!
• Less Air Pollution - Obviously, the air isn't as clear as it is in the countryside, but compared to SiLom you'll breathe deeper in the outskirts.
• Less Noisy - Unless you're unfortunate enough to live beside the highway, neighborhoods on the outskirts are considerably quieter than centrally located ones. It feels great to escape the chaos of the city.
• ‘Local' Atmosphere - Living on the outskirts of Bangkok means living far away from tourist Bangkok. This is Bangkok as it is, not as it is while catering to visitors. There are no drunk backpackers out here!
Negatives about Living Away from the City Center
• Long Commute - If you work in the city center like I do, spending an extra hour on the train every day can be draining and expensive.
• All Your Friends Live Far Away - My best friends live in Sathron, which means an hour and fifteen minute journey with 3 train transfers to visit them. Meeting for a quick drink in Thong Lor can feel like a real chore.
• You'll Have to Take Taxis - If you're out later than the BTS runs then you'll be spending at least 100 baht getting home. My friends further out spend double that to get home from the center of Bangkok.
• You're Far From the Night Life - Other than a few karaoke stands, there's not a lot of bars or clubs out where I live. My friends' and my favorite places are all downtown, anyway which inevitably means a long taxi ride home at the end of the night.
• Few English Speakers - Because your neighborhood will have mostly local Thais, you could find fewer people who speak English. This could also mean that your apartment manager, food vendors and taxi drivers speak only Thai. This can be a good way to practice your Thai, but it may leave you frustrated.
• Few Expats - Far away from the popular expat scenes like Sukhumvit, you may feel less connected to other people like yourself. This could lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation-or it could help you make more Thai friends!
So, is it better to live on the outskirts or in Bangkok's city center? Well, it's all about personal preference. Do you value nightlife over peace and quiet? Do you prefer an all English or and all Thai environment? Is a short commute important to you? I think there are good and bad things about living far away. Find what suits you best and enjoy!
Personally, I've enjoyed the peace and quiet of Bang Sue, but after my lease ends I'm hoping to move closer to my friends and work. I'd love to hear your opinions! Do you live near the center or outskirts of Bangkok? Which do you prefer?
Note: Before you jump to the comments to complain that Bang Sue isn't the outskirts of Bangkok, hear me out. Obviously, Bang Sue isn't as far away as Fashion Island or Rangsit but it's not centrally located like Silom or Sukhumvit . By ‘outskirts' I simply mean not the city center.
Don't forget to pay a visit to my own personal on-line blog as well - see you there!