We hear this line all the time don't we? Someone or something is the new version of a recognized standard or even a legend. Brown is the new black, Ryan Giggs is the new George Best. Blur are the new Kinks. The list goes on. We know that the colour black will always be around and popular, and we know as good as Ryan Giggs' fans perhaps think he is, there will only ever be one George Best, but the comparisons are a compliment and flattering in themselves and present a high level of kudos to the recipient.
So can this apply to areas and districts in a city and in particular in Bangkok? Well I think it is fair to say that Ratchadaphisek (better known as Ratchada amongst seasoned expats) has a shot at being the new Sukhumvit. That is not to say that Ratchada has or will eclipse Sukhumvit as the number one choice for expats, but more that the comparison is a testament to how far Ratchada has come and how livable this area of Bangkok now is for expats and locals alike.
I have not tried to compare the Ramkhamhaeng, Lat Prao or Ram Intra areas to Sukhumvit - but Ratchada now has amenities and residences that many of these other Bangkok districts lack. That is not to dispel or insult these other areas of Bangkok in any way at all; I for one spent 3 years happily living in the center of Ramkhamhaeng just across from the university and enjoyed the atmosphere and hustle and bustle of the place.
So what has happened to Ratchada to give it this arguably superior status? Well obviously it has benefitted from the MRT stations and metro line which opened up in August 2004 in time for the Queen's birthday. This has given Ratchada not only a new lease of life, but has then encouraged others to come and live in the area.
Ratchada has the benefit of five new MRT stations spreading from Rama 9 MRT station to Ratchada MRT station, all of which have encouraged rapid expansion and development of condominiums, apartments and shopping centers in the area. Search a MRT/ BTS map of Ratchada and you can see how many new and attractive residences have been built in the area.
This is fantastic news for teachers living in Bangkok and teachers thinking of moving to Bangkok, as the accommodation offered in this area does not only offer the convenience of a reliable and clean underground metro system, but are generally built of a high quality and offer stylish living at a price much cheaper to that found on Sukhumvit road. Looking at a few of the five MRT stations dotted along Ratchada road and what is on offer within their vicinity you can see the level of quality and convenience I am referring to.
At Rama 9 station there are several condos and apartments offering good deals for people looking for a studio or small one bedroom. The Rama 9 station is right in front of Fortune Town and conveniently a Tesco Lotus supermarket. A brand new condo in the area called A-Space offers studios for as little as THB 7 500/mth and one bedroom units starting at THB 11-13 000/mths depending upon quality of furnishings. A brand new complex with a very large swimming pool, it can offer a good level of comfort at a low-price.
Further down the line at Thai Cultural Center MRT station there is the Esplanade, a flash new shopping plaza offering good quality shops, restaurants, a cinema and even an ice-rink. This really is a great central area for people to meet and socialize in Ratchada. Also close to the station is a Robinsons', a Carrefour and a Jusco, making TCC MRT the most 'entertaining' station in Ratchada.
Huay-Kwang MRT station (you will see this spelt at least half-a-dozen ways) has a number of quality condos close by, with the Ideo Huay Kwang being one of the best, and within 50m of the MRT station, making it very convenient. At THB 11 000 for a studio it is a bit more expensive than A-Space, but most people will agree the step-up in quality and convenience justifies the price. With a swimming pool, gymnasium, 24 hour security and car park, you can feel both comfortable and safe.
Then there is Sutthisan MRT station, which again is surrounded by quality, brand new condominiums, such as Life at Suthisarn a high-rise, with good quality one bedroom and two bedroom units, starting as low as THB 14 000/mth for a small one bedroom.
There are of course plenty of other condos and apartments in the area and searching through an up-dated and extensive real estate website will reveal deals as cheap as THB 10 000/mth for 60sqm one bedrooms within easy reach of MRT stations in this area.
Ratchada is now peppered with retail outlets, condos and apartments all offering international standards of living at near Thai price levels. And in addition it trumps Sukhumvit on some levels, with more access to local produce, local markets and that unique Thai atmosphere. All this goes together to make Ratchada not only the new Sukhumvit, but also just a great place to live.