Richard McCully

Why I live here in Bangkok

So what's the attraction exactly?


In 2013 MasterCard ranked Bangkok as one of the top 4 cities in the world for international travelers based on arrivals and spend. Even with a turbulent couple of years the city still ranks favourably with New York, London and Paris in terms of visitors.

Being considered among such names it would seem that Bangkok would be an amazing city to live in. However, I feel I'm not alone in only being in Bangkok as it's the best place to find work in Thailand. It's more a place we put up with in order to stay in this amazing country than a place we will eventually call home.

Living in Bangkok

Many tourists talk about the amazing food, culture, shopping and temples as great reasons to visit Bangkok. I totally agree with them if you are a tourist - but what about when you live here?

Sure the food is great and after a while you will find hidden local restaurants. The flavours and smells are intoxicating. However, this food can be found all over Thailand, and often a lot cheaper outside of Bangkok.

I have friends who live in Pathum Thani ( about 25 km north of Bangkok ) and I love visiting them to eat and drink the same amazing food as found in Bangkok but in a quiet area surrounded by fields and beauty. On the flip side I do appreciate being able to find western food close to where I live. Outside the main tourist areas it can be very difficult to find something other than KFC or Pizza Hut if you want something familiar from back home.

Culture vulture

Thai culture is very interesting to many tourists. From religion to the ways of the people there are many differences between Western and Thai culture. There are some things I appreciate about the culture here and others that I don't understand. It's not for me to judge and I certainly don't tell people to try and change who they are. However, how much culture are you going to find on Khao San Road or Sukhumvit?

Eating Pad Thai and fries with a big bottle of Chang whilst listening to the cover band play Oasis all night on Khao San. I cringe every time a visiting friend asks me to take them to these places to get the "real" Thai experience. Of course other cities and places in Thailand suffer with the same issues - I guess anywhere with tourists does.

Making friends

Many Thai people are now telling me that even Chiang Mai is losing its charm due to the tourist takeover and the culture is being watered down. However, when you live here and get to meet Thai people you understand more about the country. I have made great friends and can say that the Thai people I know are kind, generous and always happy to see me.

These people are not used to foreigners but have made me feel at home and it's great to exchange ideas, language and conversation with them. They also recommend great places to go out visit.

There are nice areas of Bangkok where you can avoid the crowds of tourists and be very happy. It's important to remember that you're here to work and live, not on a vacation. Khao San may be great for a few nights when you're travelling but do you want to live there and spend all of your nights at a bar?

At either end of the BTS / MRT lots of expats live in places like On Nut and Ari where you can access the city centre and still feel away from all the craziness. I used to live in London and I feel it's a similar comparison - I never went to the tourist areas in central London to eat and party and don't feel the need to in Bangkok. As an expat you will soon discover this city has so much more to offer you and it caters for every taste.

Living Outside Bangkok

Looking through the Ajarn job section you will see lots of jobs for provinces outside of Bangkok. You will also quickly note that many of them are at lower salaries than those in Bangkok. It is not uncommon to see wages at around 25-30,000 Baht per month. People have debated the living costs and salary levels in Thailand but for me I think it is unwise for most native English speakers to take one of these positions.

However, there are many people who do live outside Bangkok and by all accounts live comfortable lives. I guess there are several ways you can make this situation work. Firstly by having an alternative source of income coming in - for example renting your house out back home, a pension or having a business elsewhere.

Secondly, living very basically and not feeling the need to splurge on Western food, new technology or lots of nights out.

Finally if you move with a partner and have two salaries coming in then maybe it makes things easier if you split bills etc. I did three months working at a government school outside Bangkok for 34,000 Baht a month and the thought of having to survive on those wages forever would be quite scary to me.

Where is ideal?

I'm sure many people would love to escape Bangkok and live in a different part of Thailand. Some would love to go rural and have a motorbike to drive through the countryside in the evenings after working in the local school. Others would prefer to be in a small town with a few more facilities but not feel like they had 10 million other people crammed into the areas around them.

Personally I would love to live somewhere about 100KM outside of Bangkok in a small town. A place you could get a van back to the city in 2 hours if you needed to but somewhere quiet and relaxing where you can sit and stare across rice fields whilst reading a book. So why don't I move there today?

The problem is work.

Bangkok is a magnet for Thai people who want to study at university, or find higher level jobs. As such the greatest demand for English teachers is in Bangkok. There are more schools and language centres here than in other places around Thailand.

Finding a job here is easier and also pays better as students have higher salaries and more disposable income to spend on learning English than other areas in Thailand. The government high schools pay the same across the country but the chance and availability of extra private classes for these teachers is higher in Bangkok.

Is Bangkok A Good Place To Live?

Overall I would still say it is a good city to live in. I have moved to the very edge of the city and can even see some fields from my condo. Every city has areas we would like to avoid and I can still go for a good night out without going anywhere near the places I don't like.

It's not perfect here but that is one of the charms of Thailand, you never know quite what to expect. Sure I would like to be able to breathe fresher air and travel without stopping in a traffic jam on every journey but the alternative of being without enough money is a worse situation for me.

When the government schools are paying 50,000 Baht a month on a 12-month contract, I'll be happy to venture further away from Bangkok but we all know that isn't going to happen anytime soon. So, for now, I'll happily stay in Bangkok and enjoy the opportunity to save and travel around Thailand whilst I can.

Bangkok might never be the place I truly call home but it's a place I'm happy to be right now.


If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country  


Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents. 

Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.

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Comments

I'm so glad to have read this article of yours Richard. I feel like Bangkok has already change your life for the better. Just like you said this will never be the place you can call home but this place makes you happy, and can I say this is the place that you're contented to live in as of the moment? Not sure if you're still in Bangkok but I appreciate the things you highlight in this article. With your permission, I would like you to check out http://www.baanguru.com/en/blog/top-10-best-places-to-live-in-bangkok-for-2016/ if you have time.

By Sean Lee, Bangkok (4th October 2016)

@Richard

Yes, Bangkok is definitely a younger man's city.
The ways to earn money (and to spend money) are endless.

Moving away from Bangkok would appeal to those who enjoy a more sedate lifestyle. But living within the 'grasp' of Bangkok (like you mentioned) does have enormous appeal.

Ratchaburi is a little over an hour from Bangkok. If you head the other way then Cha Am and Hua Hin are not too far either.

The province itself is a growing area of Thailand. There are some affluent cities surrounding Ratchaburi City itself like Potheram, Ban Pong, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkran, Petchaburi and Kanchanaburi.

I commute 90 KMs a day for one of my jobs and 180 KMs for my other one. That's a lot of driving... but of course, the payoff is worth it.

All of these places have schools that are screaming out for teachers. But more importantly there are plenty of international companies which also have a presence here, many of whom have healthy budgets for training.

If your future in Thailand is long term and you really do like the idea of moving outside of Bangkok, then don't give up on the idea.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (21st July 2015)

Mark - I've been here for just over 2 years so not a huge amount of time. I'm also only 27 so not too fussed about finding the perfect place right now, that can wait for a little while. I'm happy to enjoy what Bangkok has to offer and maybe when I'm a bit older and more secure in life I will be able to make those changes. As I said I'm not in love with Bangkok but I certainly don't hate it.

Your teaching model does sound interesting and I guess you have found a way around the work permit issues ( married to a Thai citizen or have your own company ? ) Private working will always reward those who are smart enough to find a niche and exploit it.

Curious - I would be able to find a job no problems but finding one which matched my current salary and conditions would be a lot more challenging.

By Richard, Bangkok (21st July 2015)

Your reasons for not moving to your 'ideal location' don't add up. I suspect that's because you are quite new to Thailand.

I live 100 KMs outside Bangkok (Ratchaburi) and live comfortably.

What I have achieved is probably not within the means of a new arrival or a lazy/unambitious/inexperienced/crappy teacher, but anyone with knowledge, ambition and a little entrepreneurial nous can make a real killing outside The Big Mango.

Sure - Bangkok is a much easier location to find work. There are loads of schools and universities crying out for white clones to sell their souls to. But to live in Bangkok you have to like it. If you don't (and I don't) then it's a form of torture!

If you are considering corporate teaching and you have a car then the suburbs of Bangkok are an absolute gold mine, chiefly because there are no teachers who can get to these places.

Bangkok is an insulated community when it comes to corporate teaching and companies that specialize in corporate teaching aren't leaving Bangkok to find clients.

Corporate gigs within Bangkok seem to be taken up and scouted out by various agencies and companies which pay their teachers from between 400 baht and 1,000 baht an hour.

If you can write your own programs and present yourself well, then you can make at least 2,000 baht an hour feeding the companies that have offices and factories outside Bangkok.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (21st July 2015)

You'd like to live outside BKK, but are afraid of not finding work?
Well, you look for a job, get the job, then move. It's not difficult.

By Curious, Chinburi (21st July 2015)

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