Life in Thailand


Thailand (Land of the Free), known as Siam until 1939, is situated in South-East Asia, and covers an area of 513,115 square kilometres - roughly the size of France. The country is bounded by the Andaman Sea to the west, Myanmar (Burma) to the north and west, Laos to the north and north-east, Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand to the east and Malaysia to the south.

The Mekong River, the longest river in South- East Asia forms part of the border between Thailand and Laos.

Thailand is divided into four geographical regions: Central Thailand (including Bangkok), Northern Thailand, North-eastern Thailand, and Southern Thailand and the Eastern Region which is often included into the Central Region.

The longest north-south distance is about 1,500km, the longest east-west Distance about 800km.


Thai is one of the oldest languages in East and South-East Asia. It is a monosyllabic language which uses five tones (high, mid, low, rising, and falling tone) to alter the meaning of a single syllable. This makes it rather tricky to learn for many westerners unfamiliar with tonal languages.

The Thai script, said to have been introduced by King Ramkhamhaeng in 1283, consists of 44 consonants and 48 vowels, and is of Sanskrit origin.


Bangkok became the modern capital of Thailand (Siam) in 1782 by order of the first of the Chakri dynasty kings. Internationally, the name Bangkok (which means 'village of the wild plums') remains the common name. The Thai themselves, however, refer to the city as Krung Thep – often translated as 'City of Angels'. This is the abbreviation of the name given by the first Chakri King to his newly established capital city.

Bangkok is one of the safest capital cities of any “Newly Industrialized Countries”. While there are scams designed to take advantage of foreign visitors, considered rich by local standards, it is generally no problem to walk the streets at night. Bangkok is an inexpensive city while at the same time can provide excellent standards. Bangkok has a population in excess of 6 million.

See and Do in Bangkok

Bangkok is an around-the-clock razzmatazz of snap, crackle and pop. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, open markets, golf courses, temples, parks and odd smells all combine to provide a riotous experience.

Needless to say, people who live in Thailand's capital city and commercial centre will find themselves with plenty to see and do. A weekend in Bangkok can blaze by in a blur, and whether you choose to take the tourist route and sightsee your way through the city's countless side streets, or whether your prefer to settle in and sit shoulder to shoulder with the locals, dull moments are always at a minimum.


From the bits and bobs found at the famous floating markets to the haute couture of high-end fashion, Bangkok has it all. Expats must merely decide if they're in the mood to search for their favourite “White Rabbit” or if they'd prefer the air-con and easy access of the mega malls, which house anything and everything, from boutiques, to cinemas, to bowling alleys and even huge food courts.

For those that prefer the mega malls, a whole weekend in Bangkok can be worn away at Siam Paragon, which is easily accessible by sky train (BTS - Siam). Other major malls are the Emporium (BTS - Phrom Pong), Central World (BTS - Phloen Chit) and MBK (BTS - National Stadium), which are all within a short distance of one another.

However, for those who wish to keep it real, there are open markets which remain ever popular with locals, expats and tourists. Chatuchak market, which is said to be one of the largest flea markets in the world, is accessible by sky train (BTS – Mo Chit), and offers excellent value for everything unusual, unique and even perhaps illegal. Do note that pickpockets work this area, so tourists and expats must beware.

As for the floating markets, the Damnoen market has gained a bit of an unsavory reputation as an overpriced hassle. From the taxi drivers to the congested waterways, it’s become a bit of Bangkok perhaps best avoided. However, the Amphawa market, which is located outside of Bangkok in Samut Prakarn, still retains the uniqueness and charm of a typical floating market. Expats will need to take a taxi or rent a car to get to Amphawa.

Food and Dining Out

Bangkok is passionate about food; in many cases the very first question most Thai people will ask one another is, "Have you eaten yet..?” It won't be long before expats begin to understand what food means to the locals, and to appreciate the amazing variety on offer in Bangkok.

Whether it's a morning side-street noodle dish, made with mum’s secret home-made broth, or an evening roadside vendor concocting Thailand’s famous spice-adventure, “Som tam”, it is all very available, very tasty and very reasonably priced.

Naturally, at some point every expat will experience a yearning for something that smells like home, or just an option different to rice and noodles, and thankfully, Bangkok is happy to oblige. There is a whole host of bars and restaurants, which offer good quality food, but at a more premium rate. Where your local Somtam might set you back 30 Baht, your American burger is going to cost you 200 Baht, so you may need to check your bank balance before you spend the weekend in Bangkok eating yourself nostalgic.


To the untrained eye, Bangkok’s fondness for “Gods’ amber nectar “  borders on a worrisome proportion (Thailand is ranked 5th in worldwide alcohol consumption). Newly arrived expats eager to spend their weekend in Bangkok in party mode will have no trouble finding a variety of vibrant venues, but be forewarned, a next day C-hangover (named from the Thai Chang Beer) will certainly be on the horizon.

For many Bangkokians (expat and local), their modus operandi is to generally buy a bottle of Johnny Walker. Now, just because you buy a bottle, doesn’t mean you have to drink the whole bottle in one night – it can be deposited at the club of origin, where you can return and begin where you left off next time around.

For the backdrop to your revelry, take your pick: inside the club, outside the club, on the street, in the road, in the gutter - the choice is yours! The majority of party-goers will generally swarm around the Sukumwit / Silom areas.  Sukumwit Soi 11 is one block in particular with plenty of clubs and rooftop bars, as is RCA (Royal City Avenue), which is just off Sukumwit, and is a great place to drink, dance (inside or outside) and meet the locals.

Unfortunately, the variety of blessed upon drinking spots doesn’t extend towards music in Bangkok. Most clubs will generally belt out and repeat a five-year-old MTV play list of over-played hip-hop and rap. Beyond that, if you wish to swap your DJ for a live band, then you can, but most expats tend to avoid them, because - simply - they’re mostly terrible.

What to do and see

Most tourists will pick out the generic spots - Buddhist Temples and the Royal Palace - but if you wish to see the city on a more personal, nitty-gritty level then get in a “Tuk Tuk” or cruise the Chao Phraya River in one of the many pleasure boats.

Any new expat should take a trip to the Royal Grand Palace to view the wonderful architecture, to learn about the country’s Royal Family and to have a gander at the world famous Emerald Buddha. It’s certainly a great way to spend the day.

 Also taking some time out to visit some of the many Buddhist Temples (wats) in and around the city. The Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) is Thailand's oldest and most famous Temple, The Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) houses the deity in solid gold form, and Wat Suthat and the Giant Swing and Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple) are beautiful illustrations of the sheer opulence of these houses of worship.

Given the heat, walking tours are not commonplace, but any attempt will bring you across much of the hidden charm of Bangkok.

If all of that is a bit too soft for you, then head down to the Lumpini Muay Thai Stadium in Silom, for some blood, sweat and tears, as well as a bit of culture. Known internationally as Thai kickboxing, Thailand’s national sport offers a bruising experience, as well as a fascinating insight into its culture.


Dotted around Bangkok are a few priceless parks which offer you the chance to enjoy a picnic, take a romantic paddle around the pond, walk the dog, play with the children, or generally practice the great art of rest and relaxation.

Otherwise, if you’re looking to up your heart rate by a few beats, then heading out to a golf course is always a sound option. There are plenty of quality courses situated around Bangkok, which offer excellent value for money. Also, don’t worry about equipment; it can be rented on site – just be sure to wear the appropriate clothing.

And if hitting golf balls doesn’t soothe the stress of the week, then maybe a firing range is where you need to head. Again, these are easily found in and around Bangkok. One recommended range is situated at the Military Police Battalion Division 11, near Victory Monument Bangkok. Open every day from 9am until 6pm in the afternoon, it can be easily found by taxi, or by hopping on the BTS to Victory Monument and then making your way from there.

Working in Thailand

Working in Thailand is an easy next step for many seduced by the country’s sunny shores and even warmer cultural climate. While employment opportunities are more plentiful in the cosmopolitan centre of Bangkok, many expats opt to pursue work in the surrounding countryside and in the southern island regions in order to take advantage of the nation’s natural aesthetic and laid back style of living.

As of late, the current Government has placed a large emphasis on developing international business and trade agreements in an attempt to create a fertile environment for the import/export sector. The automotive industry has also experienced recent growth, and as always, the demand for English speakers in the goods and services sector increases, as does the need to cater to a more globalised economy.

In general, well paid expat positions are given to employees hired from overseas or who have relocated to Thailand at the request of their current employer. Expats hired from within Thailand generally have a much lower salary.

Teaching English remains the most common type of work available to expats, and the pathways to employment are easily navigated and lucrative relative to a normal local income. It’s possible to find teaching positions online if you’re already licensed, otherwise, finding employment in this field once in Thailand is not difficult. Positions in international schools render larger salaries than those in simple English language schools.

Though opportunity for expat employment abounds in this sector, it is not the only option for those considering moving to Thailand.

Temporary positions as business salespersons promoting Thai products in English at conventions or similar events are also a great source of income. These positions are primarily attained through networking, so be sure to perfect your image and speak to as many people as possible at appropriate events. Companies are also known to advertise in Thailand’s daily English speaking newspapers.

Thai companies only rarely hire expats searching for formal professional positions as accountants, engineers, lawyers, etc., thus it’s best to approach multi-national corporations if interested in pursuing employment in these fields. Bangkok plays host to a variety of large international companies and many Oil & Gas related businesses. Take care to negotiate an expat package in your home country’s currency if solidifying one of these jobs.

Expat jobs outside of Bangkok usually relate to the tourism industry in some form. If you have a PADI dive certification there’s a host of dive shops and "live aboard" that work from the many islands on Thailand’s coral rich southern coasts. Otherwise, a multitude of service positions are available and often on offer. Whatever you choose, always remember that an expat working in Thailand will require a work permit. Working without a permit will result in a serious fine and/or deportation.

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Life in Thailand


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