In their latest recommendations, Cat and Nat begin a change of focus — namely by turning their attention to Bangkok's many neighbourhoods and passing along insightful local knowledge about each one.
My very first visit to Bangkok was back in early 1995. I stayed at a hotel on Sathorn Road, and apart from visiting the Grand Palace, I didn’t venture any further than the Central Business District.
When I eventually moved here later in the year, I was immediately attached to the area surrounding Sathorn Road. I decided that was definitely the where I’d like to live. Frankly, I thought Sathorn and Silom were the only places I ever needed to go! I took up residence in a soi on Nang Linchee Road, and 17 years later I am still living on Nang Linchee Road, although I have moved to a different soi.
Sathorn is still my favourite area in Bangkok. While I enjoy visiting the Sukhumvit area from time to time, I would never want to live there. There is a saying in Bangkok: ‘One is either a Sathorn person or a Sukhumvit person’. Well I very much consider myself a Sathorn person!
My second favourite area is Ratchaprasong, which likewise is considered within the central business district of Bangkok. I used to find other areas of Bangkok very confusing, as they all looked the same to me. However, having talked to many Thai friends, I now know how to differentiate areas by their own characters, and what the neighbourhoods have to offer.
I hope with our new recommendation section we will be able to bring you closer to Bangkok’s many different neighbourhoods and the unique things they have to offer.
There’s a popular debate about what makes a city great. Urban Planning? Museums? Performing arts? Good food? How about public transportation and a good sewage system? Experts can pull out all the research they want about green area ratios or crime rates, but to my mind, when it comes to making a city great, nothing beats history, diversity and, especially, community. Everyone knows big cities have crime, pollution and questionable architecture, but it is human interaction that makes people enjoy living in them despite all the shortcomings of urban life.
Bangkok is relatively young for a city, having only been founded a little over 200 years ago. Compared to places that have been in existence for millennia, Bangkok is just a baby. The original part of the city is Rattanakosin Island, where the Grand Palace complex and many of the government ministries are located. Although this part of town once bustled with commercial and administrative life, it has become a historical and touristic site as the population grew and people established themselves in newer areas. As Bangkok took on the urban sprawl that it is now famous for, each new part of town came to have a character all its own, depending on the people living and working there, whether it was the ethnic flavour of Chinatown, the lurid nightlife of Patpong, the young, trendy vibe of Thonglor, the gracious embassies of Wireless Road or other neighbourhoods.
This sense of neighbourhood, an identifiable character based on residents’ connection to each other, is what makes people enjoy living here. In my mind, a diversity of neighbourhood character among its many sections is what makes Bangkok a great city.
And so, in the coming weeks, we are revamping our Recommendations section to reflect the different neighbourhoods of Bangkok. We’ll be focusing on different neighbourhoods, with short introductions of each, and then we’ll start telling you about the best each has to offer. Please let us know what you think. We’d love suggestions and, if we’ve missed anyplace you like, please let us know.
Any great city — no matter how young or old, big or small — has diversity. This includes diversity among its people, the cultures that call it home, food and, as you have guessed, it’s neighbourhoods.
Even at the age of ten, my schoolmates and I labelled people as being ‘farmers’, which meant living in Nichada (where school was located, in Chaeng Wattana); or ‘downtowners’, which, now that we’re older, we realize is an extremely vague categorisation. The point being, that denoting someone as a ‘farmer’ implied they lived far away form the neighbourhoods that, as high schoolers, we all loved to frequent on the weekends, which were all located downtown (i.e. Sukhumvit and Silom at the time).
As we grew older, we realised that ‘farm country’ has its own unique spots as well and, frankly, one neighbourhood is not necessarily better than any other. Thonglor may be extremely trendy and sophisticated, but it lacks the history that neighbourhoods such as Dusit and those in Rattanakosin Island have in abundance. And Ari, although a contender for the next up-and-coming trendy neighbourhood, still maintains a laidback vibe that you won’t experience anywhere on Sukhumvit.
What one neighbourhood has a lot of may be non-existent somewhere else. I cannot think of a single neighbourhood (not that I claim to know the ins and outs of them all, by any means) that I have not thought about living in at least once. Each has its own unique characteristic that I absolutely adore and I wish I could take with me to whichever neighbourhood I am living in at any time.
By recommending our favourite spots and oddities of each of Bangkok’s special neighbourhoods, I hope our readers will come to appreciate the subtle and no-so-subtle difference between each area of this sprawling city, which is so much bigger than anyone ever realises.
19/07/2012 - 11:36