25 Semi-Helpful Bangkok Tips

If Time Permits.....

Dear Brittney.....

What began as a bit of an arrival package, has evolved into this semi-helpful list of how to best navigate Thailand for the first-time visitor.

While no expert, having lived and worked her for 10 years does give me a little bit of insight that your Frommer's guide may not.

Question: What is Bangkok?

Answer: Bangkok is a wicked place. It's incredibly unique, wacky, full of characters, often unintentionally hilarious, and plays by it's own set of 'rules.' While any given day can be full of challenges, ultimately, it's unwillingness to be like any other place, is what makes it so cool.


1.) Best Advice for anyone traveling (living, or working) in Bangkok:

Advice: Grab a flask. Fill it with patience. Carry it with you at all times. Sip regularly. Re-fill often.


2.) Ultimately, everything that happens to anyone in Bangkok is a direct result of what you offer your Spirit House. Not having a good day? You should have offered something better than Red Fanta to your Spirit House. It's odd how few Thailand residents notice that the spirits never drink the stuff. Clearly, it's not their favorite offering. Want an exceptional day? Give something special to your spirits. The day I gave my spirits Star Wars action figures I found 3 gold bars in my mailbox the following morning.


3.) Don't even think about crossing the road in a crosswalk. Somehow, despite being marketed as a sensitive, kind-hearted, benevolent, and child-loving nation, very, very few Bangkok drivers will stop at a crosswalk. Adults. Children. Pandas. Doesn't matter. Don't even try it. Preservation of life, unfortunately, is not Thailand's greatest strength.

Use the overpass where possible.

4.) Be sure to take the time to explore the back roads and sois. While you will quickly become familar with "Sukhumvit," "Silom,' and "Sathorn," the real magic of Thailand lives on the back sois. Many travelers will tell you the time they got lost wandering the back streets was their favorite experience of Bangkok. Be it Chinatown or even around Sukhumvit, be sure to explore far off the main roads.


5.) Whatever You Do, Don't Fight With Your Taxi Driver. The biggest change I've seen in Bangkok over the past 10 years is the temperament of the taxi drivers. (Well, and the economy and cheerful optimism, I suppose) Not all, of course, but a vast majority of them have been sitting in traffic all day and are ready to rumble. Sure, they may have a plush Pooh bear in the rear window, but they've got a machete under the car seat.


6.) Best Movie to Watch About Thailand Before Visiting? Leo DiCaprio's "The Beach?" "Anna & The King?" "Brokedown Palace?" "Hangover 2?" None of the above. Actually, it's John Carpenter's Documentary of Thailand in 2016: "They Live." (1988)

7.) Sunday Brunches: Not sure if Bangkok has ever received the recognition it should for the caliber of brunches it hosts. The Sukhothai and the Anatara Siam are tops in a very crowded and reward worthy category.


8.) Understanding the Thai Language in 5 Minutes: Thai to English:

a.) "Will be there in 5 minutes" = "No way i'll be there in under an hour."

b.) "Koh Tao" = "Danger! Stay Away!"

c.) "Invoice Payment Due Date" = "Pay Me When You Feel Like It......Or Not at All. Up to You."

d.) "Press 9 for English" = "Press 9 for same guy that's on line 1"

e.) "Staff Leaves LINE Employee Chat Group" = "Formal Resignation Letter"

f.) "I'll have an iced cappuccino, please." = "I'd like a sourdough bread bowl with vegetable soup, please."

g.) "May I check your bag?" = "May I go on break now?"

h.) "Moving to a new location" / "Under renovations" = "Closing. See ya later."


9.) Time: Whether it's the slow pace of life or just a healthier attitude towards time well spent, time in Thailand is not measured in days or years, but in coups. For example, it's not "I've not been here for 10 years, " rather, it's "I've lived through 2 coups." "Longtimers" = 3 coups. "Newbies" = 1 coup.

10.) Escape: Looking to get away from all of the chaos, noise, pollution, and traffic? Head to Central Embassy. "Embassy," one of the largest malls in Central Bangkok, opened in 2013, has struggled to get people in making it Bangkok's only air-conditioned, indoor park.


11.) Movie Theaters. Despite Bangkok being a sweaty city, the city's movie theaters are like walking into an igloo. Bring ear muffs, a scarf, a heavy jacket, and hand warmers. While frigid, the theaters in Bangkok are exceptional.


12.) Plastic bags and straws: With an average daily temp of 92 degrees Fahrenheit, if there's one city on earth that simply cannot afford to get hit by global warming, it's Bangkok. In fact, the rumor is that Bangkok will be under water by the year 2017. Yet, despite this, 7-11s, Villas, Big Cs, etc will all make diligent attempts to give you more plastic than a Chinese toy factory.

13.) Best Thai Food that's not Thai food: The ham & cheese sandwiches at 7-11.


14.) Pretty Cool Restaurant: Have only been there once or twice, but have heard some really nice things about Namsaah Bottling Trust. Let's head over and try it out when you arrive.


15.) Motosai Taxis: If you grab a motorycycle taxi to get from point A to point B, the best thing you can do is tell them you have kids.....even if you don't have kids. Not only does this engage the drivers, but most of them have kids as well, which gives them a slight pause for safety. I assure you 'Slow Down, please!!!!" does not work.

16.) Censorship: (Article 16 has been censored by the military). Please see me directly.


17.) Casual Expertise: You know that guy that works at Whole Foods that can gladly tell you all about the different kids of chocolate they carry? Really appreciate him. These kind of 'casual experts' don't exist everywhere. Asking for anything in Thailand, whether it be "Where are the the Pop-Tarts?" "Do you sell kids shoes?" "Where is the restroom?" or "Can you tell me how to get to Sathorn?" is too often met with a swift, confident and firm, "No Have." In other words, keep looking. Villa does carry Pop-Tarts.


18.) Fake ("Circle") Contact Lenses: Beware the fake colored contacts. Most people are led to believe that they enhance the wearer's eyes. Quite the contrary, These 'circle' contacts are a hypnotizing tool geared towards making you buy bubble teas and distract you from asking tough questions like "Do you carry these shoes in a size 10?" or "Where do your source your shrimp?"

19.) Avoiding Taxi Rejection. With fewer taxis on the road, taxi drivers have become more selective about who they accept into their taxis. Be prepared to show a PowerPoint presentation highlighting your work history, marital status, yearly income, desired destination, and estimated time of journey. Yes, in Thai, of course. If this fails, download the GrabTaxi and Uber apps.


20.) The Power of the US Dollar: It's true, a lot of super-stuff in Thailand costs "about a dollar." Most taxi rides. BTS rides. Sweet popcorn. Most things in 7-11. Tasty foods at the street stalls. Socks at Platinum Mall. A beer purchased in the supermarket. But don't let that fool you. Your little cousins will try and get you to purchase a Star Wars Lego set. "Import" mark-up? 300%.


21.) Best Stairs: Yes, it is the most iconic experience in Bangkok, and you gotta admit, even 10 years later, walking down the stairs to the Sky Bar at State Tower is awesome. P.S. Don't wear any hip, trendy ripped up jeans. You won't get in. Ask Mohana.

Further, State Tower is right near the river, which is currently experiencing it's own magical re-birth.

22.) Want to pick up a little Thai language? Formal Thai language has become a bit archaic. While many language schools still teach "Pa sees black crow," watching TV for a couple of moments, like the English language, will clue you in to how much casual slang is thrown into the language making standard, conversational text books obsolete. Instead, go to a Top Charoen optical shop. No one is ever in these shops and the staff, looking for anyone or anything to help pass the hours will gladly assist you with your Thai. My vocab for "contact lenses," "eye-glass frames," and "saline solution" is excellent. Test me.


23.) Attitude Adjustment: If someone asks you if you want an "Attitude Adjustment?" respond carefully. It's not a cocktail shooter.


24.) Mosquitoes. Indeed, California has these too. Like 30 of them. Here, however, the mosquitoes take fertility pills and with the rainy season never really coming to an end this year, there are thousands of them --most of them hovering right over my head. Mosquito coils don't do much more than pollute your lungs, sadly enough.

There are some silver linings here, however. You will become daft at killing the little suckers. The best way to do this? 1.) Wet your hands. By wetting your hands, water acts like stick-um and helps trap them in any 'mini-pockets of safety' a dry fisted hand provides. 2.) Purchase Thailand's greatest invention: the mosquito electrocution tennis racquet. These are exceptionally effective (when charged) and improve your tennis game at the same time.

25.) Snarky: Aside from the numerous snarky remarks made here in my semi-useful tips, Bangkok really is a superb place. I mean, it's a lot more fun to poke fun at than say, Sacramento.

Yes, it's going through some grand uncertainties at the moment, but living here has been very rewarding and you're sure to have an excellent time. We look forward to having you and Alexus with us. After a couple of weeks here, you may not want to go back.........