Extreme Nomads’ Guide
From the glitz and glam of the iconic sky bar to the down and dirty backpacker roads, Bangkok sees a million different kinds of lives being lived on her streets every day.
Bangkok has long been a tourist hub, the main port of call before travelers head north to the mountains in Chiang Mai or south to the sunny islands. While it may still hold a reputation for its unscrupulous after hours activities, there’s a lot more to this weird, wonderful, and downright wild city.
Bangkok’s creative soul runs deep. Street art covers the walls in the harder-to-reach parts of the city, and artisan cafes spring up faster than you can count. By night, the street markets pulse with crowds of visitors coming to peruse the stalls, while downtown the deep house and techno thumps through the thick walls of the clubs.
But Bangkok’s not all smoothie bars and sweaty night clubs:
Interest from the government to encourage the growth of SMEs means the city’s start-up scene is really beginning to thrive. Add that to a smattering of brand new coworking spaces, reasonable cost of living, and drool-worthy local food and it’s easy to see why Bangkok’s digital nomad scene is growing faster than ever.
Internet in Bangkok
In a nutshell:
Internet in Thailand is pretty good all-round.
Several districts in Bangkok are fitted with fiber optics. However, there are still many downtown areas that suffer from slower speeds due to older lines.
Virtually every one of the city’s hotels, guesthouses, serviced apartments, cafes, and restaurants offer free wifi for their customers (of varying speeds and reliability, sadly).
That said, if you need fast and reliable, look no further than the quickly growing selection of coworking spaces in Bangkok. These dedicated spots offer lightning speed connections (100 Mbps download easy) and tons of other digital nomad facilities (see coworking spaces in Bangkok below for more).
SIM cards are quite cheap and can be bought, well… basically everywhere.
If you’re staying short term (i.e. less than 2 weeks or so) you’re best off picking up a tourist SIM at the airport. You can get packages with 10 GB of high speed 4G + unlimited 3G for around $35. Those staying longer term may want to consider a local prepaid SIM.
4G in Thailand averages 9 Mb/s as measured by a recent (November 2017) state of mobile networks in Thailand (see report). It is in line with the Asia-Pacific region average of 9.69 Mb/s.
The top 3 mobile providers in Thailand are Truemove, AIS and Dtac. See a full guide on Thailand’s SIM card options here.
Best Sports In Bangkok
Wakeboarding in Bangkok
Thailand has seen an explosion of popularity in the world of wake over the past few years, and Bangkok is home to a hefty slice of the action.
Taco Lake: Impressively, people have been riding around on this lake since 1991. Just 20 minutes from Suvarnabhumi airport and 45 min from downtown, Taco Lake is kitted out with a mix of kickers and sliders. On site they have their own kitchen serving up fresh Thai food, as well as an array of rooms which are available to rent short-medium term (each with air-con, hot shower, wifi, and kitchen access).
Thai Wake Park (Lumlukka): Set up by a group of wake-crazy locals, Thai Wake Park has hosted some pretty major comps (like the Asia Wake Park Tour) in its time. It’s got a 5 corner Rixen counter clockwise cable (check out the sick cable layout here) as well as a 2 tower system for private rides, beginners, and pros looking to nail down some serious training. They offer their own accommodation on-site, and discounts are available for ‘slow-mads’ staying more than 2 weeks.
Zanook: Only 25 minutes drive from the city center, Zanook’s German made 5 tower Rixen system is one of just 2 clockwise systems in all of Asia. A nice challenge for the goofies among us and for sure a welcome change for the regulars! They’ve also got an inflatable aqua park next door as well as SUP rentals for the lake.
TE Wake n’ Ski: These guys run a boat and winch operation in the north of the city. One of the trainers is reigning Asian wake champ, ‘Bomb’ Padiwat Jaemjan. Just next door to the lake, they’ve got poolside cabanas available to rent on a monthly basis for really good rates.
MDPG Monday playground: Located in the northwest of the city, MDPG sports a handmade 2.0 cable. It might not be the biggest and baddest in the city, but their rates are good and the 2.0 is ideal for beginners looking to nail down some basic riding skills.
In addition to the world-class wakeboarding, Bangkok’s heart is also home to the Flow House 2.0, an “urban beach club” sporting a double FlowRider system imported right from San Francisco! This concept basically creates an everlasting artificial wave on which you can ride with either a bodyboard or a small finless surfboard. The place is also equipped with a plunge pool, a bar, a surf shop, a bike zone and of course, free wifi and lots of space to work or chill.
Hiking in Bangkok
As far as nature hiking goes, you’ll have to travel outside the city to get to anything remotely green.
From closest to furthest, here are some of the best hikes near Bangkok:
Ko Kret: This island sits 15 km north of central Bangkok. It has a 5 km trail through the oldest settlement of the Mon people; expect to see colourful markets, serene temples, and teetering piles of handmade terracotta.
Khao San Lam: 1.5 hours away in Saraburi Province. The Khao San Lam National Park is all gentle peaks (the highest of which is 330 meters) and diving valleys. Oh, and it’s also scattered with waterfalls that are amazing to swim in.
Nam Pha Pa Yai: 2 hours away from central Bangkok, the hiking trails are just one of the draws of Nam Pha Pa Yai. It’s also bound to satisfy cyclists and rock climbers and is best enjoyed over the course of a couple of days. Top tip: stay in the dedicated camping ground- they have tents and treehouses up for rent.
Kaeng Krachan: Though it may be one of the further jaunts (3 hours from downtown), Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s biggest National Park. Located on the border of Myanmar, the park is full of exotic wildlife (think elephants, leopards, gibbons, and tigers). Do it solo or with a guide- however you choose to explore it, don’t rush. We recommend making a real adventure of it and staying for a few days.
Erawan National Park: 3 hours and 15 minutes away from central Bangkok, the Erawan National Park is the prize jewel of Kanchanaburi- a region known best for its beautiful landscape. With a mix of hiking trails, tiered waterfalls, and dreamy blue lagoons, it’s the sort of place you’d be happy to make the journey for once you see how beautiful it is.
Cycling in Bangkok
With its swerving traffic and general chaos on the street level, we’d forgive you for thinking that cycling in Bangkok is a no-go.
But not only would you be wrong, you’d actually be missing out on experiencing a really awesome side to the city that gets overlooked by your average joe tourist.
Interest in cycling is at an all time high in Thailand right now, and while most of it is centered around road cycling (especially in Bangkok) mountain bikers will still be able to get their fix in the city.
See the sites and sneak in some exercise (because we all know what happens when you eat pad thai and mango sticky rice every day).
But hold your horses:
Cycling in Bangkok can be… challenging. Traffic is something of a hazard- but as with anything, it’s manageable (as long as you can keep your sh*t together).
Bangkok’s cycling trails are actually pretty cool; they’ll lead you to Golden Mount Pagoda (which has sick panoramic views of the city and the old Bangkok prison) and Chinatown.
There are dedicated cycle lanes in parts of the downtown area like Sukhumvit and Banglamphu. In other parts of town (even downtown on Khaosan Road) there are more special cycling lanes, but they’re often used as parking spaces by motorbikes- you might end up being safer cycling slowly on the elevated footpath until you get to a clearer part of the road.
You can also cycle in the parks, where there’s often special cycling lanes.
Just half an hour from Khao San Road, you’ve got one (out of 2) of Bangkok’s off-road trails. Phuttamonthon Park MTB XC Trail is a 7 km single flat rack, which is well-looked after and a regular haunt for semi-pros looking for a wee training session. It’s fairly flat (expect around a 1m elevation change), but even so it’s pretty fun to weave in and out of the trees and take a break from the city and traffic. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for monitor lizards and giant terrapins! They like to chill out in the middle of the track.
Located on Phahonyothin Road in the north of Bangkok, ATV & MTB Club 11 is a 4 km MTB track with approximately 4 meters of elevation change. Within a stone’s throw of the army base, the track is kitted out with berms, jumps, steep ascents and descents, sand traps, rock gardens, water traps and ponds. It’s located right next to the army base, so you’ll need ID to enter (foreigners need to show their passport).
For a list of bike shops in Thailand click here.
Where to stay in Bangkok
Cheap local style guest houses, quirky and social hostels, luxurious hotels and private apartments… You name it, Bangkok has it.
Short term nomads in Bangkok who are looking for a good deal should know that many places in the city offer weekly rates. There are scads of local style guesthouses and budget friendly hotels that’ll offer you a discount if you’re staying for more than a couple of nights.
When it comes to longer term rentals, you have a few options:
Airbnb has tons of listings in Bangkok, but it’s often the slightly more expensive way to go.
That said, you’re paying for convenience. It’s a good idea to book a place for your first few nights, then head for a coworking space and chat to a few Bangkok digital nomads about their digs and how much they pay.
As a rule of thumb:
Local landlords tend to give 3, 6, or 12 months leases (the longer the lease the better value). There are also a couple of incredibly handy Facebook groups that deal with sublets and house swaps in Bangkok, such as this one, as well as specialized platforms for long term rentals: merooms.co, and nomadrental.com.
A basic, local style studio with wifi and kitchen access might cost you as little as $250/month. Meanwhile, a comfortable serviced apartment in a central area (with wifi, a kitchen, and cleaning services) would be closer to $550.
Working & Coworking Spaces in Bangkok
There’s no shortage of facilities for digital nomads in Bangkok. No matter what kind of workspace you need- perfectly silent and professional, or something a little more creative- there’s a coworking space or a cafe that’ll have your name on it.
As far as the coworking scene goes, there’s more and more spaces opening up with every passing month. Of the established spaces in the city so far, our nomad community recommends Hubba in Watthana district, The Hive (which has 2 locations, Thonglor and Prakanong, you can try them for free on Tuesdays), and E88, near Sukhumvit Road.
The above coworking spaces all have hot desks, private meeting rooms, Skype areas, printing, and coffee facilities.
Expect to pay around 200 baht for a day pass.
As far as cafes go, most places in Bangkok are fairly welcoming to digital nomads. Wifi is generally offered gratis as long as you buy something off the menu. The tricky part is finding a place with free wifi and plugs (bonus points for good tables and no annoying music).
Our nomad community recommends Tomntoms coffee shop chain. You get 3 hours free wifi with every coffee ordered; plus they have their own homemade pretzels!
Markets & Food in Bangkok
Food in Bangkok is awesome (especially if you like your spicy stuff).
Seriously, the street food is like nowhere else- steaming coconut curries, spicy soups with lemongrass and ginger, noodles flamed fried with fresh herbs and greens… Damn it’s good- and plenty of options for the veggies among us, too. Price-wise, expect to pay upwards of $1.50-3 for a basic Thai meal.
If you fancy cooking at home, the local farmer’s markets are everywhere and offer the cheapest place to get your fresh produce, meats, eggs, and other household staples.
Virtually every street in Bangkok will have at least one (if not 2 or 3) convenience stores, be it 7-Eleven, Circle K, or Family Mart. These little shops have all the essentials: beer, snacks, basic Thai meals, coffee, household items, and toiletries. If you need to do a bigger shop, the local supermarkets have everything from Asian staples to a selection of imported products.
However, if you’ve got a hankering for a jar of pesto and a block of cheddar cheese, you’ll need to head off for one of the imported supermarkets like Tops, Villa Market, Gourmet Market, or Delishop.
How to get there & around
Bangkok has 2 international airports: Don Mueang (DMK) and Suvarnabhumi (BKK).
DMK is where the budget airlines fly in and out of, and BKK is the one you can expect to fly to if you’re traveling from Europe, America, or Asia on one of the better airlines. The two airports are well connected by a free shuttle bus service.
Once in Bangkok, a lot of people choose to get a scooter/motorbike, since it’s the most economical choice in the long run. Second hand bikes can be picked up for around $450 (tax on vehicles in Thailand is quite high compared with other Asian countries, so this price is significantly higher than, say, Vietnam or Cambodia). At least gas is cheap as chips.
If you’re looking to get somewhere quick and hassle-free, Grab and Uber are your best bets (they’re cheaper and way more convenient than a normal taxi). That said, if you’re up for navigating the public transport system, the whole city is quite well connected by the MRT and BTS Skytrain.
To find the best public transport to or from Bangkok, use this search form from 12go.asia – the most efficient and user-friendly public transportation booking platform for Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.