Often I see people asking in forums online where the best place to live in Thailand is. A sagacious answer to this would be always: ‘depends what you like,’ a location could be hell or heaven, depends purely on you.
So after living in most of the big cities for at least a year or so here is my best and worst of the main tourist areas of Thailand
I lived here for 2 years 2015-2017, I loved my time here. The best things about Chiang Mai was the cost of accommodation, you can get a big condo or a big house for the cost of a small condo or small house in Bangkok. Food prices are on a par with Bangkok unless you want fish and expat foods.
Chiang Mai is a quaint city full of historical architecture and temples, and is spread out unless you travel around the squares, that is what I called the city centre, as you will have to live there for at least 6 months to get used to where to get off the inner ring road, which is square-ish on the map. Also if you don’t like it too hot, Chiang Mai can get down to single figures in December, well for a few days at least, generally it is a lovely winter temperature and many go up there for Christmas to enjoy the cool.
Everyone I ever met who has lived a long time in Bangkok says they want to leave, but never have. I got happily stuck there 2008-2015 before I was ‘dragged off’ to Chiang Mai.
Once you get used to the public transport, as in the BTS (Sky train) and the MRT (underground) and taxis; Bangkok will be in your heart, the big city never fails to impress.
Most wise expats live in the suburbs north of the city where accommodation is so much cheaper than the centre and generally you are never more than 30 minutes away from the heart of the city on the trains, which to me is a great reason to live in Bangkok and cost wise it really makes any other city on Earth balk with shock because for around $1.50 you can get a punctual, clean, safe air con train 20-30 kilometers from the suburbs direct to the city centre.
Even after 7 years living there I often stop on the Sky-train overhead walking platform at Asoke station and gaze at wonder at the metropolis and skyscrapers that stretch all the way down Sukhumvit Road. There is such a city vibe that makes you feel alive. The street food, when you find a great place is one of the top reasons to stay it’s so cheap and tasty.
If you love Thai food you will be in heaven, you would never in a lifetime, be able to eat in all the great places, from the top steakhouses in the top hotels on the umpteenth floor overlooking the city, where you will still only pay proportionately what you would pay in a regular high street restaurant in the west, to a 2 dollar noodle dish on the main roads, the most discerning palette will be tested.
Shopping is a great reason to live in Bangkok, it has often been described as a shopping city within a city, because you can walk out of Siam Paragon, a high street shopping mall that is a staple for professional shoppers with their amazing displays outside, straight onto an air con sky train and 15 minutes later be at Emporium, another world class shopping mall with every top class brand and dozens of restaurants and eateries walk straight in and forget its 35 degrees on the street.
Business is one reason many stay in Bangkok there is a thriving networking scene and you will be able to meet almost every mover and shaker within a year there. So if you are looking for work or just want to meet more professionals especially English speaking Bangkok is the best place.
The pearl of the Andaman, world class beaches and expat friendly lifestyle. I lived here for a year in 2018 Once you orienteer yourself to the island you will never get bored of the beach life, and expat food is everywhere. Pubs and bars and nightlife is prevalent. Golf and sports is one reason why so many stay.
Transport however is a bane for the islanders, and they always complain of the cost and the ‘taxi mafia’ and it’s not that cheap for accommodation or food. If money is no object then this island is world class, however there are so many other islands that have comparatively great beaches for much less, but the infrastructure is there. Most residents invest in a scooter, be it rental or bought, but beware the mountains are synonymous with accidents and bad driving.
I arrived here 2005 and stayed till 2008.
‘Klai Klongwon’ means far from worries and Hua Hin holds a special place in my heart. In 2005 they had a meagre shopping mall and no cinemas but it was of no matter to me as I was just living the more peaceful life.
The beach is unusual as there is no promenade to speak of like most beach resorts of the world where you can walk or drive down and gaze in wonder. You either access the beach from the main road in the centre of town, or take a small alleyway anywhere off the Sukhumvit road that passes parallel to the beach and through the town, once you get there it is amazing and takes your breath away each time.
I now see they have two amazing malls and cinemas and this has led to the town becoming more cosmopolitan, I was never short of places to eat when I lived there, but now it has more to offer the expat.
Busses from Bangkok run every hour and cost about 10-15 USD Bangkok to Hua Hin. When you get there the baht busses run up and down the main drag so you can get most places without a scooter.
Cost wise for eating; cheaper than Bangkok, fish is cheap, it’s the seaside, doh! and with many Scandinavian style cafes and bakeries offering reasonably priced European fare due to their Norse settlers that were prominent in the early 2000’s Hua Hin is relatively cheap.
Property; not so cheap, the residents are proud to say their king lives there, so it must be good! A good night out can be had at Soi Binterbahn and expat beers and bars are many, and you will expect to pay a little less than the capital.
I have lived here 2019-present.
So easy to get to just $5 from Bangkok on an air con bus 2-2.5 hours. baht busses operate along the beach road and parallel roads 2nd and third road, and to Jomtien, you don’t need a scooter in Pattaya unless you live on the dark side of East Pattaya.
The name ‘Pattaya’ strikes fear in many somewhat sheltered orthodox parents, it has this reputation of sleaze. Yet this is to me unfounded and I am sure many expats who live in Pattaya would agree and well they don’t care to be honest what people think. Most expats visit the infamous walking street once in a blue moon, mainly dragged by friends who are visiting from Bangkok and are free from their wives for a few days, we leave the ‘crazy bar scene’ to the real tourists who have cash to burn and are green to the ways of the feisty Pattaya bar girl.
Residents of Pattaya who have lived here a while will tell you for families this is the best place ever, schools, hospitals, infrastructure , it’s all here and has more places to go for families is more than any other city in Thailand, they know where the best unspoiled beaches are and where you can get a fantastic meal for buttons.
If you are not a 20 year old single virgin male with raging hormones and zero money sense then Pattaya will beguile the strongest willed traveler. You just have to stay a while to see.