Heading To Thailand
Somehow my worldly possessions have been reduced to an amount which fits in the backpack I normally carry to work and going by the number of people laughing at the way I eat noodles, I appear to have made it to Bangkok.
Somehow all of this...
Fits in here...
Qatar Airways successfully put any of the European or American airlines I've flown with to shame, Champagne after boarding and Cognac after dinner. All in so called "Economy" class. Something of a step up from the usual "abuse by staff on boarding, coffee in lap after microwave pizza" I've come to love from Ryan Air.
The most noticeable thing on arrival at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport is SIM Cards. Really. They're everywhere. The bit of the airport usually reserved for car rentals? Entirely filled with counters selling SIM Cards. The people usually handing out fliers for restaurants at the stations? Handing out free SIMs. Having promised myself no mobile Internet on this trip I felt almost bad refusing.
In character it reminds me a lot of Shanghai but with much more outgoing people. In Shanghai people would tend to avert their eyes and avoid interaction with one another at all costs. Here people seem to smile indiscriminately and those who speak English are happy to chat.
In China when we chatted to our waitress or waiter in a restaurant, it was clear we were making them uncomfortable. Here our waitress joined us for drinks and later I was thoroughly beaten at pool by the owner of a local bar. We didn't understand each other much but concluded he was much better at pool than me (no words needed, I lost by seven balls) and that neither of us liked soccer.
Music seems to be everywhere, there are whole streets of (admittedly quite touristy) bars with nothing but live music. This guy played what may be the best cover of "Dire Straights - Money For Nothing" I've ever heard.
On a less touristy note we stumbled on two live music festivals in the first forty eight hours;
The food is simply incredible, having ordered red curry with duck at every Thai restaurant or takeout I've ever been to, I thought my bar was quite high. Until I had this from a tiny restaurant around the corner from the hostel;
This more than made up for discovering that the one thing a canadian, an american, a norweigen and a german have in common is a love of mocking the British;
In general the city feels safer than I expected, provided dark alleys are avoided. Some friends had someone attempt to snatch their bag, but this was walking down a backstreet to find a hotel that was known for continuing to sell beer well past closing time. So hardly the most savory of areas.
The closest I've come to a scary experience was the slightly inebriated policeman who, having failed to catch one of the large fish from the lake in the park with his hands, took to threatening it with a gun whilst grinning and shouting "I James Bond!"
I must admit I didn't stick around to see how that one ended. My guess is the fish won.
One of my aims with this trip was to see if it really is feasible to spend time working remotely as a developer from here. This means finding out a few things:
- Is the Internet consistent and fast?
- Are there nice spots to work?
- Is it really as cheap as everyone says?
As far as the Internet goes Bangkok is exceptionally good. Internet in the hostel (lub di Silom) being around 20mb downstream. At Launchpad, the co-working space I've been using for the last few days, it seems to hover around 0.75mb, perfectly usable but hardly blazing fast.
The space itself is impressive;
It costs around 320baht (6.20 GBP) for a days access and has enough sofas and beanbags to accommodate my need to nap at lunchtime/ after breakfast/ in the afternoon. I gather from the amused looks when I wake up however that this is not normal behavior.
As far as cost goes the short answer is yes, it really is that cheap. To give a rough benchmark;
- Meal from a street Vendor; 40 - 100 baht (0.70 - 2 GBP)
- Night in a nice hostel; 400 - 600 baht (7.70 - 12 GBP) although by a very lucky quirk, we're currently paying 50baht (1 GBP) per night!
- Local beer in a touristy bar 150 - 300 baht (2 - 4 GBP)
- Local beer in a none touristy bar 90 - 150 baht (1 - 2 GBP)
- Taxi ride across the city < 100 baht (< 2 GBP)
So far so good. As a bonus being seven hours ahead of the UK is meaning I can get a lot of work done while the team in the UK is asleep so it's ready for them to test in the morning. Starting a little later means it's still possible to have enough crossover with the English working day that communication isn't a problem.
I'm expecting the Internet to become far poorer as I move out to the Islands, the dream is a moderately developed island with Bangkok style WiFi. I'm told this is unlikely!
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