Considering the city’s ever-growing dimensions, it should not be surprising that Bangkok is a province (changwat) of its own, with a special administrative status. Indeed, Bangkok’s sprawling outskirts and suburbs are already spilling over into several neighboring provinces. Together with the city itself, parts of these provinces form the Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
Bangkok is divided into 50 districts (khet), which are in turn divided into sub-divisions (kwaeng). As if this wasn’t confusing enough, the administrative districts do not necessarily overlap with functional neighborhoods, i.e. industrial zones, business areas, nightlife locations, residential communities, etc. So, most expats may be wondering where to live.
You should have a clear idea where you will be working and where your children could go to school. Due to the problems with Bangkok’s transport network, many expatriates want to keep their family members’ daily commutes as short as possible. This leads to a marked preference for either a central location or a suburban life close to an elevated expressway link to Bangkok Central. The latter option is quieter, less prone to pollution, and more family-friendly.
In Central Bangkok, the most popular areas for expats are concentrated alongside Sukhumvit Road and the Bangkok Skytrain route. The very tourist-oriented quarter around Siam Square is the place to go for all visitors, young people, or lovers of shopping sprees and popular entertainment.
Silom and Sathorn, on the other hand, cater to big business as much as to Bangkok’s tourist and nightlife industry. They house the city’s major financial centers and law firms. Therefore, they are dominated by high-rise office buildings and luxury hotels rather than regular housing. Sathorn Road is also home to a number of foreign embassies.
However, Silom is a very cosmopolitan district too, which makes it attractive to tourists and Bangkok’s foreign residents. It attracts visitors with hip clubs, a lively gay scene, several pubs for homesick Brits and Irish expats, the international BNH Hospital, and the relative closeness to Lumpini Park. The hostess bars and sex shows of Patpong are another matter, though.
Most expatriates living in Bangkok’s center actually settle somewhere close to the long artery of Sukhumvit Road. There is a “little Japan” dominated by Japanese expats, a couple of streets known as “Soi Arab” due to the prevalence of Middle Eastern immigrants, etc.
Moreover, the neighborhood houses exclusive areas dominated by rich expats and affluent Thai residents. They tend to live in serviced accommodation, high-rise apartments, or luxury condominiums — a place for the wealthy or for single executives and childless expat couples.
Expatriate families tend to move to the southern district of Bang Na or the eastern part of Bangkok called Bang Kapi. Some even choose to leave the changwat of Bangkok altogether, going beyond the city limits to the province of Nonthaburi in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
Bang Na is about 20 km away from the city center — and conveniently located in the direction of the international airport. There is a highway that leads into Sukhumvit Road, and Bang Na does not lack any amenities of daily life. For instance, there’s the Central Plaza shopping mecca and the British Bangkok Patana School.
However, many residents of Bang Na were glad to see the long-awaited extension of the Skytrain line realized in August 2011. This public transport link to central Bangkok now makes it more attractive as a neighborhood.
Bang Kapi suffers from a similar problem as Bang Na used to — it hasn’t got any connections to the Skytrain or the underground. But the western part of Bang Kapi, along Ramkhamhaeng Road, is still convenient enough, due to its relative closeness to the Khlong Saen.
From Khlong Saen, an express canal-boat service will take you faster to the city center than a bus or taxi could. Ramkhamhaeng University is also nearby, making for a lively atmosphere with many students.
Before renting accommodation in Bang Kapi or the northern parts of Bangkok, though, you should make sure that your new home is not affected by airplane noise. Don Mueang, Bangkok’s traffic hub for domestic flights, is located in one of Bangkok’s northernmost districts. It might pay off to check where exactly the planes’ entry lanes are.
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