Tamber: Bangkok By Bicycle
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Bangkok, etc.
I’m from Seattle, Washington, via Washington DC. I moved to Bangkok in May 2011 to work for an NGO helping refugees resettle to the US.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have a major passion for cycling, and really want to promote cycling as a sustainable transportation option. Most people think Bangkok could never be a fun or safe place to ride a bicycle, and I want to show that it can be by highlighting fun and interesting routes. I hope that someday Bangkok’s infrastructure will be such that cycling is a realistic primary transportation option-even I have to admit that right now for most people living here it’s really not due to heat, pollution, and lack of safe dedicated bike lanes.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I think the trip I did to Phra Phradaeng was the most fun.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Bangkok differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
There are a ton of differences, but it’s really not hard to live here. Everything is very convenient and people are quite helpful. I can’t say as I really experienced culture shock. I do really miss winter sports and of course being able to use my bicycle to get around everywhere.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Bangkok? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think I was as prepared as possible, really. There’s not much you can’t get here (women’s shoes over size 8.5 US being one notable exception) so if you come ill-prepared, you won’t suffer for long.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
When I first got here, I immediately hooked up with a local cycling group that goes on rides starting kind of far out of town. I spoke zero Thai at that point, but since someone in the group had given me directions, I carefully printed out turn-by-turn Google maps for the taxi driver. He took them from me, smiled and nodded, and proceeded to get us totally lost….and just sat there helplessly while the meter ticked up to over 1000 baht. I was in that taxi for two and a half hours! When I expressed my frustration at work the next day, my coworkers laughed and told me that my first mistake was giving a taxi driver a map. Some Bangkok taxi drivers are wizards at finding their way to anywhere you tell them, but in my experience still will frequently be hard pressed to locate themselves on a map. Be warned!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bangkok?
Good question. I think I’d recommend that people carefully figure out what type of lifestyle they want to live, and choose a neighborhood accordingly. Bangkok is a renter’s market, so no need to jump on the first thing you find. Also, take stock of your hobbies and see if you can connect with like-minded people before you come-it makes the transition easier if you have friends right away. Finally, though Thai is not an easy language, make an effort to learn it! Even though it’s so easy to get around without it that you don’t need a lot to survive, speaking and reading Thai will really change and broaden your experience and earn you major props from locals. Ask around about language schools; there are many and not all are created equal.
How is the expat community in Bangkok? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
No, not really. In Bangkok there is definitely something for just about everyone. The groups are smaller of course, but I’d say you can find people who share your interests fairly easily. The only thing I am surprised not to have found yet is great live local music-but I’m still holding out hope that I will find some good bands with original music someday.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bangkok in a single, catchy sentence?
“Did that really just happen?”