Back in Bangkok

bangkok sunsetI’m back in Bangkok. I’ve been here two weeks, and despite my desire to be productive, it hasn’t happened. At least, not to the extent I wanted it to. I made the mistake of staying right near the best and most popular hangout in Bangkok (at least for my friends)—Cheap Charlies. I’ve been staying at Suk 11 right across the street. If you’re in Bangkok and looking for a hostel that’s affordable, centrally located, and clean, this is the place to be. It’s one of the nicest places I’ve stayed. It’s made of teak wood and there are a lot of plants all around, creating a nice, natural feeling in a city that doesn’t feel natural at all. I highly recommend staying there, but be sure to book in advance as the place is always booked out.

Since it’s right near my favorite watering hole, I found myself coming home from dinner each night and being constantly dragged in for a drink by my friends. There have been three holidays in Thailand in the last two weeks, so a lot of people have been taking time off, and the bar’s been bursting with people each night. Last night’s going-away party only added to the madness. One drink easily turns into three or four, which usually lands me back in my bed around 4am. Luckily, I’m location independent now and make my own hours.

Taiwan lacked a lot of things I like about places in Asia: a good nightlife, pirated movies, good, cheap street food, and lots of tropical islands to visit. I’ve gone through about 10 movies this week alone. I’ve been eating Thai street food every chance I get. I’ve really missed it—especially the pork noodle soup. I’ve been visiting my favorite restaurants and catching up with old friends.

bangkok skyline at duskBeing back in Bangkok has made me realize how much I love it and how I’ll never be able to fully leave. From the second I stepped off the plane, I felt as though I was home. The craziness, the smells, the crowds, the traffic, the pollution, the elephants on the street, the street food—it was all so comforting and exciting. I was discussing this with my friends last night. Bangkok has a hold on you. You can never fully leave. You can escape for short periods of time, but you’ll always be back. There’s something addictive about this city. Maybe it’s the pollution in the air, but whatever it is, you can’t leave. My friend Natalie left a year ago and has been back about seven times since. My friends tell me now they will no longer come to my going-away parties because I always come back every few months.

Lots of cities you live in and love and return to visit, but I feel that with Bangkok, people return more often. I actually feel that way about Thailand in general. Everyone I meet who’s been here can’t wait to come back, and they usually do. This city just grabs you and sucks you in.

Bangkok is a vortex and if you stay here long enough, you can get sucked in and never leave. Everyone I know who’s been here longer than two or three years says they’ll never leave. They just can’t cope with living anywhere else. The craziness of the city is unique, and once you’re used to it, nowhere else compares.

In January, I closed the chapter on living in Bangkok long term. More than a few months here, and I feel lost and too sucked into that vortex. But being back here feels like coming home and like taking a hit of some powerful stuff. And like any good addict, I can’t be away from my drug too long. Anything longer than a few months, and I go through serious withdrawal.

Coming back here, though usually bad for my liver, recharges my batteries. And with this visit, I realized that no matter how far I go, no matter where I go, no matter how much I try to escape, Bangkok will always have a hold on me. And I’ll return to it to get my fix.

Some people live in cities and move on and never return. Not me. I’ll never be free of this city.

And I never want to be.

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  1. NomadicMatt

    I apologize for not getting back to you with comments. I’ve been adjusting back into the city. Rest assured, this weekend I will get back to everyone.

  2. Matt, I’m in Marrakech right now (first time) and the chaos is intoxicating! I can imagine why so many Westerners (well, Europeans) have decided to stay on this exotic land. Being close to Europe has its pluses too!

    Hope you have a great weekend! Tell me, how to you survive day to day? I mean, how do you keep the money (and beer) flowing all the time? I still can’t quite comprehend how people / vagabonds do it for long stretches of time. I know you’ve written a post about it, but just to sustain this lifestyle…On that note, congrats on being able to live the dream (of travel) everyday!

  3. Bob

    Hi Matt,

    I can totally relate to your article about how Thailand makes you feel at home. I was there with my mother last year exploring the country during my trip to India and back to Burma. That was my first trip to Thailand and I did not want to leave. I loved being in Mae Sot since there are so many Burmese people there and it felt like being in Home in a way! It’s bitter sweet for me since I’ve worked with so many Refugees here.

    It’s been years since I’ve been trying to convince my husband to just leave the rat race and go to Asia. I see the light at the end of the tunnel now.. and it might actually happen for the three of us- like @soultravelers3! :-)

    Although I’ve been to Taiwan several times my one time visit to Thailand keep me longing fore more Thailand. I can’t explain it! I might actually look into Suk 11 while we are there. thanks for all the great tips. Take it easy on that liver of yours! :-)

  4. Suk 11 Guesthouse sounds great. Now I know at least one good place to stay if/when I travel to Bangkok. I first read about this guesthouse on Helen’s Travel Corner a few days ago. She wrote a terrific post about things to do in Thailand. Highly recommended.
    Reading this post it’s easy to understand why you keep coming back to Bangkok!

  5. Do you really enjoy Bangkok that much?

    I love going through there for a few days every so often, but I think it would be too much for a longer stay. I haven’t seen any parks or places to relax outside. It is not a city for runners or for barbecues.

    It is definitely exciting and fun, but it is also a great city to leave.

  6. One night in Bangkok can make a hard man humble..

    I wish I could understand the attraction, Matt. There are a lot of other places I’d pick to spend time in before Bangkok, Rhode Island and Hell being two. Chiang Mai on the other hand…

    I’m glad you’re back “home.” It feels great to be back in our special place, doesn’t it? I look forward to more great stuff from you when you get situated. If I make it there during my summer tour I’ll look you uo.

  7. Anit

    i hear you Matt!
    I feel the same way about Bangkok…something about that city just grabs me everytime I go there…I’ve heard people say they only pass through there as fast as possible when visiting Thailand…but somehow I always end up spending most of my time there..
    and yes… Suk11 is great..I’d also reccommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok.

  8. I think Bangkok could be dangerous for me, in a lot of ways. I am certain I could fill all my memory cards in a day. Thanks for the “flava'”!

  9. I have stayed in Suk 11 and really liked the place. Seems a bit of a fire trap though, but most places in Bangkok are like that.

  10. Andrew

    I have never been to Thailand, but after reading this you definitely have me thinking about checking it out. Great post!

  11. We’ve been planning a trip to Thailand soon. I am from the North-East of India, I recently visited a village in Assam where the villagers are basically related to the Thai folks. In fact, the Thai princess visited them not very long ago.

    Interested in exploring these ties.

  12. I adore Bangkok, haven’t been there since 2003 but I am dying to get back there some time soon. It just has something special… don’t know if I can put my finger on it but I totally get your post!

  13. David

    Hi Matt,

    I thought you were teaching English. When and more interestingly how did you become location independent? I’ve been reading your site and you must have slipped it in there because I missed it!

    I’m heading to Bangkok and Phuket next week, any reccommendations for Phuket? I decent hotel(cheap) with free WiFi?

  14. I’m going there for the first time on the 27th of this month and you’ve made me just that little bit more excited.

    I can’t find Suk11 on hostelworld though, do you have to book through their own website?

  15. Matt, please eat the following while you are in Thailand and report back to me in detail:
    Pad Thai
    Mango and Sticky Rice
    Papaya Salad
    Soup at Stall #$

    I miss them so…..:(

    Sean’s list will be much longer.

    You are right about Bangkok-it draws you back.

  16. Sacha Pilgrim

    Great post! I have been wanting to go to Bangkok for quite sometime and this really emphasizes what I am missing out on. For the last six months I have been working in the Caribbean and Central America while my boyfriend has been in Europe. We are hoping to sync up our vacation times a little better (we are both working with the cruise industry) and then spend a good two-three months in Asia… hopefully buy property somewhere. My only fear is that I may love it too much and never return home (maybe not a bad thing)… not that I really have a home..

    Once again a great post. Truly inspirational.

  17. Spen

    I can’t tell you how much the hairs went up on my neck reading this. You are totally the same as I am about Bangkok! amazing amazing city. So pleased to here someone else feels exactly the same as I do.

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