You never forget your first time in Bangkok. It’s a city that from afar, looks like any other, and yet, like any urban cauldron worth it’s salt, reveals herself to the inquisitive nomad in one delicious layer after another.
I landed in Bangkok one early morning after an intense six months of working from Bangalore. I remember waking up one day and just needing to leave. My first thought was “where could I go on such short notice (ie the same or the next day) that would give me a visa on arrival.” The first place that came to my mind was Bangkok.
After a quick google search confirming the documents for my visa on arrival, I packed my suitcase (alas, I’m not yet an economical backpack traveller) and booked my ticket. I landed in Bangkok the next day with little information and no accommodation. But, from the time I stepped into this gorgeous labyrinth of a city, I was hooked. The addiction had begun.
There are thousands upon thousands of posts online that will tell you about the “best places for Digital Nomads.” Most of these will include Chiang Mai and Bali in the top five. While there are very solid reasons why many Digital Nomads gravitate to these two spots, I’d like to present an argument for why Bangkok, according to me, is one of the best places for the wandering worker.
Proximity and Price
The flight to Bangkok is three hours and 45 minutes from Bangalore, and four hours and 20 minutes from Mumbai. So, in an hour more than it takes to go from Bangalore to Delhi, you can actually be in a different country! The second draw about Bangkok is the cost of the flight. Depending on the season and your luck, a one-way ticket with a low-cost airline such as Air Asia can start at Rs 6,500 (excluding taxes). I generally travel during off seasons or low seasons and find that this allows for the possibility of getting good prices on last-minute flights.
Visa on arrival
For those of us not blessed with a “powerful passport” — German, Swedish and UK passports allow for visa-free travel to more than 170 countries out out of a possible 218 countries — visa on arrival is a boon.
Thailand, along with Myanmar, Laos, Maldives and Hong Kong are among some of the Southeast Asian countries that offer visa on arrival to Indian passport holders. The process is fairly straightforward if you have all the required documents.
Instantly activated prepaid sim cards at the airport
Ask travellers in India what their top grouse about traveling in this country is, and many of them will bring up their painful experiences trying to obtain a prepaid sim card. As a traveller, a good data connection is now almost as important as money, and the Thai have got this so right! As soon as you are in the arrival lounge, you can buy a prepaid sim from one of the airport shops and choose from a variety of call and data packages.
Having this gives you the freedom to make decisions on the go, like spur-of-the-moment hotel bookings, and life and death decisions like the best coffee in the city, etc. Another important factor is that if you’ve chosen a large data package, it leaves you free to tether and work from places that may no offer WiFi.
The variety of accommodation options
Bangkok has always been a backpacker’s dream. Starting with the innumerable hostels and budget hotels in the famous Khaosan strip (made infamous by the movie The Beach), to a staggering number of options for all budget ranges, you can literally experiment with different areas and types of accommodations. I love using Booking.com and Airbnb to find places when I travel, and this is how I stumbled upon the lovely Thonglor Travellers hostel on Sukhumvit Road. I decided that in the beginning I would like to be in a communal, social place where I could meet new people, and Thonglor delivered on that and more. The hostel was wonderful with great staff and travellers who exchanged stories, a cafe that served superb Thai and South American single-origin coffee, as well as free WiFi throughout the property.
A few days later, I decided I wanted something a bit more private from where I could work. And I found this beautiful gem, Ibrik by the River.
While not quite budget accommodation, for those who want a bit of privacy and comfort, but can’t get far enough from the soulless hotel chains that dot Bangkok’s landscape, Ibrik is a refreshing alternative!
Also check out the Guardian’s list of Bangkok’s more quirky accommodations.
Abundance of WiFi cafes
Many of Bangkok’s cafes will offer free WiFi and the speeds are good enough that you can work. Additionally, many of them will also have multiple laptop charging points, which is overlooked in so many places. My favourite cafes to work from have been:
Roast Coffee: One of my favourites, with excellent coffee and even better food. The prices are on the higher side compared to a lot of the cafes above, but it is well worth it!
If all of the above hasn’t convinced you to relocate to Bangkok right away, then maybe the island access factor will. This has to be one of the best parts about Thailand — the ability to island hop. Using Bangkok as a base, you can easily travel to and spend a few days on different islands. While WiFi can be less reliable here than in Bangkok, a good data package will take care of that.
And as I end this article, my feet and heart are already itching for the magical experience that is Bangkok, again!
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Lead photograph: Mike Behnken Photographs: Suvarchala Narayanan