City Structure Guide
Bangkok is a fascinating city, new meets old, traditional lifestyle exists side by side with modern trends and style. It’s not uncommon to go directly from a glittering, high-tech mega-mall to quaint side streets where mom and pop style establishments serve noodles from a street stand to the very same people who will spend thousands of Baht on the newest fashionable item in said mega mall. Maybe it’s this apparently paradoxical structure that makes Bangkok such an intriguing and exciting place to live. The city almost begs you to get lost in small side streets (Sois), while at the same time offers first-class world shopping and entertainment. Bangkok is not a big city geographically but very dense in population.
One thing that you either love or hate about Bangkok is the constant feeling that you never know what is behind the next corner.
Bangkok is a city that has grown rapidly over the last decades. As a result, roads and infrastructure has been based, not on careful planning, but on old dirt roads and canals. Bangkok used to be called the ‘Venice of the East’ as a reference to the many canals and waterways that used to sprawl the city, which were the main mode of transport and commerce before the growth of the city really began. The result is a road structure built on top of old canals and small side streets.
The city really has no center in the Western sense. The closest thing would be the area around Siam Square and Siam BTS, which is also the major shopping center with mega-malls such as Siam Paragon and MBK.
Historic Bangkok was built on the shores of the Chao Praya river and around the Grand Palace and Wat’s (Temples) located in what is now known as Banglamphuu district. This area has now become a major tourist attraction. The river makes its way through Bangkok like a serpent, stretching from the suburb Thonburi in the north through Chinatown and Silom, running all the way down to Bangkok’s busy industrial harbor area.
In older times, the river was the main way of transportation and still is to some degree. Busy river ferries still carry thousands of people to and from work and school everyday and it’s still the fastest, and definitely most scenic, way to go to certain areas of Bangkok.
Later on, business districts began sprouting up from the ground around Silom and Sukhumvit, two areas that are now the two biggest expat areas in the city. It is a sign of the constant change that is Bangkok. Year round, new condo and business structures are built on any empty lot of land that can be found. Amazingly, this rapid growth has not destroyed the distinct Thai feel of many neighborhoods. It is not unusual to have slum-like squat areas side by side with a new condo high rise building.
Bangkok is a sprawling city with many high rise luxurious condominiums found in the center of the city and many housing estates in its suburbs. A large number of expats who work in the center of town choose to live in the Sukhumvit-Silom area which is also known as the Central Business District (or CBD). This area in itself however can be broken down into many sub districts. Sukhumvit Road is where you will find the main shopping, tourist and entertainment districts. It is the heart of Bangkok and everything spreads out from it. The road is home to a large percentage of the city’s hotels, exclusive shopping opportunities, varied selection of nightlife for tourists, Thais and expats, a number of the city’s sights and the most popular housing developments.
The advantages of living here is that you will be in the center of town, have easy access to the two Skytrain routes and have the choice of many luxury apartment blocks. The area is also home to many international schools, the best expatriate nightlife in the city, shopping malls, entertainment venues and sports facilities.
Bangkok has several other main arteries, that unfortunately clog up sometimes at rush hour. The Petchburi/Rama 9 Road runs parallel to Sukhumvit Road and is home to many shopping centers and markets such as the famous wholesale market in Pratunam and the IT mall Phantip Plaza. There’s the Ramkhamhaeng Road named after a Thai king, which is home to the world’s largest university, where more than half a million students are enrolled.
However, many people want a house and some land. If you have a large family, apartments might not be practical (although there are large apartments available). The suburbs of Bangkok are perfect for those who prefer quieter neighborhoods. There are many new housing developments boasting large houses, green expanses and some peace and quiet. Most of these estates are very secure and can be found close to the expressways.