When you first decide to move to Bangkok as an expat, your first question is probably, ‘Where should I live?’
Expats tend to prefer either Sukhumvit or Silom — but which is the best for your wants and needs?
Let’s find out…
Where To Live In Bangkok
There’s a fantastic fusion of traditional Thai culture and futuristic modernity in Thailand’s capital city. All over Bangkok conflicting elements combine to create a wondrous and eccentric metropolis, and Western expats find it irresistible. The nightlife is notorious here, the weather warm, and there are also a wealth of excellent restaurants, shiny new shopping centres and charming traditional markets, mysterious Buddhist temples, and art and cultural events to enjoy.
The two most appealing neighbourhoods for Western expats living in Bangkok are Sukhumvit and Silom. Both areas are served by the Skytrain (BTS), have plenty of great accommodation available, excellent bars and restaurants and a vibrant expat social scene.
So what’s the difference between these two popular locations?
Sukhumvit vs Silom
Known as the ‘expat ghetto’ Sukhumvit is generally the more popular of the two zones. Tourist attractions are few here, but there is an abundant choice of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs — as well as some fantastic shopping to be had at malls like Terminal 21, EmQuartier and Emporium.
There is an air of modern luxury here, which lends a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Silom may be slightly less popular with expats, but that doesn’t mean it has less on offer.
This area is the city’s business hub and part of the central banking district. During the week this place is buzzing, as businessmen and bankers socialising during and after work to make the most of the entertainments on offer. Weekends are generally a little calmer. There are some fabulous restaurants here, as well as lots of fine hotels and the legendary nightlife scene of Patpong.
Nightlife and Restaurants
The nightlife in the Sukhumvit neighbourhood is famously vibrant. Here you will find some of the finest clubs, restaurants and bars in Bangkok. The hip hang outs of the Thonglor and Ekkamai areas are where the most stylish locals and foreigners like to schmooze and party the night away.
For lovers of the Go-Go bargirl scene, on the other hand, Nana Plaza in Sukhumvit’s red-light district offers an ‘adults only’ experience, whereas the neon vision of the 20 or so bars at Soi Cowboy has a slightly more relaxed vibe for those seeking red light thrills.
The world famous red light district of Patpong at Silom is where Thailand’s Go-Go culture was born. For those seeking adult entertainment there are over 100 strip bars here offering sexy shows. With its fun and friendly vibe and flair for the dramatic, Silom Soi 4 is Bangkok’s hub for gay nightlife.
If you’re choosing either Sukhumvit or Silom, don’t think that the restaurants stop at Sukhumvit. There are also a host of quality eateries in the Silom area, where you can choose from a variety of international cuisines including French and Japanese, as well as traditional Thai.
In the battle of Sukhumvit vs Silom, both are well connected for commuting or exploring the rest of Bangkok.
Sukhumvit is served by the Sukhumvit line of the BTS Skytrain which runs over Sukhumvit Road from west to east with stations in all the key areas including Nana, Thong Lo and Ekkamai. There is also an MRT (metro) station right in the middle of the district which connects with the Skytrain at Asok.
Silom also has its own BTS line, with BTS station Sala Daeng being centrally placed to easily access most of the action. The Silom area can also be reached via the MRT – the most central station being MRT Si Lom at the entrance of Lumphini Park. The proximity of Silom to the nearby Chao Phraya river also means that it can be accessed by riverboat with express ferries running every 15 minutes or so.
Some of the best shopping in Bangkok can be found in Sukhumvit with large, luxurious malls and shopping centres offering practically everything you could want.
Terminal 21 Shopping Mall is themed like a trip around the world, and has over 600 shops and a food court. Emporium is full of glamorous upscale boutiques selling both Thai and international designer fashions, homewares and electrical goods. The newly built EmQuartier in Phrom Phong has a glittering futuristic design and is filled with designer brands as well of dozens of restaurants and a refreshing atrium garden when you need to take a break from shopping.
In comparison Silom has rather fewer opportunities for shopping. The Silom Complex is the only really shopping mall here, but despite being smaller than its counterparts in Sukhumvit it nevertheless offers a good all-round shopping experience focused on affordability rather than designer goods.
As well as local boutiques you’ll find familiar brands here selling electrical goods, fashions, books and jewellery.
Both neighbourhoods have plenty of market action by way of street food stalls and small night markets.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing to live in Sukhumvit or Silom is comparative rental prices.
Compared to the rest of the city, the convenience and popularity of the Sukhumvit and Silom areas makes them two of the more expensive locations in Bangkok to rent property. However, prices are still much cheaper compared to back in the West, and it’s possible to find something to suit your taste and budget – whether it’s a condo, villa or townhouse – from anything between 5,000 – 150,000 Thai Baht per month.
Due to its proximity to Bangkok’s Central Business District and the availability of more prestigious developments, Silom is marginally more expensive than Sukhumvit. Be aware that in both neighbourhoods being closer to shopping malls and BTS or MRT stops will bump up the rental costs.
The decision of where to live in Bangkok really depends on individual needs, tastes and preferences.
Whether you choose to settle in Sukhumvit or Silom, you’ll find plenty of adventure and advantages. We guarantee both neighbourhoods will be an exhilarating experience.
Sukhumvit vs Silom: which is your favourite?
Featured image contains photo by Terence Ong (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)