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Entertainment, Media and Television for Expats in Thailand

Submitted: August 2014


Sanuk is a key word in the Thai language. On a superficial level it means “fun”, but in the Thai psyche it goes much deeper than that, instead referring to an overall joy for life and living. In some ways this is related to the Buddhist modes of thought prevalent in Asia, which suggest that life is what it is, and bad things will happen whether you want them to or not. As such, the philosophy of sanuk suggests you might as well make the best of life, and be happy in whatever situation you are in. Having a service industry job in Bangkok is a hard life, but at the end of the day, if nothing went particularly wrong and you had some good laughs with your co-workers, sanuk applies.

For example, you are sitting outside a bar in Bangkok and someone selling garlands of jasmine and dok ruk passes by, they offer one to you, and you have the choice to decline or to buy one. If you decline, they accept this and move on to the next customer. However you could buy one and then give it to one of the bar staff indicating the shrine/spirit house on the wall (there will always be one). They will reverently place the garland in the shrine, and there will be smiles all round. Everyone in this transaction has made merit (another crucial concept). This simple act has also provided sanuk for everyone involved, and you will have gained face. Nightlife in Bangkok is full of these potential situations and it is always best to try to make it sanuk for all involved.

There is a lot said about Patpong in Bangkok, but the simple truth is that it was situated where the money was (the gem district), and grew up as a result of the competition for that money flow. As a result the businesses that have survived have done so because they were successful in providing something that was in demand. That many businesses chose to satisfy sexual interests is merely a function of demand rather than an indictment of Thai society.  

However there are some great local expat bars in Patpong I and II, for example: the Crown Royal and the Madrid. The bar girls in these local bars should be viewed as waiters, as in reality that is their job. They wait until you decide you want something and then try to provide it. If you buy them a drink, they gain face (and commission), and will be happy to not only supply more drinks, but also to run errands locally. You might give them an order for hot dogs from the stand up the road, or for some popcorn from the stand on Soi Convent, whatever it is, they will generally be happy to oblige. Many expats also use them as language instructors, which is fine as long as you are happy to learn street Thai rather than formal Thai. The bars are also a useful source of information regarding what is going on in Bangkok, and a conversation with the customers or staff may lead you in an unexpected direction for the night.

There are some excellent restaurants in the Patpong area (the lamb filet at Le Bouchon is memorable), and the street food available on Soi Convent (on the south side of Silom Rd) is some of the best to be had in Bangkok, if not the world. If you feel like a walk, you can go to the end of Soi Convent, stand on the bridge over Sathon Nua and look down on one of the few remaining waterways in Bangkok, reflecting on what the city must have been like when every Soi was a side-canal off the major klongs leading to a temple, and the city truly was the Venice of the East.


Sightseeing and Tours

The number one destination in Bangkok is undoubtedly the Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw. However you can hire a longtail boat and putter around the klongs for an afternoon, avoiding the most obvious tourist traps. By doing this it is possible to find small temples and other sights to visit off the tourist routes and never see another westerner. At the same time you can get a glimpse of the daily life of those who choose to live by the water.  Thailand also has some spectacular scenery on offer in places such as the Khao Yai National Park, and some of the best beaches in the world, the most famous of which is probably Railay Beach. However with a little research it is not hard to find your own piece of paradise away from the throngs of backpackers and tourists.


Media and Television

Television is extremely popular in Thailand. Unfortunately for expats most of the programmes are in Thai. There are six free to air (FTA) channels available in Thailand, all are run by the government in some form or other. Most expats either subscribe to a satellite or a cable TV service such as Truevisions and access English or American content that way, or simply watch streamed content over the internet.

There are hundreds of FM and AM radio stations in Thailand, most of which are local. Content varies greatly, and most of them broadcast in Thai.

Unless you are fluent in Thai, your choice of newspaper is probably going to be limited to the Bangkok Post or The Nation, both of which are at the conservative end of the scale. There are numerous online newspapers in Thailand, many of which offer local content. There is a useful list with links to the available online newspapers here.




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