For the past 8 months I have been renting an apartment in an area of Bangkok located at the intersection of Sukhumvit Rd and Udom Suk Rd (Sukhumvit Soi 103). One fascinating feature of Udom Suk Rd is that it is one of the only roads to have both an official name and an official Soi number. The area is serviced by the Udom Suk BTS (sky train) station on the Sukhumvit BTS Line– approximately 20 minutes from Siam.
Advantages of Living at Udom Suk
I moved to this particular area because I wanted an apartment that had a nice view on a high floor, at an affordable price, and within a couple minutes’ walk to a BTS station. For a westerner moving to Bangkok without having spent much time in the area, living next to a sky train or subway station is a huge asset. Bangkok has a wonderful metro system, which combined with affordable taxis/motorbikes, makes navigating Bangkok a breeze.
Udom Suk is in an area of Bangkok called Bang Na—if you compared Bangkok with NYC, Udom Suk would be like south Harlem. It’s definitely part of Bangkok, but it’s just a hairsbreadth removed from downtown in terms of distance and a light-year removed culturally. The BTS connection and station are part of a new extension that just opened, so despite the rapid growth of high rise condos, much of the area is still completely local “shop-houses”.
A shop-house is a three to five story building, usually built in a strip-mall type fashion that is the cornerstone of mid-late 20th century Bangkok architecture. The bottom floor is a shop of some sort (massage, restaurant, attorneys, household goods…) and the family running the shop lives on the upper floors. In downtown Bangkok, most of these shop-houses have been torn down to make way for high rises, but in Udom Suk they are still alive and well.
I get such a thrill out of seeing the local culture– it’s just exciting for me to walk along the sois (side streets of a major throughfare) and visit the stores at the bottom of the shop-houses. These places are completely non-chain and totally local. The prices are half that of Silom/Siam/Asoke/Sathorn and the experiences are much more authentic. Because the area is such a new connection to the metro system, the locals living more than a kilometer or so away from Sukhumvit Rd are always very surprised to see farangs (what Thai’s call westerners). The restaurants in these areas will not have an English menu or English speaking staff, which forces one to practice Thai. That’s always a good sign to me.
Disadvantages of Living by Udom Suk
The only real disadvantage of living by Udom Suk is that it takes a long time to get to the Central Pier and Lumphini Park via the metro system. Taking a cab is only about 15 minutes, but by metro it’s about 50 minutes, which is a definite trade-off. However, when you are living in a city you get in a habit of spending most of your time within a few miles of your apartment. I only travel to Sathorn maybe twice a month, and a one dollar, 50-minute train ride really isn’t that bad.
Of course this whole article is completely subjective. I prefer a bit of distance from the craziness of downtown, and I don’t go clubbing. If you are one of those people who plan to go out to the biggest clubs in town a few nights a week, then living here would really cramp your style. However, if you are looking to live in Bangkok in an area that is affordable, close to public transit, authentic and growing then by all means Udom Suk is a wonderful area to base yourself while in Bangkok.
Question: If you lived in a huge metropolis would you want be right in Times Square… or a few subway stops away in a more local neighborhood?