In late 2017 I lived two months in Bangkok.
Before moving there, I was working at a ride-sharing startup in Africa for 6 months and also interned at the Belgian embassy but hated it and quit after two weeks. I made a ton of experience while in Africa (the ride-sharing company was my first real job), but ultimately I knew I wanted to create my own company and I always was attracted by the dynamism of Asia.
I decided to GTFO, bought a flight ticket to Taiwan, spent a 10 days holiday there, then flew to Thailand as I had a few friends who were working there as expats.
Before I arrived here I had no idea what I wanted to work on. I had some ideas but none of them truly excited me. I always had an entrepreneurial mind but kind of didn’t get a lot of inspiration after I worked for 5 years in the Netherlands on my real estate company, I honestly had no more cool ideas at all. However, I knew I had two advantages: I knew a little bit about IT (and mostly design) + I was living somewhere new so I started gaining different perspectives. So I thought: Anyway, if I do not succeed I’ll just cut my costs as low as possible or find a job, and try again later.
So I bought my one way plane ticket and went to Asia!
Why Asia and why Bangkok?
First, let’s start by putting the reasons of my choice of landing in Bangkok, and in particular, why Asia.
Actually, I never thought about living in Bangkok but a friend from my high school was working at a big company there and told me it was awesome. Also, I love big cities
Next … Asia. Asia is set to become one of the largest economies in the world in the next decades (provide source) and represent 50% of the world GDP, and you can feel the energy around it. I met so many people here in such a short timeframe. The first person I met was a Filipino guy in my co-working space. I approached him because I saw he was working on 2 (!) Alienware computers that were making a lot of complex calculations. I honestly thought he could have been a hacker and should have disconnected from the wifi, but then he explained me he is actually writing bots and let the bots do the work for him. I thought it was awesome!
Things to do in Bangkok
Honestly, I have not done a lot yet in Bangkok. I am not a big fan of sightseeing or nature stuff (I do like cycling and diving but this is a little bit limited here). However, I really like culture and Bangkok is filled with it. There are countless temples, you can see offerings on the streets, and monks every day. I really like to wake up and feel I am in a totally different place every day. It’s very energising!
My favourite place so far is Bang Kra Chao (green lung of Bangkok where you can cycle) and which is not so touristy. I also love Lumpini park.
Now, this part deserves an entire blog post of its own. Bangkok is the party scene of Asia. Before coming here I was in Kampala (Uganda), which has already a good party scene (and people can dance there), but Bangkok has so much to offer. You have backpacker bars with cheap alcohol, seedy places like Nana / Soy Cowboy. Or Silom street, and rooftop bars and high-end places like Ekkamai/Thonglor. Honestly, I like everything. I am not a big clubbing fan (clubbing mostly sucks in Asia since it is EDM and just about buying bottles and showing off), but I just want to have fun on the street with Thai and foreigners so usualy I end up going to Khao San.
Places I would truly recommend to go out:
1. Above 11 (an awesome rooftop bar, which is actually not that expensive, drinks are about €3 to €5 max, compared to other rooftop where you’ll have to pay €10,- for a drink)
2. Next to that, my favourite place is actually Khao San Road (it is actually a backpacker street, but I always had a lot of fun there).
3. Finally, Ekkamai/Thonglo are awesome places to go to (albeit a bit more expensive). You’ll actually party with Thai people and have quite a lot of fun. As my friend put it, everyone is friendly and you do not care too much whether you can’t dance, because no one judge you and is friendly there!
I decided for my stay to work at a co-working space. Actually I contemplated working from a café, but the most cost effective option (and to have reliable Wifi) is to have a co-working space. I only tried two : The Workloft Silom, and now the Hive Thonglor (where I will probably stay the next month). I pay 1800 THB / month (about €50,-) for unlimited tea / coffee and get to meet awesome people. One important aspect for me was to find a place where people actually work and not make phone calls which I find distracting. People really work here! I have met some very interesting people (mostly tech oriented) but I also met a girl running a financial advice blog for millenials and another one running a Facebook ads marketing agency which I found really cool.
Thoughts on digital nomadism
I realised three things when working abroad:
1/ Being a digital nomad is a little bit of a weird lifestyle. The thing is that you have a lot of freedom (you can literally do whatever you want) which means you do not receive continuous feedback like you are used to in a corporate job (or startup job) or when going to high school / university. It seems a little bit outside of the norm. My thoughts on this: I do not care. I quite love to stay in a totally different place (for now). I do not exclude that one day I might settle in one location (maybe the UK)
2/ Secondly,digital nomads is not only a european concept. Actually most of my friends are from Asia (Philippines and China mostly) where this is a very acceptable concept. China is sooo much more ambitious than us and much more hardworking too. It’s not a wonder they will succeed. My Chinese friend told me “Why do you go home now? You maybe still already have a few customers to talk to? Business is not finished if there are still customers!“. While I think that working too much is not good, I feel that I am sometimes too complacent compared to them and this is very energising because I really like to compete :p
3/ Lastly, and probably the highest advantage is that you start becoming abnormal. By that I mean that you become less homogenous and this can be a really competitive advantage. I have found while staying abroad for extended period of time (8 months in Africa and now 2 months in Asia), you start becoming really creative. If you stay in your own small town and keep doing the same stuff as everyone else does you will stay homegenous and not get a lot of cool ideas. You might want to try something but you will have so much fear to do it because you simply lack inspiration. Economic and capitalism says that you need to have a differentiator advantage. Or, in case of products, you need do have a product differentiator. One way to do that? Go travel for extended period of time, pick bits and pieces of different countries and start gaining competitve advantage.
And this is what entrepreneurship is about. As economist Joseph Schumpeter formulated it, entrepreneurship is about “creative destruction” where you shift resources from one area of lower productivity to an area of higher productivity and have the profits for yourself. Change is the norm and healthy, even though as an entrepreneur you do not necessarily find the change yourself, you exploit it as an opportunity.
This one scared me a little bit. I thought that I would become sick of thai food (I also hate spiciness) but actually I am now eating it every day (with the occasional obligatory pizza since thai food is quite light). I actually prefer it than food back home. It’s quite light (and I often need 2 or 3 meals) but not so oily (if you find the right places) and incredibly cheap! At first it’s a bit weird to eat fried rice and pork in the morning but if you force yourself to do it a few times, it will actually become normal and you’ll start to crave your pork and chicken wings for breakfast!
It’s actually healthy (though not very filling, I usually eat 2 meals minimum, 3 times a day). I think that Thai people actually eat constantly but I am not used yet to that.
Now the big thing is that being a digital nomad is not cheap. You can stay in private rooms with own bathroom (which I will probably do in Indonesia because I don’t really like living on my own anyway) which can reduce your accommodation costs by two perhaps, but it is hard to go really cheaper than that, especially in big cities with temptations.
(still need to expand on the rest…)