Living As An Expat In Bangkok: A New Apartment, Freelance Writing And The Search For Avocados

Saphan Khwai Bangkok The Lilac Road
Traffic in Bangkok

As I am writing this, it has been almost four weeks since I moved to Bangkok.

When I first arrived, a lot of things were still up in the air: my job, my apartment, my visa situation and my freelance travel writing. In four weeks, a lot has happened – wonderful, disappointing, elating and challenging things – but what I feel most of all is gratitude.

After sending out close to a hundred emails to perspective schools and private companies for an English teaching position (which I studied and got a certificate for in New Zealand), I managed to only get two job interviews in Bangkok. One turned me down, but the other agreed to let me teach casually with potential to move to full-time in a month. What my current boss told me, and what I didn’t know until he did, was that when employers say ‘native English speaker,’ what they are ideally looking for is someone who looks Caucasian! Nevertheless, I am currently teaching some adorable kids at a private institute, and I am so thankful to have finally got a foot in the door after much effort. I am praying and constantly looking for a full-time and steady job, but I don’t feel worried about it at all – I know deep down that God has taken care of it already and I trust that he will provide an opportunity at the right time and place.

Songkran Festival Bangkok The Lilac Road
Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year where everybody water guns each other on the street

Something that happened to me while I was here was having my travel article on Bangkok published in Lucire, an established Wellington-based fashion magazine, and officially being made a writer for them! I was absolutely ecstatic and it was surreal to have all my friends and family back home celebrate that with me. Even though I was in a foreign country when I got the news, I still felt very loved from afar. Aside from Lucire, I am currently freelance writing for a couple of travel blogs in Europe and enjoying it. I find travel writing completely gratifying, and the bonus is that I get paid to do what I love.

Laptop and bed in Bangkok The Lilac Road
Nights spent writing in bed

After staying in Airbnbs for two weeks, and after consolidating with friends, I decided to take a risk and do things backward: find and rent an apartment without a full-time job. In Bangkok, you can rent a decent apartment from as little as NZD400 per month. It was a blessing from God, because when I decided to take that risk, everything fell into place. I contacted some landlords, looked at two apartments, chose the one I liked and signed the lease. It took only three days in total to find and fully move into my new apartment. How crazy and awesome is that? What’s more, God answered my prayer for an apartment that was modern, comfortable and affordable. I am also living in downtown Bangkok, an area which I really like. I am stoked with my new place and excitedly went to Ikea for the first time the other day to make my new space more cozy. Renting and decorating has really helped make me feel more settled; it truly feels like I am living here now, not just passing through like I am with so many other cities.

JJ Green Night Market Bangkok The Lilac Road
JJ Green Night Market, my favourite in Bangkok

The past four weeks have been full of beautiful, authentic and fun connections too. I’ve met lovely people through a church I am going to, had the immense fun of showing a couple of friends from Auckland around, met fellow Kiwis who shared the same love of coffee and food as I do and have also been introduced to locals who are well-connected and simply inspiring. Dating has been fun but also different; for the first time in my life, I am ready for a serious relationship, and instead of looking for short-term enjoyment, I am looking for something deeper and long-lasting. The many years of singleness, self-love and building this full and enriched life of my own has paid off; I feel so ready to invest myself and my love into a healthy relationship.
I am also in a space with God where all I feel is an immense and tender love from Him. His fatherly qualities have been coming through intensely for the past month: his protectiveness, his providence (“I’ll take care of it”) and his pride. What I did or didn’t do to deserve this, I’ll never know. It is a sacred intimacy I will never take for granted.

Brekkie brunch Bangkok The Lilac Road
Brunch at Brekkie
Market food at Rot Fai Night Market Ratchada Bangkok The Lilac Road
Market food at Rot Fai Night Market Ratchada

The challenges? Well, there are quite a few. I felt very lonely the first week I came here, not knowing anybody, not having a job and living out of a suitcase. You also have to risk looking foolish a lot of the time as you navigate and learn the ropes of living in a foreign city and culture; my embarrassment threshold is at a new high these days! Visa issues and work permits have also been nightmarish and something I haven’t quite figured out yet. Even the simple things that you take for granted back home can become bewildering, for example: setting up Wi-Fi in a new apartment (something that has been surprisingly frustrating) and where to pay bills, learning which exits lead you where at the metro station, how to shop at stores that don’t exist in New Zealand like Ikea and Tesco and trying to figure out where to go to buy a kettle, a rug or get something printed. Even trying to buy an avocado in Bangkok involves a Google search. But you know what? As cheesy as this sounds, they all feel minuscule in comparison to how much I love this city and how lucky I feel to be living in one of my favourite places in the world.

The ferris wheel at Asiatique Bangkok The Lilac Road
The ferris wheel at Asiatique

My friend was right; my time in Bangkok is filled with noise and colours and lights and madness. It’s been busy, but in all the ways that give me joy. Everyday I wake up full of gratitude and amazement that I get to call this incredible city my home, that I am using my strengths to do what I love and at the same time pursuing even bigger goals and that I am meeting like-minded people who inspire and nourish my soul. I am living my dreams. After six years of working, wandering and travelling, it feels so good to at last put my roots down somewhere. In Auckland, I always felt restless and out of place, but here in Bangkok, where the city thrives with energy and is filled with creatives, entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers, I finally feel like I’ve found my tribe.

Jenny Chang at Asiatique Bangkok The Lilac Road
At Asiatique
All images my own