The 3 best areas to stay in
New York City

I have not met one person yet that did not know how to feel about Bangkok. You either hate this giant Thai city for all its flaws and vices or you fall in love with it. Probably for all its flaws and vices. Luckily, the latter happened to me. To increase your chances, here are the 3 best areas for you to stay in Bangkok, Thailand:

  • Favourhood N° 1 Midtown, Manhattan

    Intense, chaotic
    & colourful

    Midtown, Manhattan
  • Favourhood N° 2 Greenwich Village, Manhattan

    Generous, elegant
    & colonial

    Greenwich Village, Manhattan
  • Favourhood N° 3 Williamsburg, Brooklyn

    Chill, zen
    & international

    Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • OH NO! Maybe not

    Life's too short to stay here

    Maybe not

The 3 best areas in New York.

  • 1 Midtown, Manhattan
  • 2 Greenwich Village, Manhattan
  • 3 Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Maybe not

Midtown – xxx

It was on 3rd Avenue and I was on the way to my hotel in Midtown Manhattan when I saw a guy that looked like Anthony Bourdain after 3 or 4 glasses of wine, trying to get a cab. The fact that I stood there, a couple of steps away from one of my idols, watching him waving at taxis passing by and not getting one to stop told me a lot about New York.

You might be famous - people don’t care. This is not L.A. You might be rich - you still take a cab. This is not Dubai. You might be one of the greatest travel professionals out there -you can still fail at transportation. Even if New York is your home town.

Welcome to Midtown, the part of Manhattan that everybody knows and almost everybody defines a bit differently. What’s certain: Midtown is what the world thinks of when imagining New York. Skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building. Shopping at 5th Avenue like the Sex and the City gals. Big corporations like NBC or Citigroup. Donald Trump -- like you wouldn’t believe.

You will get:

  • xxx
  • a timeout from traffic and noise (if you find the right spots)
  • surprised by how effective & amazing boatrides are
  • enough of visiting temples (by boat)

I’ll be honest, staying in Midtown Manhattan can be a bit much sometimes. It’s expensive, noisy, hectic and overwhelmingly impressive. But you can’t beat its super central location and the sheer amount of possibilties. This is just a small selection of things located in this area:

  • Grand Central Terminal (love it!)
  • The Empire State Building
  • Broadway
  • The Chrysler Building (the prettiest of all sky scrapers)
  • Time Square (hate it!)
  • The best part of 5th Avenue
  • Patrick’s Cathedral


I love Midtown especially very early in the morning. If you are jet-lagged after a long flight to New York, make use of not being able to sleep. Get out in the streets as early as 5 or 6 am. Walking through the empty canyons between skyscrapers that the streets of Midtown are is such a surreal experience, you shouldn’t miss it.

The silent change of shifts. The occasional opening preparation in a shop. Steaming sewers. All of it the backdrop of an upcoming New York sunrise that is accompanied by an ever growing stream of women wearing yoga pants and earpods, holding an iPhone in one and a Starbucks coffee in the other hand, rushing to their pre-work workout, training for survival in the shark tank of Midtown Manhattan business.

xxx down & use one of the old-timey shuttle boats.

xxx the River of Kings is one of the truly mesmerizing things you can do in Bangkok

Practical tip for staying in Midtown Manhattan

Yes, the Empire State Building is an absolute icon, but the lines and waiting times to get up there are often just crazy. I suggest you either utilize your jet lag, get up super early after a long flight because you can't sleep anyways, and show up when they just open the doors of the Empire State ... or just visit the observation deck of Rockefeller Center ("Top of the Rocks"). It's ususally less crowded almost as high up and you can actually see the Empire State Building from there!

Silom – Convenient and compact


Imagine being in a south-east-asian megacity only for a couple of days. The first time. 10 million people around you. Everything is new, fascinating and confusing. You have no clue where to go, how not to get lost, how to make the best out of your not-enough-time. 

Welcome to Silom, you will like it here. This area north and south of Silom Road is where you should stay if you plan on not getting away from your hotel or apartment further than a mile and still seeing a great deal of Bangkok. If there is a neighborhood in the city for the lazy tourist, for the impatient traveler, it's this one. 

First, there is a Skytrain/BTS line going right through the district. That makes life a whole lot easier in Bangkok, believe me. Second, Silom is bordered by Lumpini Park, Chao Phraya River and Chinatown so a great deal of interesting places to visit are really close, at least in megacity terms. And third: even if you don't leave Silom at all you might have some stories to tell back home.

You will get:

  • central location (if such a thing exists in BKK)
  • best infrastructure
  • skyscrapers and rooftop bars
  • big city buzz
  • shocked in Patpong

Some of those stories might take place at night time. This is when Silom changes from a place of business to ... well, a place of differnt kinds of businesses, actually. While during the day men and women in suits and costumes grab a quick lunch at the food stand around the corner, at night madness takes over. At least in the Patpong area of Silom, where the huge night market offers everything fake imaginable and the red light district might leave you wondering about the reality of what you see even more.

But it only takes an elevator ride to the rooftop bar of one of the many skyscrapers in the area (eg. Sky Bar, Cloud47) to get a completely different picture of the city again: an infinite sea of lights, 360 degrees, as far as you can see. Let it sink in and let it change your perspective. It's one of the great things to do in Bangkok.

One long elevator ride will change your perspective forever.

Silom has some of the most incredible rooftops worldwide.

Practical tip for staying Greenwich Village, Manhattan

Actually crossing Silom Road can be hard at times not only because auf the usual Bangkok traffic madness, but also because barricades and metal constructions for plants to climb on make it literally impossible for substential stretches of the road. Better look out for designated crossing sections or use the overpasses of the Skytrain stations instead!

Sukhumvit – A cross-section of Bangkok


You need to get your numbers right around Sukhumvit Road. Remembering the correct side street ("Soi") might make the difference between ending up in a quiet, green and residential area or in a red light district that is too much to handle for most of us. It's that wide of a spectrum and sometimes those contrasting streets are right next to each other. Since Sois are just numbered starting somewhere north of Lumphini Park and ending probably somewhere near the Cambodian border there is some room for misunderstandings and missteps. 

I am not joking about the Cambodian border by the way. Sukhumvit Road is about 400 kilometers long but it starts with a big bang in the city of Bangkok: Everything between side street 1 and 18 is a universe of its own, a magnitude of nightlife, red light and entertainment you better be prepared for. It's not for everybody and certainly not for every day. Go there once, experience it, test your level of coolness or insecurity, soak it in, get out and live somewhere between Soi 18 and 63!

 

You will get:

  • a different world in every side street
  • nightlife
  • shopping
  • redlight
  • quiet residential dead end streets
  • lost

Actually, I would even advise you to specifically avoid "Lower Sukhumvit" (everything between Soi 1 and the BTS station "Asok") as your place to stay. But that changes radically as soon you enter "Upper Sukhumvit": It starts as a buzzing urban stretch of land, changes into a shopping and upscale food paradise and ends as a calm & quiet residential area you might not think was possible to exist right along to the behemoth that is Sukhumvit Road. 

Of course, and that is true for the whole area, you have to check out the side streets to see what I am talking about. The main road will always be loud and crowded, sometimes even dark due to the Skytrain structures getting between you and daylight. But walk around one corner into one of the Lower Sukhumvit Sois and you will be shocked about how peaceful they are. Kids playing soccer in the streets, single foodstands selling lunch to locals and boats slowly driving by on Khlong Saen Saep, the canal that makes many Sois quiet dead-end-streets.

Sukhumvit Road over all is fascinating in that it basically is a cross-section of Bangkok alongside one giant street. Sometimes chaotic, sometimes posh, mostly overwhelming and surprisingly relaxing in the upper regions. Just as the city itself it never gets old.

A cross-section of Bangkok alongside one giant street.

Just as the city itself
Sukhumvit never gets old.

Practical tip for Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Two things will make or break your experience around Sukhumvit Road:

  1. Use the Skytrain. This road literally ends outside of Bangkok so don't try to be brave and walk from Soi 1 to Soi 63 in the tropical heat.
  2. Get the Soi right you are heading to. The side streets are so different, you might think you are in the completely wrong area just because you mistook you Soi for the one next to it. Also make sure your taxi driver gehts the numbers right: I once wanted to go to Sukhumvit Soi 18 and ended up in a 1.5 hours ride towards Soi 81!
  • If you are in Bangkok for the first time and you are not into the typical touristic mess of a party vacation avoid Khao San Road. It is filled with all the backpacking tourists rage drinking and locals trying to rip them off and the nights are the opposite of quiet.

  • As long as you are not in town for the nightlife only also stay away from the red light areas like Patpong, Sukhumvit Soi 1 to 18, Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy. These are neigbourhoods quite near to each other, so it's not hard to spot actually. Living there would mean to be harassed for sex in exchange for money every time you go grocery shopping.

  • Where you simply don’t want to stay are all the outskirts of Bangkok given that public transportation is extremely limited and you won’t find a lot of interesting sites there. The city is enormous and living in the outer districts means commuting for hours.

New York in under a minute

How New York is structured:

  • Bangkok has 50 districts and even more sub-districts but most importantly there is the rather wide and S-shaped "Chao Phraya" river flowing through the city. Most sights an interesting spots for visitors are east of the river.

  • Bangkok often doesn't name side streets crossing majors roads; they just call them "Soi XY" - the number indicating which lane is going off a major street. Major streets are called "thanon" and short alleys "trok". For example: "Sukhumvit Soi 11" is the eleventh side street off Sukhumvit Road.

  • Most neighbourhoods are actually named after main streets. For example: "Sukhumvit" around Sukhumvit Road, "Silom" around Silom Road, etc.

  • Like in most European cities Bangkok has its even-numbered doors on one side, the uneven ones on the other side. But very often you can’t just cross the road in-between due to its massive size, amount of traffic and impassable objects. Make sure you get the correct side of the road when you are going somewhere.

How New York is structured

  • Bangkok has 50 districts and even more sub-districts but most importantly there is the rather wide and S-shaped "Chao Phraya" river flowing through the city. Most sights an interesting spots for visitors are east of the river.

  • Bangkok often doesn't name side streets crossing majors roads; they just call them "Soi XY" - the number indicating which lane is going off a major street. Major streets are called "thanon" and short alleys "trok". For example: "Sukhumvit Soi 11" is the eleventh side street off Sukhumvit Road.

  • Most neighbourhoods are actually named after main streets. For example: "Sukhumvit" around Sukhumvit Road, "Silom" around Silom Road, etc.

  • Like in most European cities Bangkok has its even-numbered doors on one side, the uneven ones on the other side. But very often you can’t just cross the road in-between due to its massive size, amount of traffic and impassable objects. Make sure you get the correct side of the road when you are going somewhere.

Fast Facts

Safety

New York City has quite a reputation of being a dangerous city. Although this was certainly true in the 1970s and 1980s, it is mostly a thing of the past now. Todays NYC is one of the safest big cities in the USA and most neighborhoods feel even safe at night.

  • Some areas such as Brownsville, Crown Heights and most of the Bronx still have higher crime rates, so maybe just avoid them.
  • Also be aware of pickpocketing in big train and subway stations and very crowded places such as time square (why would you go there in the first place?!).
  • When riding the New York subway at night it migth be a good idea to board a car that has some other people on it so you won't end up with a crazy person alone.
  • Although the events of 9/11 are still a major trauma for New York City, almost 20 years later terrorism can not be seen as a thing you have to worry about as a visitor.

Getting around

Since New York City is such a huge place, so packed and partly spread over different islands it is important to know how to get around:

  • Walking is the best way to go if you are already in the neighborhood you want to visit. Otherwise the perfectly straight streets and avenues especially of Manhattan can make you underestimate the distances. Yes, you might see the Empire State Building from where you are, but getting there might take some time in reality. Get a feeling on how many blocks you are willing to walk early on your visit.
  • To get into the area you want to visit, often the subway is the best way. It is surprisingly cheap (2.75 USD for a single ride, 33 USD for a 7 day unlimited pass), relatively clean and safe and super fast if you understand how it works. One thing to consider is that there are local trains and express trains leaving from the same platforms. Local trains will stop at every station, express trains will get you far very quick by not stopping often. Getting this right is key to frustration free subway riding in New York!
  • The legendary yellow cabs (taxis) are the way to go if you just not want to be around other people in public transport and for shorter distances in general (for longer ones take the express trains of the subway). Taxi rides are priced fairly reasonable, starting at 2.5 USD, averaging around 10 to 15 USD for a normal ride in Manhattan. Cab drivers usually get tipped in New York, 10 to 15% if you were happy with your ride.

The best time to visit New York

As you can imagine, New York is quite a year-around city. There is no time of the year where the city feels empty or dead. There are better and worse months though:

  • If you're on a budget (good luck in NYC!), January and February might be the best months to visit due to lower hotel, apartment and hostel prices.
  • April to June and September to early Nobember are amazing times to travel to New York and my personal favourites: mostly good weather (not too cold, not too hot - NYC is a city of extremes in terms of temperatures), not fully packed with tourists. Just have an eye on some special dates that will increase prices, like the weekend of the New York City Marathon, Halloween, etc.
  • Of course christmas time can be magical in New York (especially around Rockefeller Center, Central Park, etc.), but expect crazy prices and lots of people. Also, NYC in winter can be freezing cold.
  • I'd personally avoid July and August when the city heats up and feels tropical due to humidity.

Rookie mistakes you should avoid

  • Having Time Square far up your to-do list. It is a soulless commercial tourist hell.
  • Juming on an express train in the New York subway without noticing - you might end up on the other side of Manhattan quick without noticing if you don't get the distinction between the (stopping at all stations) local trains and the express ones.
  • Taking a cab at rush hour or just not leaving early enough for the airport. Especially in Manhattan, if you are stuck in a cab, you are stuck. It can take for hours to get somewhere.

Typical faux pas in New York

New Yorkers are busy people. Don't waste their time or obstruct their walking path. If you have a question, just ask it in a brief and oranized way, maybe even walk a couple of steps with the person you are asking and please do not block the sidewalk by mindlessly staring at buildings or your phone. New Yorkers will hate you for that.

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