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Bangkok vs Chiang Mai vs Pattaya

I've been living in Bangkok a while now and if you've followed this blog over the years you'd know that I've lived in Pattaya...twice.. yet the majority of my 7 years in Thailand have been at Chiang Mai. I must admit that living in Bangkok (at least the part of Bangkok I live in) is way more convenient than I imagined. Overall I really like all three cities but for different reasons.

Bangkok vs Chiang Mai vs Pattaya which city is better?

Last time I wrote a similar debate was with Mike on Chiang Mai vs Pattaya and at least from the audience it seems people liked Chiang Mai more than Pattaya so what if you compared all three? That's what I've done below break down the differences and how I rank each one. I'm sure opinion will be divided so if you have a different idea then please let people know in the comments section.


When you move to Thailand you will have an immediate decrease in living standard compared to what you had back home (provided you're from a first world country) and it doesn't matter how much money you bring either. Shit here just doesn't work! You won't have hot water when you wash your dishes, you'll likely have thin walls where you can hear your neighbors conversation, hey maybe you lived outta your car back and Thailand will be an improvement but don't count on it! The best and most varied accommodation is in Bangkok hands down!

Bangkok - Best
Pattaya - Good
Chiang Mai - Average

Check out our article: Top 3 Best Hotels For Sex In Thailand


Thai food quality and variety varies in Thailand, in Chiang Mai you'll see much more in the way of Healthy food than you will anywhere else. The only decent fruit in Bangkok are the Bananas at 7 eleven. Oh but Bangkok has fruit vendors all over the city WTF are you talking about Chris? All those fruit trolleys you see people selling cut fruit from is soaked in sugar so it looks fresh and tastes sweet, don't believe me? Take that cut apple home and leave it out for 1 day...why does it not go brown?

Pattaya - Awesome (farang food only, Thai food is shit)
Bangkok - Awesome
Chiang Mai - Good


While the majority of foreigners live in Bangkok everyone is so spread around and add the mix of millions of tourists coming into town it's a much more difficult place than I thought to meet and make new friends. Pattaya is full of Chavs, welfare recipients, losers, and criminals and rarely the odd good guy, Pattaya often reminds me of being in High School but class revolves around sex, drugs, and prostitution. At least for me Chiang Mai wins this round as the best place to meet and make new friends.

Bangkok - Difficult
Pattaya - Sucks Balls
Chiang Mai - Awesome

Go-Go Bars

Now we're getting into the important stuff 😉 The only decent go-go area in Bangkok is Soi Cowboy, when you get there you start walking down the alley then you get to the end and you're like WTF, is that it? However you could spend all night there and still not hit every bar. Chiang Mai Go Go bars, don't make me laugh! Pattaya? Yeah baby, now we're talking! While Pattaya go-go bars probably have the worst service in the country there's no denying they are simply the best out of all three cities.

Bangkok - Average
Pattaya - Awesome
Chiang Mai - Sucks balls

Farang Oriented Nightclubs

People in Bangkok will probably strongly disagree with my opinion on the Farang nightclubs in Bangkok If you just go out on the weekend then you don't really see how shitty the clubs here are because there's so many people, go on a week day and you'll see what I'm talking about. Chiang Mai has only 1 real Farang club which is Spicy, not sure if you would really call Zoe a nightclub both aren't that great but survive by being the only players in town. Pattaya however has the best Farang nightclubs I've seen in the whole country and I've been to pretty much all of them Bangkok to Chiang Rai to Isaan.

*While there are great clubs in Bangkok the two best being Ku De Ta and The club, the general rule is if there is a cover charge then it's really shit!

Bangkok - suck balls
Chiang Mai - sucks balls
Pattaya - Awesome

Thai nightclubs

Personally I hate all Foreign oriented nightclubs in Thailand as the girls all have shitty attitudes and most won't talk to a guy who speaks Thai. The Thai nightclubs on the other hand are awesome and what makes them awesome aren't the ridiculously hot girls in them but the awesome Thai guys that go as well. That might sound strange but it's true. Thai guys are either pricks or really cool, you ever been offered free drinks from another foreigner? How bout a Thai guy you don't know pours whisky into your cup and helps you hook up with one of his friends? Pattaya has a couple of really good Thai Clubs but aren't so friendly to foreigners. Chiang Mai has some really great clubs the most famous and my favorite is Warm Up Café but hands down Bangkok wins for the best Thai Nightclubs.

Bangkok - Unreal
Pattaya - Average
Chiang Mai - Awesome


Hands down Bangkok wins! Taxis are so cheap, I live in Thonglor it's 25 baht on the BTS or 50 baht in a Taxi to Nana Plaza, why anyone even uses the overcrowded BTS for short distances is beyond me. The BTS is crap and the most annoying being there are no Toilets wtf I bet they intentionally didn't make toilets because like everywhere else in Thailand they haven't figured out how to properly clean them. Someone fill me in please! Got trash, take it with you! What moron builds a mass transit system without toilets and without a place to put trash? Even still the BTS is useful if you're going more than a couple of stops and Bangkok still wins for the best transport available. The blue songtaews (known by expats as baht buses and to this day I don't know why???) they may be cheap down beach road but go anywhere else and it's a rip off, so are the moto taxis in Pattaya possibly the 2nd biggest rip off transport wise second only to the greedy Taxi Meters which btw don't even use a meter! Chiang Mai transport? Your only real reliable option is to rent or own a motorbike/car. I want to add here that people often complain about the traffic in Bangkok, I think these people must have lived in the outback because Bangkok Traffic is nothing compared to driving on the freeways around LA!

Bangkok - Awesome
Pattaya - sucks balls
Chiang Mai - sucks balls

Cost of Living

Likely no surprises here on the cost of living in each city but I will say this though, if you are on a budget then both Bangkok & Chiang Mai would be better than living in Pattaya. The quality of cheap food and accommodation in Pattaya is abysmal. Chiang Mai you have the cheapest cost of living but cheap also means cheap! Bangkok can be really cheap if you don't use the BTS or Taxis (the busses are sooo cheap and easier if you have a scooter!) If you eat only rice, fruit, and plastic bagged foods at the market then Bangkok can be just as cheap as Chiang Mai and with way more options!

Bangkok - High
Pattaya - Medium
Chiang Mai - Low


Bangkok - Hot
Pattaya - Hot
Chiang Mai - Hot

Don't like the heat? Well forget about living in Thailand because doesn't matter where you are it's still exhaustingly hot. Bangkok has to be the hottest place followed by Pattaya then Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has to have the best weather of the three with many years I'd find myself having to wear a jacket in the colder months. While Bangkok is the hottest I often felt Pattaya was worse in terms of weather, the sea just makes the air very sticky and most of the time if you're outside it's just uncomfortable.


Bangkok - Sucks balls
Pattaya - Sucks balls
Chiang Mai - Awesome

There is a lot of natural beauty around Bangkok but the general vicinity it hot and traffic clogged, if you like your own space then Bangkok isn't really the place for you. If you like the beach well don't live in Pattaya, but if you like mountain views, bushwalks and motocross then Chiang Mai is the place to be.

where to live in thailand

You know everyone has different tastes and likes, some people enjoy living on the farm while others want the high rise living experience of Bangkok and the sex trade of Pattaya. Whatever is your cup of tea generally you either love it or sit around moaning about your own existence. I'd love to hear reasons why you love to live in one of these cities by writing in a comment below.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

22 Responses to Bangkok vs Chiang Mai vs Pattaya

  1. Trevor April 30, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    Not a bad read . I will only disagree on one point. Taxi. Tuk tuk and red/yellow baht bus in chiang mai are the best and cheapest I have been in here in Thailand in the 12 years I have been associated .

    • Chris May 1, 2015 at 10:34 am #

      Chiang Mai as I understand it is the only place in Thailand that has the song taews that just drive around willy nilly. Elsewhere in Thailand they follow designated path, check out Khon Kaen their Song Taews are way cheaper and they stop like a bus are all clean and don’t spew black shit from their exhaust. Not that I was comparing those three cities to Khon Kaen just saying they are more expensive than Pattaya song taews and more expensive than ones in BKK.

      • Trevor May 1, 2015 at 11:38 am #

        The busses are very annoying as yes they do just drive around randomly but I have not seen any blowing black . I have not tried them in khon kaen but they are cheaper than the ones I tried elsewhere . The sex scene here is rubbish . You can use the sideline sites but even they have very limited pussy . Better to use wechat and bag a willing Chinese girl . Plenty of others on there but at a price …

        • Chris May 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

          Chinese Girls galore now in CM and most speak better English than the Thai’s, agree totally!

        • Joe May 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

          You must be joking, within 15 minutes of arriving in CM it would be obvious that the local songthaews belch out black smoke.

    • Greg August 19, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      Pattaya wins happiness index. Happy go lucky lifestyle. Elitist farangs can just eat crow and stay in the boring north with its icy countenance. Jomtien is so quiet yet fun as heck.Y’all are missing out up there. However ,skip Phuket; full of homesick Esan folks in hostile bad vibe south.

  2. Pedro April 30, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    been in chiang mai 5 months and while i love the place for day to day living, great weather and cheap cost of living… im getting a bit tired of the lack of nightlife, p4p options and the atrocious english skills of the girls.

    considering checking out phuket as i didnt really like bkk and pattaya

    • Chris May 1, 2015 at 10:35 am #

      Maybe Phuket is your thing, I really havn’t spent any amount of time there, and no real desire to do so either. It may be for you. I agree the girls in Chiang Mai don’t speak English well, as a matter of fact that don’t speak Thai very well either.

    • Trevor May 1, 2015 at 11:31 am #

      Agree about the English spoken here in chiang mai . It’s very poor from all quarters . Perhaps it’s time to go native and learn Thai . For all its faults I would choose chiang mai over bkk phuket or pattaya any day . Nightclub scene is rubbish but as I am an old git I rarely go out after midnight .

      • Joe May 17, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

        Spot on. I don’t think I speak Thai as well as you do Chris, but when I first moved here from Chiang Rai I had a real hard time with the local girls. I know they speak Northern all the time here; do you think that has something to do with it? I actually get the feeling that they couldn’t be bothered speaking Thai, because if I mix in a few words of Lanna in with my Thai, voila better results.

        • Chris May 20, 2015 at 11:38 am #

          30 years ago NOONE in Chiang Mai actually spoke Central Thai, I think they have come a long way but it’s normal that at home people still speak LANNA especially for anyone outside the city center, the parents of most Thai girls in the north don’t speak central Thai at all or at least very poorly. If you can speak a bit or at least enough to impress you’ll have better chances especially for less educated Thai girls.

  3. TylerB May 1, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    I love BKK. And for Pattaya?Well,done that and have the t-shirt. I get bored in CM quickly.
    I really agree with you about the Thai NightClubs. The only ones I go to. If you ever get up to Chiang Rai check out the Thai Clubs there,they are awesome. You are usually the only farang there and all the girls are checking you out. The guys are also cool and friendly. The girls in CR are way hotter than Pattaya or CM.
    So for me it is Bangkok and Chiang Rai. CR is the cheapest of all 4 cities.

    • Chris May 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

      I’ve never lived in Chiang Rai, I think there is an age limit to live there like you have to be over 50 or something. Probably when I’m 50 i’ll end up there who knows, loving the experience.

  4. Van May 4, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    Fruit: Tourists in Thailand buy fruit out of the glass walled wagons on the street and imagine they are eating healthy third world fruit. The fruit is shot up, bathed, and laced with gender-bending pesticides.

    In SE Asia, you will see first-hand the enormous volumes of metal-based chemicals literally poured onto everything from plant foods to the back yard grass.

  5. Jake May 9, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    Good one! Was gonna ask you that exact question now that I’m about to go have Thailand as sole home base. 😉

  6. voyager May 12, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    Most I would agree, but I would also add if you have to travel frequently outside of Thailand either for business or for fun then Bkk has a clear advantage in terms of having direct flights to almost anywhere. Bkk itself is so huge and varied that you can have quite different experience and cost between living in Thong Lo or Sathorn vs living somewhere in Thonbury or Bang Na.

  7. ChiangMaiGuy June 5, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    Love chiang mai and love travelling to pattaya regularly but loath BKK

    • Chris June 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

      Depends where you live in Bangkok, if I lived around Nana I wouldn’t last a week, i’m in a dead end soi now and can walk to the BTS without hoards of people blocking my path and go to the supermarket any time of the day. Next time your down here hit me up, might change your mind 😉

      • ChiangMaiGuy July 20, 2015 at 7:38 am #

        Now bought a room in Pattaya and go there every 6 weeks or so… but still love Chiang Mai. I love the contrast and staying in two places (yea I know i’m lucky) really is a great life style! the amount of girls in Patts is staggering and the turnover if huge too!

  8. Tom September 30, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Enjoyed reading numerous pages on your site, which I just found. I’m on my way to Bkk in two weeks, never been there, but hope to find a decent, safe, affordable place to live for a few months. You wouldn’t happen to have any recommendations for a short notice place to rent would you?

    Once again, enjoyed reading and bookmarking your page!

    Thanks in advance,

  9. Ron January 16, 2016 at 8:35 am #

    “don’t believe me? Take that cut apple home and leave it out for 1 day…why does it not go brown?”

    Wow. If you need to wait a day to tell whether or not something is full of sugar you are seriously retarded. Anything that tastes sweet contains sugar. Any fruit that tastes unusually sweet contains added sugar. It takes about 5 seconds to know this, not a day.

    Also, it’s absolute nonsense that all fruit in Bangkok is prepared this way. Maybe the vendors in the few tourist hotspots you visited prepare it this way. Do you honestly believe that no one in Bangkok eats unfettered/unsweetened fruit in a country so with so much to choose from?

    Jeez….talk about 2 week vacationer turned expert.

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