Trading Alaska for Bangkok

Alaska, Expat Life, Thailand

Where are you from? At the risk of sounding pretentious, this has been a rather complicated question lately. Currently, I have two two residences in opposite hemispheres, on opposite sides of the International Date Line, in totally different settings. My wife has a job in Bangkok with summers off, and I work summers in Alaska, so for the time being we are working on different continents, living a strange dual life with one home in remote Glacier Bay National Park and the other in a bustling, chaotic, metropolis.

Last week I returned to Thailand where I’ll be for the next seven months. Here is a look at what I’m trading for the time being.

Alaska → Bangkok

1 person per sq. mile → 6450 people per sq. kilometer

Into the Wild → The Beach

Trump → Junta

Super PACS → Coups

Wildlife photography →  Street photography

Conference Calls → Unemployment

Being the breadwinner → Being a kept man

Drizzle → Monsoon

Summer Solstice → Full Moon Party

Amazon.com → Night markets

Sunsets that last forever → Smog choked sky

Employee dining room → Street food

Xtra Tuffs → Chacos

Bears → Soi Cats

Stocking Caps → Swimsuits

Vitamin D deficiency → Melanoma 

Trampled by moose → Run over by Tuk Tuk

Cruise Ships → Khao San Road

Sheeple → Backpackers

Using the heater in summer → Running the A/C always

Netflix → Pirated DVDs

Northern Lights → Red Light Districts

Full bodied craft beer → Watered down Chang

Drive thru espresso → Mobile Nescafe carts

Weekend trips to Juneau → Weekend trips to Krabi


Which place would you prefer to live?

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

66 thoughts on “Trading Alaska for Bangkok”

  1. It sounds to me like you’ve got the best of both worlds. I’d love to divide my time between 2 such radically different places. It would really make me appreciate what each place has to offer. In fact, I dream of such a day, when I can divide my year living in 3 or 4 places…and yes, Thailand, or somewhere in SE Asia would def be on the list. 🙂

    • If I had my pick, I’d rather live in a smaller city than Bangkok, but I’m certainly not complaining! If a person can divide time between places, SE Asia is a great spot – it is cheap, easy to travel around, great food and wonderful people. It is just too hot!

  2. The contrasts could not have been starker between the two, and your photos do both places justice. Welcome back to Southeast Asia!

    • Thanks Bama. It is good to be back in SE Asia, but it is hot! The afternoon rainstorm is nice this time of year though.

      • This morning I watched the news and apparently there’s flooding in Bangkok right now. Hopefully it doesn’t affect the area where you live.

  3. I read this with a bit of sadness since I was supposed to be on a flight tomorrow morning to Bangkok for 3 weeks of cycling end-to-end in Thailand. I had hoped to meet you this week before we left on our journey to Phuket. A broken collarbone this summer ended that plan. I have no Plan B.

    You have such a diversity of experiences between your summer and winter life. It seems to me that you are currently living a photographer’s dream … well, except for maybe the unemployment part 🙂

    btw – I love the photo of the bike rack in Alaska.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your injury! That has to be a total bummer. Hopefully you will heal and can do it later.

      My first five days of unemployment in Bangkok have been nice. I’ll get bored about the time I have to go back to work! Thanks for the compliment on the bike rack photo.

  4. I could never pick – I like the idea of two very different homes also. In fact, we are working toward that, but they might not be as drastic a contrast as Alaska and Thailand! Enjoy your time off!

    • Yeah, these are two extremes. In a perfect world, my Alaska home would be less remote and my Asia home would be in a smaller city, but I’m not complaining!

  5. I’m liking the balance of living in the two. Neither is likely perfect for me long term but each would help me appreciate the other. My fave comparison was by whom or what to be run over.

  6. A few of these made me chuckle Jeff, in particular being tramped by a moose or run over by a tuk tuk. Not sure which would be my preference but what an incredible opportunity for you!

    • Thanks Lynn. A few days ago, walking in the dark, I came very close to two moose. Scared me to death. Crossing the road here is just as terrifying. I’m not sure which is worse!

    • Glacier Bay certainly qualifies as paradise. Bangkok is right next to paradise so I’ll take that 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  7. Hysterical! I am envious of both, but I’d take a grizzly bear over a street cat any day. What a life you lead!

    • I evidently spend too much time with the street cats because two different cats saw me and remembered me from 6 months ago. One ran across a busy street so I could pet him. Bears never do that for me.

  8. Nobody can choose between those two–you gotta love them both, and you gotta love that you get to live in both. I always wanted to be like those writers you read about on their book jackets who live in “Paris and New York.” And you do! So now I want to be like you. That, or live in one place–Hawaii. Love this post, but miss your stick men (and bear spray).

    • I can thank my wife for getting the job in Thailand to allow us to do this! Yeah, it is pretty cool to get to do this for now. Returning to Bangkok last week was fun – already had baht in my pocket, knew my address and didn’t have to check into a hotel!

  9. Your comparison list and photos are great, Jeff. You had me smiling, espec. at the trampled-by-moose compared to run-over-by-Tuk-Tuk. Wonderful photos too. I think this would not work for me, too vastly different; but it looks like you have fully grasped both lives with gusto.

    • Thanks Jet. It is probably too vastly different for me too! I went into downtown Bangkok my 3rd day back and had a sense of claustrophobia! There are so many people here. But I am adjusting to the heat and crowds now!

  10. What a contrast! I like the way you do the comparison between the two 😄

  11. I would *love* this contrast. I imagine at the end of 7 months in BK I’d be craving the nature and peace of AK even if I did have to deal with the sheeple. Then at the end of 5 months there I’d be excited to get back to civilization. Is it like that for you? Having spent a long time in the Yukon, and some travel time in BK I do have a feel for what you’re experiencing. Such a contrast!
    Gah! You posted that great motorbike photo again. I still wanna know how to do that. I tried in Mexico but there was just too much light. Both traffic scenes of BK are beauties – gorgeous light.

    • Alison, you are totally right. I am an adulterous resident, always thinking of one while with the other. All summer I missed civilization and soon I’ll be missing the wide open spaces. I already miss the cool weather!!! I don’t think I could handle living in downtown Bangkok, but our area is like a Thai village surrounded by the metropolis and we actually have a lot green space here – a rarity for this city!

      • Sounds like a very sweet place to live in a big city. I don’t think it would take me long to go a little crazy if I didn’t have a bit of a green space. I found this to be so in San Miguel de Allende. After 3 months there I was craving nature.

  12. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    In a past summer when you were the GM and Kristi had an hourly job on the whale tour boat, I thought you got the shaft. But turnabout is fair play I guess? Now Kristi works 10 months of the year, and you get 8 months off. SWEET!

    • Yeah, not bad. I’ll be working remotely from here though starting in January, so I don’t get that much time off. But I am free for 3 months which is great!

      • Adventures in Kevin's World says:

        I’m glad they agreed to that this time. And while you are working, remember that you are in Thailand, and not Anchorage in winter!!!!

  13. You’ve got it just right ~ from one extreme to another, keeps you perfectly balanced in life. Just like in photography, contrast is everything and for me the greater the contrast the better 🙂

    • The extreme contrast is fun. It was a little overwhelming those first couple of days but I’ve settled in. In a few months I’ll be ready for Alaska!

  14. A strange but totally exciting combination (to live and to photograph). I think you have the best of both worlds. Enjoy, and I look forward to seeing more of Thailand. I was there way back in 1991. I spent 2 months and it was just awesome. Hope to visit again in January. Weekend trips to Krabi sound good to me (one of my favourite places).

    • Wow, 1991. I bet a lot has changed since then. I’ll be interested to see what you think when you visit in January.

  15. What a great comparison. Love the photo essay. Between the heat and the crowds, I doubt I could take BK for 5 months, but all the places you can explore from there! What a way to expand your photography too

    • Yeah, the best part of Bangkok is we live a short ride to the airport! The heat is a problem but the crowds in our neighborhood aren’t bad. Anytime I go into the busier parts of the city the crowds get to me.

  16. Two different places, cultures and people, it’s not easy for me to choose. They have their own characteristics that make them special in their own ways. One thing for sure, you are lucky to be away from the US election daily news 🙂 Enjoy your stay in Thailand, trust you will travel around the rest of South East Asia countries pretty soon 🙂

    • Yeah, we are headed to Burma on Friday for a week, which will be great. Sadly, I have way better internet here than I do in Alaska so I watched the 2nd debate yesterday and read way too much about it. I need to go be a hermit in a cave for 2 months to 4 years depending on who wins!

      How are you enjoying living in America?

      • I have to say the debate was really painful to watch and I am not even an American citizen. Actually, the presidential campaign in the US reminds me a lot of previous Indonesian presidential campaign. Maybe because of that then I kept following the news.
        Life here by far is a pleasant one..oh wait, the winter is coming….

      • I think you have some of the worst winters in the country, even worse than Alaska in many ways. Stay warm!

  17. Alaska for sure! I’ll take 1 person per sq. mile over 6450 people per sq. kilometer any day:)

  18. petakaplan says:

    Jeff this is such a great post. I love the straddling of two places in the world, but especially two places that are so dramatically different. Your list is fabulous…..I reread it a few times and so enjoyed it.

    I think it’s a great combo ~ the pros and cons will keep shifting depending on where you are but as long as you have the ability to focus on and appreciate the positives of each environment while you are in said environment, that might just be the key to happiness. (And sanity).

    • Peta, you are right – I have to enjoy where I am! This summer, surrounded by nature and quiet, sometimes I longed for the conveniences of Bangkok. In the heat and humidity and noise, I often miss the nature of Alaska! I have to enjoy each one for what it is. We just went to Myanmar for a week so that makes it easier to enjoy Bangkok for sure!

  19. Such stunning pictures! Especially drawn to the street images in bangkok. Somehow the traffic and transport infrastructure in this city lend themselves to interesting and colourful (mostly thanks to the taxis) images. Throw in an elevated freeway and a concrete sky train line and it’s like something out of blade runner!

    • Yeah, I agree about the Blade Runner comment. Especially mid-day under the harsh tropical sun, Bangkok has a post-apocalyptic light to it. But early morning, evening and night it is much prettier. Thank you for commenting.

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