On living in Bangkok #1 : apps

I’ve been living in Bangkok for 10 months and long wanted to share my experience here. The title is intentionally named #1 as I hope to write more about Bangkok in the future.

As a techie girl, my #1 is about the apps locals and/or I like to use.

Disclaimer: My experience with locals is largely confined to digitally savvy, English-speaking, aged 22–40 middle-class working in Bangkok. There are sites like Alexa that publish lists of top websites & mobile apps in Thailand. They don’t necessarily agree with my list below. I’m only speaking from my own limited, subjective experience.

  1. Social media: Line, Facebook, Instagram

These three are the dominant social media here. Instagram also serves as an E-Commerce showroom. Lots of niche shops showcase their products on Instagram. Shoppers would place orders with the shops directly through Line.

2. Transportation: Grab, Uber

Traffic jam in Bangkok is notorious. Most expats would choose to live along BTS/MRT lines and commute by public transportation instead of driving. However, from time to time I would need to go somewhere inaccessible by public transportation. It’s in such occasions I’m truly grateful to these transportation-tech companies. Most taxi drivers don’t speak much English, and unfortunately, some would refuse to use meters and bargain. To me, these apps offer not only convenience but also security — meter is guaranteed to be used and I’m spared the communication/bargaining hurdles.

3. Food delivery: UberEats, Foodpanda

UberEats entered the market earlier this year and has been gaining popularity with perfect Photoshop pictures, free delivery (at the beginning), and a rapidly growing number of restaurant partners. Foodpanda has been in the market much longer. I think UberEats will likely eclipse Foodpanda for better UI and location service.

4. Retail: Lazada, Kaidee, Shopee, 11Street

Retail E-commerce is one area where I found much more under-developed than other places I used to live (US, Taiwan, Hong Kong). Many of my local friends claim they never/seldom purchase on these platforms. The main reasons are that product variety tends not to live to their expectation and they don’t have the habit/motivation to shop online. I once looked for electronics on these platforms and found almost all products in the same category have few or zero review, which is a big turn off for me.

5. Payment: BluePay, Airpay, True Money Wallet

There are a few more players in this space. Each allows you to do more or less the same things like paying for your utilities bills. There isn’t yet a unicorn like Alipay in China that allows users to pay most if not all daily expenses.

6. Reservation: Eatigo, Offpeak, GoWabi

Eatigo and Offpeak are direct competitors. Both partner with restaurants which offer off-peak discounts for users who make reservations on the apps. GoWabi has the same business model but they partner with beauty salons and spas instead of restaurants.

7. Discount deals: Hungry Hub, OnSaleTellMe

One interesting thing I noticed is that people here follow discount sales very closely. It’s not exaggerating to say I heard people talk about discount deals on a daily basis. Thanks to my local colleagues, I even had free lunch (literally) at a decent restaurant once. Hungry Hub partners with restaurants and offer buffet style deals. OnSaleTellMe collects and spreads sales promotion news.

8. Grocery delivery: Honestbee, Wishbeer

Honestbee is a Singapore startup that provides grocery delivery services. This business hasn’t been tested here yet. So far it doesn’t seem to get much traction but it’s interesting to see how the market will evolve. Wishbeer is the largest alcohol online store. Thailand has laws regarding to alcohol selling hours. Wishbeer offers a good selection and accommodates people whose schedules don’t fit into the selling windows. Unfortunately, you’re likely to find prices of imported alcohol 2 times+ more expensive than the prices at their origins due to high import duties in Thailand.

9. Forum: Pantip

Pantip is the biggest online forum. Locals often read news /exchange information there. Everything is in Thai, so I have never used it.

10. Entertainment: JOOX, LineTV, BIGO LIVE

JOOX is the number 1 music streaming app. LineTV is like Netflix. BIGO LIVE is a live streaming platform. I’ve never used any of these apps, but learned from my local friends that they’re the biggest players in Thailand.