Bangkok, a city of exoticism and culture. A place to go if you have any interest in Buddhist temples and shrines of Hindu mythology. Also great food, interesting people, busy streets… and rats. Yep, there are rats in Bangkok!
Rats as big as cats, according to some. I can’t say I saw any as big as cats when I was there, but I did see them. And they weren’t tiddlers, I can tell you that.
I Saw Them Straight Away
As I left the airport and made my way to the hotel, which was pretty central for ease of access to the main tourist areas, I realised I was not alone. Well, of course, I wasn’t alone, I was in the center of Bangkok, there were lots of people.
But I soon discovered there were not just people keeping me company in that busy populace. As I passed an alleyway, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and stopped.
A rat was happily rummaging among a pile of rubbish on the ground. It paused in its exploration and glanced up at me. I stared. It stared back. At that moment I experienced an odd Zen feeling of peace as if I was in some communion with the rat.
Then it went back to rummaging, and the spell broke. I had been warned about the rats, but not having much of a problem with the species I hadn’t paid much attention. I certainly hadn’t expected the Bangkok rodent population to be quite so bolshie.
They Joined Me For Dinner
I continued to the hotel, and after unpacking, I went down to the hotel restaurant to get some food. It was still early evening and hot, and the restaurant had benches outside where I could sit and watch the city as I ate.
Except the city wasn’t the only thing I ended up watching. As my food arrived, I saw a rat scurry past my table, disconcertingly close to my feet. It was not cat sized, but still large enough to be a match for all but the most intrepid British moggy.
It was closely followed by another rat, slightly smaller but not much. My inner artist wondered if a whole series of rats would follow, each a little smaller than the one before, like those cartoons where you see a progression of ducklings that decrease in size.
But that didn’t happen, and my inner artist aside I was relieved. Still, three rats in one day were more than I had seen in a year in the UK. I wasn’t sure I liked the statistics.
How Do You Avoid Rats In Bangkok?
The next morning as I was planning my itinerary for the day I found myself googling ‘How to avoid rats in Bangkok.' As I’ve said, I have no phobia of rats, but I didn’t want my sole anecdote from my brief time in Thailand to be a list of how many rats I saw.
Khaosan, one of the oldest parts of the city, has a huge rat population which occasionally spreads out into the wider areas, not helped by the fact that many of the streets are incredibly dirty and attract rats, cockroaches and all sorts of vermin.
Luckily, the local stray cats have apparently evolved to keep these rats from becoming too common!
I resolved at that point to stay away from the older, dirtier areas and to make sure I didn’t have any rubbish or food on me that might be taken as an invitation by certain hungry rodents.
Watch the video below to see how close and personal rats can get in Bangkok... Sometimes it better to just not know!
Did I Succeed In Avoiding Rats In Bangkok?
I spent about a month in Bangkok. All in all, I had a great time, saw some amazing sights, spoke to a few of the locals and sampled the amazing food. Did I succeed in avoiding rats?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences (and to be fair, I think rats are among the least of the dangers in a city that large). I certainly didn’t encounter any of the cat-sized rats that I had been warned about.
But I still saw more rats in a single week than I have probably seen in a lifetime in the UK. And if I’m honest, in some ways it was quite funny. The rats are just part of the landscape.
Their success is due to their ability to breed in huge numbers and when they appear to be surviving so well, who am I, a pale foreigner, to complain? For every two rats, I saw I met at least one stray cat and let me tell you, they are a force to be reckoned with.
The cats of Bangkok are fully aware that they’re only a few rungs of the evolutionary ladder away from a lion. Regarding keeping the rat population down, I think they’re doing pretty well.
As for the rubbish that attracts the rats, it’s probably not much worse than you get in parts of London, though some areas are dirtier than others.
I didn’t go down many dark alleys where there might be rodents underfoot, and as far as I know, no rats were lurking in the hotel where I stayed, although I have heard horror stories about cockroaches in some establishments.
Should You Avoid Bangkok?
So should you keep away from Bangkok if you’re afraid of rats? Well, that’s up to you. I certainly had a good time, despite the regular rodent sightings. Bangkok is a lively, thriving city and I think that’s worth a few encounters with the whiskery inhabitants.