Which city do you like most, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai or Singapore?
Puripant Ruchikachorn, lived in Tokyo
I grew up in Bangkok, lived in Tokyo for 3 years, was in Seoul for 6 months (actually Incheon but I went to Seoul on weekly basis), was in Shanghai for 3 months, and have visited all other cities for about a week at least once.
In general, it’s hard to compare cities and people tend to be biased. (I think I am a little biased toward Bangkok; I live in the city now.) It depends a lot on your experience and the purpose of your visit.
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- If it’s your first time in Asia, Tokyo will impress anyone. Its sheer size. Most people know Japanese food and are familiar with a form of Japanese culture: food, manga/anime, Jpop, etc.
- If you have visited a city in East Asia, you should go to Bangkok. Unfortunately, many modern Asian cities can feel a bit similar. Because Bangkok is the only city on the list that is not in East Asia, it’s the most different from the others. Its temples are beautiful.
- If you plan to stay for a few months, it’s pretty hard to live in Tokyo, Seoul, and most cities in China without knowing local languages. I think Shanghai is the friendliest for expats, especially westerners. Bangkok and Hong Kong come in a close second.
- If you are into grand/historical tourist attractions, no city on the list can beat Beijing.
- If you are into modern/cool stuff, Seoul and Shanghai are on the cutting edge. This is debatable but I feel like Tokyo has lost its cool edge for a bit and Hong Kong is gaining.
- If you like exploring hidden gems, Taipei and Bangkok have plenty of them. Somehow these two cities don’t get mentioned much in western media, at least in English. They are also cheaper than the rest. You may need to look beyond English guidebooks; Japanese ones are pretty good alternatives (if you can read Japanese, of course.)
- If you like taking photos, the city life in Tokyo and Hong Kong is very photogenic but the old stuff in Beijing or Bangkok is more iconic.
- If you like the hustle and bustle of big cities, Tokyo, Taipei, or Seoul may not really feel like that. It’s hard to explain but these three cities are too neat. They are huge but they don’t feel city-like or, to be more precise, like New York or Chicago. Tokyo is definitely more like a gigantic well-maintained machine but not a spontaneous ad-hoc beautiful mess like New York.
- If you like food, you can go to any cities on the list. They all have great restaurants.
- If you like food and you plan to stay for a long period of time, food in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Bangkok is more diverse. Tokyo can be great for some types of food (burger or steak) but horrible for others (Chinese and Italian food!)
- If you … I can go on forever.
Didier Szende, lives in Hong Kong
I love the city. Clean, organized, civilized. It is quite expensive though. The subway system is antiquated, and at times inconvenient. I do get to walk a lot while in Tokyo…
I’d hate to have to live there, though. Visiting is nice, but the Japanese society is a bit oppressive for me.
This is one of the cities I know best, having lived there longer than anywhere else, except my birthplace. I have a special place in hell for Seoul. The place is overcrowded, the weather is crazy (it’s either too hot and humid, or too cold and dry), the racism is so thick you can taste it, the cost of living is first-world while a lot of the facilities (including the housing projects they call luxury flats) are third-world. The airport is 50 km from the city (which is itself 70 km wide). The food is great, if you like to have Korean food every day, three times a day. If not, you get crappy, overpriced shit.
The city feels like Seoul in the 70s and 80s, in a good-ish way. People are usually very nice; the food is great (again if you like to have local food 3 times a day); transportation is okay-ish; cost of living is lower than the two previous cities. The weather sucks major balls though. If I HAD TO live in Taiwan, I’d go to Kaohsiung or Tainan just because of the weather…
- Hong Kong
I have major gripes with the population, even though I like the city well enough, where I’ve lived ten years. It’s a bit like Paris: both cities are great without their local people. The cost of living, even in the NT, is crazy, and this despite zero import tax on most products, and no VAT. Rents are demented. The racism isn’t as bad as in Seoul, but they’re aren’t shy about it either. But then again racism in HK starts with fellow Chinese, and only gets worse after that…
The city has improved a lot since I started visiting. Transportation got better, even though they do have progress to make, yet. Cost of living is reasonable, and, thanks to a large foreign F&B community (the stereotype about Germans being the largest foreign population in Thailand? Not a myth. The F&B community is filled with Germans), western food is affordable and good. And the local food is great too. The people are largely friendly, although the people feeding off tourists can be downright ugly. A large part of government-related institutions, like the police, are utterly corrupt, as well as many businesses, which makes it harder at times.
A polluted, overcrowded hellhole with traffic and weather as bad as Seoul, and very little to see and do.
I like the food well enough, and the old buildings. The traffic is possibly worse than Beijing and Seoul. The main airport is so far away, it seems like the government tried to find the place that was the most remote while not being built on an artificial island on the sea. I don’t know the place well enough to comment on cost of living, and people, but the 20+ times I’ve been there never really warmed me to the place.
No winter, which is always a plus for me. Clean, organised, civilised. A bit like Tokyo, with more food diversity, and less bowing (my lower back appreciates it). The people can be a bit abrasive — so can I anyway. The kiasi/kiasu mentality makes me want to slap someone daily, but that’s far less than HK. The cost of living used to make my eyes bleed, but after living 10 years in HK, I mostly shrug. The transportation system is good, and taxi drivers are generally not the thieving murderous assholes I got used to travelling in the region. The MRT is slightly less good than HK's MTR, but people in Singapore mostly behave as human beings, as opposed to chimpanzees on LSD in HK.
All in all, it’s a tie for the second place between Singapore and Bangkok. The first place goes to Penang, even though it wasn’t in the list. I don’t care. Penang will always be #1.
Pas Sean, Interested in cities and urban economics
I have been to all of these cities apart from Seoul and Taipei and I like all of them. I pick Tokyo for its safety, friendly locals, ease of getting around, lots of sightseeing, cool neighbourhoods and quirkiness factors. But since many have already written about Tokyo, my pitch is for Bangkok and Singapore as the best places to visit and to live.
BTW I've lived in Bangkok for 10+ years and visited Singapore at least half a dozen times.
Singapore is a multi-cultural city with unique blend of many different cultures. To me it is a kind of tropical paradise minus the quintessential beach and palm trees. It is one of the most liveable cities in Asia and would be amongst the top 10 in the world if not for the exorbitant cost of living — Singapore 'still world's most expensive city'
Singapore is a well planned city and there are plenty of greeneries. Its streets are covered with tree canopies. The parks, gardens and public spaces are well maintained. Old shophouses are beautifully restored. Its modern architecture are bold and daring.
It has excellent infrastructure. Changi airport has been voted the world’s best airport for several years running. Getting around the city is easy with the MRT and taxi. It is quite easy to explore on foot and safe to walk around at any hours.
Singapore’s street food is probably one of the city’s best kept secrets. By that I mean authentic hawkers food like Fried Kway Teow, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Mi Rebus, Laksa, Roti Prata — the kind of food that makes you drool and tummy growl.
Not to mention other sights and attractions (Night Safari, Sentosa, Marina Bay, Clark Quay, Orchard Road etc). Plus it has something other cities on this list doesn't have.. a casino!
Bangkok is my favourite city to visit. It's full of interesting neighbourhoods which are very popular with locals and tourists alike. See 曼谷是我最喜欢游览的城市。那里有很多有趣的地方，当地人和游客都很喜欢。Diversity
Bangkok is diverse. Thai people are quite accommodating of other cultures and this is probably part of the reasons why Thailand is so popular with tourists. Bangkok Claims Title as World’s Most Visited City: 2016 Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index | Asia Hub
There are over 250,000 expats living in Bangkok, with sizeable expat communities from America, Australia, the UK, Japan, India, Germany, Russia, Scandinavia, Africa & the Arab countries.