Nicole Agsten, Marketing & Communications Manager at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit
I’m a regular visitor to Bangkok and often stay at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit. As the name suggests, the Westin in Bangkok is centrally located right on Sukhumvit Road, directly opposite the Terminal 21 shopping mall and the Asoke Skytrain station. Easy access to the Skytrain makes traveling in Bangkok easy and avoids its notorious traffic jams.
Westin Grande Sukhumvit
It’s not only the great location of the Westin Grande Sukhumvit that appeals to me, but its renovated rooms, and great Westin Executive Club Lounge on Level 24 (with views across Bangkok). The outdoor swimming pool makes you forget that you’re actually in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping and entertainment district, and within walking distance are many restaurants – from roadside vendors selling Thai noodles, to fine dining restaurants.
Westin Executive Club Lounge
This week I sat down to lunch at the Westin’s, Kisso Japanese Restaurant, with Nicole Agsten, the Marketing and Communications Manager for the hotel. I wanted to ask Nicole about both living and working in Bangkok as an expat, and her passion for photography.
Q. Hi Nicole, where are you from originally, and what brought you to Thailand?
Nicole: Hi Richard. I was born in Berlin, Germany and lived in Frankfurt for almost 15 years before I moved to Bangkok nearly 2 years ago. I quit my safe job in good old Germany, and decided to move with my partner to Bangkok, leaving all my friends and family behind. I also wanted to see if I’d look at myself any differently after living in a completely new environment for a while… I definitely do! Being here, being somewhere new, and being somewhere far away from home has felt like a fresh start. I’m not the same person I was when I boarded that plane two years ago, and I’d like to think that I’m a lot better now.
Bangkok Tuk Tuk (by Nicole Agsten)
Q. Can you describe what your role is at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit? What does your average work day involve?
Nicole: Hahaha, that’s the good part about my job; there is no average work day! How else could I have ended up shooting a Rap video on our hotel’s rooftop! Working as a Marketing Manager in a vibrant city like Bangkok brings with it unusual requests, and spontaneous activities. And I love it. Of course I do have daily tasks such as, PR & Marketing activities, Collaterals, Social Media, Brand Standards, Blogger Cooperations and internal projects, but luckily we have developed a strong Marketing Team who I really enjoy with.
The Chao Phraya River, Bangkok (by Nicole Agsten)
Q. What do you enjoy most about living in Bangkok?
Nicole: Definitely the Thai people and their rich culture. It’s an experience for all of the senses, much like Bangkok itself! Among the tall steel and glass structures of shopping malls, hotels, and offices, you can find temples, revered Buddha images, and Spirit Houses. Jasmine garlands adorn things, and incense burns day and night. The Thai people are very welcoming to foreigners visiting and living in their country, so respect of their cultures and traditions will go a long way.
The Thai people are very welcoming to foreigners visiting and living in their country, so I have found that respect of their culture and traditions goes a long way. With my blonde hair I always get the full attention of the Thai people. Imagine being the only blonde girl in the Skytrain on your way to work! But I like it, and it makes me feel special.
I also go to a local Thai Coffee Shop every morning, and the owner waves at me when I pass by. He can’t speak English and I don’t speak Thai, but somehow we manage to communicate. It’s this friendly and warm attitude of the Thai people which lends such charm to everything that is Thailand.
Q. What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Nicole: Don’t laugh, but the small sizes of clothes can be a nightmare for a lot of Western women when shopping for clothes! It’s not uncommon to experience a salesperson trying to stretch a garment to its full capacity to demonstrate that it will fit, or being told that the size is not going to be big enough, despite it being an XL. I cried many times.
Bangkok Sunset (by Nicole Agsten)
Q. Being from Germany, do you prefer Thai or German food?
Nicole: Oh, I must admit, I miss German food! I miss Bratwurst, Leberkaese, Currywurst, Schnitzel, Wurstsalat, Gluehwein, Leberwurst, Schwarzbrot and Doner Kebab. Well, okay, Doner might not be from Germany, but I bet you’ll find the best Doener in Berlin. Now that I’m talking about it, I’m really hungry, thanks for that Richard!
There is a good German restaurant in Bangkok, called Bei Otto, and I go there from time to time, but being home in Germany, with proper German food, and my friends around is not the same. Imagine eating a Schweinshaxe in Bangkok when it’s hot as hell outside… Nah, that’s not the same!
Q. When you are not performing your role at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit, what do you like to do?
I’m absolutely into photography and I love taking photos of Bangkok. Bangkok is amazing for so many reasons, and I realized that I started taking photos with a sense of urgency – worried if I didn’t take the photo of the memory, that color, that scene in front of me would be lost forever! I’ve always loved photos and taking pictures and Bangkok brings out the best of me. All the experiences I’ve had since then are captured in my pictures, and every single one tells my story. That’s why I decided to set up my own blog; to share my experiences and photos with others – and if I can only inspire one person, it was worth it.
The Westin Grande Sukhumvit & Terminal 21 (by Nicole Agsten)
Q. Your photos are fantastic. Are there any challenges to taking such great photos in Bangkok?
Nicole: Yes, there are challenges. It would be much easier if I could speak Thai. When I go out shooting I always end up discussing with Security guards if I can enter the building or not. Most of them don’t speak English, so either we talk with gestures and hand signs, or I leave without success. Luckily I know other photographers here in Bangkok who are willing to share best spots and locations, otherwise it would be difficult for a foreigner like me.
Q. What kind of camera do you use, any special equipment involved?
I bought myself a Canon EOS 70D as a birthday present last January, and a professional tripod last month. That’s all I have. No additional lense or equipment. I want to keep it as simple as possible, and to be honest, I don’t need more. It’s more about the memory and the moment rather than the level of perfection.
Photo by @bkbnbkk Instagram
Q. I can’t help but notice that many of your photos have you standing near the edge of a high-rise building. Are you not afraid of heights?
Oh yes, I’m scared of heights and I’m always super careful when I go on a rooftop! But I think that millions of people have gotten over their fear of heights, so I can do it too. My tip is to remind myself just how unlikely it is that anything bad will happen, and breathe deeply. I try to push negative thoughts from my mind and replace them with the positive affirmation that I will not fall and I am safe. Sounds easy, right?
Q. As someone who both lives and works in Bangkok, can you offer some suggestions as to what visitors to the Westin Grande Sukhumvit might want to do during their stay?
One thing I always recommend is going to a rooftop bar. Bangkok looks great from above, and once the city lights turn on you can see the real beauty. The most convenient rooftop bar for guests of the Westin, is Octave Rooftop Bar. It’s a three minute walk from Thong Lor Skytrain Station, and none of the other rooftop bars have a 360 degree view of Bangkok that matches this. Although the location is handy, it’s slightly off the main tourist trail, meaning that it’s usually quite easy to grab a table with a great view. A DJ plays some awesome chillout tunes, and the staff are really attentive and friendly. Contact our Concierge during your stay with us to find out how to get there, and we can also suggest some other activities that you might enjoy doing while in Bangkok.
You can see more of Nicole’s great photos by following her blog: Rooftops, Adventures & City Life