After living in foreign countries for nearly a decade, Nicholas Netzer still occasionally finds himself lost in Bangkok.
Wandering the streets, alleys, and malls gave him the idea to start up a new online directory called TalkBangkok.com. It has been only two months since the website launched, but already it has led many people to delicious restaurants or nightclubs in the city.
"I made different trips to Bangkok and realised that I was always getting lost. I didn't know what to do in the city, but then I would stumble on these amazing things," he said.
Netzer didn't always plan to live in Bangkok. He is from Highland, Illinois in the US, just off of the Mississippi River. In university he studied international trade and had the opportunity to move a world away.
"I just wanted to go to a country, learn the language, and see stuff. I looked into China, I had never even looked into Thailand at the time," he said.
After two semesters of school in China he realised there were opportunities for entrepreneurship. When he finished his degree he went back and eventually became a partner in Mercator Pharmaceutical Solutions, an export company. After three years focusing solely on Mercator's expansion Netzer felt Thailand calling him.
And once here, along with his business partner Jonathan Harman, Netzer decided that their newest venture should use their experiences getting lost in the streets of the city.
"If you have ever tried finding a numbered address in Bangkok, you realise that it can be pretty hard," he said.
Instead of following other directories, the website has hit the ground running.
"There are some websites with maps, but maybe it's just Google maps and not always accurate.
"We realised that if we want to map out the city accurately, we need to do it on our own, on foot, and with a map," he said.
At the end of 2010 that is exactly what they did. They went to different restaurants, pubs, bars, and malls throughout the city. They didn't just take the coordinates either. What makes TalkBangkok.com unique is the inclusion of some very important details.
"We wanted to go to all these places because when you go you can actually get a real feel for the vibe there and see what the venue is actually like," he said.
That included having a breakdown of price, dress code, hours, specials, and even the crowd on top of the descriptions of food and drink.
The site also tells you which MRT line to take and where to get off. Especially helpful for foreigners, TalkBangkok.com also gives photos of the exterior of the business to go with its in-depth directions and address.
"Just coming to a new country in and of itself is a big deal for a lot of people and it can be pretty overwhelming. The street layout in Bangkok is completely different than any other city I have lived in. So that kind of information can become pretty important," Netzer said.
Not every restaurant or activity is on the website at this stage. With a large and rapidly changing city, it is a big undertaking to visit all the locations in a year, but he is optimistic they will get pretty close.
During Netzer's research for TalkBangkok.com, his love of the city has grown. Standing out from the crowd at 198cm (6ft 6in) tall, Netzer said he enjoys learning about the culture. He is taking Muay Thai and is enrolled in language classes.
"I carry around my Muay Thai gloves and people see me and see the gloves and are like, 'Thai boxing, that's awesome', and then go straight into my height," he said with a chuckle. "But it seems to happen everywhere."
Netzer's love of the city and the culture is the inspiration behind the site and a driving force for it in the future. With his extensive travel he said people approach him all the time with the wrong impression of the city.
"I had so many people who asked me what there is to do in the city because they always stay in Khao San Road, even when they aren't the backpacker type of people. They leave and don't like Bangkok, but that's not a true representation of this awesome city," he said.
With TalkBangkok.com, Netzer gets to explore the city he loves and help other people have a fantastic experience here _ but that doesn't mean he's not still making mistakes.
"A few weeks ago I was meeting my friend from Hong Kong at a bar. I went to meet her at the door and had just got off work and they wouldn't let me in because I wasn't wearing long pants. So I had to go home, change pants, and then go back out," he said.
About the author
Writer: Kelly Malone