Okay, it’s a long way to Thailand and its capital Bangkok from the continent of North America. Is it worth it if your time is limited? In our book definitely yes! Even if you don’t have a ton of days, with good planning, you can have a blast in The City of Angels in a week. And if you have another week or so you can easily add a visit to the beach and say the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia or the city of Chiang Mai in the north of the country.
Think of it this way, the region is a lot like New England...once you get there, everything is very close together. And unlike New England, South East Asia is linked by a plethora of low cost carriers. Now, unless you’re a college student or on a strict budget, we recommend springing for business class tickets. Yes, the difference in price is substantial on any carrier but if you spend the trip in misery and the first three days of a twelve day trip upside down in jet lag Hell, why bother taking the trip? We always ask what is your time and health worth? Remember, door to door from the east coast to Asia is probably going to take about thirty two hours in transport and waiting. You will cross four time zones and spend at least sixteen hours in actual flight time. Also if you are in frequent flyer programs you can look into free tickets or the potential of upgrades. Remember you can contact the various members of an alliance as different members, other than your primary carrier, often have different deals. in the end, do you really want to be crammed in coach? Yes, we did it time and again when we were kids and it wasn’t even pretty then!
Just about all the major carriers fly to Bangkok. From the east coast of the U.S. it’s just about the same to fly through Europe as it is to fly west over Alaska and Siberia. Sometimes it’s fun to break your trip, in say Hamburg flying via the Star Alliance member Lufthansa. Explore the city for the few days and then take your second leg to Bangkok which is a direct nine hour flight. The only problem with flights from Europe to Bangkok is they normally arrive in the morning, and then you have the challenge of staying up all day to avoid terrible jet lag. There is also the issue that some rapacious hotels that will charge you for a room for the previous night if you want to move in in the morning. Flights on say United, to Bangkok going the other way typically go through Tokyo where you will have a layover but will not need to go through customs. Flights from Tokyo normally arrive in Bangkok around midnight, which isn’t too bad as the traffic will be light and you’ll be able to be ensconced in a comfortable bed before 2:00 am. Of course you can also break the flight in Tokyo as well and explore another of Asia’s most vibrant cities.
STAYING IN BANGKOK
Yes, Bangkok is a daunting city, but there are many, many things about it that make it well worth the visit. First off, the hotel scene is one of the best in the world hands down. There is so much competition that even the most famous and luxurious places are very reasonable compared to other major metropolitan destinations and the service level in most of these places is impressive. Any quick look at the usual booking engines like Booking.com, Expedia, etc. will reveal that just about every major chain has a stake in the city, but here our a few of our favorites.
Set in the embassy district this low rise smaller hotel in the land of high rises, is surrounded by six acres of restful quiet gardens which are truly an oasis in this crazy city. The rooms are spacious, well kept but slightly dated. For example it’s a bit difficult to find a plug in the room to charge your cell phone. But this being said, the hotel is obviously undergoing a thorough renovation and the huge state of the art gym, a blessing for fitness fanatics and the newly renovated pool area are fantastic. Breakfast is impressive and the bar, though sleepy, is one of the best places in the city to get an actual, properly made cocktail rapidly.
This is the most famous joint in town, set along the Chao Phraya river it really is one of the jewels of the Orient. Kings, queens, authors and movie stars have all stayed here and happily on a number of occasions so have we. This place never rests on its laurels. The flowers alone in the spectacular lobby, where the Thai glitterati are to be constantly observed, will blow you away. The service level is some of the best in the region and with butlers on every floor, your room will be beautifully refreshed every time you step out. Deluxe rooms are not vast, but are elegantly appointed and up to date. Lunch and breakfast are served outside alongside the river and it is a pleasure to watch the activity of the river as well as the beautifully clad and efficient staff move about the crowd. The fitness center is a quick (and fun) boat ride across the river and it’s staff will happily give you a vigorous work out if you are up to it. Just don’t leave anything lying about: my cool new sandals disappeared in minutes from the locker room when I stupidly left them unattended! Now, if you’re looking for a fast young crowd to hang out with, this is not the place! The clientele tends to be fairly stuffy wealthy Europeans and Americans. But, if your’re feeling like a trip to an age of almost forgotten elegance, pack your new suit and tie and the cool Italian shoes and dine with the rich folk at the hotel’s and the cities best French restaurant Le Normandie.
Now, if you are looking for hip, head directly to the So. Prices over the last few years at this trendy place overlooking Lumpini park have gone up and up, but if you want to party with the pretty people this is the place. We recommend staying on the club floor, as it actually, will add a lot of comfort and value to your visit. The club itself has a great balcony area overlooking the city where you can enjoy a complimentary glass of Champagne or a pretty decent cocktail served by a charming and gorgeous staff. The food in the club is the best in the building so don’t bother with the other food venues. The standard rooms here are a bit cramped, so we’d suggest opting for their So club studio rooms. But, conversely the suites, though huge are divided awkwardly and unless you plan on throwing a party are hardly worth it. The pool is set spectacularly located overlooking Lumpini park. Be forewarned or get excited depending how you look at it, they hold a Las Vegas style pool party most Saturdays and the area is wall to wall fashionista wannabes, beautiful people and drunk hipsters. The fitness area joins the pool and though small is adequately equipped.
The Banyan Tree
Literally next door to the Sukhothai, The Banyan Tree is one of the strangest buildings in this land of odd high rises. When viewed from outside, the building looks like it’s ten feet wide and one hundred stories tall. But then this is Bangkok, and kooky is in! When booking a room here be sure to book on a high floor as lower floors not unlike high rises in New York, can look on the back of another building rather than at the spectacular view you had expected. The rooms here are all large, in fact most are small suites and are very reasonably priced! The decor is comfortable and luxurious but some rooms are a bit faded if well kept. Unlike the So, the club floor is not worth it as it is large and frequently overcrowded. The pool is pleasantly located on about the twentieth story above the city and is a great place to cool down after a day out sightseeing. The gym is fairly large and adequately fitted out. The highlight of this hotel is the rooftop bar, Vertigo , which affords panoramic views of the city. Even if you’re not staying at the Banyan Tree, be sure to grab a sunset beverage at the bar. A few words of caution though, it can get crowded and drinks can take a long time to get. Do not waste your time and money eating there as the food is poor,radically expensive and there are tons of places within walking distance that are far better!
At the next door Metropolitan hotel is the Michelin starred Nam, which the former Chef and cookbook author, David Thompson, put on the world culinary map. He has left the restaurant now but the tradition of phenomenal cooking is continued by Pim Techamuanvivit. On our three visits there under Thompson's reign, the food was always interesting. Be sure to book months in advance as being a guest at the hotel does not in any way guarantee you a seat at Nam. We found though, on one occasion, that the customer count was not quite in keeping with the hype, and we were easily able to walk in without reservations even after we were told they were fully committed! Now, about the hotel! If you are slinky and frequent uber cool places in Brooklyn and black is is your favorite color, then this is the place for you. The thuggish doormen set the tone at this ode to sixties modern edifice, making you feel as if your’re entering a $1,000.00 dollar a bottle nightclub in Miami, rather than a hotel. The rooms are clean and minimalist modern and the actual bar is equally cold and dark. The pool though beautiful is frequently in the shadows. In general our feeling about this place is that it’s trying too hard and just “too cool for school”. But then, the rates are lower and lower for a hip hotel in a great location.
The Shangri La,
Balanced somewhere between the ultra hip of the So and Metropolitan and the old world snobbery of the Oriental, is the Shangri La, is just a sweaty walk down the winding allies along the river from the Oriental. This large, stylish hotel is a great place to locate on a first visit to the city, as its setting is pleasant and one can easily walk to the Sky Train (more on this later), which gives a visitor speedy access to much of the city. On our first visit to Bangkok we stayed at the Shangri La and one of my favorite memories is sipping gin and tonics, at the hotel’s riverside bar watching the boats go by while listening to a terrific Filipino band. The fitness center here is large, well equipped and happily not in the basement; in fact it also has a stunning view of the river. The neighborhood surrounding the hotel was pretty much a wasteland decade or so ago, but happily this has begun to change with fun coffee shops and trendy boutiques popping up all over.
EATING IN BANGKOK
One of the best reasons to go to this part of the world is the food and Bangkok is one of the jewels in the crown of the region. It is fair to say however, that “restaurant culture” as we know it in the west is a fairly recent phenomenon here. Up until twenty years or so ago, fine dining restaurants, as we think of them, did not really exist outside of hotel’s in the capital. Of course there were cafes, noodle houses and the ubiquitous street food, but free standing trendy restaurants no. Happily this has changed with young Chefs and restaurateurs opening new places on every corner.
Okay, everyone talks about the street food of Bangkok, even the government, which made a short lived bid to shut it down ar at least sanitize it recently. Happily people quickly rejected the government’s foolishness, and the haphazard way of serving food in glorious randomness continues. So here is the good advice about eating on the streets a Bangkok: plunge in and try it, but remember to only eat things that you see being cooked; ie. boiled, fried or grilled in front of you. Also look for places that are busy, and are “turning” the food rapidly. Take a look at the “look” of the stall too, is it neat and tidy the glass washed, the herbs and vegetables fresh?
The markets of Chinatown are a great place to sample a variety of street food, especially rice dumplings, but every neighborhood has a plethora of stalls. Check out the Pad Thai and roast pork in Soi (alley) 38 of of Sukhumvit Road Another local favorite is KOR MARKET on Kamphaeng Road for its curries and spicy sausage. Don’t be squeamish! You are going to sit on little plastic stools and you will breath in car exhaust, it will be hot and there will be odd smells and food you can’t quite identify, but I guarantee you’ll have a fun, exhilarating experience for almost no money.
A great alternative to street food, that is not quite as sexy and might not sound quite as adventurous when you get home, are food courts at the many major shopping malls dotted about the city. Yes, you read correctly, shopping mall food courts! They’re not what we think of at home. The food courts in the malls of Bangkok have some of the best food in the city, served in blissful air conditioning. Don’t take our word for it, when you’re there, look around and see all the Thai people enjoying a vast variety of not only Thai food from all parts of the country, but also cooking from throughout Asia. And, although you may not wish to shop for Zegna and Gucci items in the City of Angels, you will find the people watching at the food courts is some of the best anywhere!
The restaurant scene in Bangkok is dynamic and ever expanding. It’s important to bare in mind however, when booking a table here, that Bangkok is a huge metropolis and that “great little place” that you read about in a travel magazine might just be an hour away in a taxi from where you are staying. It’s good to plan strategically for the evening. If you want to start at a sky bar, then have dinner and then do a bar crawl after, it’s good to stick to the same general area. We’ve messed up in the past and spent much of the evening sitting in traffic hoping that “the latest, hottest, bee’s knees place” is worth three hours of pain!
So here are some of our favorite places in town. Remember though, that this is a ever changing market so take a look at the “Thai Tattler” when you get to town and ask about as to what the latest and greatest is at the moment!
Nam is Michelin starred and considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world. Now that David Thompson, the former Chef and founder of the restaurant has left after eight years, the jury is still out on whether Pim Techanuanvivit can fill his shoes. The restaurant has a pleasant if slightly unexciting dining room set in the aggressively mod Metropolitan hotel. Service tends to be friendly, correct and well informed. Booking a table is usually a pain in the neck, so if you want to go plan ahead.
This folks is a real locals place. If it were Paris in 1890, Khao Sa-Ard would be a bistro in the wrong part of town. The restaurant is set in a working class neighborhood and if you’re not Thai, you’ll probably be the only Farang (foreigner) there. Don’t let this or the giant T.V. playing “the game” or the stares from the other diners deter you. This place has been serving up some mighty fine family style Thai food since 1983. The founder has passed away now, but his son who might just take your order is omnipresent. Not only will the taste of the food thrill you, but it will undoubtedly be cheaper than a round of drinks at your hotel bar.
Namsaah Bottling Trust
Everything that you won’t find at the above mentioned neighborhood joint,you will find at this stylish bar and self proclaimed “gastro pub”. Something about this description doesn’t quite fit in our minds, as the place, set in an elegant turn of the century villa on a quiet soi (alley) near Silom, has food that is as sophisticated as many more formal places. There is a small patio set in a garden and a cozy bar on the first level. One feels as if you’ve entered the home of a fashionista or perhaps just a very cool bordello. Chef Ian Kittichai heads the kitchen and the super creative drinks are the brainchild of his nightlife guru partners Justin Dunne and Federico Meyer. Be sure to sample the one that is made with pea blossoms, as it is as pretty as it is tasty.
Another favorite of ours almost next door to the bottling trust, is Le Du. Contrary to the sound of the name, it’s not a French restaurant, (Le Du means “Seasons in Thai) but an Elegant and upscale temple to refined Thai cuisine. The decor is simple and comfortable with an open kitchen and low ceilings. This is a place to go and relax for a romantic evening away from the cacophony of the surrounding neighborhood. Chef owner Ton is an alum of some of our go to places in the U.S. including 11 Madison and the Modern. His skill and background are apparent in the four course tasting menu as well as in the ala carte. Despite the refinement and soothing setting the price compared to similar establishments elsewhere is very reasonable.
Now this place is definitely on the culinary map, and smack dab in the epicenter of the expat ghetto of Sukhumvit. In fact it’s being so well received that the Chef owners moved it from its original diminutive setting, down a rather notorious and racy soi (alley) to its present enlarged setting on soi 53 in 2014. Happily, little of the intimate quality of the original setting was lost, and it still has the feel of a traditional Thai garden home. Now a days, however, one needs to book ahead, and this is no quick bite place; the highly recommended six course menu will take you on a leisurely stroll through some refined and fun Thai cuisine.
La Table De Tee
Okay, it happens to even the most stalwart of serious eaters; occasionally one wants a break from the cuisine of the region and perhaps a bit of an escape. In this case, while in Bangkok, La Table De Tee is just the ticket. Set in an easy to find soi (alley) of Saledang road, it’s French cuisine won’t blow you away perhaps, but the cozy contemporary setting and the well prepared food is a nice antidote to the heat, both picante and calor! The wine list is very limited, so stop at one of the numerous wine shops in the nearby mall (adjacent to the Saledang Sky Train BTS station) and pick up a bottle of good wine: they will be happy to serve it to you for a small corkage fee.
For many years now Soul Food, located in Thanglor (one of the cities high end areas) and a short walk from the BTS Sky Train station, has been one of our favorites. The food is consistently delicious, brilliantly seasoned Thai food served in an unpretentious place that makes one feel like they’re in Soho, (only the foods better!). Scandalous as it may seem, the place is owned by an affable American former food writer named Jarrett Wrisley. But most folks are compelled with us to agree, that the food here is top notch and the clever cocktails match the quality of the delicious dishes. If you go in a larger group, We recommend booking ahead as it isn’t a huge place, and trying as many things on the menu as you can!
Making a big splash recently in the formerly gritty now trendy area of Talad Noi is Chef Napol Jantraget. His very reasonably priced food has been getting raves from locals and visitors alike. Pair this place with a visit to OUTLAW CREATIVE CUISINE and sample their charcuterie before dinner at 80/20.
EXPLORING THE CITY
It’s notorious for being confusing, it’s true; but with a little bit of prior planning and orientation, Bangkok can be navigable. Bangkok is not laid out on a grid and it’s buildings are typically covered with a myriad of signs. In addition sidewalks are a rare commodity, and where they exist they are normally covered with street vendors , cars, motorcycles etc. land here, is sold in long strips so much of what you may be seeking will be found in long allies called sois that are even more jumbled and confusing!
With the advent of the sky train and underground, however, it’s far easier to move about than years ago, and there is the added bonus that its cleaner with fewer cars and fewer pollutant spewing tuk tuks (motorcycles pulling a bench seat for hire). We recommend buying an actual old fashioned map of the city before going as it will give you a good idea of how the city is laid out. The typical tourist map passed out by hotels here, as everywhere, are designed (perhaps not intentionally) to confuse a visitor.
Taxis are ubiquitous and colorful coming in a wide variety of eye popping colors. Just like any city some drivers are great and honest, but there are always those that see the foreigner as a “mark” or may be high as a kite. Taxis all have meters and insist politely, that they use it unless you decide on a flat rate ahead. From the airport, the driver may ask you if you want to take surface roads or toll roads. Toll roads are faster but you will have to pay the toll in addition to the metered fare unless you have negotiated a flat rate ahead of time, about B400 to downtown. If it’s rush hour this can be a deal. Traffic can be horrendous and stoplights are endless, so plan accordingly and channel that inner monk spirit...if you can! Be aware that many cabbies don’t speak much English so plan ahead and have your concierge or a helpful friend write your destinations out in Thai. Yes, you can tip although locals typically don’t.
Don’t. Once plentiful and common these noise and pollution spewing items are dwindling in number quickly. We’ve found that most are on the lookout, especially near popular tourist areas, for greenies. The amount they demand will most likely be sky high and the ride fairly uncomfortable.
The first time we went to Bangkok we couldn’t understand why there were frequently gangs of tough looking dudes hanging out by motorcycles on every other corner dressed in a colorful vest of pink or yellow or green. A few enquiries, enlightened us, and it turns out, this is one of the most fun and not to mention convenient ways to make short hops around the city: that is if you’re a little brave! On one occasion when the traffic was at a standstill in our neighborhood and cabs impossible to get even if you wanted one, Mark and I took two motorcycles to dinner. Our guys may have driven down sidewalks and inches from huge trucks but they got us to our destination intact and on time; and I think it was the most fun we’ve ever had getting from point a to point b!
THE SKY TRAIN
One of the most enjoyable and pleasant ways to get around this crazy city is the BTS SkyTrain. These very modern and very air conditioned trains will whisk you around the city. Many if not all of the popular places for visitors are easily accessed by the Sky Train. Because the train is elevated it’s also a great way to see and get acquainted with this confusing metropolis. Buying tickets and figuring out stations and transfers is simple even for folks like ourselves who seldom use rapid transit. Most importantly, when the roads are at a standstill the SkyTrain will take you near to your destination in comfort. Six more lines are planned throughout the city, which will make getting around even easier in the near future.
There are regular commuter boats that ply the Chao Phraya River that have the livery of a crispy cream doughnut! Ask your concierge where to get on and off these boats. You can also hire a long tail boat to take you to destinations along the river. Just be forewarned that they are noisy and you may get sprayed by the foul water of the river. This being said, a boat ride is a fun way to see another aspect of the city and is sometimes the best way to get to more out of the way destinations such as the Museum of Royal barges.
A quick Google search of Bangkok attractions immediately make one realize that there is a lot to see in this burg! Below are just a few of our personal favorites. Sightseeing and shopping in this city can be daunting as it’s always HOT and humid. Moreover this is no small town and getting around unless you plan well, can find one wasting hours just getting to one place. If you’re going to one part of the city plan to cluster your visits. For example if you want to go to the Chatuchack Weekend Market, take the SkyTrain and on your way back to the center of town stop at Siam Paragon and the Jim Thompson House, which are all on the same line.
In the last few years, with the rise of Chinese tourism around the world, Bangkok’s more famous attractions have become inundated. Because of this we recommend going to places like the Grand Palace early in the morning and on weekdays. And an aside, while visiting places such as temples and palaces it is important to remember that the Thai people respect a certain level of decorum. So dress in light clothing but leave the shorts and tank tops for the beach. Yes, I know you’ll see plenty of hairy armpits around the city, but if one takes a second look you’ll see that most Thai people wear appropriate clothing.
THE GRAND PALACE
Built in 1782 when the City of the Angels was established, and the seat of government until 1925, The Grand Palace is a must see for the first time visitor to the city. The stunning conglomeration of temples, audience halls and private residences is simply amazing. Much of the traditional Thai architecture is spectacular and the later edifices some which incorporated a wild hodge podge of western elements, are in themselves a fascinating comment of the changes that came to this ancient land in the 19th and 20th centuries. Be sure to see the Wat Phra Kaew, also in the palace grounds which houses the sacred Emerald Buddha.
VIMANMEK MANSION-DUSIT PALACE
Built in 1900 at the behest of King Rama V, this neo Victorian structure is constructed entirely of teak wood. In fact it is the largest teak wood structure anywhere. But what makes this a must see is the romantic atmosphere that helps one see the personal changes and “modernization” of the monarchy and hence Thai society at this crucial time.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ROYAL BARGES
Tucked away on a klong (canal) off the Chao Phraya River, this seldom visited spot is one our favorite places. The Royal barges are taken out only for special occasions of state and are simply amazing. Getting to the museum is half the fun. Have your concierge assist you in arranging transportation by boat and your visit to the museum will open a window on this rarely seen part of the city.
Also on the other side of the river from the Grand Palace, but further south in the Thonburi district is the impressive Wat Arun. The temple complex is the oldest wat (temple) in Bangkok. The central stupa is clad entirely in gold and surrounded by a beautiful array of out buildings made more compelling because of its placement along the river.
CHATUCHACK WEEKEND MARKET
As the name implies, this humongous market is only open on the weekends. So if you’re lucky enough to be in town over the weekend be sure to go. You won’t be alone, over 200,000 people visit each day! But then, there are over 8000 stalls to visit spread out over many many acres of land. Here you’ll find everything from antiques to modern art to boutiques displaying handmade clothes and specialty soaps. Oh and there are plenty of food stalls and cafes too!
SIAM PARAGON-CENTRAL WORLD
In this city of mega malls this one is the best. So if you’re still up for shopping after the market, stop here and stock up on Gucci and Armani! There is more to it though than foreign designer labels though; many Thai designers and brands are
represented here and the prices, relative to home, are pretty amazing. People watching here is also fun, as this is where the Thai upper and upper middle class shops. There are elegant matrons and young guys and girls in trendy clothes doing what kids do around the world in malls: flirt and strut their stuff! This is also a great place to catch a quick meal in one the several and extensive food courts.
THE JIM THOMPSON HOUSE
Down a pleasant residential soi (alley) near Siam Paragon, is the Jim Thompson House. This charming collection of traditional teakwood houses was created by the mysterious Bon Vivant-designer- CIA agent Thompson. The beautiful enclave that he created to be his home in 1959, gives the visitor a very special insight into the elegant lifestyle of this famed expatriate. The collection of Asian art is impressive and the tasteful melding of the modern and the antique to create this home, is a pleasure to see. Don’t skip the clothing museum which explains how Thompson help to revive the traditional Thai craftsmanship and showcases many gowns and dresses in his silk. The shop is fun too! If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by Bangkok, this is a good place to have a peaceful lunch overlooking the homes gardens and lily ponds. The food is serviceable but the beer is cold! Be forewarned though, this destination is definitely on the tourist trail and seems a bit overwhelmed at times
M.R. KUKRIT’S HERITAGE HOME
For an antidote to the hordes of people at the Thompson House, head to the almost forgotten Kukrit home. Near Lumpini Park and an easy walk from the BTS Sky Train Chongnansi Station, this home is well worth a visit. Kukrit was briefly a Prime Minister in the early sixties, highly educated, an art collector and a member of Thailand’s elite. His home, not unlike Thompson’s, is a collection of traditional Thai structures, elegantly modernized set in a lovely garden complete with a discreet swimming pool and boat like outdoor bar! This is an intimate window into a learned man’s life and into a forgotten era and lifestyle.
After all the mad urban crush of Bangkok, peaceful Lumpini park surrounded by the cities most expensive Real Estate, is a welcome respite. Here you’ll find on early mornings the locals practicing Tai Chi and athletes jogging. Frequently there are also colorful fairs setup here to promote Thai culture. After a walk in the park, stroll across the street and enjoy a cool beverage in the Dusit Thani Hotel which, when built in the early sixties, was the city's tallest structure. Dwarfed today by the surrounding high rises, it is also a window into the rapidly modernizing Thai world of the 1960s.
BANG RAK AND TALAD NOI
In the last few years, the districts of Bang Rak and Talad NOI, have emerged as some hippest areas of the city. Much of what makes up these districts is still pretty grubby with lots of chop shops and auto repair places. But the low rents have lured a new crop of chefs, designers, artists and musicians and they in turn have created a new crop of cool places to visit. THAILAND CREATIVE & DESIGN CENTER which opened in the former Grand Post Office building has a gallery and multi level design library. SPEEDY GRANDMA, is partially a gallery and frequently turns into a party pad.
Obviously Bangkok is famous and notorious for its nightlife. Being out on the town in this city is well worth the plunge. If you’re a bit squeamish about going out for your first time and don't know the city well, have your hotel arrange a car and driver for you. Your driver will wait for you at every venue and assist you in finding some of the out of the way bars and nightclubs that maybe hard to find.
We recommend starting a night out with sunset drinks at one of Bangkok's many sky bars. Three of our favorites are: VERTIGO on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel which gives you a spectacular view from the center of the city, SKY BAR AT LUBEA STATE TOWER, a catastrophe of architecture that overlooks the river and was featured in a vodka ad for years and PARK SOCIETY at the So Hotel which overlooks Lumpini Park. These Sky bars really give you a great sense of the vibrancy of this sprawling metropolis. Prices also tend to be sky high and service numbingly slow in these establishments but the view will still make up for that!
This cool 1930s style bar opened in 2013 and continues to bring in the crowds. The entrance is behind thick curtains and you first have to walk through a noodle joint to get there. Don’t miss the private booths that are set in the old East India company’s bank vaults
THE IRON FAIRIES
Despite its name this is not a gay biker bar, rather it’s the epitome of young and hip in trendy Thang Lor area of the city. The atmosphere is rustic and sexy.
THE BAMBOO BAR
Some things just get better with age and the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental is one of them. Remodeled in 2015 the classy colonial vibe is great and so is the jazz. This is a great place to end the night in style.
Located on Convent road just a short walk from the BTS Sala Daeng station, this quiet sophisticated bar is a classy place to start an evening sipping James Bond’s favorite martini
The huge club is popular with the young and well dressed college students and “Tupies’. There isn’t much of a dance floor but if you go with a group and buy a bottle you’ll enjoy a real Thai style experience of clubbing.
Ranked by “DJ Magazine as one of the best clubs in the world, this is an immense place with room for over 2000 people. The dance floor is huge and the LED screen is pretty cool too. There are lots of dressed up locals here and it’s just a great scene.
Bangkok’s gay nightlife centers around the Silom District, with most bars in two tiny sois (allies), Silom soi 2 and 4
Start...or finish the evening at this long time favorite. The bar spills out into the alley and is a great place to watch all the wild and wonderful walk, strut and glide by.
Another old favorite along soi 4, this is a casual and pleasant place for an inexpensive cocktail or beer. Check out their cabaret nights which are pretty cute.
This place is still the best gay dance bar in town. Set on three levels that overlook the dance floor the place is always crowded and always fun with a great mix of foreigners and local folks
FORK AND CORK
This place, which was formerly known as Sphinx, and is a great place to get serviceable Thai food in a very comfortable atmosphere on soi 4. It’s definitely a good place to relax before plunging into the club scene
GAY NIGHTS AT MAINSTREAM BARS
Many of Bangkok’s hippest clubs have “gay nights”. Top of this list are MAGGIE CHOO’S on Sunday’s and CE LA VI on thursdays.
To check out some of Bangkok’s hottest new venues, head to Soi Nana in the south of Chinatown. The bars are all pretty gritty and have an edge...but isn’t that part of the fun?! Some of the top places are,TEENS OF THAILAND, TEP BAR , PROJECT 189,and 23 BAR & GALLERY. Also, in “The Creative District” check out SOUL BAR AND SPEEDY GRANDMOTHER.
THOUGHTS AND ADVICE ON A NIGHT OUT IN BANGKOK
On a side note about drinking in Thailand in general, despite The menu choices, and despite the new crop of trendy hipster bars, the actual concept of “cocktails” remains a bit of a challenge. If you want a typical American strength drink we’d recommend asking for a double. Your server might be shocked, but you’ll get a real drink. Martinis also present a special problem, with the request for a “dry” martini frequently leading to more “Dry Vermouth” being added. We suggest asking for Gin or Vodka on the rocks. You will often see Thai people with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black and mixers on a side table. You will also frequently notice that a group of guys ostensibly out to”party” will nurse said Scotch for hours and then return it to the bar where it is kept under their name for the next visit. Many locals also order their beer with ice in it. As it’s always blasting hot in Bangkok, try it this way, you may like it and anyway, “when in Rome”.....
You don’t need to be afraid to go out in Bangkok. It is a safe city by and large. This being said as with any city and perhaps because it’s even more confusing in physical layout than many, it is important to keep your wits about you. Use your common sense and stay with your group of friends.