For variety, energy, enthusiasm and excitement, Bangkok's nightlife is in a league of its own. Whatever your age, taste and persuasion, you can rest assured thatThailand's vibrant capital can deliver. What's more, having a good time here won't burn a hole in your pocket. The restaurants, clubs, bars, discos and other entertainment venues are all reasonably priced, especially when compared to other major eities.
Bangkok is, of course, the heartbeat of the country's entertainment industry. The choice of venues and things to do here puts other Thai eities and resorts in the shade. Once the sun has gone below the horizon and the night-lights have been switched on, that amazing dedieation to having a good time becomes all so apparent. There's a buzz about the city, a feeling of expectation that something exciting and memorable is about to happen-and it o ften does.
Unusually amongst big ^ities, Bangkok does not have ~ne major entertainment district. Instead, it has many areas offering leisure time activities. So whereveryou stay, great nightlife opportunities are never far away.
Regarded by some people as the Bangkok equivalent of London's Kensington and Chelsea, Sukhumvit is unquestionably the most cosmopolitan area of the city. With the Skytrain serving more than half its length, thus easing access to the various pleasures located on the main road and its adjoining streets, Sukhumvit is favoured by foreign residents as the place to live and play It is also popular with well-to-do Thais who either live in modern condominiums or mansions set in huge compounds and enjoy the area's international flavour.
Essentially, Sukhumvit can be broken down into four distinctive entertainment areas: Nana, Asoke, Emporium and Thong Lor. Each has its own charms and attractions, and appeals to different groups of people.
Nana, which includes Sois (side streets) No. 3 to 19, is perhaps best known for the four-storey entertainment plaza near the mouth of Soi 4. Farther down the Soi is a number of small restaurants and British-style pubs.
Other busy night venues can be found in Sois 5, 7, 8 and 10. While many are simple bars serving food and drinks, a growing number now have full-sized pool tables. All along the main road are international restaurants, bars and all kinds of shops. A favourite among drinkers and lovers of pub grub is the Huntsman Pub W the Landmark Hotel.
Also on Sukhumvit itself, next to Soi 13, is Clinton Plaza, a former office block transformed into an entertainment centre, with bars like the Living Room offering live music. On the opposite side of Sukhumvit is a new open market, with shops selling handicrafts, paintings and antiques, along with restaurants and foot massage parlours.
At the far end of Soi 11 is the highly successful Q Bar, a musical venue that attracts young locals and expatriates in vast numbers, particularly at the weekend.
Until recently Soi 12 was probably best known for the memorably-named Cabbages & Condoms restaurant created by a ThaiScottish former politician who popularised birth control in rural Thailand. Now, with the opening of the Ministry of Sound, the first Bangkok version of the famous British disco of the same name, the street's fame will probably switch to a new generation of party-goers.
Asoke is the start of the "Green Route", a series of back lanes that offers drivers an alternative way of avoiding the congestion on Sukhumvit itself. Along this circuitous route are numerous restaurants and bistros serving all kinds of ethnic cuisines.
Among the best are Baan Kanitha for Thai, Le Dalat for Vietnamese, Oille for Southern French, Homework for Thai and Swing for Mediterranean. On the approach to Soi 31 is Aise, a nightclub popular with a young Thai crowd.
A few metres down Soi 23 is The Ship, yet another of Bangkok's British-style pubs, complete with mock fireplace, wooden beams and darts board. And to make sure visitors from the UK feel even more at home, there's a small fish and chip shop a few doors away.
The newest of Sukhumvit's entertainment zones is based around the stylish Emporium department store beside Soi 24, and includes Sois 18 to 39. The store itself is a major draw on its own; thanks in part to the popular Greyhound and Kalaprapruek restaurants within, and also to the excellent cinema complex located here.
On the opposite side of Sukhumvit is Soi 33, a narrow lane that is rapidly gaining a reputation as a kind of upmarket entertainment area. Most of the outlets here follow the cocktail lounge format with funky music. Owners tend to name their premises after famous painters like Renoir, Van Gogh, Dali and Monet.
Soi 33 has several popular restaurants, most notably Pan Pan serving Italian fare, and Om Thong, which specialises in Thai cuisine. On the first floor is Above Cafe, another hangout for the young Thai set.
Another elegant Italian restaurant, Fine, opened recently after major renovation to its building.
The area is well served by pubs.The oldest, the Bull's Head, is set on a small half-circular lane behind the Villa supermarket, while the newest is an Irish pub called the Dubliner. The latter is set on the entrance to Washington Square on Soi 22. An English pub, The Londoner, is located in a sprawling basement on the corner of Soi 33. Next door is a popular ten-pin bowling alley.
Soi 22 is an increasingly busy nightspot area, with a growing number of bars and restaurants picking up a steady stream of business from the 1,000-room Imperial Queen's Park Hotel. Among those that thrive from this traffic is Larry's Dive Bar, which offers pool, good dining and a friendly atmosphere. Adjoining is a shop dedicated to scuba diving.
A short walk away is La Havana, a live music venue featuring Latino and Salsa. It also frequently hosts fun jam sessions involving local and foreign musicians, along with Latino and Salsa. The nearby Bourbon Street at the back of Washington Square is one of the few restaurants in Bangkok specialising in Cajun cuisine from the southern states of America.
Some interesting international restaurants can be found in Soi 18 and 20. They include Bei Otto, Bangkok's best known German eatery and Chesa, a recently opened outlet specialising in Swiss food. Both are located at the top of Soi 20.
At the heart of this area is Soi 55, also known as Thong Lor, a long and winding street with all kinds of entertainment venues located on both sides. They include restaurants, pubs, karaoke lounges and even a traditional Chinese tea house. Not to be missed is Witch's Tavern, a purpose-built English pub featuring live music and Bangkok's only big band.
For those who want to sample Thai culture, a couple of the city's best theatre restaurants are located within this area. The Piman Thai Theatre on Soi 49 is located inside an authentic Thai house, while Baan Thai is set just inside Soi 32.
Thong Lor is linked to Soi Ekamai (Soi 63), which is also noted for its numerous small restaurants, nightclubs and pubs, including Y50, a modern bar, and Barbaska, a restaurant-cum-bar. In between is Soi 53, a leafy residential lane and home to No. 53, a trendy bar/ restaurant popular with young Thais.
Bangkok's main business street, Silom is also the focal point of a thriving entertainment industry. Patpong Road, which links Silom with Surawong Road, is known around the world for its nightly market, music halls and bars, but it is by no means the only area with afterdark attractions.
Convent Road, for instance, is witnessing a rapid increase in restaurants, including the elegant French outlet What's Up. At the Silom end of Convent is Shenanigans, the city's first Irish pub, which regularly draws a large crowd of local and expatriate businessmen. Its nightly live musical entertainment has also proved a big hit.
Another Irish pub, O'Reillys, is set on Silom itself while The Barbican can be found round the corner amid the lounges and karoake bars of Thaniya
Road, an area favoured by the city's sizeable Japanese community. The oldest pub of all is Bobby's Arms, located in the Patpong car park.
A younger local crowd have made Silom's Soi 4 their own preserve. The format on this pedestrianised lane is small bars playing techno music with plenty of space outside for the party crowd to study each other. The reopening of Tapas, a bar and dance venue, has much to do with the street's recent rejuvenation.
Beyond Silom next to Lumpini Park are several smaller concentrations of nighttime venues. Soi Sarasin has a collection of live music bars, including the long-established favourite Brown Sugar, while adjoining Soi Lang Suan is acknowledged as a great place for dining out. Among the recommended restaurants here are Air Plane for Italian cuisine, Ad Makers for Thai and Le Moulin de Sommai for French.
The nearby Soi Ruam Rudee, which links Wireless Road to Ploenchit, has a number of quality restaurants, including Witch's Oyster Bar and Baan Khanitha 2, which is located in a delightful old wooden house.
Cutting across Silom is Chong Nonsee, a road built in recent years to give Bangkok's business areas better access to the city highway system. All kinds of interesting night-spots are gradually appearing on both sides of this major thoroughfare, turning the area into a new entertainment district. One of the first and still most successful is Tawan Daeng, a huge beer hall with its own brewery and top-level local musicians.
Silom Road terminates at Charoen Krung, or New Road, which runs parallel with the Chao Phraya River. On both sides of this majestic waterway are famous hotels like The Oriental, Royal Orchid Sheraton, Shangri-La and The Peninsula, all of which boast excellent restaurants and bars. Enjoying and drink or a meal on the balcony of one of these beautiful properties is a marvellous experience. Also recommended is an evening dinner cruise on large, air-conditioned vessels operated by the Oriental and Shangri-La.
Leading off Charoen Krung is a warren of small lanes where all kinds of pleasant bistros and restaurants have been opened in old shophouses. Two of the best are Harmonique and Tongue Thai, both specialising in Thai cuisine.
From Silom's main Skytrain station of Sala Daeng, it is a quick ride to Siam Square, comprising a series of small roads whose best known entertainment venues are the Hard Rock Cafe and the Concept CM2 disco at the Novotel.
With the construction of Bangkok's underground system now well underway, some areas of the city are beginning to take on a new role. One such district,
Rachadaphisek Road, which links Asoke with the superhighway to the airport, is clearly undergoing such a change as several stations are to be sited
here. The number of high-rises and hotels has mushroomed in recent years in anticipation of the convenient access the area will soon enjoy with the rest of the city.
For the moment, though, Rachadaphisek is known as one of Bangkok's fastest growing entertain
KHAO SAN ROAD
Once an area used almost exclusively by budget travellers due to the large number of cheap hostels and guest houses located here, Khao San Road in Bangkok's Bang Lamphu District just north of Sanam Luang now attracts young locals who enjoy its trendy outdoor restaurants and bars. Best known of these international venues are Susie's Pub in Susie's Alley just off Khan San Road, and the Bangkok Bar, which is located just inside leafy Soi Rambutri, virtually opposite Khao San Road.
Elsewhere, there are dozens of bistro-style outlets tucked away in shady gardens and delightful cafes set in old Chinese shophouses, especially on Phra Athit Road.
ment districts, with a large number of Thai and seafood restaurants located here. At the Asoke end of the road is the newly opened Brew Pavilion, an enormous beer hall featuring live music and home-brewed beer. Nearby is Spark Entertainment, a huge disco at the Emerald Hotel.
ROYAL CITY AVENUE (RCA)
Although it has lost some of its glitz and glamour in recent years, RCA remains a popular haunt for local youngsters. Both sides of this bow-shaped road are filled with cafes and bars whose names seem to change by the month. One place that has endured RCA's various transformations and maintains its original concept to this day is Brown Sugar, which offers inexpensive Thai food and live musical entertainment. RCA bowling alley at the southern end of the street has also managed to retain its popularity over the years.