Experiencing the world famous Bangkok nightlife is a must for anyone taking a Thailand vacation. While the nightlife in Bangkok has a reputation for it's wild late night parties and the notorious sex industry (i.e. red light districts), along with girly bars, pubs, night clubs and disco's at locations such as Nana Plaza, Soi Cowboy-named after the first bar which opened there, along with Sukhumvit and Patpong, there is so much more to experience at night for those willing to look a little closer.
Bangkok's entertainment districts started attracting attention worldwide during the Vietnam War when thousands of American soldiers would spend a few days of rest and recreation in the city to forget the horrors of combat. The epicentre was Patpong Road, named after its Chinese owners, a place where women and drink were freely available-an area which is now a no-holds barred zone for swindler, pimps and street dealers each looking to dupe tourists of their hard earned cash.
Apart from the adult entertainment Bangkok nightlife also includes excellent cultural shows, night markets and spectacular restaurants (including the fabulous Red Sky Restaurant) that provide family friendly alternatives to the crowded bars and red light districts.
Or, if you looking for Bangkok travel ideas this city really does offer a variety of activities to cater to most tastes and budgets. Below is a sample of activities that are available when the sun goes down in Bangkok.
Lets start with fine dining. If you are looking for a romantic venue then you can't go past the Red Sky Restaurant (see image above). It would have to be one of the best five star dining venues on offer in the heart of Bangkok and is my favorite restaurant in all of Thailand.
Perched atop of the 54th and 55th floors of the Centara Grand at Centralworld, Red Sky provides its customers with 360 degree panoramic views of Bangkok at night.
The restaurant itself boasts a bistro and wine bar with indoor (seats 81 people) and outdoor (seats 149 people) dining options, and
establishes a romantic mood by offering live jazz music, gentle night
time breezes (if you dine alfresco), soft lighting and breathtaking
views of Bangkok's glittering lights which fill the late night
landscape. Lobster, steak, chicken, parmesan and rosemary fries are all on the menu to enjoy.
While the cuisine on the menu isn't cheap, it is well worth the money just to experience Bangkok nightlife and fine dining while being elevated high above the surrounding landscape. This is a great place to be for a couple of hours with the people you love. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the relaxed ambiance that is provided at the Red Sky Restaurant.
The Red Sky Restaurant is located on the 54th and 55th
floors of the Centara Grand at Centralworld, 999/99 Rama 1 Road Pathum Wan district. The best way to get there is by taxi. Opening
hours are between 11.30 AM-2.30 PM and 6.30 PM-11.30 PM.
Without a doubt the heartbeat of Bangkok nightlife would have to be the Sukhumvit district. It all happens along Sukhumvit Road (which is one of the longest roads in both Thailand and the world) after dark when the bright neon lights are turned on and loud music erupts from the girly bars and pubs of the Nana Entertainment Plaza (located at Soi 4) and the Soi Cowboy district (located between Soi's 21-23).
It is here that you will find an assortment of massage shops, jazz clubs, pubs, Go Go bars along with restaurants, street vendors and an array of live music.
Apart from the numerous girly bars spread across the adult orientated locations of Nana and Soi Cowboy you can also choose more sedate activities if this type of Bangkok nightlife is not to your taste.
Quality restaurants and massage parlors are available throughout this district as is shopping along the well known Sukhumvit Road.
Along this major Bangkok arterial road vendors line the side walks at night selling a variety of goods including clothing, watches, jewelry and DVDs to name but a few items. Like most parts of Thailand, you can haggle with the venders over the price of their goods so if you love to haggle you will enjoy the shopping here. This district is located very close to both Nana and Asok BTS (i.e. the Sky train on the Sukhumvit line) stations so getting here is a breeze.
One of the aspects I enjoy about Bangkok nightlife in the Sukhumvit area is that you really are spoiled for choice. You can choose between more upmarket restaurants, cafes, day spa's and high class hotels including the Marriott and Sheraton or alternatively, you can eat and shop from local street vendors and stay at low cost backpacker type accommodation.
If you tire of the bright lights there is a multiplex cinema (see below for more information regarding Bangkok Cinema's) located at Soi 61 Watthana close to the Ekkamai BTS Skytrain Station, if you prefer to relax and watch a movie.
Sukhumvit Road is among Thailand's longest roads so it is easy to catch a taxi to the heart of Sukhumvit. If using the BTS Skytrain, take the Sukhumvit line (which runs from MO Chit to On Nut) and exit at Nana. It is only a short walk from there.
the Riverfront which opened in April of 2012 would have to be the most
trendy Bangkok shopping and dining precincts at present. I visited this
Bangkok market during January of 2014 and it had a wonderful festival feel to it,
due to its beautiful Christmas lights that were proudly displayed along
with a large brightly lit Ferris wheel.
This recently refurbished shopping precinct is no run down Bangkok flee market and has clearly been built to cater to Thailand's rising middle class and cashed up foreign tourists.
The market is actually built on an old warehouse site which in 1884 was established by a Danish ship captain known as Hans Neils Anderson who founded the Anderson Company. Indeed, this site which is situated adjacent to Bangkok's major Chao Phraya River served as a foreign trading post during the reign of Rama V (1868-1910) (Click here to read more).
Asiatique the Riverfront is located at 2194 Charoenkrung Road, Wat Prayakrai, Bangkoleam, Bangkok Thailand 10120. It is open 7 days a week and starts at 4 PM and closes around 12 AM.
The market is located about 3 kilometres away from the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station and there is a free shuttle Ferry located at the Sheraton Pier close by. Alternatively, you can catch a taxi from whichever hotel you are staying at.
If bright lights and crowded streets is your idea of Bangkok nightlife then you will love the Patpong Night Bazaar. This popular tourist destination has an energetic vibe about it and is located in the busy Silom Road and Patpong districts and represents the wilder side of Bangkok nightlife.
Combining a night market and seedy girly bars creates a unique and vibrant shopping experience. For many tourists Patpong is the epitome of Bangkok nightlife. Foreign tourists and Thai's frequent this precinct, especially on weekends looking to find that bargain watch, handbag or DVD from one of the many street venders whose stalls line the sidewalks of Silom Road. Pubs and bars are the norm here along with loud music and bright flashing lights.
If your main reason for coming here is the fabulous shopping, just remember that when shopping at any street market in Bangkok, make sure you haggle. This is all part of the experience, and necessary if you want to purchase a product at a bargain price.
The Patpong Night Bazaar opens between the hours of 6 Pm and 1 AM daily. The best way to get to there is to use either the MRT subway (exit at Sala Daeng) or the BTS Skytrain; take the Silom line and exit at Sala Daeng Station.
If you are looking for a more authentic version of Bangkok nightlife, then a visit to Bangkok Chinatown should be on your agenda. I first visited Bangkok Chinatown about two years ago when my wife and I went there for dinner. You will feel like you are stepping back in time because this is one of the oldest parts of Bangkok city.
With over 200 years of history at its present location (i.e. including Yaowarat, Rachawong, Charoen Krung, and Songwat Roads) within the Samphanthawong district; Chinatown with its wooden shop houses has been the hub
for the Chinese-Thai community and their trading network since the reign of
Chulalongkorn or King Rama V. With all signs being written primarily in Chinese, you will have no doubt as to which part of Bangkok you are entering.
At night Chinatown really comes alive especially along Yaowarat Road with its array of bright neon shop lights, restaurants, hotels, Karaoke bars, gold shops and food stalls selling shark fin and bird nest soups. This is a very noisy, but culturally rich area that bustles with human activity whether day or night.
Near the intersection of Charoen Krung and Yaowarat Roads is where the night market is located which opens at 6 PM and closes after midnight.
With long rows of stalls along the sidewalks selling clothing, DVD's, handbags and shoes just to name a few Chinatown really does provide the visitor with an authentic snapshot of Bangkok nightlife. Like all outdoor markets in Thailand the streets will be filled with the smells of Thai cuisine being cooked, so make sure you stop and sample the vast array of delicious street food for sale.
The best way to travel to Chinatown and to experience one version of Bangkok nightlife is either by boat exiting at Rachawong Pier on the Chao Praya River or by taking a taxi.
Khaosan Road in Bangkok has been a favorite travel destination for budget minded backpackers for well over 30 years and has been named by some as the backpacker's travel hub of southeast Asia. This area has changed significantly since it's early days as a trading post for local farmers wishing to sell their Khaosan ( i.e. raw rice). The name of this trade was eventually applied to road where this activity occurred.
These days though Khaosan Road is much better known for it's clubbing environment, as the district has a number of bars and clubs including the Macaroni and Lava. This area has become an important place for tourists to meet over a drink.
At night Khaosan's version of Bangkok nightlife takes over within the one kilometre section of road where raunchy bars and clubs are the norm. In addition, massage shops, internet cafes, travel agents, various types of budget accommodation, tattoo shops, food stalls, restaurants and night markets can also be found.
This is a tourist rich hotspot thus, if clubs and pubs overflowing with young tourists is your idea of Bangkok nightlife you will enjoy the excitement of the atmosphere which occurs at night along Khaosan Road.
If you are traveling on the BTS Skytrain on the Silom line exit at Saphan Taksin Station (which is the last stop before the Chao Phraya River).
From the Sheraton pier you can take an express boat to the Sathorn pier. You will then need to take the express boat further to the Phra Arthit Pier. Khaosan Road is only a short walk from here so just follow the other tourists if you don't have a street map.
Bangkok nightlife isn't just about bars and outdoor street markets. There are other forms of popular entertainment on offer including attending the cinema. Bangkok has over 300 cinema screens including 2 major multiplex chains, Major Cineplex Group which owns and operates Major Cineplex and EGV, and the SF Group.
There are also a number of smaller independents including Major Hollywood, Thana Cineplex and Apex. The cinema's are clean comfortable and quite cheap. Make sure you sample the popcorn at the candy bar as they have a number of varieties on offer.
Each of the popular shopping malls including Siam Paragon, Centralworld and MBK ( located in the Pathumwan district) contain multiplex cinema's which screen the most recent Hollywood blockbusters both in English and Thai languages.
Additionally, films from Thailand (which are very popular), Japan and Korea are also screened at venues such as the Lido cinema located in Siam Square Pathumwan.
Ticket prices are about 100 baht (i.e. $3.50 AUD and USD) per person and when you buy your ticket you will be asked to choose your seat.
The multiplex cinema's also offer First Class and Gold Class options which incorporate comfortable recliner chairs, blankets, and a butler style service. Additionally, some cinema's also offer a couples lounge at the back of the cinema. Both of these options cost more but are still cheap compared to western prices.
WHERE ARE THEY LOCATED
Chaeng Wattana: SFX cinema located at the Central Plaza along Chaeng Wattana Road.
Chatuchak Major Cineplex located along Phahonyothin Road.
Din Daeng: SFX cinema located at the Esplanade Ratchada along Ratchadaphisek Road.
Prawet: EGV cinema located along Srinakarin Road.
Sathorn: Alliance Francaise independent cinema (French and foreign films with French subtitles). Located along South Sathon Road.
Sukhumvit: Major Cineplex located at Sukhumvit soi 61.
One very important thing to remember is that prior to the screening of all feature films in Thailand a short (i.e. 2 minute) documentary is shown regarding the King of Thailand. Just be sure to stand up during this short presentation as Thai people have deep respect for the King and it is impolite to remain seated.
For a truly unique form of Bangkok nightlife why not visit the Siam Niramit stage show. This production is held within the massive Ratchada theater (within the Siam Niramit complex). With seating for 2,000 people and shows held daily at 8 PM; gates are open from 5.30 PM to allow access to the Sawasdee Restaurant .
The Siam Niramit show is an epic stage production that combines elaborate sets, 150 performers with beautiful costumes, and stunning choreography to tell an historical story regarding the birth of Thailand culture and society. The performance is a cultural feast for the senses as it recounts over 700 years of the history of the Kingdom of Siam.
90 minute cultural extravaganza takes the audience through three acts of story
telling as it recounts the early Siam civilisation (i.e. the Lanna
Kingdom), Thailand's spiritual discovery (i.e. Buddhist heaven) and
Karma, and Thai festivals and religious ceremonies. I saw the show
almost 2 years ago and absolutely loved it and really is a enjoyable alternate to the more stereo typical forms of Bangkok nightlife.
If you wish to make an evening of the visit you can have dinner at the Sawasdee Restaurant ( which is located within the Siam Niramit complex) prior to the show. Dinner is served daily between the hours of 530 PM and 8 PM.
The Ratchada theater is located opposite the Thailand Cultural Centre on Tiamruammit Road. You can travel to the theater using the Bangkok MRT (i.e. subway train) and exit at the Thailand Cultural Centre Station.
For convenience a free shuttle bus leaves the Thailand Cultural Centre Metro Station every 15 minutes taking visitors to Siam Niramit between the hours of 6 PM and 7.45 PM.
For a truly memorable cultural experience, and an alternative to the more usual forms of Bangkok nightlife, the recently relocated Joe Louis Puppet Theatre (JLPT) brings an important part of Thailand artistry to the masses. Located at the swanky new Asiatique: The Riverfront lifestyle and shopping complex (located alongside the Chao Phrayo River (see above)) the JLPT is world renowned for its authentic Thai style of puppetry.
The JLPT began back in 2002 by the late Sakorn Yangkhieosod who was also known by his English name of Joe Louis. He was known as a a gifted puppeteer who had been making his own puppets since 1942, although the puppet industry had commenced in Thailand around 1901.
The JLPT now includes the children and grandchildren of the late puppeteer who died in 2007 to carry on his legacy within the art of puppetry. The theatre is located at Asiatique at 2194 Charoen Krung Road, Wat Prayakrai.
JLPT is located at Asiatique and can be accessed by either taxi, or if you travel on the BTS Skytrain there is a free shuttle boat from the Sheraton Pier, which is located close to Saphan Taksin Station on the Silom line (which is the last stop before the Chao Phraya River).