Ask most Bangkok expats to name their favorite Sukhumvit soi and you’ll probably be given just the usual suspects. But maybe there are some undiscovered gems out there?
If so, answers on a postcard…
Here’s a handful of the most favored Sukhumvit haunts.
There’s Thong Lor, Sukhumvit 55, for bars with sand on the floor selling craft beers.
There are some cool places here: Iron Fairies, The Art Space. Record stores, the WTF, events and shows happening somewhere along this road most days of the week.
Yeah, it’s all cool, but sometimes I get the sense that Thong Lor is like a sanitized and grown up Khao San Road. Like they picked up that Banglamphu street by the scruff of the neck, threw it into a spa detox, irrigated it’s colon, and administered a liberal dose of Molecule 01 before throwing it out in central Sukhumvit.
We like Thong Lor: in fact, there are parts of it we love, but there must be other less developed sois on Sukhumvit Road to take a gander at before we dust off our disco shoes.
Or, of course, there’s Ekkamai: Sukhumvit 63. This road is home to our favorite Japanese eatery, Kuroda, and our choice American restaurant, Bourbon Street. There’s also a huge temple complex — Wat Tha Thong — that’s worth exploring beneath the BTS.
Moving further up the soi, we find trendy clubs where product-endorsement-rich-celebrities and the innately rich compare six speed transmissions over a round of Rum Flips.
Ekkamai is cool: plenty of room for expansion, and equidistant for practically everyone.
But still a tad obvious for a night out on Sukhumvit.
Or perhaps some might prefer going downtown.
Soi 11, for instance.
Levels, Sugar, Zanzibar: 11 is a hip oasis resting in the murky shallows of the downtown red light zone.
The legendary Checkinn99 cabaret bar has also just relocated here, above Zak’s, on this most buzzing of Sukhumvit’s sois.
Have your wits about you in this part of town and be prepared to be approached by creatures of all persuasions, and beware, that woman locomoting down lower Sukhumvit may not be all she seems, buddy.
For the hedonist and the pro-curious, there are Sois 23 and 4.
I’ll lump these two together because they both offer the same thing — sex — for mainly Japanese businessmen and drunken Western tourists.
Cowboy on 23 is definitely worth a visit for any expat or traveler, if only to take in what can only be the most neon lights in one small strip on a road in the world.
Soi 4, in Nana, is more gaudy and decadent: not for the weak hearted or the lone female visitor.
Some braver souls may lean towards Soi 22, although since the demise of that legendary venue the Overground there seems little reason to visit here after hours. Unless anthropological urges lead one to explore that labyrinthine plaza full of girly bars and late night pool playing joints…
It is all a bit dark and desperate to be honest, but on the upside most bars let you select the soundtracks through YouTube link ups.
For a real blast from the not so distant past, why not check out Soi 33 – The Street of Dead Artists – so named for the bars that line the street. Renoir, Monet, etc: many of these hostess joints are now closed or closing, but it is worth a wander for the international restaurants that nestle between the massage shops and cocktail bars.
Not sure how long this street will remain as it stands today. Worth visiting for the Tenderloins restaurant.
But for something much more low-key, Soi 71 — or Pridi Phanomyong — ticks all the essential boxes. There’s much more to explore than the popular W District along this busy Bangkok road.
Soi 71 is one of Sukhumvit’s longest; sliding up from Phra Khanong and traveling all the way up, past the train tracks before becoming Ramkhamhaeng Road, which carries on further still to Minburi and up to Siam Water Park.
At the mouth of the soi, on Sukhumvit Road, you will find shops selling homemade perfume, Indian restaurants, wholesalers, spice dealers. There’s a German coffee shop and several quality Japanese restaurants. There’s art studios and markets of interest. There’s even a sky bar Cielo here.
But if it is dancing and discos you require you’ve probably travelled too far along the road.
But don’t take my jaded word for it.
What are your favorite Sukhumvit sois?
Featured image is by Mark Fischer and is used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence. Facebook image by Mike Behnken and used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 licence.