Photo by Szymon Kochanski
With a population of 12 million crowding the streets and thousands of tourists coming in daily, Bangkok is raw, unbridled, and, simply put, nuts.
Whatever you are looking for, Bangkok has it at one of these places:
Khao San Road
The heart of the backpacker scene, Khao San is lined with bars, vendors, stores, and internet cafes. When the sun goes down, neon lights start flashing, music fills the streets, and pretty Thai girls usher you into clubs. Every night, the streets pack with revelers looking to break last night’s drinking record.
Gulliver’s: Gulliver’s is famous for its dancing, A/C, pool tables, and Thai girls. Lots and lots of Thai girls. All eager to come home with you for a price.
Silk Bar: An outdoor bar that’s a great place to start your night as it’s an ideal people watching
Khao San Center: Khao San Center is just a big hall filled with lots of tables of drunken foreigners drinking from beer towers. A great place to meet people.
Shamrock: Above Khao San Center, this Thai version of an Irish pub features good live music on the weekends and is usually populated with expats.
There are smaller bars along the street but revelers tend to flock to these places. For a Thai experience, head to Brick Bar (located behind the McDonalds) where Thai bands play each night and few foreigners dare to venture.
Clubs: Lava, The Club, and Immortal. All three charge an entrance fee and, except for The Club, are quite small. But if you want to get your groove on to dance music, these places are where it’s at.
Practical Advice: Khao San Road closes at 2am but the surrounding streets stay open all night. Thieves and scammers are rampant. All those tourist dollars bring in a seedy crowd. Keep track of your stuff, watch your pockets, and be aware who serves your drinks. Moreover, watch the Thai women you meet- some of them might not be women.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
Soi 11 contains many of the high end nightclubs and is a favorite spot for Bangkok’s expats, including me. On this street there is a mix of cheap bars to start your night and clubs to finish it.
Cheap Charlie’s: A Bangkok institution, this place is nothing more than a little bar and a few tables on a small side street. It’s a favorite among all expats for cheap drinks (60 baht). The friendly environment makes it easy to meet anyone.
The place is filled every night but the weekend it bursts at the seams. Buy two drinks at once to avoid the queue since the owner is the only bartender.
Bed Supper Club: Bangkok’s top end club. This place has two giant rooms (one for house, one for R&B), each with a top level filled with beds to relax on. The place is wall to wall people on the weekends, with the best of Bangkok’s locals and expats partying here. Entrance is 600 baht, and you will need ID and proper dress.
Q Bar: Dark, sleek, and fashionable, this club attracts a trendy crowd and is a favorite with locals and expats. It has 50 brands of vodka, Cuban cigars, absinthe, and 20 types of tequila. The doormen are kind of rude, but there usually isn’t a cover.
Twisted Republic: This new club opened at the end of 2006, setting out to give Bed a run for its money. The place got off to a rocky start (broken lights, weak drinks, bad sound system) but has since turned itself around.
The music here tilts heavily towards drum and bass. Not as packed as Bed, this place is good if you are looking for something different or if Bed is too crowded.
Practical Advice: This area also closes at 2 AM and is pretty safe. The biggest problem here is drunk Westerners and the temptation to spend all your money at Bed. The street is pretty safe and it’s unusual for bad things to happen here.
Patpong is one of the many sex spots in Bangkok. Here, everyone tries to take you to sex shows, prostitutes and ladyboys walk the streets, and sex tourists look for the youngest thing they can find. It is neon lights, loud music, and sex. All night, every night.
Ping Pong Shows: A ping pong show is so disgusting that I won’t even mention it here. You can Google it. But I’ll say that seeing one will steal your innocence and there are tons of places gladly willing to do that. You’ll never look at a woman the same way again.
Sex Shows: For those looking for a little live action, there is an ever changing array of clubs offering sex shows. Just look for neon lights and a sign, usually saying “Live Sex Show.”
Go-Go Bars: If you’re into this thing, Patpong has plenty of options for you. Soi 1 and Soi 2 have the most. Reputable establishments are operated by the King Group and have either “King” or “Queen” in their name. They pride themselves on having clean girls. Apart from that, the names change too often to keep up. The girls are all pretty much the same though.
Bondage: The place to go to get your kink on.
For those looking for something different, a few bars like Tapas and Twilo offer a respite from the sex and sleaze of Patpong. But there is not much more here than hedonistic debauchery and if you want something else, Patpong isn’t really the place to go.
This area is also very dangerous. The biggest problem is the hassle and, if you are a white male, people will constantly be bothering you. Pickpockets and thieves are rampant here. Watch out for your drinks- sometimes they get spiked.
Other sex areas include Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, and all the same rules apply.
Thong Lor is a very “Thai” night spot. Most of the bars and clubs here are dominated by Thais and non-westerners. Tourists hardly ever go here. That means the Thai pop is blasting from the speakers and everyone is drinking Thai whiskey and coke.
This area includes restaurants, pubs, karaoke lounges and even a traditional Chinese tea house. If you want to see how the locals do it, this where you want to go.
Witch’s Tavern: An English pub featuring live music and Bangkok’s only big band. The bar is mostly popular with expats and their families, but a lot of older Thais go here. The atmosphere is relaxed and it’s a place to start, not finish, your night.
Y50: A modern bar, this place is popular with trendsetters and the young. It’s got a great atmosphere and décor that would fit in well in New York or London. Drinks here are pretty expensive but, if you want to look cool, Y50 is a good place for that.
Barbaska: A restaurant turned bar at night, Barbaska is a good place to catch a few drinks and hang out with large groups of Thais out for a wild night. People eat, drink, then stumble to the bigger places.
Santika: A massive complex, this is one of the biggest clubs in Thong Lor. It is packed on the weekends and features a host of live Thai bands and a big dance floor. Waitresses bring your drinks, avoiding queues at the bar. Everyone is moving and grooving in this place. They’re very strict about IDs so don’t forget yours.
No. 53: A trendy bar/restaurant popular with young Thais, this place is where people lounge for a relaxing night with friends and to socialize with new ones. The music varies but is mostly house or Thai.
Royal City Avenue, commonly referred to as RCA, is a long strip of clubs and one of a few government-designated “nightlife zones.” This means that the clubs found here have the honor of being allowed to stay open as long as everyone else in the city.
That doesn’t stop the places here from being busy, even midweek. On weekends, they’re overrun with impeccably dressed locals in their early 20s, a handful of tourists, and a lot of expats.
Route 66: Vast, sleek interiors, booming sounds systems, funky furniture, soft mood lighting and dazzling lasers identify this place. On the weekend, Route 66 gets so packed that those already inside are pushed up against the wall and new people aren’t really let in. There are a few tables where people can sit and have space but they fill up quickly.
JazzIt: This bar is a good alternative for those looking to escape the house music that permeates most of the areas establishments. JazzIt hosts a lot of live bands and is usually playing hip-hop.
Zeta: A girls-only bar catering to the city’s vibrant lesbian theme.
808: This new club opened a year ago and is now one of the hottest places in Bangkok. It hosts world famous DJs and bands, has a huge dance floor and is known for its beautiful people. Locals and expats love it here.
General Advice: If you get into trouble, the Thai police are NOT there to help you. They don’t care about you, the stupid tourist. Thailand has very little “law,” and police will usually side with the locals unless it’s a big and clear offense. Get in a fight? You go to jail. Get in an argument over the bill? The police make you pay. Got robbed? Fill out the police report and watch it sit on the pile.
Unless your case will bring a lot of media or governmental attention, it’s not a priority. Corruption and bribery are rampant here and sometimes the easiest way to get things moving is to find out what the “fee” is. Avoid acting out because your recourse is limited and Thai jail is worse than listening to the Macarena on repeat.
There are countless places to party in Bangkok. Everywhere you go there is a new club opening, another bar closing, and locals drinking. The scene in Bangkok is in constant flux, unsurprising in a city that moves so quickly.
An article like this can’t name all the places in Bangkok, but it can tell you the areas that attract the most attention. No matter where you go in Bangkok you will find a place to throw the drinks down, but if you are looking to join the swarming masses of revelers every weekend, head to these areas for unforgettable nights.
Need to know more about Bangkok? Check out these books:
Headed to Thailand? Talk to Matador’s own Bangkok expert, asian insights, check out our Green Guide to Bangkok or follow up on editor Tim Patterson’s recommendation for a cheap guesthouse in the city.