Behind the glitzy, gargantuan malls that line Sukhumvit, Thailand’s longest road, you’ll find a sprawling network of sois (streets) – poor on traditional tourist attractions, but each with its own unique charms. Pick a soi and get lost in a maze of hidden cafes, quirky stores and classic Bangkok nightlife spots. Skyscanner Australia’s area guide maps out streets worth exploring – all along the Sukhumvit BTS train line so you can navigate with ease!
Phrom Phong – Soi 26 and 39
You’ll come for the luxury malls, stay for the cluster of fantastic Japanese restaurants and maybe, just maybe, you’ll hang with a Brontosaurus at Dinosaur Planet. Phrom Phong has plenty of quirks, you just might need to dig a little to find them!
Where to eat in Phrom Phong
Kram: Essentially it’s a refined take on Thai street food in an ultra- hipster setting – think beanbags, lightbulbs dangling from the ceiling and the feeling of dining inside a greenhouse.
K-Village: Izakayas, ramen shops and yakitori joints are peppered around Phrom Phong, but you can find all the best bits of Japanese cuisine in one place – K-Village. The open air mall also plays host to weekend farmers’ markets, craft fairs and live music gigs.
Casa-Lapin x26: Get your brunch on (and/or indulge in free wifi) at this light-filled, loft-style cafe. There’s outdoor seating on its second storey and an adjoining flower shop.
Where to drink in Phrom Phong
Taproom: There’s no better way to kick off a sesh than with a refreshing ale. And with a whopping 26 beers on tap, you might end up staying here a while.
Hanakaruta: With a killer collection of sake, soju, Japanese whiskey and some rather creative bar snacks, you can tell this hole-in-the-wall bar takes its craft spirits very seriously.
Things to do in Phrom Phong
The Friese-Greene Club : If you have eclectic tastes, this 9-seater cinema will hit the spot! Catering mostly to Bangkok’s expats, Friese-Greene screens hard to find (or old) films at a cheaper price than regular cinema tickets.
Benjasiri Park: A rare green bubble in the concrete jungle that is Sukhumvit – take a breather by the lake and watch the morning joggers do their laps.
Dasa Books: It’s the holy grail of Bangkok bookstores – three storeys high, crammed with books from floor to ceiling and a cafe space for you to sip a coffee and mull over a good.
Em Quartier: Here lies the heart of luxury of shopping in Bangkok. EmQuartier boasts a labyrinthine of impossibly expensive stores, cafes like Dean and Deluca, and a towering indoor water feature at The Helix; a three storey spiral of restaurants. The real OG, Emporium, can be found across the street, staring daggers at its newer, flashier extension.
Thong Lor – Soi 55
After sundown, Thong Lor becomes Bangkok’s hippest nightlife nook; popular among the young, the fashionable and the expats. Novelty eateries, fine dining spots and concept bars proliferate along Soi Sukhumvit 55, catering to residents and visitors who shun the need to sleep. Still, the street has lost none of it’s character – offering street markets and the best mango sticky rice in town.
Where to eat in Thong Lor
Soul Food Mahanakorn: This cosy converted shophouse ticks all the boxes – moreish northern Thai and Isaan dishes, boozy cocktails and a warmly lit, wooden interior. Its menu is artfully curated, meaning you can sample some of the more unconventional Thai foods as well as all the usual suspects.
Street eats: For a taste of Bangkok’s top street food, steer into the corner of Soi Thonglor 19 where food carts line the sidewalk. Jostle with the working crowd for offerings of fresh som tum, fried banana pancakes and moo ping (pork skewers and sticky rice). Whatever you do, don’t miss Thong Lor’s mango sticky rice – the stuff is legendary.
The Raw Bar: Thong Lor is a treasure trove of Japanese dining (and restaurants in general), but this particular joint plates up seafood with a contemporary twist. Feel like you’re dining below a ship deck in this renovated shop house serving up fresh oysters and other delicacies.
The Commons: Way more than a glorified food court, The Commons is an enchanting, open-air space peppered with over 20 gourmet dining venues and chic bars. The 4 storey building incredibly well designed, with plenty of light and pockets of green.
Where to drink in Thong Lor
Octave Rooftop Bar: In a city of skyscrapers, competition amongst rooftop bars is stiff. Octave holds its own against (touristy) institutions like Lebua, standing at an impressive 49 stories and spanning three floors. Not only does it offer stellar sunset views, it has a mean happy hour – from 5-7pm you’ll get 2-for-1 drinks.
Iron Fairies: If there’s one concept bar worth visiting in Bangkok, it’d be Iron Fairies. Equal measures dark, ethereal and quirky, this bar has Harry Potter slash steampunk vibes in spades – I mean, bottles of pixie dust line the walls. Sip your themed cocktail as the jazz band assumes their nightly perch atop a rickety staircase.
Mekiki no Ginji: Despite appearances, it’s not all fancy cocktail bars down Soi 55. This popular izakaya is the gift that keeps on giving, offering budget boozers a personalised happy hour. Beers are B50 (1.90 AUD) a pop for your first hour, and you get a post-it timestamp so you don’t lose track.
Wanderlust Rooftop: There’s no better way to enjoy Bangkok’s round the clock balmy temperatures than on a rooftop. Unlike the surrounding upscale bars, this is a genuinely laid back space. What it lacks in height it makes up for in affordable drinks and guys, there’s no dress code!
Things to do in Thong Lor
Thong Lor Art Space: This kooky cafe slash gallery slash theatre is found right at the start of Soi 55. It plays host to art exhibitions, music gigs and specialist events – get your hipster on and pay them a visit!
WTF Gallery and Cafe: Wonderful Thai Friendship (what else could it stand for) is a welcoming spot, with a retro vibe and an inventive bar menu – Portuguese Manhattan, anybody? It’s an easy place to lose a couple hours, especially with an adjoining art gallery.
Ari – Soi Ari
Want to live like a local in Bangkok? Ari is the place to do it. An old Thai neighborhood known for fusing traditional and trendy without pretension, its burgeoning bar and dining scene means Soi Ari is perfect area to kick back after a day of exploring.
Where to eat in Ari
Street Eats: Conveniently enough, the best place to find street food is found down a little lane right beside the Ari BTS station. Have your pick of cheap, tasty Thai cuisine with 15 or so stalls sandwiched between Exit 1 and Soi Ari 1.
Lay Lao: For authentic Thai Isaan food with a contemporary twist, look no further than Lay Lao. The place is a favourite with Ari locals so make sure your tastebuds are prepped for lashings of spice – there’s no watering down the spicy here!
Porcupine Café: A rustic coffee house with stone walls, stacks of good reads but sadly no porcupines, it’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book on a rainy afternoon.
Summer Street: Tucked down an alley all decked out in fairy lights, this photogenic white aluminum trailer dishes out freshly grilled seafood at street food prices. Snag one of the picnic tables and help yourself to generous servings of freshwater prawns, scallop and squid – now that’s a gourmet food truck.
Where to drink in Ari
Bin Bin Long: Furnished in the style of a London pub, this vietnamese-thai fusion bistro slash jazz club might appear to be in the middle of an identity crisis. But their regular jazz trio and affordable bevs makes it a great weeknight haunt.
Bar Aree: Cocktails and comfort food is the name of the game at this typical Thai bar. Bar Aree also serves up a slice of the local indie music scenes, hosting nightly gigs and making it the perfect place to unwind.