Bangkok is a big, BIG city. Some people love it and others can’t wait to get out. For me, Bangkok is one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. With world-class cuisine, incredible culture and nightlife like you can’t believe, Bangkok has something for everyone. Visit for just a few days or a few weeks—it’d be hard to be bored in Bangkok.
Know Where to Go
With so many millions of people, it’s no surprise that there are more than just a few hipster hangouts in the Thailand capital. From trendy night markets to original coffee shops and just about every type of international food available, Bangkok has everything and more. Trendy places in Bangkok tend to be all over, scattered between tourist sites and crowded alleys. But there are a few stand-out places. Ekkamai, Sukhumvit, Thonglor, Siam Square, Silom, Ari… these are all paces worth knowing about and exploring.
- Ekkamai — Vintage shopping, trendy coffee shops, art galleries and great food. Check out Shades of Retro — a cool music bar. Get here from the Ekkamai BTS station.
- Siam Center — The heart of Bangkok shopping (with over 5 floors), the mall calls itself the Ideapolis. There are some great international restaurants located here.
- Sukhumvit — It’s one of Bangkok’s largest roads and stretches for miles. Many of the side streets have markets and street food stalls. Try Sukhumvit Soi 36 for a great street food market every night. North of Sukhumvit is the Thonglor neighborhood and the Ekkamai district.
- Thonglor — A one-time working class area, the streets around the large Thong Lo boulevard are now full of trendy pop-up shops and small restaurants. Get here from the Thong Lo BTS station.
- Silom — One of the more touristic areas of Bangkok, it’s famous for the Patpong night market (think stolen goods, porn and a mix of touristic and trendy t-shirts). Silom Soi 2 and Soi 4 are the streets where you’ll find Bangkok’s best gay nightlife.
- Ari — A little further on the outskirts of downtown Bangkok (but really, downtown Bangkok stretches for miles and miles), this shopping center has some cool shops and down-to-earth cafés. Get here from the Ari BTS station.
Bangkok is 100% a shopping city. There are sidewalk bazaars and night markets every night of the week in just about every possible bit of empty space in the city. This is a shopper’s paradise. Get your tech products at the big malls like the MBK Center or visit smaller boutiques for independent designers’ work in fashion, home goods and more.
- BTS station Ari —This is a pretty hip neighborhood. If you get off the BTS (Bangkok’s skytrain) at the Ari station, you’ll find a little shopping mall and a handful of outdoor vendors. Just wander around the area and you’ll see that there’s quite a bit of cool things to do nearby, including the Porcupine Cafe.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market —Yes it’s one of BKK’s biggest tourist attractions, but it’s well worth the praise. Get lost in the stalls and you’ll stumble onto some truly unique and independent clothing shops and brands. Seriously, I’ve bought some of my most favorite t-shirts here!
- Malls at Siam Square — MBK is the biggest Bangkok mall, but wandering around all the malls in the central district (most of them are connected on the inside), you can stumble onto some of the world’s most trendy international designers. You’ll find brands like Topshop/Topman, Zara and H&M plus more brands only found in Asia. The coffee shops and restaurants in this area are all heavily populated with Thai hipsters amongst the tourists…especially the Siam Center mall.
- Silom Complex — In the Silom area, though it’s touristic, there are several night markets selling everything from fried food to knock-off t-shirts, and as it gets darker, sex toys and porn makes it way to the street stalls of the Patpong Night Market. During the day, however, the Silom Complex is another one of Bangkok’s best shopping centers. Check out the shop called Casualist (on the ground floor) for trendy clothes at good deals.
- Saphan Phut Night Bazaar — It’s another indie Bangkok market, but I didn’t get the chance to personally visit. Allegedly they’ve got cheaper goods than most of the other markets, but just as trendy.
Thai food is one of the best cuisines in the world. Thanks to its friendly flavors and unique taste, it’s quite a democratic cuisine. So long as you’re not allergic to peanuts, Thai food has a lot to offer for tourists. I recommend taking a food tour (try Taste of Thailand Food Tours) early on in a visit to better acquaint yourself with the many local fruits and national Thai dishes.
Also: don’t be afraid to try the street food. You’ll see it everywhere and if there are lots of locals sitting there and enjoying the food, you can almost always feel comfortable to try it yourself.
- Sukhumvit Soi 36 — Some of Bangkok’s best food stalls are located on this side street off Sukhumvit. It’s easy to reach via BTS Skytrain and open-late.
- Chinatown (Yaowarat) — Bangkok’s Chinatown has so many stalls and alleys, it’s easy to get lost here. But fun, too because you can always just stumble into a tiny food stall or restaurant and grab a delicious bite to eat. Perfect if you want to escape Thai food for a little bit.
- Roast BKK — This speciality coffee shop in Bangkok serves more than a good cup of coffee. Their meals are artfully crafted and taste as good as they look!
With food stalls running all day and all night, markets open late and shopping centers that never seem to close, Bangkok is without a doubt a 24-hour city. Nightclubs seem to come and go in the city but there are some stand-out areas. Check Bangkok.com for more up-to-date nightlife listings.
Bangkok is generally regarded as a very gay-friendly destination, with many bars, clubs and saunas great for locals and tourists. Check out the Gay Bangkok guide on TravelGayAsia.com for a full, up-to-date directory of gay travel tips for Southeast Asia’s most vibrant city.
- Hippie de Bar — It’s in one of the side alleys of Khaosan Road, but don’t let that deter you. They play excellent music and there are plenty of authentic Bangkok hipsters and locals that hang out here. It’s one of the most hipster bars in the Khaosan Road area.
- Silom Soi 4 — Bangkok’s most gay area, this street has a handful of gay clubs and is near the bigger gay nightclubs in BKK. But Silom itself has a great vibe so it’s worth wandering around and checking out some of the bars and clubs.
- DJ Station — Bangkok’s gay club. Any gay backpacker who has passed through Bangkok at some point has inevitably found their way to DJ Station. Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular nights at DJ Station, with drag shows early in the evening (around 11pm), but the club open late. The three-floors and Bangkok’s hot & humid weather means it gets pretty hot & sweaty inside, so dress appropriately.
Art & Culture
Thailand produces some incredible arts & crafts and Bangkok’s art scene rivals many European cities. Sotheby’s even has an operation in Bangkok, though in all honesty, most of Bangkok’s great art is more easily accessible. These art museums below are some of my favorites, but there are many other galleries and art centers throughout the city.
- Bangkok Art & Culture Center — A large art space with plenty of independent galleries. Friday nights are a good time to visit because you just may stumble onto a gallery opening with free drinks and food.
- Museum of Contemporary Art — This newer museum in Bangkok features contemporary art by both local Thai artists. The collection is large and you could easily spend several hours there.
- Toot Yung Art Center — Located off of Sukhumvit Soi 63 and nearby many vintage and retro shops in the Ekkamai area (BTS Ekkamai), this small gallery and art center regularly hosts international art exhibitions. It’s worth checking their website for current showings and events.
Tours & Other Things To Do
Bangkok is a dynamic city with seemingly endless interesting things to do and see. Many tourists might use the city just as a hub for stopovers and layovers between other Asian cities, but with Bangkok’s diversity and eclectic mix of of culture, there’s plenty of reason to stay longer.
- Take a Bangkok food tour — One of the more unique tour options in Bangkok, this new tour explores a lesser-known part of the city. With visits to a Thai food market, street food stalls, top Bangkok restaurants and a hidden oasis of calm in the downtown city center, the Taste of Thailand food tour covers the full gamut. Highly recommended! tasteofthailandfoodtours.org
- See a movie at a Thai cinema — When it’s boiling hot outside and you’re tired of shopping, the cinemas in Bangkok look more and more appealing. There are many but the Paragon Cineplex in the Siam Center was always a favorite of mine. Thai cinemas in Bangkok can be quite luxurious — it’s a great way to spend a hot afternoon!
- Shop at the weekend market — Shopping in Bangkok is an art unto itself. There are seemingly endless options but the touristic Chatuchak Weekend Market is a safe bet at finding just about anything you might be looking for (and probably some things you aren’t).
- Eat street food — You don’t have to be adventurous to eat the street food in Thailand. It’s cheap. It’s tasty. And you can find it nearly 24 hours a day, no matter where you are in the city. Often times the meals you get at street food markets and stalls in Bangkok is going to taste just as good (or better) than what you’d get in a restaurant—at a fraction of the price!
Where to Stay
One of the largest cities in Asia, Bangkok can seem overwhelming at first. But don’t let its size and relative chaos distract you. This is one of the world’s most exciting and dynamic cities, and thankfully—most of the hotels and accommodation are still very affordable! Agoda is the biggest and most popular online hotel booking service in Asia, and usually serves up the best deals, particularly for Bangkok, which is their hometown turf. Try a search to find the best deals here.
- Lub d Bangkok Silom Hostel — Consistently rated among the world’s coolest hostels, this popular backpacker hotspot has plenty of amenities making it more luxurious than many of the smaller hostels you’ll find in other areas of the city. Again, located in the Silom neighborhood, you’ll find yourself close to one of Bangkok’s most popular shopping districts, full of nightlife and food markets. There’s another Lub d hostel in the Siam Square area if you’re looking to be closer to the major shopping malls and central business district of Bangkok. Bed prices from $25/night.
- Sofitel So Hotel — Located in the Silom area, just a short walk to Bangkok’s popular Silom shopping and nightlife district, the Sofitel So Hotel is more than just a place to sleep. With a 10th floor swimming pool overlooking the Bangkok skyline and Lumpini Park, plus a rooftop bar and club, it’s a destination as much as it is a hotel. Hotel amenities are more than your basic luxury packages. Each room comes equipped with Mac minis with the ability to surf the internet with a wireless keyboard on a big screen TV. Room prices from $120/night.
- The Peninsula — Part of the legendary hotel brand, Bangkok’s Peninsula property is just as majestic and exclusive as you’d expect. If you’re looking to enjoy Bangkok’s luxurious side, the Peninsula hotel and spa (and its spacious suites) offer a quiet escape from Bangkok’s more traditional chaos. The riverside property is accessed by a free shuttle boat. Room prices from $380/night.