Bars in Bangkok are plentiful, as the locals like to relax over a beer or bottle of whisky just as much as tourists and expats. The city has loads of choices; upmarket pubs, outdoor Thai venues with live music, trendy lounge places and, of course, the go-go variety that are confined to some areas. In all of them you’ll find good value for money.
Bangkok bars are typically atmospheric and scattered all over the city centre, though the most popular with foreigners are confined to neighbourhoods such as Sukhumvit Road, the Silom area and Khao San Road.
Whether you seek Bangkok bars full of girlies, or a place for some traditional English pub grub, there is something for everyone. The range is excellent and clusters of places make it easy to stumble from one to another. In some places you might feel in another world, while others will make you feel like you’ve never left home.
There are plenty of places to mingle with Thais and meet locals, as well as exclusive places with drinks prices in the same league as a big European city, keeping the ‘riff-raff’ out.
Generally, in Bangkok, the bars and pubs near the Sukhumvit area are likely to have more facilities and better service, yet will cost you a lot more, while some tatty places off Khao San Road are atmospheric but strictly for the bohemian crowd.
Bangkok bars in the Silom area
Vertigo and Moon Bar: great place to go for unprecedented views over the city, Vertigo, at the top of the five-star Banyan Tree Hotel, comes at a price but is well worth it. Banyan Tree Hotel & Resort (61st Floor), 21/100 South Sathon Road, Tel: (02) 679 1200.
Molly Malone’s: large pub on two floors with copious amounts of Guinness flowing and other beers on tap. Predominantly an expat crowd, a friendly bunch at that, and has regular live sports and daily special dishes. Use Sala Daeng BTS station. 1/5-6 Soi Convent Road, Silom, Tel: (02) 266 7160-1.
Upmarket bars in Bangkok
Bamboo bar: located in the Mandarin Oriental, it has a nice colonial tropics theme with a romantic and intimate feel. Live music nightly. 1/1 Sukhumvit Soi 3, Nana Nua (Opposite Grace Hotel), Tel: (02) 253 2462.
Living Room: a luxurious jazz bar with deep, comfy couches, uncrowded, and a discerning middle-aged clientele. World-class jazz outfits are often booked to perform live sets for the knowledgeable crowd here. Sheraton Grande Hotel, 250 Sukhumvit Road, Tel: (02) 649 8353.
Three Sixty: atop the Millenium Hilton, this bar offers excellent 360-degree views of the Bangkok skyline. Soft Jazz is played, furniture is very comfortable and the atmosphere is serene. 123 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Tel: (02) 442 2000.
Go Go bars in Bangkok
When talking about Bangkok bars, we shouldn’t neglect the many go go bars that make the city famous and are an attraction in themselves. These tend to be clustered in certain red light zones, some of which can appear quite sleazy and in your face.
Their sole purpose is to hook you up with a ‘bar girl’ for the evening and you will be faced with a troupe of forward, provocatively-dressed girls the moment you walk in, and hustled to buy a drink almost immediately. Drinks aren’t a bargain in these places and it won’t be long before one of these girls has sat herself down next to you and asked for a drink.
Either you can oblige and make a new friend, pass her up in favour of another you have your eye on, or tell them you’re not interested, in which case they soon leave you alone.
Bangkok bars in the Sukhumvit area
Gullivers: huge, air-conditioned bar with a large range of reasonably priced drinks and good Western food. Great for watching sport on the big screen. There’s a couple of branches, one on Sukhumvit and the other Khao San Road. Lots of freely available ‘company’ but discretely behaved.
The Bus Stop Bar: a good escape from the chaos of nearby Nana Plaza, this ‘clean’ bar has a large open-air seating area and a good mix of Thai and expat customers. Sukhumvit Soi 4, Klong Toei, Tel: (081) 773 9695.
Titanium Vodka Bar: cool vodka bar – literally! Features a room with sub-zero temperatures in which shots of Russian vodka are sold and knocked back very quickly before returning to the relative warmth of the air-con in the main bar. Sukhumvit Soi 22, tel: (02) 258 3758.
Cheap Charlies: as the name suggests, the main selling point of this place is the cheap beer! Little more than a wooden bar on the Soi with tables and chairs in front of it, this place gets surprisingly busy. 2/7 Soi Sukhumvit 11.
Bangkok bars in the Khao San Road area
Lava Club: one of the more popular Khao San Road bars, this funky place plays mainly mainstream R&B and hip-hop. Typically of Khao San, the crowd is mainly tourists with a few groups of Thais joining the dance floor. 249 Khao San Road, Tel: (02) 281 6565.
Suzie Wong’s Beers & Buns: popular with Thais, this long-running Khao San Road pub is well worth including on your pub crawl. Located down a small covered lane towards the ‘Burger King end’ of the street.
Brick Bar: often busy, nice atmosphere of travellers and party Thais in an open-air terrace (upstairs or vault-like downstairs) with its beer hall benches. Some great reggae, ska and funk is played here. 265 Khao San Road, Tel: (02) 629 4556.
Bangkok bars in other areas
Saxophone: well worth seeking out for the excellent live music, this buzzing place is situated right by the Victory Monument. 3/8 Victory Monument, Phayathai Road, Tel: (02) 246 5472.
The Rock Pub: a famous music venue that has been open since 1987 and features live original and cover bands nightly. You can sample local rock talent here and learn more on their website about gigs. They provide all kinds of Rock music from 1970’s to today ranging from soft to Metal. Hollywood Street Building, Ratchathewi (opposite of the Asia Hotel), Tel: 081 493 5580.
Gay and lesbian bars in Bangkok
Silom Road Soi 2, Soi 2/1 and Soi 4 is the main clusters of gay bars in Bangkok, where outdoor balconies line this pedestrianised cul-de-sac. Silom Soi 2 is the most popular, as it hosts DJ Station, while Silom Soi 2/1 features G.O.D. night club. The saunas here are well designed and clean.
Telephone Pub: on the mixed Silom Soi 4, this pub has regular beauty contests and monthly Mr and Mrs Telephone awards. 114/11 Silom Soi 4.
The Balcony: also on Silom Soi 4, this friendly place is generally busier than Telephone. 86-88, Silom Soi 4, Tel: (02) 235 5891.
DJ Station: for a more energetic, lively gay venue (Sala Daeng BTS station). 212/2 Silom, Suriyawong, Tel: (02) 266 4029.
G.O.D. Night Club: Silom’s only gay, after hours nightclub. Silom Soi 2/1.