‘Expat Central’ is a busy avenue that now forms the heart of Bangkok’s tourism, since many of the hotels and tourist friendly services are found here. Sukhumvit is one of the youngest districts of Bangkok, dating from the ‘60s, and is now considered one of the most sophisticated and desirable places to stay if you are a foreigner.
Many visitors to Bangkok find themselves staying on Sukhumvit Road, since it is central, serviced by the Skytrain and Metro, and has plenty to offer Western tastes, with its restaurants, pubs, malls, and English-speaking services. It’s a short taxi ride to the Siam Square transport and shopping hub, or Silom business district. Many office blocks and condos are situated near Sukhumvit but it also has some low-rise leafy neighbourhoods for those who can afford them.
Essentially, Sukhumvit Road runs some 45 blocks from Nana to On Nut (though it continues all the way to Samut Prakarn at the river mouth, and resurfaces as far away as Pattaya!). The overhead Skytrain runs the length of this stretch of the avenue. At the top end is Nana, one of the go-go areas of the city, where tourists pick their way among pavement vendors hawking all sorts of cheap goods. Many good restaurants and pubs here suit a Western taste. This area is also ethnically diverse, with Arabian and Africa quarters.
Like many important avenues in Bangkok, the streets leading off form part of the district. Known as sois, these are where many expats live or hotels are located, with the even numbers to your right and odds numbers on the left (going south). Whereas Sukhumvit Road itself is a major transport thoroughfare full of traffic and business, it gets quieter and more pleasant as you travel down these sois. A mere 100m from this avenue, you will find large, leafy mansions in low-rise environments, literally in the heart of the city.
Sukhumvit Road can be divided into three obvious sections:
The top section from Nana to Asoke is the tourist area – running about eight blocks to Soi 20 and the major intersection with Rachadapisek Road and Metro. Here you will find big hotels, Nana Plaza and many girlie bars, restaurants, pavement vendors and foreign quarters. It can be chaotic, busy, and sleazy in parts, but is the hub of evening activity.
The middle section features Ekkamai and Thong Lor; two adjacent avenues that contain many of the trendy bars and clubs where wealthy young Thais like to hang out. It is also the residential area of choice for expats since there are many quieter sois off Sukhumvit Road, with decent houses, gardens and parks, along with the posh Emporium Mall and restaurants and pubs. Lots of hotels are also situated here.
This is perhaps the most sensible place to stay in Bangkok if you wish to be near foreigner friendly amenities, yet prefer to avoid the busy and sleazy bits at the top end of Sukhumvit. The choice of hotels in this area, and all along Sukhumvit, is excellent, and they are conveniently located.
The lower end of Sukhumvit Road seldom sees tourists and is a more affordable area for Thais and expats to live, where you can get more for your money, yet still be near the Skytrain. On Nut, with its Tescos stores, is the centre of activity, but Sukhumvit runs for another 15 blocks, lined with malls and businesses.
Since the Skytrain runs the length of Sukhumvit Road, it remains a popular area to stay. If you alight at a Skytrain station, there are always motorcycle taxis waiting to take you down the sois. This has been Bangkok’s fastest developing area for some time, and remains one of the more central and convenient areas with a large choice of condos and services.