There’s a huge range of nightlife options in Bangkok and at night the downtown area can become a frenetic, pulsating, lively place. There are many Western-style expat pubs, cocktail lounges, go-go bars, hostess bars, huge super-clubs, street-side cheap drinks and many more options. There are also lots of gay and lesbian bars, with whole areas dedicated to gay or mixed crowds.
There are many areas in which you can bar-hop between close-by pubs, or visitors can take a taxi to a standalone club which will typically feature live music and lots of whisky.
Most places in Bangkok close at 02:00 at the latest, leaving you to either go home (the sensible option!) or continue on to find an illegal ‘after-hours’ pub, which often involves quickly ducking under a half-closed shutter and tip-toeing upstairs into a packed and sweaty room filled with other like-minded party-goers.
Some after hours places don’t actually open until 03:30 or 04:00, meaning that the many pavement bars on Sukhumvit Road may be your only option for a few late night Chang beers before hitting the real party places later on.
Some recommended Bangkok clubs and discos
Club Nove: is the place for beautiful people in Bangkok with private rooms, balcony and even a small garden area. This exclusive Bangkok bar offers authentic Italian cuisine plus cocktails and champagne. 131 Soi Sukhumwit 53, Sukhumvit Road, Tel: (02) 712 9991.
The Rock Pub: conveniently located venue for live music fans, showcasing Thai rock bands playing original and cover music nightly. Hollywood Street Building, Ratchathewi (opposite of the Asia Hotel), Tel: (02) 251 9980.
RCA: not a disco but a whole area for clubbing, with nearly a dozen clubs on one pedestrianised street, pulling the young rich Bangkok Thai crowd every night of the week. It also attracts clubbers among expats and some tourists. Best bet for a guaranteed night of boogeying, but don’t expect any girls for hire. It’s a 20-minute taxi ride from the city centre.
Where to go for different Bangkok bars
Budget: there are various clusters of bars in which tourists inevitably find themselves. Khao San Road has probably the highest density of bars per square metre, and they play a large variety of musical styles including hip hop, drum and bass, house, trance, chart music, rock and Thai music. Bars here are lively, cheap and draw a predominantly foreign crowd, although in recent years it has become a popular destination for more cosmopolitan Thais.
Sophistication: Silom Soi 4 is also worth a look as it has a sophisticated mix of both gay and straight bars. Just nearby is the Langsuan area in which the bars have mainly Thai clientele and most also feature live music.
Pubbing: for the expat scene, head to Sukhumvit Road, along which you can do a pub crawl of the many British, Irish, German and American-style pubs. These are a bit pricier and there’s rarely a Thai customer to be found. Also in this area are many larger clubs, which have large dance floors and often very talented DJs spinning the tunes.
Clubbing: if big, banging clubs are your thing then look no further than RCA – six huge clubs next to each other, all playing hip hop, R&B, house, trance or drum and bass. These swanky places pull in moneyed Thais and a few of the more hip expats. Be sure to take a photocopy of your passport here though as absolutely everyone is checked on the door. You’ll find discos in the central tourist areas, too, that are full of punters and ‘pickup artists’.
Go Gos and girlies: of course you can hardly talk about Bangkok nightlife without mentioning the go-go bar scene – it’s the much loved and much loathed phenomenon that Bangkok’s been famous for over the years. There are three main areas in which the go-go bars are concentrated: the Nana Entertainment Plaza (NEP, or Nana Plaza), Soi Cowboy (both near Sukhumvit Road) and the infamous Patpong (Silom).
Although they’re tamer these days than they were in the more hedonistic 80’s and 90’s, they’re still pretty full-on and probably unlike anything you’ve seen back home. Some are touristy and have the boorish ‘ping pong shows’, whilst others are smaller places to simply pick up a girl for the evening. Although these bars are plentiful, they’re segregated enough from the ‘normal’ bars so that if this scene is not to your taste it won’t encroach on your evening’s enjoyment.