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By Kat Yindee, an office manager and HR specialist who has been living in Bangkok for more than 40 years, always exploring the city’s diverse food culture and teaching visitors about its rich history.
Bangkok’s nightlife is different from any other city in the world. There are so many choices – whether you want to explore the rooftop bars and nightclubs or prefer a quieter evening of good food and light music, there will be something that suits your style. Locals in Bangkok tend to mostly go out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so if you’re looking for a crowd, those are the busiest nights in town. As someone who has been living in Bangkok all my life, I’ve gotten to know the city pretty well. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand’s crazy capital, here is a guide to the best things to do in Bangkok at night.
As if there isn’t enough action in Bangkok on a regular day, the cultural festivals and traditional celebrations that take place throughout the year bring even more life into the city. The Chinese New Year celebrations that take place in early February are the most exciting time of the year to visit Bangkok’s Chinatown district. Streets light up with music, fireworks and dragon dancers, and Chinese shops and restaurants all over Bangkok celebrate with special promotions and themed variations of traditional dishes. Another festive highlight is Songkran, which takes place in mid-April with celebrations that often last up to a week. Most businesses and offices shut down during this time so that the entire city is free to join in on the festivities. Songkran is a time for family reunions and locals use this holiday to spend time with family and friends. Another incredible Thai festival is the evening of Loy Krathong when respect is paid to the goddess of water by releasing rafts decorated with flowers and candles into rivers and canals around the city. This is one of the beautiful sights to see!
The Chao Phraya River is one of Bangkok’s best known landmarks. A boat trip down the river is an incredible way to sightsee Bangkok as there are many interesting sites and attractions along the way. The Chao Phraya River Express Boat route operates from 06:00 until 19:30 with boats stopping at every pier every 20 minutes. Cruising the river by day is one thing, but experiencing the city view from the river at night is something you can’t miss out on. One night in Bangkok is far too little to take in its crazy nightlife, but if that’s all you have, I’d say a trip along the river is a great way to spend the evening before venturing into the busy city streets. You can book a 2-hour roundtrip cruise on the Chao Phraya Princess, departing from River City pier at 19:00, for about 1 500 baht. This includes drinks, snacks and a buffet dinner, all the while enjoying live music while taking in the incredible view of the city lights.
Some of the best shopping in Bangkok only awakens after dark. Night markets in Bangkok are plentiful – not only for food, but also clothing, jewellery, household items, books and much, much more. One of the most popular night markets in Bangkok is Rod Fai, better known as the Train Market since its original location was right next to the train tracks outside the city centre. The current location is conveniently much closer to the city. Another must-visit is the Chatuchak Weekend Market, possibly the most visited market in Bangkok. Because it’s only open during weekends, it can get pretty crowded. On Friday nights, the market stays open until midnight – a treasured piece of information since not many people are aware of this. You can find absolutely anything under the sun at Chatuchak and you’ll be spoilt for street food choice.
If ever you don’t know what to do in Bangkok at night, Chinatown is the answer. Established in the 1780’s, Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the world. Located in the area surrounding Charoenkrung Road, you’ll find some of the best street food in Bangkok at Chinatown’s food stalls. Apart from the bustling culinary scene, there is also a big variety of sit-down restaurants and bars. Another must-see in Chinatown is Pak Klong Talad, the biggest fresh flower market in Bangkok. The market is open 24/7 and is at its busiest around midnight. Around 03:00 every morning, fresh flowers are delivered to the market – a sight so beautiful it’s definitely worth staying awake for. The best way to get to the centre of Chinatown is to take the MRT and get off at Hua Lamphong station. There’s never a dull moment in these streets – no matter the time of day or night, Chinatown never sleeps.
Sukhumvit Road is known for its wild nightlife and party scene – also the infamous red light district and massage parlours. This area offers many swanky rooftop bars and nightclubs ideal for those looking for a party that will last well into the early morning hours. Most places you’ll find in this area will be on the higher end, but it’s perfect if you’re in the mood for dressing up and feeling fancy. One of my favourite bars in Sukhumvit is Sky Bar, located 63 floors above street level, offering a magnificent 360 view of Bangkok. Another personal favourite is L’Appart, a French restaurant and bar decorated like an upper class vintage Parisian apartment. You’ll feel as though you’ve walked straight into a movie set when you come here! To get around the Sukhumvit area, you can take the BTS Skytrain. Keep in mind that trains only run until midnight, so you’ll need to take a taxi after that.
Silom Road is another popular nightlife area in Bangkok. Patpong, a district within the Silom area, is a hub of bars and massage parlours, similar (although not as crowded) as that of Sukhumvit. Patpong is actually where Thailand’s go-go bar culture originated and remains one of the most famous red light districts in the world. Even if this kind of entertainment doesn’t interest you, a stroll through Patpong is still quite interesting. For music and dancing, I like Maggie Choo’s, considered the best jazz club in Bangkok. The bar is decorated in an almost gothic way, with heavy vault doors, old paintings against the walls and dark brick finishing. You can spend an entire night here, sipping on cocktails, ordering food from the restaurant and enjoying the live musical acts. While we’re on the topic of music, if you want to take the mic in your own hands, head to Soi Thaniya in the Silom district, where you’ll find a variety of karaoke bars proven to be especially popular among Japanese tourists.
Another party-related to-do in Bangkok! If you’re backpacking on a budget and want to meet fellow travellers, your search for where to stay in Bangkok is over. Khaosan Road is known to be the most popular area for Bangkok’s younger crowd. The affordable accommodation, laid-back restaurants and never-ending party scene makes this the dream location for the backpacker looking to socialize. The bars and clubs in the Khaosan district are much cheaper than those in areas like Sukhomvit and Silom. Anything goes in Khaosan – no one will even look at you twice if you decide to start dancing in the street. And if all the partying gets too tiring, you can recharge by getting a relaxing massage on the street right next to the spot you were dancing mere minutes ago. Khaosan is definitely the a party paradise!
If the noise and chaos of Bangkok’s busy streets at night overwhelm you, perhaps a laid-back dinner with good company, good food, relaxing background music and postcard-worthy views sound more appealing. That’s definitely my idea of the ideal evening. I never get tired of dining near the river and one of my favourite riverside restaurants is The Water Front – the view from here truly lives up to its name. If I’m in the mood for a pub dinner, I’d usually head to Sukhumvit and find one of the less crowded hangout spots for a drink and something to eat. Nothing beats these slow-paced evenings!
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