Famous for its hedonistic and astonishingly varied nightlife, Bangkok certainly won’t disappoint party goers, and although the 24hr. ‘Bangkok bender’ is seen as a thing of the past (at least legally); a result of strict controls implemented by the government in an attempt to ‘Singaporize’ itself, party goers still make the most of the time on offer in this fascinating and frenetic city.
When day turns to night and the city comes to life, there’s a rich variety of options to choose from including multiple pubs & slick super clubs, beer gardens and micro brewery’s, roof top terrace bars and live music venues, hotel discos and straight or gay go-go bars, cabaret and karaoke clubs, cinema’s and bowling; a selection to suit all tastes, desires and budgets.
In terms of venue location, Bangkok consists of several main entertainment zones and main streets lined with bars and clubs making it easy to move on from one to the next on foot or by BTS (elevated train) although more isolated venues do exist and a taxi ride may be necessary. The most popular hotspots include RCA for its lively clubs situated one after the other, Khao San Road for its bohemian crowd inhabiting the bar, shop, stall and guesthouse lined main street and small side streets, Silom for its mix of gay and straight venues and Sukhumvit Road for its rich variety of hi and low-so entertainment options.
The music is as varied as the venues themselves, but most popular genres include jazz, rock & pop (Asian & Euro) often played live, house music, hip hop and drum n’ bass. All can be enjoyed all over the city in a variety of venues suiting a range of budgets.
Club lovers will be in their element in Bangkok. In all of the main entertainment districts (RCA, Silom & Sukhumvit) there’s at least one world class club venue, featuring internationally recognized DJ’s often accompanied by percussionists and visual displays.
Although most places close at between 1 and 2 o’clock enabling you to do the sensible thing and get some much needed shut eye, if you still feel the urge to carry the night on a bit further, you can either opt for the roadside beer bars found in the Silom and Sukhumvit (Nana) area or stick your ear to the ground and find an illegal ‘after hours’ club. Because their locations shift from week to week in order to stay ahead of the law, you simply just have to ask those in the know, which usually involves a member of the bar staff or a well informed foreigner. Almost impossible to spot from the outside, although often given away by loitering party people and muffled base sounds, ‘after hours clubs’ usually consist of a large room (usually the top floor) in a shop-house with a bar, mirrored walls and disco ball filled shoulder to shoulder with a pumping party crowd. Not everyone’s cup of tea, you need to be prepared to get hot and sweaty.
The Bangkok night scene has all the beverages one would expect including a whole host of exotic cocktails, spirits, beers and wines. However, due to the heavy taxing of wine and import beers, these tend to be noticeably more expensive than whiskey and the local brew.
For those seeking the comforts of home, stodgy western food or for those simply needing a break from the Thai scene, they can enjoy other entertainment options, including the expatriate venues. With such a large expatriate population, the city is home to a large number of pubs, including English, Irish, Australian & American, each serving delicious pub grub and featuring live music and sports TV. These venues are generally found in the Silom and Sukhumvit areas of the city.
One can’t really talk about night life in Bangkok without mentioning the infamous go-go bar scene. Characterized by scantily clad hip gyrating local girls and boys swinging round metal poles dancing to pumping Thai pop, loved and loathed, many Thai’s, the government in particular just brush it under the carpet as though it doesn’t exist. In truth, it’s a big as ever and probably at a guess responsible for a fair chunk of Thailand’s revenues generated from the tourism industry. Concentrated in three main areas of the city, these go-go bars can be found in Sukhumvit’s Nana plaza and Asoke at the famous Soi Cowboy in addition to Silom’s Patpong area.
Thai’s have a keen interest in live music, and as a result of this, performances are a daily and nightly occurrence in just about every corner of the city. Pop into a pub (Thai or Expat), beer garden, or hotel bar and you’ll be bound to catch an act. Most performances are ‘tribute-esque’ rather than self written, covering classics from such mainstream bands as Oasis, The Eagles and Bob Marley to mention but a few. However, musical ability is generally of a high standard and the performances are sometimes backed up by dancers and other artists making it pretty captivating.