A city where devout spirituality and unfettered hedonism exist side by side and where revered temples and shrines can be found close to pumping nightclubs, bars catering to all interests, gleaming shopping malls, and massage parlours that may be offering more than a traditional massage, Bangkok really is an eye-opening destination after dark.
As the UK rapper Murray Head once famously sang, “… one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster”. Reflecting the city’s notorious reputation for sex tourism, he continued to state that, “…you’ll find a god in every golden cloister, and if you’re lucky then the god’s a she”. Whilst Bangkok has certainly cleaned up its act a lot over recent years and shed some of its former sleazy associations, it’s still true that there are many places around the city where men can find lots of adult night time fun. But what if you want to experience a different side of Bangkok’s nightlife? Don’t despair! There are many ways to enjoy Bangkok at night whilst keeping your pants on!
Here are some ideas for a fun night in Bangkok:
1. Visit the famous backpacker haunt of Khao San Road
A magnet for many first-time visitors to Bangkok, Khao San Road is known for its plentiful cheap accommodation options, lively bars, numerous places to eat, and for generally going a bit wild after dark. Pull up a seat in a chilled out bar and mingle with other travellers and hip locals, peruse the cheap clothes and accessories that are stewed across pavement stalls, enjoy live music in places like the often-crammed Roof Top Bar, or grab a beer or a notorious whisky bucket and wander along soaking up the sights and joining in with street parties. Competing tunes fill the air, hawkers offer an array of munchies from Pad Thai (fried noodles) to deep fried crickets, and the whole 1 kilometre stretch becomes a giant no-holds-barred party. Head to The Club and dance the night away to all the latest electronic, trance, and dance music.
You can also find a great selection of bars on neighbouring streets, with Soi Rambuttri offering a more laid-back vibe but with enough options to give Khao San Road a real run for its money.
2. Check out Bangkok’s naughty red light districts
Patpong is the city’s original red light district but its diverse assortment of night time activities attracts a mixed crowd. Bars aplenty line the streets, with beer bars where you can chill out, lively go-go bars where dancers perform an eye-popping range of moves on stages and around poles, and full-on strip joints. Blinded by neon and deafened by a cacophony of sounds, a large night market offers an alternative to the naughtier spots. It is known as Patpoing Night Market and Silom Street Night Market. Selling a wide assortment of goods for reasonably cheap prices, it is a great place to pick up gifts and souvenirs. You’ll find everything from t-shirts and watches to carved Buddha images and key rings. Touts will likely approach you as you walk through the market, just smile and say no thanks if you’re not interested and they generally won’t pester you more.
If you’re curious, Patpong is also a popular place to watch an infamous ping-pong show. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with table tennis! No longer the sole domain of men, ping-pong shows attract mixed groups of men and women, and it is not uncommon for couples to pop in for a peek. Prepare to have your mind totally blown during the x-rated shows as you watch women shoot ping-pong balls from their private parts with amazing precision and perform a range of other mind-boggling tricks. See chains of colourful flowers being produced like magic, bottles opened with parts of the body that really shouldn’t be used to open bottles, darts being fired to pop balloons, razor blades appearing in a completely cringe-worthy manner … it is certainly different!
Taking it up a notch, Sukhumvit’s Soi Cowboy is known for its high-octane parties and sex scene. It has, nonetheless, a really laid-back vibe that friends and couples can still enjoy without feeling too awkward. Whilst it definitely isn’t a place for people that are easily shocked, the bright flashing lights and people-watching opportunities make it well-worth stopping by for at least one drink. Some bars have outdoor seating if you don’t want to find yourself smack bang in the middle of a go-go bar.
Perhaps the ultimate red light district of Bangkok, Nana Plaza is a place that really means business. With a gritty and hard-edged vibe, it is only really recommended for people who are interesting in doing more than just looking.
Silom is the main focus of Bangkok’s gay night scene, with bars, clubs, shows, massage parlours, and saunas.
Get your glad rags on and ascend to dizzying heights to sip your drink whilst enjoying some of the finest views of Bangkok. Be warned though – the experience usually doesn’t come cheap! Expect to pay significantly more for drinks in most rooftop bars when compared to establishments with their feet firmly at ground level. Many also have strict dress codes that prohibit wearing shorts, sportswear, flip flops, beach clothes, and sleeveless tops.
Lebua at State Tower is home to the highest bar in Bangkok. Located on the 63rd floor, Sky Bar offers quite a magical time overlooking the Chao Praya River and surrounding buildings. Park Society on the 29th floor of Sofitel So provides nice views of the verdant Lumpini Park. Vertigo and Moon Bar on the Banyan Tree Hotel’s 61st floor offers awesome panoramic views and a chic atmosphere, whilst The Speakeasy at Hotel Muse combines great vistas with a cool theme that transports visitors back to the 1920s and the days of Prohibition. If you’re looking for somewhere with a casual atmosphere and lower prices, don’t miss Cloud 47.
4. Live it up and dance ‘til you drop at RCA
The beating heart of Bangkok’s clubbing scene, RCA attracts an eclectic mix of travellers and party-loving Thais. The area’s full name is Royal City Avenue, but it is hardly ever referred to by its proper title. It is perhaps the number one place in Bangkok for devoted clubbers, with large numbers of revellers flocking to the area each and every night. As a designated nightlife zone the party never stops! There are many clubs and bars to experience, with some popular venues including Route 66 Nightclub, LED, Onyx, and Slim & Flix. Whether you want to chill with a beer, listen to live music, rave the night away, get your disco groove on, go all retro, or enjoy the latest hip hop beats, there really is something here for all tastes.
5. Be in awe at one of Bangkok’s terrific shows
There are several fabulous shows to enjoy in the evening times in Bangkok. Why not try something different and head to a dazzling ladyboy cabaret show? Known as kathoeys in Thai, ladyboys refers to people who were born male but have made a full or partial transition to living as a female. Some have had surgical procedures and hormones to achieve their goals, others have had partial procedures, and others have had no interventions but use their appearance to present as women. As you watch the brilliantly choreographed performances you may find it difficult to believe that each person in the jaw-dropping and glamorous shows was born as a male.
Some top ladyboy cabaret shows in Bangkok include Calypso and The Playhouse Magical Cabaret.
Siam Niramit is a terrific show for getting a taste of the local culture. Performers don amazing traditional costumes to take viewers on an enchanting journey through Thailand’s history, also teaching more about the nation’s culture and common spiritual beliefs. Hypnotic music and graceful dancing add to the fun. Show tickets cost 1,500 THB (approximately 41.50 USD) for non-Thai guests.
Other ideas for a night in Bangkok
Thong Lor is a great area for a classy and sophisticated night of quaffing cocktails and sipping wine. The upmarket bars cater to a discerning and fashionable clientele. It is popular with locals and visitors alike.
Browse and shop in late-night malls and shopping centres, watch a traditional Muay Thai (Thai boxing) fight, take a trip to the lovely Amphawa Floating Market (only open in the afternoons and evenings), enjoy a dinner cruise along the river, belt out your favourite songs in a karaoke joint, and more!
Note that there have been several legal developments regarding drinking alcohol in Thailand. Essentially, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has created laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol within 300 metres of educational establishments and temples. Businesses that are within designated entertainment areas, such as RCA and Patpong, will have special provisions. With the new sale of alcohol provisions due to come into effect on the 1st of January 2016, Bangkok’s night scene is set to see some radical changes. With an abundance of schools, colleges, and temples scattered across the city, many bars and clubs face closure. It will also, if the laws are strictly applied, mean that people will no longer be able to buy alcohol in many stores and restaurants.
Don’t miss Bangkok’s varied night scene when next visiting the diverse and lively Thai capital.
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