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bangkok 101

The Stylish

november 2010 100 baht




Inside Thailand’s Northeast

t h r o u g h t h eeye e yon e s isaan of his kingdom

New Way to Sleep in Bangkok

seven design hotel

november 2010

3/15 Sukhumvit 31 Bangkok 10110 t: +662.662.0951 f: +662.662.3344 e:


World-class venue... ..on Silom

Niu’s on Silom is one of Bangkok’s world-class venues in a warm, elegant yet intimate habitat, where the perfect combination of Italian Cuisine, Live Jazz, Blues & Soul Club and Wine Bar are ready to be your choice of indulgence. We are located between Soi Silom 17 and Soi 19 at Baan Silom Arcade. Niu’s on Silom includes Concerto, Thailand’s first independent restaurant to achieve the SGS international standard for food and service, ranking it with leading hotels for levels of excellence.

Concerto Restaurant On the second floor serves you with the finest Italian Cuisine in town, by the world renowned and Bangkok’s famous Italian chef Marco Cammarata, who cooks with his wealth of knowledge and passion of food. Surround yourself in the realm of Jazz at our ground floor Jazz-Blues Club, where our live band performs every night.

Jazz, Blues and Soul Niu’s on Silom is Bangkok’s newest and brightest dining location you can enjoy our live performances daily, which include a broad range of international and thai professional musicians. For the latest Jazz events or performers, please visit our website at and click on show times.

Free valet service available. Now open daily from 5.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m. FAMKGFKADGEB9RR:DM=K;DM:9F<J=KL9MJ9FL;G&$DL<& ..)>dggj)%*KadgeJgY\Z]lo]]fKadgeKga)/Yf\)1$Kadge$ :Yf_jYc$:Yf_cgc)(-(( L]d2(**..%-+++%,>Yp2(%**..%-++- =eYad2j]k]jnYlagf8famkgfkadge&[ge ooo&famkgfkadge&[ge



november 2010

This month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Bangkok 101 – not with our usual orgy of urban indulgence, but with a well-earned road trip to Thailand’s colossal backyard: Isaan. In this 22-page special, entitled Eye on Isaan, we explore the oft-neglected northeast of the country, which is slowly emerging as a tourist destination in its own right. As it happens, November is the perfect time to visit: the monsoon rains are over, temperatures are on the lower side, and the region’s most famous festival, the Surin Elephant Roundup, is happening. While Isaan admittedly has some way to go before it can compete with the likes of Phuket or Chiang Mai for tourist dollars, it’s not the flat, featureless backwater some would have you believe. Indeed, the region brims with fascinating tradition, remarkable culture, excellent (though somewhat spicy) food, and friendly people. In our dedicated feature, we outline the region’s history and rural arts, visit its sightseeing wonders, and round it all off with a photo feature by Discovering Isaan author, and longtime visitor to the area, Simon Bonython. In keeping with the festive atmosphere, it’s apt that November is one long string of Thai celebrations, including Loy Krathong, when locals ‘float’ the troubles of the past year away on candlelit krathongs. More night lights can also be seen at Kanchanaburi’s River Kwai Bridge Week, an historical light and sound extravaganza, while up in Thailand’s far north, the hills of Mae Hong Son district will also see crowds thanks to the area’s blooming sunflowers. Lest you think we’ve been too distracted by our travels, fret not – our jam-packed Metrobeat section has all the capital’s happenings covered, from classical music recitals, to banging club nights, the best in the latest film, art and design, and much more besides. We’ve also got our usual bar and restaurant reviews, including current controversial talk of the town Nahm, and the inside scoop on new Thong Lor starlet, Soul Food Mahanakorn. If you’re not feeling peckish yet, why not instead stroll down to your nearest beer garden – these al fresco watering holes pop-up all over Bangkok in the mild winter months. Who knows, you might spot us sitting in one, toasting the cooler weather and our fifth birthday… Come on over and say hi.

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Mason Florence Publisher

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contributors Simon Bonython

A native of Adelaide, South Australia, Simon Bonython came to live in Thailand in 1969 and has had a long and successful career in business. During this time he has also combined his addiction to photography with his passion for travel, publishing two books: Discovering Isaan, which the pictures from this month’s photofeature are taken from, and Bangkok: City of Temples.

Philip CornwelSmith

Very Thai author Philip Cornwel-Smith is a writer, editor and curator specialising in culture and travel. He has lived in Thailand for over a decade, editing its first listings magazine and the Time Out Bangkok guides, updating Thailand: A Traveller’s Companion, presenting Noodle Box: Bangkok on Discovery Channel, and squeezing Bangkok into the city’s first mobile phone guide for Nokia. Born in England, he has also written for Eyewitness: Thailand and international magazines.

Howard Richardson

Food and travel writer Howard Richardson lives beside the Chao Phraya River in downtown Bangkok, from where he’s spent 12 years exploring the city as magazine editor and freelance writer. He’s contributed to publications such as GQ, the BBC’s Olive magazine and the New York Times online, and written a monthly column on Bangkok events and trends in Sawasdee, the Thai Airways inflight magazine. He also wrote the travel guide Bangkok Step by Step, published by Insight Guides.

Brian Mertens

Author Brian Mertens helped spotlight Thailand’s new wave of textiles and furniture in his recent coffee table volume Bangkok Design. Previously he wrote Architecture of Thailand: A Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Forms. He writes on culture, travel and current affairs for such publications as New York Times, Art AsiaPacific and Forbes. A former resident of New York City and Tokyo, he has lived in Thailand since 1997, the year he won the Citibank Prize for Excellence in Journalism.

Dave Stamboulis

Publisher Mason Florence

Steven Pettifor

Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jesda M. Tivayanond Associate Publisher Parinya Krit-Hat Managing Editor Max Crosbie-Jones Deputy Editor Simon Ostheimer Designer Narong Srisaiya Jarmmaree Janjaturonrasamee Editorial Assistant Piyakwan Mettaprasert Pattarasuda Prajittanond Strategists Nathinee Chen Sebastien Berger

Greek-born but Californiaraised, Dave Stamboulis resides in Bangkok where he works for magazines, newspapers and stock agencies as a freelance photojournalist. His quest for stories and images has taken him to Borneo, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and other way out locations, often via bicycle, kayak, or on foot. His travel book, Odysseus’ Last Stand: Chronicles of a Bicycle Nomad, received the Silver Medal from the Society of American Travel Writers in 2006.

British-born writer-ar tist Steven Pettifor stopped over in Thailand 13 years ago on his way to Japan, but never left. An authority on contemporary Thai art, Steven is a regular commentator on the local art scene, contributing to several international and domestic newspapers and journals. In 2004 he published the coffee-table book Flavours: Thai Contemporary Art. When not art musing, he spends his time travel writing.

Korakot (Nym) Punlopruksa

N a t i v e - B a n g k o k w r i t e r, photographer and incurable travel addict, Nym believes in experiencing the world through food. She can usually be found canvassing the city for the best eats around. Nym has been a host for music and film programmes, a radio DJ, a creative consultant for television and a documentary scriptwriter. She is the author of several travel narratives, and her work appears in myriad magazines including ELLE, Elle Decoration, GM and Home & Décor.

Cheryl Tseng

An avid epicurean, Cheryl’s foodie credentials can be traced back to L.A., where she was a regular fixture at the tables of Wolfgang Puck and Nobu before their rise to culinar y fame . She later brought her experienced palate to Bangkok, where she thrives on the new and delectable in the nightout culinary experience. Cheryl contributes to numerous magazines and her website, www.chicasia. com, gives the latest on Bangkok’s hippest venues.

Contributing Writers Cheryl Tseng, Noy Thrupkaew, Steven Pettifor, Nick Measures, Joel Quenby, Korakot Punlopruksa, Liz Smailes, Leo Devillers, Philip Cornwel-Smith, Cassandra Beckford, Chirayu na Ranong, Brian Mertens Contributing Photographers Jatuporn Rutnin, Christian Phongphit, Paul Lefevre, Ludovic Cazeba, Austin Bush, Leon Schadeberg, Marc Schultz, Niran Choonhachat, Frédéric Belge, Somchai Phongphaisarnkit, TAT Director of Sales & Marketing Jhone El’Mamuwaldi Director of Business Development Erika Teo Sales & Marketing Manager Haluethai Wattanapathomvong Administrative Assistant Peeraya Nuchkuar Circulation Pradchya Kanmanee Nuntila Sompoo Published by Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd. 113 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Bangkok 10330 T: 02-252-3900 F: 02-650-4557 Designed by Letter Space T: 02-386-7181 F: 02-386-7182 © Copyright Talisman Media Group Co., Ltd 2010. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written, prior permission of the publisher. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher, which accepts no responsibility for them.

table of

contents snapshots 8 10 11 14 15 16

101 picks events calendar metro beat history chronicle of thailand customs

november 2010

arts 60 61 62 63 64 65

contemporary art exhibitions performing arts cultural centres cinema reading & screening

sightseeing 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26 28 29 30 32 33 34 36 38 39 40 41 44 46 50

orientation riverside route101:rattanakosin route101: chinatown route101: charoen krung route101: sukhumvit route101: pathumwan siam and pratunam temples historic buildings kids in the city & shrines museums the great outdoors what next? upcountry festivals isaan special feature isaan events calendar now in isaan isaanisms isaan snapshots: history isaan snapshots: very isaan photo feature: discovering isaan isaan wonders

on the cover: The Isaan locals watch a boat race intently in Nong Khai.

10 15






table of


november 2010


food & drink 66 67 68 69 70 71 77 79 80 81 82

dining in bangkok meal deals thai cuisine thai sweets street eats thai restaurants featured restaurant brunching sweet treats late dining wine

nightlife 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 100

one night in bangkok nightclubs bars with a view hotel bars bars jazz clubs live music nightlife areas pub crawling


accommodation 110 boutique bangkok

health & wellness 112 113 114 115

body & beauty spas wellness centres medical tourism



116 spectator sports 117 active sports

courses & services

118 cooking, meditation & thai massage, courses 119 making merit



120 getting around

shopping 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109


unique boutique stuff shopping tips bangkok design mall crawl chatuchak market markets sidewalks


Bo c S ok om ta on pl y a S w ime min pe w n im c w ta .a ry um ial m u R ar pg of ea i.c r th d om ad re er e e an an ni Of d d g h fe us air ts r e po an th r d e tt g co ra et de ns a LK fers CB *. K1 01

loves Koh Chang

Follow your own island rhythm at Amari Emerald Cove Koh Chang. Lounge on a pristine beach, kayak among tranquil mangroves, embark on a jungle trek, indulge in a pampering spa treatment or tempt your taste buds with authentic Italian or Thai flavours. Book on today. * Valid for stays until 20 December 2010. * Upgrade applicable from a superior to deluxe room only. For more information contact +66 (0) 3955 2000 Bangkok | Chiang Mai | Pattaya | Koh Chang | Koh Samui | Phuket | Krabi


101 picks


Before rushing off to a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand or the green mountains of Chiang Rai, scratch beneath Bangkok’s gritty surface to uncover these shining gems that’ll keep you here longer.






QChatuchak A huge, sprawling village of a market that sells everything under the sun. Cramped, steamy and lots of fun (p.107).

QMaking Merit Donate food to monks, release birds and fish, or light incense sticks at a temple – and pray for good karma (p.119).

QSunday Brunch Make like the Thais do, and spend your Sunday by lazing around with friends and enjoying a late breakfast (p. 79).

QDusit District Filled with lovely airy boulevards, a zoo and the historic Vimanmek Mansion’s gorgeous green gardens (p.28).

QBars & Clubs Sleep all day, party all night and never grow old. The City of Angels has a night out to suit everyone (p.84-101).

QSuan Lum Night Bazaar This pleasant evening market is full of arts, crafts, textiles, and a large Chang beer garden (p.108).

QThai Massage Though your body will thank you for it later, expect to be stretched to the limit by eager masseuses (p.118).

QFood Courts Love cheap Thai food but love air-con more? Then these shopping mall stalls make for an excellent alternative.

QRiver Boats See a different side of Bangkok and take a boat up north to Nonthaburi or explore the Thonburi canals (p.19).

QCabarets With performers that ooze grace, poise, and, ahem, Adam’s apples, you won’t see a better show in town (p.87).

QSiam Square Bangkok’s young and hip gather at this cradle of cool to watch the latest flicks, and pick up stylish threads (p.106).

QThai Cooking Learn how to pound paste like a professional at one of the many Thai cooking classes held around town (p.118).

QRiver Dining With plenty of restaurants lining its banks, the Chao Phraya River makes for an awesome dinner backdrop. (p.19).

QCycling Tour Although unexpected, touring by bike can be one of the best ways to explore Bangkok and its surroundings (p.116).

QSky-high Drinks Become a high-flier for the night and enjoy a cocktail while looking down on the glittering Bangkok skyline (p.88).

QPatpong Always busy, this small strip in the CBD is packed with market stalls and go-go bars (p.109).

QThai Boxing Place your bets and watch the brutal yet noble art of Muay Thai, or kickboxing (p.116).

QMeal Deals Take advantage of these special offers to eat at the city’s best restaurants (p.67).

QAncient City Cycle round the fun museum park of Muang Boran and see Thailand in miniature

QDining Cruises Enjoy a fine meal and even better views as you gently travel along the Chao Phraya (p.75).

QPanthip Plaza Without doubt this is the ultimate computer geek mecca. If you can’t find it here, you haven’t looked hard enough (p.106).

QTCDC Often hosting workshops and talks, the Thailand Creative & Design Centre fosters Thai designers (p.63).

QStreet Food Order up a dish, sit down on a plastic stool and prepare to taste the core ingredients of Bangkok life (p.70).

QLumpini Park This huge green space in the heart of the city. is perfect for jogging, picnics and boating on the several lakes (p.32).

QTwist & Shout Whether you get wiggly on Khao San, jiggly at RCA or giggly on Soi 11, there’s a dancefloor for you (p.98-99).

QSiam Paragon This mall is probably one of the swishest you’ll ever visit. Fancy a Ferrari? That’ll be on the third floor (p.106).

QThe Jim Thompson House This former CIA spook rebuilt the Thai silk trade from scratch, then disappeared. (p.28).

QAffordable Gourmet Dining If you prefer foie gras to fried insects, the city has plenty of affordable fine dining (p.71).

QFlower Market Located close to the river, this magical 24-hour market offers much more than just fragrant surrounds (p.108).

QThai Theatre TraditionalThai wooden puppet shows, classical Thai drama or breathtaking extravaganzas – no tux required (p.62).


bangkok 101

bangkok 101




november calendar Nov 3 Goober Gun

Nov 4 Miss Kitti

Nov 5 Michael Canitrot

Nov 5 Paul Anka

The Rock Pub | 081-4935580 | | B200

Bed Supperclub | 02-651-3537| www. | B800 (includes one drink)

Bed Supperclub | 02-651-3537 | www. | B1,000 (includes two drinks)

Bangkok Convention Centre, Central Ladprao | 02-262-3456 | www. | B2,500-B4,500

See Metrobeat ‘Rock & Pop’

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

Nov 5-7 Salsabangkok Fiesta 2010

Nov 5-14 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok

080-454-4343 | www. | Single party B800; three-day party B2,400; full festival pass B6,000

Paragon Cineplex & Major Cineplex Sukhumvit | www.

Nov 13 Yara Bangkok Challenge 2010 Adventure Race

Nov 17-18 Urban Bones Dane Company presents Crosswalks

See Metrobeat ‘Film’

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

See Metrobeat ‘Rock & Pop’

Nov 5-6 Tadasu Takamine presents Melody Cup Patravadi Theatre | 02-833-5555 | www. | B300

See Metrobeat ‘Theatre’

Nov 6-7 Fat Festival 10

Nov 7 DJ Spinbad

Nov 11-12 Chelfitsch

Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani | 02-5045050 | www.fatdegree. com | B200, B300

Q Bar | 02-252-3274 | | B600

Patravadi Theatre |02-8335555 | www.totalreservation. com | B300

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

See Metrobeat ‘Theatre’

Nov 17-21 Walking with Dinosaurs

Nov 20-30 4th Bangkok Design Festival

Nov 21 David Russell

See Metrobeat ‘Rock & Pop’

See Metrobeat ‘Dance’

Impact Arana, Muang Thong Thani | 02262-3456 | www. | B500-B2,000

Citywide | 02260-2607 | www. bangkokdesignfestival. com | Free

Korean International School of Bangkok, Nong Chok | 02-718-9581 |

Patravadi Theatre | 02-833-5555 | www. | B500, B800

See Metrobeat ‘Theatre’

See Metrobeat ‘Family’

Nov 21 Loy Krathong

Nov 23 In Bed with Space

Nov 25 DJ Riva Starr

Nov 25-27 Lysistrata

Nov 26 Claude Challe

Citywide | www.

Bed Supperclub | 02-6513537 | www.bedsupperclub. com | B800 (includes two drinks)

Bed Supperclub | 02-6513537 | www.bedsupperclub. com | B800 (includes one drink)

The British Club, Silom Soi 18 | 089-524-6105 | www. | B500 The Bangkok Community Theatre presents the ultimate comedy about the battle of the sexes where women cry: “No peace, no sex!”

Bed Supperclub | 02-6513537 | www.bedsupperclub. com | B1,000 (includes two drinks)

See Metrobeat ‘Sport’

See Metrobeat ‘Festival’

See Metrobeat ‘Design’

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’

Nov 27 Ploenchit Fair 2010

Nov 27-28 Art Festival 2010

Shrewsbury International School | 02-204-1587 | | Adult B100, child B20

Neilson Hays Library, Silom Road | 02-233-1731 | www. | Free A showcase for local and international artists, there will be plenty to see, do and buy at this annual event.

Nov 30- Dec 4 The Jeremy Monteiro Trio with guest Alan Barnes

Nov 30- Dec 12 27th Thailand International Motor Expo 2010

Sheraton Grande Hotel, Sukhumvit Road | 02649-8640 | www. sheratongrandesukhumvit. com | Price TBC

Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani | 02-504-5050 | www. | B100

See Metrobeat ‘Fair’

See Metrobeat ‘Jazz’


Thailand National Theatre | 02-262-3456 | www. | B1,000-B2,000


See Metrobeat ‘Events’

See Metrobeat ‘Classical’

See Metrobeat ‘Nightlife’


bangkok 101

The pick of Bangkok’s hottest news, trends, events and openings. By Howard Richardson



The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok features 150 Thai and foreign movies at Paragon Cineplex and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit from November 5 to 14. As well as the screening of movies, there will also be a retrospective of the work of French director Jacques Doillon, who will personally present five of his features; and film-related talks such as a Master Class Workshop. This year, the festival’s prized Lotus Award goes to Turkish film maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who will be present at the opening night for the screening of his film Three Monkeys. Tickets are B100 (B50 for students). For the full programme see

EXHIBITION New show Spirits: Creativities From Beyond examines the business of fear at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre (02664-8448) until November 21. The exhibits portray the methods people use to profit from traditional beliefs, i.e. those who ‘bridge the spirit world and the world of business.’ The show is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am-9pm. Admission free. Also see 1 on 1, p9.

EVENTS HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and HRH Princess Srirasm will preside over the 2010 S.E.A. Write Awards Presentation and Gala Dinner to honour the best Southeast Asian writers, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (02659-9000) on November 5. The guest speaker is British historian and travel writer William Dalrymple. The latest models from the world’s top car makers will be on display at the 27th Thailand International Motor Expo 2010 at Impact Arena (02-504-5050) from November 30-December 12. Tickets are B100. For full details visit bangkok 101

metro beat

The fourth Bangkok Design Festival includes exhibitions by local and international designers, plus lectures and workshops at several venues around the city November 20-30.

SPORT Outdoor types will head to Nong Chok, an hour out of town, on November 13 for the Yara Bangkok Challenge 2010 Adventure Race. The organisers expect over 100 teams-of-two from around the world, who will endure a 50-plus kilometre course of trekking, swimming, kayaking, mountain biking and mystery tests. For more details, see Runners will set off from Wat Phra Kaew on November 21 for this year’s Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon, and continue for 42km through some of the city’s most historic quarters. There are also wheelchair and quarter marathons, plus a 5 km Walk-Fun Run. For more details see

CLASSICAL This month, Opera Siam International and the Bangkok Opera Foundation will collaborate on Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and Holst’s one-act opera Savitri, to be held at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (02-214-6632) on consecutive nights, November 2 and 3. Barbara Zion takes the lead role in the tale of the Indian Queen Savitri, with music from the Siam Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble. Shows start at 7pm; tickets are B600. For more information call 02-262-3456. The latest addition to the Great Artists of the World programme is Barry Douglas, who in 1986 became the first non-Russian in nearly 30 years to win the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. He will perform the Barry Douglas Beethoven Cycle with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra at the Thailand Cultural Centre (02-247-0028) on November 27. Call 02-262-3456 for more details.





ROCK & POP London-based alt rockers Goober Gun take the stage at the Rock Pub (081-493-5580) on November 3, supported by local bands Lomosonic, Abuse The Youth, Ghost Story, and Mickey Moose. Show starts at 8pm; entrance fee (B200) includes one drink. Paul Anka, the only man to claim royalties from both Frank Sinatra and Sid Vicious - for his song ‘My Way’ - is in Bangkok to perform material from his new album Classic Songs, My Way. It includes tracks he’s written for the likes of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Robbie Williams. Catch him at the Bangkok Convention Centre, Central Ladprao on November 5. Tickets are B2,500 to B4,500 from Thaiticketmajor ( Fat Festival 10, Thailand’s biggest gathering of Indie musicians is at Lakeside, Impact Arena (02-504-5050) on November 6-7. Six indoor stages will host 150 of Thailand’s premier bands, including Richman Toy, Scrub, 25 Hours, Flur and Paradox. Tickets are B200 (one day) and B300 (two days). The full lineup is available to view on the web, see www.

CLASSCAL Grammy-winning classical guitarist David Russell, who has also won the prestigious Andrés Segovia International Guitar Competition, plays a single concert at the Thailand National Theatre on November 21. Tickets (B1,000B2,000) are available at Thaiticketmajor (02-262-3456;

JAZZ The Jeremy Monteiro Trio, regular performers at the Living Room, in the Sheraton Grande Hotel (02-649-8640), welcome special guest Alan Barnes from November 30 to December 4. The British saxophonist has worked with such artists as Don Weller, Stan Tracey, Bjork, Van Morrison and Bryan Ferry. Joining talented pianist Monteiro in the trio are Shawn Kelley on drums and Thai bassist Therdsak Wongvichien. 12

The Urban Bones Dance Company presents Crosswalks, a contemporary work reflecting city life, at Patravadi Theatre (02412-7287) on November 17 and 18. Inspired by American writer Paul Auster, it explores identity, space, language and literature, set to music by Phillip Glass. Artistic director Phillip Saint-Paul has assembled dancers from France, United States, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand, including Sarawanee Tanatanit of the Grand Theatre Ballet de Geneve, in Switzerland. Tickets (B500 -B800) are available at Total Reser vation (02-833-5555). Other performances at Patravadi this month are Melody Cup, directed by Tadasu Takamine (Nov 5-6) and the award-winning Five Day s In Mar ch by t he Japanese theatre group Chelfitsch (Nov 11-12).

FAIR There should be lots of fun beside the river at the Ploenchit Fair on November 27 (held at the Shrewsbury International School), including various food and drink stalls, games and raffles with prizes including air tickets, live music and plenty to buy, including books, clothes and cosmetics and much more.

DANCE Salsabangkok Fiesta 2010, ak a Thailand’s 6th L atin Cultur al Dance Fes tival, fe a tu r es p e r for ma nces , workshops, competitions, parties and a slew of supple bodies at various city venues from November 5-7. International per formers include three-time World Salsa Championship finalists Nestor Manuelian and Ellicia McDonald, plus Sheena Miss Demeanour, a noted burlesque and pole dancer from Australia. For more information call 080-454-4343 or visit


bangkok 101


FESTIVALS Perhaps Thailand’s most beautiful fes tival, Loy Krathong will be held on river and lakes all over the countr y on November 21. The festival heralds t he e nd of t he r a iny season, when people pay respects to the water spirits by floating candles on tiny banana leaf boats. Most of Bangkok’s riverside hotels will have special events, including live traditional music, set dinners and the chance to float your own krathong. Puppet shows, truffle tastings and tours of Bangkok’s Italian-inspired monuments are just a few highlights from the eclectic Italian Festival 2010, which runs through November to December 9. See for full details.

NIGHTLIFE There’s a full programme of events and DJs throughout November a t B e d S u p p e r c l u b ( w w w. Highlights include French DJ Miss Kit tin on Nov 4 Cannes Film Festival DJ Michael Canitrot with ‘Red Carpet’ house on Nov 5; In Bed with Space, a party from Ibiza club Space, featuring DJ Kid Chris (Nov 23); Italian DJ Riva Starr (Nov 25); and Buddha Bar founder Claude Challe on Nov 26.

FAMILY The Tyrannosaurus Rex stars in Walking with Dinosaurs at Impact Arena (028 33 - 5 0 61) f r o m November 17-21, a show based on the award-winning BBC television series of the same name. The production por trays the evolution of dinosaurs and the environmental changes that led to their extinction. It took 50 engineers, fabricators, skin makers, artists, painters and animatronic experts to make the 20 dinos for the production, each of which weighs more than 1.6 tonnes. Directed by Scott Faris, it arrives here after showing to audiences of 2.4 million since launching in 2007. Tickets cost B500-B2,000 from Thaiticketmajor (02-262-3456; bangkok 101


There was much gnashing of teeth when the Michelinstarred Nahm launched its Bangkok operation in September. To have the ‘world’s best Thai restaurant’ run by a foreigner 9,544km away in London was bad enough; to have that foreigner – Australian David Thompson – open up a branch in the Thai capital was, for a few, a som tum too far. However, make no mistake; this has been a thrilling launch. In the kitchen, Thompson is a traditionalist, whose dedication to his craft is such that he even sources recipes from so-called ‘funeral books’, where WHERE The Metropolitan, chefs reveal all their 27 Sathorn Tai Road, 02-625culinary secrets on their 3333; deathbeds. Accordingly, www.metropolitan.bangkok. he shows great finesse in dishes such as the OPEN Daily 6pm-midnight southern curry of blue PRICE $$$ crab balanced with fiery spice, sweet coconut and bitter undertones; while a northern pork, prawn and tamarind relish is cutely served with braised mackerel, sweet pork, crispy acacia and soft boiled eggs. The local produce should delight diners who know Nahm in London, offering vegetables mysterious to foreign palates, and flavours that seem to trigger unknown synapses in the brain. At B1,500++ per person, the set menu is a good option, including four canapes, five mains and dessert from the à la carte menu. Certainly – in more ways than one – Nahm might be a considered a challenge. Some Thais, for instance, will take time to stomach the idea of a farang creating such stunningly authentic cuisine; while foreigners may have to adjust their taste buds for food that is uncompromising because of it. Regardless, though, Nahm is without doubt a major addition to Bangkok’s dining scene – and yet a further indication that, when it comes to dining, this city is on the up.


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Grand Palace


angkok became the capital of Thailand in 1782, when the royal court relocated from the city of Ayutthaya, which had been left in ruins following years of conflict with the Burmese. After settling temporarily on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, the capital moved again, this time to the area of Rattanakosin in present-day Bangkok. Almost entirely surrounded by water, the new location was easier to defend against potential attacks. The final move marked the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty. Rama I named the new capital Krung Thep (City of Angels) in reference to the past glories of Ayutthaya, and he ordered the construction of two of the Kingdom’s most illustrious religious monuments at that time, Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, to consolidate the new capital’s ruling status. During the subsequent reigns of King Mongkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), the city developed rapidly, culminating in the modernisation and explosive growth of the 20th century. After visiting European capitals, Rama V moved the royal family to the leafy enclave of Dusit. The modern architectural monuments built in this neighbourhood include the Thai Parliament Building, the impressive marble Wat Benchama Bophit and the enormous teak Vimanmek Mansion. Greater Bangkok now occupies nearly 1.5 square kilometres and is home to some 12 million residents. Rattanakosin remains the spiritual centre of the city, graced by the dazzling splendour of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and nearby Wat Po. Modern downtown Bangkok stretches southeast of Rattanakosin and looks very much like many other Southeast Asian capitals, with the usual array of gleaming skyscrapers, deluxe apartment projects and lines of snarled traffic.The core of the new city encompasses the


Sathorn/Silom districts and Sukhumvit Road, which include upscale shopping plazas, leafy public parks and vibrant bar and restaurant scenes.These major downtown neighbourhoods are connected by the BTS Skytrain and the MRT subway systems. The gradually-

expanding public transportation networks, with their bright, snaking trains carrying wide-eyed tourists and weary commuters alike, have not only helped to relieve the city’s traffic congestion and pollution, but given the City of Angels a modern, 21st-century feel.

Take a deep breath Thais rarely call their capital ‘Bangkok’ (a name used mainly by foreigners), and instead refer to it as ‘Krung Thep’ (City of Angels), an abbreviated version of the full ceremonial and WNÅKQITVIUM<PQ[KIVJM\ZIV[TI\MLI[‘The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.’ It’s no surprise The Guinness Book of Records PI[ZMOQ[\MZMLQ\I[\PM_WZTL’[TWVOM[\VIUMNWZIKIXQ\IT snapshots

bangkok 101


chronicle of thailand


s d aw n b r o k e , s e c u r i t y f o r c e s b e g a n seizing more than 200 people who they claimed were propagating communism a n d p l o t t i n g t o ove r t h r ow t h e c o n s t i t u t i o n . The detainees included several politicians, journalists, families of former ministers, students, army personnel, lawyers and others who had either attended, or supported, a communist-inspired, international ‘Peace Assembly’ in Beijing. Many of those incarcerated were Chinese and the crackdown came amid growing antiChinese sentiment among authorities who claimed many of Bangkok’s ethnic Chinese community supported the communist regime led by Mao Tse-tung. Many were also charged with spreading false stories about splits between the leaders of the November 1951 ‘Silent Coup’. Prime Minister Phibun Songkram orchestrated the crackdown, aided by army chief Gen Phin Choonhavan, Fir st Army Commander Gen Sari Thanarat, and national police chief Pol Lt Gen Phao Sriyanond. The junta said they had to move quickly because the political situation was deteriorating, and police had indications that trouble would soon erupt. The army, navy and air force were mobilized and put on alert. Phao alleged that groups were plotting to overthrow the King and police implicated Pridi Banomyong in the alleged plot. Pridi’s suppor ters were rounded up for supposedly plotting a coup to bring him back from exile , and reinstall him as prime minister. Chronicle of Thailand is the story of Thailand during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Beginning on the day he was crowned, 9 June 1946, the book presents a vivid eyewitness account of Thailand’s development through the major news events of the last 64 years. Alongside a grandstand view of events as they unfolded and quirky aspects of daily life that just happened to make the news, the book features thousands of rare and fascinating pictures and illustrations, representing one of the most comprehensive photo collections of Thailand ever produced. Every month in Bangkok 101, we serialise a major news story that sheds light on this month in the history of the Kingdom. Chronicle of Thailand – EDM Books | B1,450 | editor-in-chief Nicholas Grossman | bangkok 101




Wat Arun



oreign visitors to Thailand are not expected to understand all the intricate subtleties of Thai customs, but by learning something about them and trying to incorporate them into your behaviour while here, you will show respect for local people and avoid some potentially embarrassing situations. In Thailand, two institutions take on particular importance: the monarchy and religion.


Every day has a corresponding colour in Thailand, and throngs of locals will don a yellow shirt to show their respects and celebrate the 80th birthday of the King, who was born on the yellow-themed Monday.

THE MONARCHY Thai people love their king, and have deep reverence for the monarchy. in general. By way of proof, portraits of their majesties are displayed in most shops and businesses. Like anybody else, you are expected to be respectful towards members of the royal family. Therefore, stand quietly and still when the national anthem is played, which happens daily at 8am and 6pm in parks and many other public places. SOCIAL HIERARCHY Age, social rank, lineal descent, salary and education are all considerations for social conduct. Such hierarchy is demonstrated 16

at every moment of the day, even the way of greeting. Unless meeting foreigners, Thais don’t shake hands but instead wai (a prayer-like gesture with hands clasped in front of the face). This action means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ but also shows humility. The higher the hands are raised, the more respect being paid.

LOSING FACE Thais are known to be patient and calm. Being jai yen (cool-hearted) is highly admired in Thai culture. Any impulsive reactions that may show annoyance (i.e. raising your voice) are considered unseemly, counterproductive and can make you ‘lose face’. Losing your temper should be avoided; things will work themselves out much better if you remain calm. Practise the words mai pen rai (meaning “never mind”). BODY PARTS The head is considered to be the most sacred par t of the body while the snapshots

feet are the lowest, hence the most impure. For this reason, it is impolite to pat or touch somebody on the head (this applies even to children) and it is particularly rude to point your feet at somebody or to place them on a table or a chair. Pointing the finger at other people is also considered impolite – best to gesture with an open hand.

Temple Etiquette

As temples and Buddha images are considered sacred in Thailand, certain rules of respect should be followed when visiting temples: QDress properly (long trousers or dresses, covered shoulders) QRemove your shoes at the entrance of temple buildings Q Don’t step on the threshold QDon’t sit pointing your feet towards a Buddha image Q Avoid touching Buddha images or chedis (funeral monuments) QBe considerate when taking photographs inside the grounds QBuddhist monks are forbidden to contact women. So, if a woman gives something to a monk, she must first pass it to a man or put it on a piece of cloth

bangkok 101





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city – steel towers, snarled traffic and snaking expressways – that is the face of modern Bangkok. Silom and Sathorn are busy business arteries linking the riverside’s old colonial style mercantile buildings and posh hotels to the city’s green lung, Lumpini Park. Seething Sukhumvit Road and its branching sois (where internationals tend to live, work and play) offer few sights but untold opportunities for drinking, dining and debauchery. And Pathumwan (p.24) is



meared over the flat, floodprone Chao Phraya river plain, Bangkok at first appears about as organised as a bowl of spaghetti. The fact that there isn’t one all-singing, all-dancing city centre doesn’t help matters. Delve in though and you’ll discover a sprawling megalopolis with a series of distinct neighbourhoods that have evolved over the centuries, and which all have different, intriguing tourist-luring attributes. On the west side of the river, glimpses of the Venice of the East survive down the criss-crossing canals of former capital Thonburi. On the east, historic monuments like the Grand Palace are sprinkled like gold dust through former royal HQ Ko Rattanakosin (p.20) – the city’s most revered neighbourhood by far. Fringing it are the old shophouse communities of Phra Nakorn and Banglamphu, the latter of which includes backpacker ghetto Khao San Road. South of Ko Rattanakosin is the city’s congested, chaotic and must-see Chinatown. And crowning Banglamphu is royal and government enclave Dusit with its grand, tree-shaded boulevards a la 19th century Europe. When temple fatigue strikes head east for the urban hurly burly of the

where it’s at for shopping, be it at glitzy mall or gritty market. All these neighbourhoods (and the city’s intermittently interesting suburbs) can be reached using the city’s roads. But the affordable Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT) networks are much better allies – whiz above or below the gridlocked Bangkok streets in fridge-cool comfort. When these can’t help you (when heading from downtown Bangkok to the Old City for instance) hop on a river expressboat, accessible via Saphan Taksin Skytrain station (see opposite). Alternatively, seek out a pier along pungent Klong Saen Saeb (p.120) and clamber (carefully) aboard one of its zippy boats. Other tips include avoid scammers (p.26), carry small change and, if visiting temples, dress properly. In a city as potentially aggravating as Bangkok, it’s also worth planning. Do you really want to be traipsing round temples all day? Exactly. For ideas check out the following Route 101’s – these itineraries introduce the most notable sights in the city’s most colourful neighbourhoods. Don’t follow them to the letter however – getting hopelessly lost as you wander down one interesting looking sidestreet after another is half the fun.


Pathumwan& Lumphini

Silom & Sathorn sightseeing

bangkok 101

Though tall ships no longer sail into Bangkok, its churning river – the Mae Nam Chao Phraya – remains important to city life. Long tails, tug boats and pleasure cruisers ply the water, while sunburnt temples, neoclassic buildings, mottled warehouses, stilt homes and a fair few modern monstrosities (hotels, office blocks etc) look on. The best way to encounter all this is by expressboat, which courses a 33km route from Wat Rajsingkorn in the south to Nonthaburi in the north. Fares (usually no more than B13) are payable on board, and during rushhour the boats thronged with office-workers, students and saffron-robed monks. Read up on most interesting piers here then hop aboard! For more about routes, fares and timetables click on to

the riverside

N16-N30 Head north and concrete seques into greenery as expressboats sprint up to their terminus at Nonthaburi, a charming provincial town.

N13: PHRA ATHIT Bkk’s young bohemians pensively sip coffee in the cute shophouse cafes that line this leafy old street. There’s a quiet park and the hedonistic madhouse that is Khao San Road is around the corner.

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N9: THA CHANG Thai icons ahoy! Turn left for Wat Mahatat and the Amulet market. Walk straight ahead for the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang. Hungry? The pedestrian area in front of the jetty is packed with old-school food stalls.


Amulet Market


N15: THEWET Feed the catfish, peruse a flower and wet market, or dine overlooking the nearby Rama VIII suspension bridge. Stately royal district, Dusit, is a short taxi ride away.


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SAPHAN TAKSIN The hotel pier here is accessible via the Skytrain’s Saphan Taksin Station. Alight here for shuttle boats back to the Millenium Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula and Marriot. Or if staying in Silom, Sathorn or Sukhumvit.

N1: ORIENTAL The old western quarter. Admire neglected neoclassical edifices and Oriental object’s d’arts at OP Place, then take tea at Bangkok’s most illustrious hotel, the Mandarin Oriental.

Millenium Hilton


N6: MEMORIAL BRIDGE/ SAPHAN POOD Venture left for decrepit godowns (warehouses) teeming with veg and flowers; i.e. Pak Klong Talad, the 24-hour fresh market. Head straight for Bangkok’s Little India, Pahurat. At night there’s a clothing market popular with teens.

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N6 Wat Arun

N2: SRI PHAYA On the left is River City: 4 barren-floors of SE Asian antiques, ethnic reproductions, tailors and tat. To your right, the Royal Orchid Sheraton.


N8: THA TIEN Lovely King Rama V-era shophouses sell dried fish but Wat Po – home of the reclining Buddha – is the main attraction. Wat Arun (p.26) looms large on the far bank. Catch a cross-river ferry to it for B3.



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N10: WANG LANG Wat Rakhang, the macabre Forensic’s Museum, a teenfashion clothing market and Patravadi Theatre (p.54) are all in the vicinity.




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route 101 Whether your stay in Bangkok is for a few hours, a few days or more, absolutely any itinerary should include the ‘old city’ of Rattanakosin. From exquisite temples to ancient Thai massage, it’s all here.


elcome to Rattanakosin Island: birthplace of modern Bangkok and spiritual epicentre of the Kingdom. King Rama I located the capital here in 1782 because he thought it would be easier to defend than previous site Thonburi. Rows of peeling old shophouses and glittering temple complexes – all gently curving roofs and soaring spires – pepper this hallowed area hemmed in by a bendy stretch of the Chao Phraya River and man-made canals. Start off at Wat Arun (p.26), also known as the Temple of Dawn. Though it actually predates the Rattanakosin era, it’s a cornerstone of Thai history. To get there, ride the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin ad

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then, once at the river, jump on an express boat heading right, upriver (ask someone to point one out). Get off at Tha Tien pier and catch one of the numerous boats that cross to the other side. Wat Arun, with its soaring central Khmer-style spire, is easy to spot. After admiring the sweeping panoramas from the top, cross back to Tha Tien pier and make your way to the city’s oldest temple complex, Wat Po (p.27). Here, see the immense reclining Buddha and have your muscles deknotted at the famous Thai massage school. Your temple initiation over, now head north for the granddaddy of Bangkok sights: the Grand Palace (p.26) and Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (p.26). Ignore the touts telling you it’s closed, and take plenty of time to boggle at the imagination that could give rise to such an ethereal royal complex (note: the B300 ticket is also valid for Dusit’s Vimanmek Mansion, p.28). Getting into this Thai culture stuff? Then exit and head A^_dBec 9^ecIWf^Wd north across ancient ceremonial park, Sanam Luang, veer left and delve into the National Museum (p.30). Ph ra Su me Depending on your body and foot fatigue, you will probably nR W oa isu d tK find it is early evening. The rest of your evening is up to you asa tR oa d BANGLAMPHU – Rattanakosin has plenty of options. A good place to unwind over a drink or a meal is at one of the artsy eateries near the AWeIWdHe WZ d oa n R fort, along Phra Athit Road. Alternatively, grab a beer and some Ratcha a :[ceYhWYo w damno Sa Cedkc[dj en Klan g Road on kh pad thai noodles with the backpackers on Khao San Road. Back Na Luk Luang Road near Wat Po, cocktail bar Amorosa, with its picture-postcard J^_fiWcW_ views over the river of lit-up Wat Arun, is another failsafe old F>H7D7A>ED IWe9^_d]9^W city walking tour closer. =_WdjIm_d]



bangkok 101



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Renaissance-style train station. Head straight on from Exit 1 and cross over a couple of roads and the canal until you hit Mittraphap Thai-China Rd. Down here you’ll find one of the most imposing temples in Bangkok, Wat Traimit Witthayaram (p.27) and, 50m further on, the Odeon Circle Gate, an enormous structure that serves as the entrance to Chinatown proper. Turn right and check out the San Chao Poy Sien shrine, before crossing over onto Yaowarat Rd and exploring the Thian Fah Foundation complex. Continue along Yaowarat and, when you’re suitably disgusted/ impressed by all the restaurants advertising bird’s nest and shark’s fin delicacies on Yaowarat, duck down Yaowaphanit Rd. Then turn right onto Sampheng Lane (officially Wanit 1

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aowarat, as Chinatown is popularly known locally is a sprawling, neon-lit enclave of tiny lanes, fabulous food, incenseshrouded Chinese shrines and wiry old men sitting on plastic stools staring through thick-rimmed glasses. It’s a fantastic place just to wander around during the day, stuffing your face with weird fried things and trying to figure out just what the hell is being displayed in those pharmacy windows. And at night Yaowarat Rd itself, Chinatown’s main stretch, comes alive when fold-up-table restaurants spill out over the pavements, and a million and one gold shops, with their ridiculously ostentatious facades, flick on their neon switches. The best way to get there is by the underground. Take Exit 1 from Hua Lamphong MRT and on your right you’ll spot Bangkok’s main,

Rd). This narrow wholesale shopping treasure trove used to be full of opium dens and brothels, although there’s not much more illicit than Hello Kitty hairclips and schoolbags on offer now. Emerging like a new born calf onto Ratchawong Rd, you’ve got a choice to make. Head left towards the river to explore the old colonial-style warehouses and catch a river taxi from Ratchawong Pier; jump in a cab and mumble “Pak Khlong Talad” (p.104) to explore the 24-hour flower market; cross the road and continue the market mayhem as Chinatown segues into Little India with all its fabric shops and samosa stalls; or turn right and head up to the other main Chinatown artery, Charoen Krung Rd. As you approach Charoen Krung you’ll cross over Yaowarat Rd, passing the Grand China Princess hotel on your left. Turn left when you hit the main drag and walk about 500m to get to Nakhon Kasem, the old Thieves’ Market (p.104), or turn right and cross over to visit the wonderful Mangkorn Kamalawat temple complex. Opposite the temple, about 20 metres on, there’s a tiny, jam-packed lane, Soi 16, that connects with Yaowarat Rd. If you’ve timed it well, when you come out of Soi 16 (Yaowarat Rd Soi 6) night will have fallen and the neonlit optical orgy that is Yaowarat Road will be in full flow. Squeeze past all the chestnut vendors and satay grillers and slip into an appealing air-con cooled restaurant or find a table at a streetside eatery like T&K Seafood to give your feet a well-earned rest.



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nce plied by horse carts and rickshaws, this stretch of the city’s oldest Europeanstyle paved road, built in 1860, is now inundated by buses and tuk-tuks. Yet, despite the encroachment of the modern world, the lanes off Charoen Krung remain a treasure trove of flaking colonial-style architecture, bustling street markets, multi-ethnic food, and eclectic places of worship dating back to the early 20th century, when the area was Bangkok’s main hub of foreign commerce. For this walking tour, perfect for a morning or afternoon, start by hopping off the Skytrain at Saphan Taksin station. From here, walk away from the river until you reach Charoen Krung, turn right and head for Wat Yannawa, with its unusual boat-shaped wiharn. The structure was built on the orders of King Rama III (1787-1851), who, as he saw steamships replacing junks, wanted his people to remember the old ships that had brought the kingdom prosperity. Back on Charoen Krung, stop to crane your neck at one of the city’s eeriest reminders of the 1997 Asian





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Financial Crisis – a half-built concrete shell towering 47 storeys high. If its rounded balconies look familiar, that’s because they closely resemble those of the nearby State Tower. Next, turn left and head back the way you came, pass underneath the Skytrain flyover and you’ve arrived in Bang Rak district (trivia: as its name means ‘village of love’, every Valentine’s Day the district office is inundated by hordes of loved-up newlyweds seeking to register their marriages). Just off the main road, Bang Rak Market’s food stalls make for a great snack stop before you venture past the aforementioned State Tower (a 68-floor neo-classical behemoth home to one of the world’s highest open-air restaurants, Sirocco) and seek out the red-brick Assumption Cathedral. Built by French missionaries, it’s one of the finest Catholic churches in Thailand. Exit back onto Soi Oriental and you’re in the old European trading quarter, with its classical Venetian-style leftovers, such as the stately East Asiatic Company building, situated right beside the Tha Oriental river pier. If it’s late sightseeing

afternoon and you’re feeling parched, brush past the doormen of the Mandarin Oriental hotel opposite and make for the all-white, colonial throwback that is the Author’s Lounge, easily the grandest afternoon tea haunt in town. After a soothing spot of cha in the same setting that and Ernest Hemingway, head back out and away from the river, turn left and towards OP Place – a white, gabled, circa 1908 department store turned pricey objet d’art centre – on your right. However, if browsing Buddhist relics of dubious origin, while a haughty hi-so madam looks you up and down, isn’t your bag, continue on and turn left. Here, at the end of a narrow lane, you’ll spot the adorably shabby Old Customs House, which used to be the gateway into Bangkok for foreign merchants long before the rot set in. Currently the Bang Rak fire station, it’s fine to have a nosey around, though a property developer’s sign by the front entrance suggests that may not be the case for much longer. Still some fuel left in your tank? From here, you could continue on to Haroon Village (a tasty little Muslim enclave) or head back onto Charoen Krung and towards the Bangkokian Museum (an early 20th century Thai home frozen in time; p30). Alternatively, catch a tuk-tuk up to Chinatown (p21) or River City shopping centre (p102), where you can browse more antiques, hop on a dinner cruise or catch an express river taxi back to Saphan Taksin pier.

bangkok 101



ike Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Sukhumvit Road is a futuristic thriller – a flawed, frenetic, yet often compelling urban streetscape. Hotel, condominium and office blocks smother its skyline, while down below a Who’s Who of world races moves anonymously amongst them. Along its hi-octane main stretch traffic, pollution and noise assail the senses, while down its many flanking sois calmer, more serene atmospheres unfold. Get a quick jump on the day with a morning stroll around the lake in Benjakitti Park. Located adjacent to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, which hosts world class expos weekly (see calendar p.11), it is easily accessible via the centre’s MRT stop. Next head to the Siam Society for a

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quick shot of culture. On Asok Road (the unofficial “border” die-hard Sukhumvit dwellers rarely cross), it’s an organisation dedicated to the preservation of Thai heritage, art and culture through study trips, lectures and exhibitions. And out back is a stunning Northern Lanna teak house/ ethnological museum. After Asok, it’s on the Skytrain and off to Phrom Phong station. Here you will find the cultural epicentre of upper Sukhumvit, that shrine to nouveau riche Thai consumerism, Emporium. While you can easily Ph

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get your shopping fever quietened with the bevy of established, worldclass designers here, an interesting alternative is the Thailand Creative and Design Center (TCDC) on the 6th floor, which continually stages thought-provoking, and usually free, exhibitions. Afterwards, a jaunt among the modern sculptures, trim greenery and cooing pigeons of adjoining Benjasiri Park will remind you there’s more to life than luxury brands. Shopaholics should probe Thong Lo, staking out this unabashedly minted neighbourhood for designer clothing, jewellery, furniture and books. Or, should you be toying with matrimony, wedding garb. Hop on over to J-Avenue, Bangkok’s little slice of neon Tokyo. Once dinnertime rolls around check out ‘Japan Town’ in Thong Lo Soi 13, where a clutch of great Japanese restaurants like Uomasa lurk. Finally, when it comes to Sukhumvit, nighttime is definitely the right time. Drinking, dining, dancing, debauchery – it’s all here. Perfect for a puff on a shisha pipe, Sukhumvit Soi 3 is Bangkok’s very own Little Arabia. Those looking to see how the city’s young upper crust like to par-tay should head to one of the jumping joints along Thong Lor or Ekkamai. Sukhumvit Soi 11 – home of the city’s nightclub grand dames such as Bed Supperclub and Q Bar (p.82) – meanwhile draws the international clubbers. Looking for the best of Sukhumvit’s beau monde haunts? Then head on up to Long Table (p.84): a cocktail or two at this 25th floor design bar, with its movers and shakers and electric panoramas, is not easily forgotten.






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Four Seasons



Then head back south to Phetchaburi Road and turn right. After a few minutes’ walk, on the other side of the road is the computer geek paradise of Panthip Plaza. Chockful of gadgets and some highly suspicious software, Panthip is worth visiting but it is truly a place where the ‘buyer beware’ motto should be kept in mind. Double back on yourself once more and head back to the junction. Turn south to where you previously crossed the canal. It is time to give your feet a rest and take a boat ride on Klong Saen Saeb. Get on a boat heading west and get off at



lthough much of Thailand’s biggest shopping complex CentralWorld was burned to the ground by arsonists at the tail-end of the recent political protests, it has since been re-opened, while the nearby Siam Square and Pratunam areas are still Bangkok shopaholic central. From the chaos of the shop-for all places like the Mahboonkrong Center (MBK) and the Pratunam clothes market to the elegance of Siam Paragon Mall and Central Chidlom shopping centres, the range of goods is staggering. And, hidden among these mammoth malls and markets are some very Thai activities that should not be missed. Start the day off with a visit to a popular spot if you wish to pray for good fortune from the four-faced Hindu God Brahma. On the corner of the junction with Ploenchit Road and Ratchadamri, the Erawan Shrine is renowned for bringing good luck. Then cross over Ploenchit Road and head north up Ratchadamri Road. Just after you cross the khlong (canal) is another major junction with Phetchaburi Road. On the other side of this road is the legendary Pratunam clothes market (see p. 105), reputedly the largest market of its kind in Thailand.

Jim Thompson’s House (see p.28). Thailand’s second most popular tourist destination is a wonderful, meditative place to wander around and perhaps indulge at the café. Take a right out of here and turn left at the end of the soi. Walking toward Siam Square and on the left corner of the junction, between Rama I and Phayathai Road, you can’t miss the sinuous concrete curves of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC). Called the “Guggenheim meets a shopping mall” by our very own art critic, this is Bangkok’s new modern-art scene central. Next up is Siam Paragon. This up-scale shopping and entertainment complex houses scores of great dining options, a world-class cinema complex and an impressive array of luxury and high street fashion bands from around the world. On a tight budget? Don’t worry. Every night (except Mondays) after 9pm, the footpaths along Siam Square on Rama I Rd transform into a mini-Chatuchak Weekend Market. Bangkok teenagers and young adults alike war over cheap but trendy T-shirts, jeans, dresses, accessories, brand new (and sometimes secondhand brand named) leather goods like bags, wallets, and shoes. Choose wisely if you opt for secondhand items.

Plaza Athenee

JW Marriott



bangkok 101


temples THE GRAND PALACE & WAT PHRA KAEW (map A3, #10) Na Phra Lan Rd, near Sanam Luang | 02-222-0094 | daily 8:30am-4pm | B350 includes entry to Vimanmek Mansion | Dress respectfully The granddaddy of all Thai sights. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let the touts who mill around outside put you off a visit to this, the Kingdomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most beloved keepsake â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a fantastical 218,400m² royal complex that comes enclosed by quaintly crenulated whitewalls, and at night sparkles like the jewel in some Oriental fairytale. Building began in 1782, the year Bangkok was founded, and every monarch subsequent to King Rama I has expanded or enhanced it. Today, despite being able to visit many stunning sights on its grounds, much of it remains off-limits. Though King Bhumibol now holds court at Chitralada Palace, in the northern district of Dusit, the Grand Palace is still used for major ceremonies or royal functions. The Chakri Mahaprasat Hall â&#x20AC;&#x201C; colloquially known as the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Westerner in a Thai hatâ&#x20AC;? due to its blend of Thai and European architecture â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is worth seeing, and there are some

Wat Arun

The Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew

state rooms and halls open to visitors. These include the majestic Amarin Vinitchai Throne Hall, where the King still delivers his birthday speech, and a small weapons museum. The highlight is the Emerald Buddha â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most sacred Buddhist relic â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and the ornate temple purpose-built to house it, Wat Phra Kaew, where hundreds pay their respects each day. Completed two years after the capital was moved from Thonburi to Rattanakosin in 1784, this forms the north-eastern corner of the complex. The Emerald Buddha was discovered in 1434, when lightning is said to have struck a chedi in Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand. It was originally covered in stucco which peeled off over time to reveal the brilliant green stone beneath. After being moved around Northern Thailand by a succession of Thai kings and then taken by the Lao to Vientiane, Rama I retook the statue in 1779 and placed it at the centre of his new capital. Apart from the amazing architecture, gilded statues and the majesty of the temple, the walls of Wat

Phra Kaewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cloisters feature examples of Thai mural art documenting the life and travels of the Buddha and scenes from the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Remember to dress respectfully as a strict no shorts or sleeveless shirts policy is enforced. WAT ARUN (map A3, #12) Temple of Dawn | Arun Amarin Rd | 02- 465-5640 | | 8am- 5pm | B20 Across the river from Wat Po is Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn, one of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most important and beguiling religious sites. Before being moved to Wat Phra Kaew, the Emerald Buddha was temporarily housed here. The five-towered structure is covered almost entirely in pieces of colourful porcelain and designed as a representation of Mount Mehru, the Khmer home of the gods. The temple is believed to have been named by Rama I on his first sunrise visit, but in contrast with its name, it is best visited at dusk when the setting sun forms a stunning backdrop.

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Bangkok has its share of brilliantly choreographed and well-practised street scams, often active in the area around the Grand Palace. Typically these involve being â&#x20AC;&#x153;befriendedâ&#x20AC;? by a seemingly straight-up local, and with true sophistication they often result in travellers not reaching their intended destination, but instead visiting IVIT\MZVI\Q^M\MUXTMIVLM^MV\]ITTaIRM_MTTMZaW]\TM\<PMJW\\WUTQVMQ[QN IVaWVMVWUI\\MZPW_WNĂ&#x2026;KQIT\PMa may appear (and this includes uniformed guards!), tells you that the palace or Wat Pho, for example, is closed, you are likely being set up. Our advice: politely decline any such offers and proceed directly to the actual ticket booth XZM[]UQVOWN KW]Z[M\PI\aW]PI^MIZZQ^MLL]ZQVOWNĂ&#x2026;KQITWXMVQVOPW]Z[



bangkok 101

The Giant Swing

WAT SAKET (map B3, #7) Chakkraphatdiphong Rd, Sattruphai | 02-233-4561 | 7:30am-5:30pm | B10 Raised on a small hillock, and thus referred to as the Golden Mount, this wat offers great views of Chinatown to the south and the Old City to the north. The hill is all that is left of the fortifications for a large chedi that Rama III planned to construct on the site that gave way under the weight. Rama V built a smaller chedi on top, which was subsequently expanded to house a Buddhist relic inside. The temple is worth a visit for the view if you are prepared to hike up the 318 steps.

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WAT MAHATHAT (map A3) Tha Prachan, Sanam Luang, Mahratch Rd | 02-221-5999 | 9am-5pm| free An amulet market is situated near this 18th-century centre of the Mahanikai monastic sect and an important university of Buddhist teaching. On most weekends, market stalls are set up on the grounds to complement the daily vendors of traditional medicines and herbal potions. Wat Mahathat is one of the few temples in Bangkok where courses on Buddhism are given in English. Call ahead to book.


WAT SUTHAT and THE GIANT SWING (map A-B3, #8) Bamrung Muang Rd, Phra Nakhorn, | 02-2229632 | 9am-5pm | B20 Surrounded by perhaps the greatest concentration of Buddhist supply shops in Bangkok, Wat Suthat is one of the most important Buddhist centres in the kingdom and home to some excellent examples of bronze sculpture, a blend of Thai and Chinese-style mural art and a 14th-century Sukhothai period statue. The wat used to be the site bangkok 101

for annual harvest ceremonies where brave men would swing up to great heights to catch a bag of gold coins in their teeth. However, the practice proved a bit too dangerous and was banned in the 1930s. Today the huge red structure, named the Giant Swing, still stands in front of the temple.

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WAT BOWONIWET VIHARA (map A3) Phra Sumen Rd, Banglamphu | 02-281-2831-3 | all day long | free Home to the res- pected Maha Makut Buddhist University, this temple is par ticularly important to the monarchs of the Chakri Dynasty as Rama VI, Rama VII and the present king were all ordained as monks here.

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WAT BENCHAMA BOPHIT (map B2, #3) 69 Rama V Rd, Dusit | 02-6287947 | 8am-6pm | B20 This white Italian Carrara marble wat dates from the 19th century. Alms are brought here by generous Buddhist families in the early mornings.

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WAT RATCHANATDA (map B3) Mahachai Rd, Phra Nakhorn | 02-2248807 | 9am-5pm | free This temple, a centre for buying amulets, features the bizarre multitiered Loh Prasat. Collecting amulets sightseeing

is popular in Thailand and many believe these miniature images of Buddha possess spiritual powers, protecting the wearer and them bringing good fortune in the future.

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WAT TRAIMIT (map B3, #13) 661 Hua Lamphong, Charoen Krung Rd | 02-623-1226 | 8am-5pm | B20 Housed safely in this unassuming Chinatown temple is the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest solid gold Buddha. Weighing over five tonnes and standing over three metres high, its worth has been estimated at over US$10 million.

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WAT PO (map A3, #11) Reclining Buddha | Chetuphon/Thai Wang Rd | 02-226-0369 | | 8am-noon, 1-9pm | B50 The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok. Originating in the 16th century, it houses the largest reclining Buddha statue in Thailand as well as the greatest number of Buddha images. Wat Po is also the centre for traditional Thai medicine and a learning centre for Thai massage, where you can both enjoy and learn this ancient healing art. The 45m-long statue depicts the Buddha entering nirvana and is impressive both for its size and the mother-of-pearl detail on the soles of the feet, a blueprint revealing the 108 auspicious signs of a genuine Buddha.

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historic buildings JIM THOMPSONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S HOUSE (map C3, #16) 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | BTS National Stadium| 02-2167368 | | daily 9am-5pm | B100 (B50 students) One of the things to do in Bangkok is visit the home of Jim Thompson, the American businessman largely responsible for the global popularity of hand-woven Thai silk. Found in a sun-dappled tropical garden, beside a pungent canal, this complex of six traditional teak houses from around the country is testament to his commitment to preserving regional art and culture. Each brims with art and antiques rescued from around Asia: everything from limestone Buddha torsos to a cat-shaped porcelain bedpan. Free tour guides discuss these exquisite treasures and the much-mythologised life of the man himself. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a shop selling his trademark designs, an art gallery and a cafĂŠ.

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M.R. KUKRITâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S HOUSE (map C4,#20) 19 Soi Phra Pinit, Sathorn Rd | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-2868185 | Sat, Sun & Holidays 10am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 5pm, weekdays by appt. only | B50 (B20 kids) Kukrit Pramoj was one of Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most-loved statesmen of the 20th century. A natural all-rounder, he was a poet, a writer and even served as prime minister in the 1970s. His peaceful abode with its lovely gardens, now on show to the public and off the tourist trail is a terrific example of traditional Thai architecture.


VIMANMEK MANSION (map B2,#1) 139/2 Ratchawithi Rd, Dusit | 02-281-1569 | daily 9am-4pm | B100 The worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest teakwood building was originally built on the island of Koh Si Chang, in 1868, and then moved, piece by piece, to Bangkok for use by King Rama V. Its 81 rooms, spread over three floors, overlook a beautiful garden. Inside, many of his acquisitions from international trips are on display, including possibly the first bathtub in the kingdom, antique photographs and fine porcelain. Regular tours in English are held throughout the day.

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WANG SUAN PAKKARD (map C3, #15) Si Ayutthaya Rd, Ratchathewi | BTS Phaya Thai | 02-245-4934 | www. | 9am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 4pm | B100 A former market garden that was converted into a residence and garden by Princess Chumbot. Consisting of five reconstructed Thai wooden houses, Wang Suan Pakkard pays testament to her dedication to collecting Thai artefacts and antiques. Of note are the examples of Buddhist and Hindu art, the ceramics from old Ban Chiang and the delightful lacquer pavilion depicting scenes from the Ramayana.

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ANANTA SAMAKHOM PALACE Throne Hall (map B2, #2) Uthong Nai Rd, Dusit, opp Dusit Zoo | 8:30am-4pm | B50 This stately parlimentary palace was built during the reign of RamaV and completed by Rama VI. Cast in white Carrara marble, it is still used for the ceremonial opening of the first parliamentary session. Influenced by Renaissance architecture, the interior is decorated with detailed frescoes, by Italian Galileo Chini, of royal ceremonies and festivities.

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JIM THOMPSON:THE MAN BEHIND THE MYSTERY Check this out for a CV: a Princeton graduate and former US spook turns Bangkok socialite, silk revivalist and Asiaphile antiques collector before disappearing mysteriously in Malaysiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cameron Highlands in 1967. Jim Thompsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strangerthan-fiction life story makes for a twisting, ultimately tragic tale.This, along with the sheen of his famous silks, his entrepreneurial skills and impeccable taste, has made him Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most famous farang (westerner).Today heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a brand gone global.You can visit his stunning home (see above), buy his trademark fabrics in Argentina or Australia, and read a slew of gossipy biographies peddling myths that only seal the legend. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perhaps at Ban Krua, the Muslim silk-weaving community found near his home, where his legacy is most lasting. Here the cottage industry he resuscitated continues to thrive â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a testimony both to the skill of the weavers who live there, and the visionary American who believed in them. 28


bangkok 101


Negotiating Bangkok with kids needn’t be the nightmare many parents presume.The single biggest plus point is that Thais absolutely adore children, meaning there are always people around ready to help out. Skytrain guards will drop what they’re doing to help you haul that stroller down the stairs and waitresses will gladly whisk junior off for a tour of the kitchens while you enjoy a coffee. Most of the big shopping malls (see p.102) have play areas set aside for kids, with two of the best being Kiddy Land, which has slides, a ball pit and a balloon room on the 6th floor of CentralWorld; Jamboree on the 3rd floor of Emporium; and the huge indoor playground Funarium (see below) located off Sukhumvit. Plus, of course, most of the shopping malls have cinemas and enough ice-cream stores to sate a homesick Inuit. There are also a fair few attractions that appeal to wee ones.The city’s parks (see p.32) offer a chance to let off steam, especially Rot Fai Park near Chatuchak Weekend Market (p.103), where you can rent bicycles; and Dusit Zoo (p.32) is a sprawling, chaotic afternoon’s worth of fun. Although expensive, Siam Ocean World (p.32) is a great way to entertain the kids while you shop at Paragon department store. And if you’re sticking around town for a while, Bangkok Dolphins ( offer swimming classes from three months old. FUNARIUM (map D4) 111/1 Sukhumvit 26 | 02-6656555 | | 8:30am-8:30pm | kids: B180/300; adults B90 Basically 2,000m2 of slides, ball pits, trampolines, obstacle courses, cycling tracks and basketball courts, with a decent café and a small branch of Mothercare.

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Apart from the many Buddhist temples across the city, there are lots of small shrines where devotees pay their respects to Hindu deities, Animist spirits and even errant spooks. Many of the most famous – and visited – are centred around Ratchaprasong, the mall-cluttered central district. Here it’s not unusual to see a Thai wai a God while on their way to the Gucci store. ERAWAN SHRINE (map C3, #17) Ratchadamri Rd, near Grand Hyatt Erawan | 02-252-8754 | 6:30am10:30pm | BTS Chit Lom Don’t expect serenity here.This is one of Bangkok’s busiest intersections: the crowded shrine to the Hindu creation god Brahma and his elephant Erawan is filled with worshippers lighting incense, buying lottery tickets and watching the traditional dancing group, which bangkok 101

performs for a nominal fee. Fancy making an offering? Buy a set from the surrounding stalls, and starting with your back to the main entrance walk around it clockwise, offering 3 incense sticks, a candle, garland and a piece of gold leaf to each of the four faces.

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Ganesha Shrine

TRIMURTI SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd If your love life is ailing then this shrine is for you: at 9.30pm each Thursday it’s rumoured that Lord Trimurti descends from the heavens to answer prayers of the heart. To maximise your chances of meeting your dream beau you should offer nine-red incense sticks, red candles, red roses and fruit. Alternatively, you could try saying hello to the person next to you.

GANESHA SHRINE (map C3) Outside Centralworld and Isetan Department Store, Ratchadamri Rd Perhaps the most recognisable Hindu deity, a silent prayer in front of this pot-bellied gold elephant – the son of Shiva and Parvati – is said to help get the creative juices flowing, as well as protect you from harm. Aside from marigold garlands, bring bananas, ripe mango or sticky rice-flour Thai desserts – Ganesha has an eternal appetite.

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museums THE NATIONAL MUSEUM (map A3) 5 Chao Fa Rd, Sanam Luang| 02-2241333 | | Wed-Sun 9am-4pm | B200 Previously a palace during the reign of Rama V, the National Museum features extensive displays of Thai artefacts from the main historical periods, encompassing the Lanna, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai kingdoms up to the present day. Thai culture is well documented in sections on dance, music and drama. The first example of Thai literature and the Thai alphabet, inscribed by King Ramkhamhaeng on a black stone during the Sukhothai period, is also on display. Free English tours are given on Wednesdays (about Buddhism) and Thursdays (on art/culture) which start at 9:30am. Photography is not allowed inside the museum galleries.

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MUSEUM OF SIAM (map A3) 4 Samachai Rd., Pra Nakorn | 02622-2599 | | Tue-Sun 10am-6pm | free A truncated history of Thailand unfurls through this down-with-thekids discovery museum, taking in prehistoric Suvarnabhumi, the foundation of Ayutthaya and the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s modernisation. Design company Story! Inc delivered the content and conceptual design, replacing the usual â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t touchâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; signs and turgid text with pop graphics and interactive gizmos galore. Among the many edutaining activities, highlights include dressing up as a 20th century nobleman, mapping out the borders of your own Siam using a vibrant touch screen and firing cannonballs at Burmese war-elephants. Tellingly, the place teems with the usually museum-shy â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Thai teenagers. Afterwards, enjoy the polished teak floors, open-sided corridors and elegant Renaissance stylings of this gorgeously 30

Museum of Siam

restored former government building, designed in the 1920s by Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best-loved resident Italian architect, Mario Tamagno.

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ROYAL BARGE MUSEUM (map A3) 80/1 Rim Khlong Bangkok Noi,Arun Amarin Rd,Thonburi | 02-424-0004 | 9am5pm | B100 (photo B100, video B200) This collection of royal barges, some of which are up to 50 metres long, is housed on the Thonburi side of the river in a series of elaborate sheds near the Pinklao Bridge.The barges are best seen in action during rare ceremonial processions on the Chao Phraya where the colourful crews can number up to 64, including rowers, umbrella holders, navigators and various musicians. Beautifully and ornately decorated, these magnificent long craft were completely renovated and restored to their former glory by the present King, who also commissioned the newest boat for his golden jubilee in 1996.

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BANGKOKIAN MUSEUM (map B3-4) 273 Charoen Krung Soi 43 | 02-2337027| | Sat&Sun 10am-5pm | free Bangrak is one of the most traditional districts of the city, bustling with traffic and markets. Smack in the middle of it, find this oasis of four traditional Thai houses, one of them lovingly converted into a private museum by the compoundâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s charming owner, Ms. Waraporn Surawadee. She decided to dedicate the place to the memory of her family and bygone daily life of Bangkok everymen â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and open it to the public. While visitors shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t expect breathtaking revelations here; the displays can nevertheless be surprisingly fascinating. They include antiques, traditional household utensils and items used in ceremonies. The real highlight is the owner herself who is willing to give you a highly personalised tour (if you call ahead), filled with anecdotes about a city long since vanished.

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Bangkokian Museum


bangkok 101


RATTANAKOSIN EXHIBITION HALL (map B3) 100 Ratchadamnoen Klong Road, next to Wat Ratchanadda | | Tues-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm | 02624-0044 | adults B200, kids B50 This brand new multimedia museum tackles a part of town we all admire but few understand â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Rattanakosin island, Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s glittering birthplace. Once youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re done oggling the Grand Palace and Wat Po etc, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great place to expand your knowledge of this most hallowed part of the city beyond that pithy paragraph in your guidebook. Wandering its seven rooms â&#x20AC;&#x201C; free of relics but rich in dioramas, interactive videos, text and audio clips in Thai and English â&#x20AC;&#x201C; brings the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard-to-fathom history, arts, communities and traditions into much clearer focus. Learn about its creation in 1782; ancient royal ceremonies; fine performing arts like lakhon nai (court drama); evolving architectural styles and much more. Also includes an observation balcony with views over the old city.

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bangkok 101

Several museums in and around Bangkok delve into Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wacky and idiosyncratic side. Definitely the most macabre, the Si Quey Forensics Museum revels in pickled body parts and cadavers of serial killers. A close second, the Corrections Museum recreates the rough justice meted out to crims in the not so old days (youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll think twice about that sly toke after a trip here). The Museum of Counterfeit Goods displays Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best forgeries; as long as you call ahead (and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t use it as a means to spot that fake handbag on Patpong the next day), youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re welcome. On the outskirts, the weekends only House of Museums is a two-storey sprawl of retro curiosities. Finally, if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re interested in Thai cinema, walk among recreated film sets, old 16mm cameras and waxwork figures of local cine heroes at the Thai Film Museum in Nakhom Pathom. SI QUEY FORENSICS MUSEUM (Official Name â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Siriraj Medical Museumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;) 2 Prannok road, Bangkoknoi | | 02- 419-7000 ext 6363 | Mon-Sat 9am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 4pm | B40

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CORRECTIONS MUSEUM 436 Bangkok Remand Prison, Mahachai Rd., Samranrat, Phra Nakhon | Mon-Fri 9am - 4pm | 02-226-1704 | free

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HOUSE OF MUSEUMS 170/17 Moo 17 Soi Klong Po 2, Salathammasop Rd., Taweewattana | 089-666-2008 | | Sat-Sun 10am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 5pm | B30 Â&#x2039;iÂ&#x;Ă&#x2122;Ă&#x153;ÂĄĂ&#x153;Â&#x160;ÂĄ Â&#x17D;Â&#x17E;Ă&#x2DC;Â&#x2026;Ă?Â&#x20AC;zÂ&#x201C;Â&#x203A;|ÂŹĂ&#x153;Â&#x2013;Â&#x;Â&#x201C;Â&#x;Â&#x160;Â&#x2018;Â&#x2018;Â?Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x153;Ă&#x2122;Ă? THAI FILM MUSEUM 94 Moo 3 Bhuddhamonton Sai 5, Salaya, Nakorn Pathom| | 02-482- 2013-15 | weekday: appointment only, weekend tours: 10am, noon, 3pm | free Ä&#x17D;Ä?Ä&#x192;Ä&#x2022;Ä Ä&#x2026;ßøÄ&#x2020;Ĺ&#x2039;Ä Ä&#x17D;Ĺ&#x2021;èÍÄ&#x2022;øÄ&#x2014;Ä&#x17D;Ä&#x201E;Ä&#x153;Ĺ&#x2021;ĂšÄ Ä&#x203A;úÝÄ&#x201E;ÜôÄ&#x2C6;Ä?Ä&#x2022;Ä&#x2026;




the great outdoors

FLORA LUMPINI PARK (map C4) Entrances on Rama IV Rd, Sarasin Rd, Witthayu Rd and Ratchadamri Rd | free Want shades of green instead of drab slabs of grey? For most in the city Lumpini Park, the inner cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest green lung, is the solution. Busy as soon as the sun rises and again around sunset, Bangkokians of every ilk take advantage of the relative cool and quiet to practice Tai Chi, do aerobics, hold hands or jog around the picturesque lakes. Other activities include taking a pedal boat out onto the water for a quick spin. The most reliable entrance is the one near Silom at the corner of Rama IV Road and Ratchadamri Road, at the front of which a statue of King Rama VI stands sentinel.

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RAMA IX ROYAL PARK (off map) Sukhumvit 103 Rd, behind Seri Center, Pravet 02-328-1972, 02-328-1395 | 5:30am-7pm | B10 This 200-acre park features a small museum dedicated to the king, set amongst pleasant botanical gardens with lots of soothing water features.

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Rama IX Park

CHATUCHAK and QUEEN SIRIKIT PARKS (map C-D1) 820 Phahonyothin Rd, Ladyao Sub-district, Chatuchak | 02-2724358~9 | 5am-6:30pm | free These two parks situated not far from the mayhem of the weekend market offer some respite. Chatuchak Park hosts some art exhibits and a collection of old railway engines and ancient automobiles. Nearby, Queen Sirikit Park has a pretty botanical garden with lotus ponds.

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FAUNA DUSIT ZOO (map B2) 71 Rama V Rd, opp. Chitralada Palace, Dusit | 02-281-2000 | 8am-6pm | adults B100, kids B50 The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main zoo, situated to the north of Rattanakosin, is home to a large selection of mammals, reptiles and other animals. Spread over a large park, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a lake to paddle around.

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QUEEN SAOVABHA MEMORIAL INSTITUTE (Snake Farm) (map C4, #18) 1871 Rama IV Rd, Thai Red Cross, Henri Dunant | sightseeing

02-252-0161~4 ext.120 | Mon-Fri 8:30am-4pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; noon (Shows at 11am & 2:30pm) | B200 A centre for developing antidotes to poisonous snake bites, this research facility is also open to the public. The idea behind this is to educate visitors about the dangers of poisonous snakes in Thailand and what to do with the victim of a snake bite. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an informative slide show followed by a display of live venom extraction from some of the deadliest serpents in the kingdom.

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SIAM OCEAN WORLD (map C3) B1F Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Rd | 02-687-2001 | www.siamoceanworld. com | 10am-7pm | B650/850 Such a pity that this tourist attraction â&#x20AC;&#x201C; reputed to be the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia â&#x20AC;&#x201C; operates a dual pricing policy. If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;reThai you pay B350; if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not you pay B850. This irritating iniquity aside, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s certainly fun to be had inside, with 8m-high tanks, glass-tunnel walk-throughs and shark-feeding shows â&#x20AC;&#x201C; although a ride on a glass-bottom boat to see sharks and rays costs extra and is wholly unremarkable. Reckon on an hour to get round the whole thing.

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bangkok 101

Stood rapt in front of the Grand Palace? Check. Got your neck clicked at Wat Po? Check. Survived the scam artists? Just about. Ok, now you’ve lost your sightseer ‘L’ plates it’s time to explore some less tourist-thronged Bangkok addresses.

what next?

1 For an entertaining and informative bike ride around the parts most tourists never reach, give cycle tour company Spice Roads ( a shout. Alternatively, borrow a bike for free from one of 8 counters scattered around the Old City, courtesy of the Bangkok Metropolitan Association ( 2 Volunteering is a great way to give back to this city

we all get so much out of. However, don’t know where to look? Well-intentioned expatriative initiative In Search of Sanuk signposts ways you can have plenty of fun, while still helping others (


3 Already been to Jim Thompson’s to pick up your silk presents for the folks back home? Gorgeous but groaning with tourists? Fortunately it’s not the only stilted teak house oasis in town. Suan Pakkard Palace offers a similarly beguiling set-up off the tourist trail, as does M.R. Kukrit’s House (p.28). Others swear by Amantee (www. out in the northern suburbs. 4 Just across from MBK mall, the Guggenheim-like Bangkok Art & Culture Centre lures in dandyish creative types (and the odd curious shopper) with its mixed-bag line-up of Thai contemporary and itinerant global art. Want to know where the best Thai art is at? Then pop a copy of our Bangkok Art Map into your totebag on your way out (



5 Tour company Smiling Albino (www.smilingalbino. com) offers well thought-out, culturally-attuned excursions in and around the capital. Definitely its most intriguing is its two-day rollick through authentic old neighbourhoods and markets reminiscent of Bangkok circa 1910. 6 Housed in a beautifully restored old government building only five minutes stroll from the famous spires of Wat Po, the Museum of Siam ( traces the evolution of the Thai people in a funky, hands-on fashion.Touch-screen videos and interactive gizmos galore replace the usual dusty relics you commonly find and stress the country’s multiculturalism and modernisation. 7 Once you’ve got the city is licked, it’s time to see what marvels lurk just outside it. Popular daytrips close to home include Bangkrachao, a lush peninsula of undeveloped land just across from Bangkok’s Klong Toey district; and Ko Kret, a man-made island in the river famous for its snacking, temples and kilns churning out cheap pottery. See Daytrips (p.34) for more details on both. bangkok 101







upcountry festivals

Thailand is a nation of festivals. Celebrations devoted to one thing or another take place all-year round, in the capital and provinces alike. They are almost always fun, frantic affairs, where visitors are very welcome to join in. This month, no matter where you stray in the Kingdom you won’t be able to avoid the river and lake festival of Loy Krathong. In addition, the country’s northeast, or Isaan, also hosts two big draws in November: the Phi Mai (see p.38) and Surin Elephant Festivals (see p.39).

28 Nov Monkey Banquet Festival, Lopburi

1 Nov-5 Dec Wild Sunflower Blooming Season, Dok Bua Tong

The scenic hills and valleys of Mae Hong Son, an area close to the Burmese border, turn to gold every November when the dok bua tong Giant Wild Mexican Sunflower blooms. Catch the blossoming at Doi Mae U-kor mountain peak in Mae Hong Son’s Khun Yuam district. TAT Mae Hong Son office, 05-361-2982

Each November, Lopburi town residents thank their 3,000 macaque monkeys for all the tourists dollars they attract with a vegetarian feast that attracts, you guessed it, lots of tourist dollars. This simian free-for-all takes place on the last Sunday of November around the spectacular three-spired Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, usually attracting around 10,000 onlookers. The temple, a beautiful Buddhist shrine converted from a 13th century Hindu temple, is located on Vichayen Road.

Loy Krathong Festival

Build or buy a tiny banana-leaf boat, festoon it with flowers and candles, then cast it into the nearest stream or river and bid farewell to bad luck. These are the basics Loy Krathong. Add in thousands of awed participants, floating lanterns, the obligatory beauty pageant and you have Thailand’s prettiest nationwide festival. Here are two of the most beguiling variations.

19-21 Nov Sukhothai Loi Krathong

Though its origins are much debated, the one thing never disputed is that Loy Krathong came from Sukhothai, Thailand’s original capital city, making it the oldest festival still held today. A sound and light show portraying the ancient capital, Miss Nopphamat contest and firework finale take place in the grounds of the Historical Park, amid the atmospherically floodlit ruins.

23 Nov-Dec 4 River Kwai Bridge Week, Kanchanaburi The sounds of simulated air raid sirens and swooping Allied bombers will echo across Kanchanaburi’s night sky during this annual festival, which honours the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai and the WWII POWs who died building it. Though contrived, this nightly light and sound show is actually quite poignant, especially when mist covers the river. Mon-Thurs 7:30pm; Fri-Sat & Dec 5, 7:30pm & 9pm. Tickets B100-B300. TAT Central office, 03-451-1200. 34

20-22 Nov Yipeng Loy Krathong, Chiang Mai

The northern capital Chiang Mai puts an aerial spin on Loy Krathong by launching Khome-Loi, or Lanna-style floating lanterns, into the heavens. The entire city will be covered in light, along with the floating of krathong on the river, and boat races and cultural shows.


bangkok 101

bangkok 101



Simon Bonython

I s a a n Wo n d e r s


Golden beaches and flashing neon nightlife, elephant treks and five-star hotels are the stock images of the average Thailand holiday. But there is a vast, wildly colourful swathe of the country – one third of it, in fact – where none of these clichés apply, and the culture you encounter is fresh and authentic: the seldom visited northeast of the Kingdom, or Isaan. .




or most visitors to Thailand, Isaan is easy to overlook: an arid rice-growing region devoid of beaches and other obvious tourist attractions, which many of its 22 million plus people have fled for the bigger paycheques of Bangkok. Of the many cruelties in Thailand’s tourist industry, this is one of its greatest. The truth is that what this region – a plateau carved into 19 culturally distinct provinces – lacks in silky sand and swanky hotels, it more than makes up for with tradition and culture, and an elusive earthy quality that gets under your skin. From Khmer ruins in the south to Laos-style temples in the north, and rugged national parks galore, there’s just so much to explore in this remarkable land. Spending some time taking in the Mekong, where life drifts by almost as slowly as the river itself, is a must; as is jiggling to Isaan folk music at one of its fun and

fast-paced festivals, wading out into an emerald green rice paddy, and eating as much som tum, sticky rice and other saep (tasty) local dishes as is humanly possible. In sum, Isaan is the region to discover if you want more than just a quick fling with Thai culture, a holiday more revealing, gritty and subtle than a week spent on the sand. And now is the best time to visit. After the end of the rainy season, the waterfalls are in full flow, the wild flowers in bloom and the normally blazing hot weather been replaced by a more comfortable temperature by day and surprisingly chilly nights (don’t forget a warm jacket, seriously). So rich is Isaan with things to see and do that there’s no way we could cover everything in this special – instead, over the following 22 pages we’ve packed in a selection of its great and good in the hope that we’ll inspire you to get up there and start discovering. Who needs the beach?

Isaan Snapshots NOV

events calendar


In addition to celebrating national holidays along with the rest of the country, Isaan is also home to a number of festivals that are all its own. Some are Buddhist and suitably solemn, others mark the rice-planting season, while yet more are full of lively ram wong dancing.

JAN Khon Kaen Marathon, Khon Kaen New York, London and Paris all have one… and so does the bustling provincial Isaan city of Khon Kaen. Every year more than 50,000 eager runners rock up in a sports vest at the crack of dawn to jog their socks off... All for fun.

LATE JAN/EARLY FEB Wat Phra Tat Phanom Fair, Nakhon Phanom During this week of meritmaking at one of Isaan’s most emblematic, Laos-style temples, thousands of pilgrims walk three times around its 57-metre tall stupa containing, so the devotees believe, a breastbone of Lord Buddha.

MAR-APR Thao Suraranee Fair, Nakorn Ratchasima Ten days of town parades, and fairs mark the memory of Thao Suraranee. The wife of a local deputy governor, ‘Lady Mo’ became an unlikely heroine when she successfully rallied citizens against Laotian invaders in the 1800s.

APR The Ascent of Khao Phanom Rung, Buriram Crowds come here to witness an astro-archaeological event that could be straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Gaze in awe as sunlight beams through the doors of this ancient Khmer temple and illuminates a revered lingam in the main sanctuary.

MAY Bun Bangfai Rocket Festival, Yasothon In a display meant to bring on the annual rains, rice farmers cobble together homemade rockets (bang fai), drag them on elaborate floats to a launch site, and then fire them skyward. As well as the explosive entertainment, the festival also includes funfairs, beauty contests, and plenty of locally produced moonshine.

JUN Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival, Loei This three-day affair in the residents of the small town of Dan Sai invite protection from Phra U-pakut, the spirit of the Mun river. They then hold a series of games and take part in a procession wearing masks made of rice husks with hats made from rice steamers, plus bright patchwork clothing.

JUN-AUG Blooming Krachio Flower Festival, Chaiyaphum During the monsoon months, beautifully coloured pinkishpurple dok krachio, or Siam tulips, sprout in the meadows of Chaiyaphum province’s two national parks (Pa Hin Ngam and Sai Thong). As you might expect with such a sight, hordes of cargo-panted Thais toting DSLR cameras follow.

JUL International Candle & Wax Sculptures Festival, Ubon Ratchathani Men folk carve great big garudas, among other mythical wax sculptures, which are then presented as merit making offerings for Buddhist Lent, or Khao Phansa. Takes place at Thung Sri Muang Park and the Ubon Ratchathani National Museum.

OCT Lai Reua Fai Festival, Nakhon Phanom Lines of regal barges cruise down the Mekong River, spewing fireworks and eliciting gasps from the crowds assembled along its banks to watch. The festival, which includes religious rites, pays respect to Lord Buddha, taking place each evening.

OCT Naga Fireballs, Nong Khai Beneath a full moon, thousands flock to see glowing red fireballs shoot up out of the Mekong River and into the night sky before disappearing. Is it a mythical Naga snake letting off steam, trigger happy Lao soldiers, methane gas bubbles, or just a moneyspinning hoax? You decide.

NOV Phimai Festival, Nakorn Ratchasima Long-tail boat races and a light and sound show are the showpieces of this event that takes place around the well-preserved Khmer ruins of Phimai Historical Park. There’s also a handicraft sale and, somewhat unexpectedly, a Siamese cat competition.

NOV Surin Elephant Roundup, Surin Surin’s skilled elephant handlers put on a grand show featuring the talents of Thailand’s most iconic animal. Over 250 elephants parade though the city before displaying their strength in football matches, tugs-of-war and mock-battles. See opposite for more.

Isaan Special

bangkok 101

Nov 20-21: The Surin Elephant Roundup stampedes into town


oughly 200km from the Cambodian border, the sleepy town of Surin is a provincial Isaan capital of 40,000, with a main street, a single night market, and no major tourist attraction – bar one. On the third weekend of November, the city roars to life with the arrival of the annual Elephant Roundup. The Asian elephant is highly revered in Thai culture, as both a working asset and an international symbol of the Kingdom, and is frequently depicted in art, architecture and literature (not to mention Chang beer, named for the animal). In Ban Tha Klang, a small village some 60km from Surin, elephants have been raised and trained for generations by their mahouts, members of the Kui tribe, originally from Cambodia. Famed for capturing, domesticating, and training wild elephants, the Kui treat the animals as providers, work companions and lifelong friends. As such, their Elephant Roundup, which has been held since 1960, is one of Thailand’s top tourist draws, featuring the mighty beasts showing off both their talents and strength, not to mention often humorous and playful sides. Uniquely, upon arrival at Surin’s train station visitors can opt for an elephant ride rather than a taxi to get to their hotel, as elephants are given run of the town during for the festival duration. The main events take place on Saturday and Sunday mornings at the Elephant Stadium, where the big changs start off by performing acrobatic stunts, playing basketball, and painting T-shirts, among other novelties and games. As the day heats up, the elephants engage in highly competitive football and polo competitions, with spectators busy betting and cheering the action on from the sidelines. Lighter antics include feats of strength, bangkok 101

such as when 40 of Surin’s strongest young men take on a single elephant in a tug of war. Needless to say, the elephant always wins. Later on in the day, the Roundup offers tourists the chance to see mahouts tending to their charges with respect and affection: washing them down, feeding them, and performing traditional ceremonies such as phi pakarn, a tribal ritual that supposedly fends off the threat of danger during wild elephant roundups. As elephants were a vital part of ancient warfare, the grand finale of the festival involves elaborately crafted mock battles, with animals and mahouts alike dressed in full traditional costume (historically, Thai kings are renowned for their skill as elephant-back warriors). In addition, there is also a local beauty pageant (called Miss Elephant 2010, we imagine), colourful parades, and rides available on the backs of the mighty beasts, not to mention photo sessions with the babies. As well as the attractions of the festival itself, just as appealing are the accompanying celebrations all over town. Isaanites are famed for their hospitality, and outsiders will invariably be invited in for shots of whiskey, baskets of sticky rice and a few fried bugs, a local culinary specialty. Isaan Special

now in isaan Dave Stamboulis

INFORMATION The festival is held on the weekend of Nov 20-21 at Si Narong Stadium, from 8:30am-11am. Tickets, which cost B200 and B500, can be reserved in advance – recommended if you want the better grandstand seats – from Surin Provincial Office (044-512-039). GETTING THERE (map C4) Surin is reached by either train or bus from Bangkok (approx. 8 hours and B250 by bus, approx. 9 hours and B200 by train, the latter a picturesque ride through countryside). Travel around Surin is easy, as most of the town can be navigated on foot, although there will be elephants on every corner eagerly waiting to give you a lift. ACCOMMODATION The festival is a huge draw for Thais and foreigners alike, with hotels often booked up months in advance. The Thong Tarin Hotel (60 Th. Surirat, 044-514-281), has rooms from B800-B1,400, while the Sangthong (279 Th. Tanasan, 044512-009), has rooms at the bargain price of B150-B330, depending on the exact amenities you require. 39

Isaan Snapshots


While we’ve tried our absolute hardest, Isaan is impossible to squeeze into 22 pages. To help fill in the gaps we scratched our heads and came up with Isaanisms: evocative little snapshots of authentic Isaan that we’ve experienced and strongly recommend you try and seek out.

ISAAN IS… …boggling at how exactly American cowboy culture came to thrive in this remote part of Thailand while you watch a local kid expertly lasso a calf at Korat’s Farm Chok Chai. …shivering on a (comparatively) freezing winter’s night in one of Isaan’s National Parks while Thais ram wong around a campfire… then warming yourself up by joining them in their lively dance. …peering through the Thai immigration and customs station at an impossibly kitsch casino just across the border in Laos. …staring bleary-eyed off a blustery cliff top at Pha Taem National Park as the sun majestically rises over the distant Laotian hills. …dipping balls of sticky rice into earthy soups and blistering hot somtum, in a remote rural village while chickens peck in the dirt. …enjoying old school mor lam and authentic Isaan food at the elevated wooden roadhouse music pub called Pleng Pim, just outside Khon Kaen. …visiting the crazy Sala Kaew Koo shrine outside Nong Khai, and then exploring the back roads that offer a window into small village life. …cruising by car, motorcycle or bike along routes 2016 and 2216: the road of a thousand curves that cuts across Loei’s Phu Luang Park. …eating Isaan food at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong River, such as Kaeng Kut Koo in Loei, or Khong Jiam in Ubon Ratchathani. …seeing your wrists slowly disappear as white string after sacred white string gets tied round each arm by seemingly every elder in the village. …discovering more kinds of mushroom than you ever imagined discovering and eating in a salad near Phu Rua National Park. …admiring alien-looking rock formations along the Mekong and considering the cataclysmic forces and eons it took to create them. ...pulling up beside a rice paddy to watch farmers plant saplings.. and walking back to your car covered in mud 20 minutes later after being invited in to lend a hand. …getting hauled into a passing festival procession to dance with rambunctious older women. Then being hauled out to down shots of rice wine with farmers, and getting mobbed by a gaggle of katoeys.


Isaan Special

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saan’s history is nothing if not eclectic. Cave paintings and bronze age pottery prove that it’s story stretches back to Neolithic man. Apsara-studded temple complexes remind us of the Khmer Kings that held sway over this region from the 9th to 13th centuries (see Khmer Ruins p.51). And the rich quilt of dialects and cultures that Isaan is today was mostly determined by the ebb and flow of different ethnic groups that came afterwards, namely the Lao. Lao culture has been the dominant force in Isaan since the four teenth centur y, when the Lan Xang kingdom extended its influence and its people began crossing the Mekong (ask an Isaanite to recount the pivotal moments in Isaan history, and it will likely be the tales of this Lao Kingdom – not the Thai ones that came after, like Sukhothai or Ayutthaya – they recount). Over the centuries, as the Laos Kingdom lost might in the region and the Siam Kingdom gained it, the region’s semi-autonomous fiefdoms increasingly answered to Bangkok before officially becoming the buffer zone between

French Indochina and Siam in the late 19th century. Af ter sever al qua shed r evolt s , Siam in the 20 th ce ntur y t ig hte ne d i t s g r ip t hr oug h T haif ic a t ion – a nationalistic series of measures that promoted t h e h e g e m o ny of S i a m e s e ov e r I s a a n c u l t u r e . Perhaps due to this, as well as poverty and an influx of Vietnamese, the region was a hotbed of communist guerilla activity in the late 20th century. However, the building of US air bases in Isaan during the Vietnam War, as well as much US backed development of the region, not to mention a booming Thai economy, gradually quelled this. Today, Isaan still lags behind the rest of the country financially, and been stereotyped as the region where politicians go to buy votes, but it is not the backwater some would have you believe. For example, while your average Isaan village still looks much the same as it did 50 years ago, provincial cities gleam and many farmers work the fields with a mobile phones in their pockets: the past meets the future in this remarkable part of Thailand.

TEXTILES: DISCOVER ISSAN’S WOVEN HERITAGE The silk industry runs like a thread through Issan’s cultural tapestry; many of its villages home to looms where the region’s unique indigenous styles are still spun. Though you can find Isaan silks it’s (and even Bangkok’s) markets, nothing beats seeing the silk production process in situ, right through from the feeding of silk worms with mulberr y tree leaves through to the actual dyeing and weaving. One of the most famous silk villages that you can visit is Chaiyaphum’s Ban Khwao (map A3), renowned for its meticulous weaving, colour and designs, especially mudmee (a traditional tie-die silk or cotton) and mon khwan (axe-shaped) pillows. Others include Chonnabot (map B3), a 55km drive south of Khon Kaen, and Baan Thasawang (map C4), about 10km from Surin.

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Isaan Special


Isaan Snapshots

PEOPLE A 2005 exhibition at Bangkok’s Thailand Creative & Design Centre asked: “How has one of the Kingdom’s most looked-down upon regions generated so much of its success? ” Take a trip to Isaan and you won’t be left in any doubt as to why that is – its people. Over the centuries, the residents of Thailand’s longneglected backyard have not only learnt to cope with their environment – a parched, rice-growing plateau of scarcity and economic deprivation – they’ve turned it into one of the richest sources of cultural inspiration in the country. The region has its own unique cuisine, textiles, music, and bawdy sense of humour – all of which travel far beyond its borders, permeating and often driving mainstream Thai culture. This is all down to the strong work ethic and earthy resourcefulness of its 22 million inhabitants: a diverse melting pot of ethnic Laos mixed in with sizeable Khmer, Tae-chiew Chinese, Vietnamese and tribal minorities, as well as, increasingly, koey farang (western sons-in-law). However, Isaan still remains the nation’s most impoverished region, a fact that has not escaped its ever-more politically vocal masses, and has resulted in millions migrating to Bangkok to find work, some permanently (Bangkok, by population, is surely Isaan’s capital). Although this ongoing urban migration fractures family units, community and familial bonds remain unbreakably, enviably strong. Moreover, despite Isaanites being rated as the poorest people in Thailand, a 2006 government survey revealed that they’re also the nation’s happiest – a fact backed up by the hearty laughs that echo around every village, market and rice paddy in the region. 42

Isaan Special

Simon Bonython

FARMING Though its cities dangle the promise of cosmopolitan life, Isaan remains largely agrarian, life still revolving, as it has for centuries, around the rice cycle. Each May, after the monsoon rains arrive, rice farmers head out to sow the seeds. These days the water buffaloes that used to plough the earth have mostly been superseded by motorised mini-ploughs, or rot tai na (something the buffaloes seem pleased about). Once the stems have grown long enough, they’re transplanted by hand in neat, orderly rows into the sludgy, knee-deep soil of a flooded rice paddy. Roughly four months later, when the sun has bleached the rice golden brown, it’s time for harvesting – a process that many migrants return from Bangkok to help with, an event that’s followed by much celebratory swigging of local moonshine. Finally, the rice is separated from the stems, or threshed, then loaded into sacks and sent off to market. Many hotels and homestays can arrange tours of these seas of emerald green during Isaan’s ricegrowing season, but, failing that, most farmers will be all smiles if you just pull up for a closer look unannounced.

DID YOU KNOW? Most Isaanites speak a dialect of the Lao language, or Isaan, though standard Thai is also widely understood. Here is some everyday lingo to try out at the market. English How are you? What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you come from? Where are you going? What are you doing? Is it fun? Very tasty! Can you speak Laos? I can speak a little Laos Thank you very much

Isaan Sabaai dee baaw? Jao seu yang? Jao ah-you thao dai? Jao maa dtaae sai? Thewet Pai sai? Het ee yang? Muan baw? Saep laay laay! Wao lao dai baw? Wao lao dai nit noi Khawp jai laay laay duuhr

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isaan cuisine


An earthy blend of Lao and Thai influences, Isaan is traditionally Isaan cuisine is distinct a fork-free zone. Up from all others in the here, locals pick off country. Served with balls of glutinous sticky sticky rice, the spicy rice using their fingers and sour dishes are and dip them into their made using salted fish, soups, laabs (salads), chillies and whatever dips and curries. Eating vegetables, herbs and is also a communal, creatures are at hand. even cathartic affair. I n t he pa s t , loc a ls Dishes are splayed sur vived mainly on out on bamboo mats, rice, green vegetables around which family and varieties of and friends kneel, fermented fish, such chatting and joking as as pla ra, pla som and well as eating. pla daek. They would then supplement t heir die t w i t h t he occa sional, oppor tunis tic protein-hit – be it insects caught using a bamboo tube f illed w i t h g um a nd bullock s’ hair, or a frog, crab, lizard or eel caught in the rice paddy. Although food is more plentiful these days, many in Isaan’s rural hinterland still eat a similar diet today, especially the older generation not weaned on the processed, saccharine flavours of the local 7-Eleven or provincial shopping mall. Of course, that doesn’t mean Isaan cuisine hasn’t evolved. Over the past 20 years it – like millions of its people – has shrugged off its origins of agrarian hardship and headed for Bangkok. So popular is it in the capital that even in the upmarket Thai restaurants you can tuck into Isaan’s holy trinity of khao niaow (sticky rice), som tum (green papaya salad) and kai yang (grilled chicken). You’ll find them in Isaan too,

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only in their archetypically pure and untamed forms. Here the classics, a list that includes som tum, laab (a tart, spicy minced meat salad) and nam tok (marinated meat salad), taste that little bit grittier (and, quite often, more packed with offal) than their Bangkok brethren. If you find yourself in Isaan, the adventurous among you can road test rarer regional dishes such as gaeng om (a cleansing herbal soup with meat, dill and pla ra); jim jum (aromatic meat broth served in a claypot); gaeng hed (spicy mushroom soup); sai krok Isaan (north-eastern sausage); and fried insects; among many, many others. Worried you might find earthy Isaan cuisine a challenge? Rest assured, most visitors to the land of sticky rice initially find themselves craving the coconut milk and fragrant curry pastes most associated with Thai cooking – but leave waxing lyrical about Isaan cuisine’s big, complex, juicy and above all saep (that’s Isaan for delicious) flavours.

THE BEST GRILLED CHICKEN IN THAILAND If you ask Thais who know their chicken, everyone will tell you about the mouth-watering tas te of t he bir ds in K hon Kaen. But ask Khon Kaen residents, and they will all send you to Wanita Rot Wiset, a nondescript lunch eatery on the main road out of town, which serves the most amazing grilled fowl. Wanita’s secret is that she uses the leaner gai baan backyard chickens, which have all been raised at home, and are far chewier and more succulent than your average supermarket or typical restaurant bird. Wanita Rot Wiset, Mittraphap Road before Home Pro on the left, 043-225-004. Open daily 8am-9pm.

Isaan Special


Isaan Snapshots

very isaan

LUUK THUNG & MOR LAM Thai country music delivers ancient song styles with Vegas glitz


o taxi-driving, labouring, factory-working, migrants from Buriram and Roi-et, luuk thung (children of the fields) folk music – and its regional Isaan counterpart mor lam – goes way beyond entertainment. Punctuating the pulsating vocal trills, acerbic lyrics draw on folklore and experience. “When they listen to luuk thung they feel they are experiencing their own lives through our music,” says luuk thung singer Surachai Sombatcharoen of his rural and migrant audience. “Mostly our songs are about love, melancholy and grief, but they are not sentimental.” A term coined in 1964, luuk thung was born of radio. AM broadcasts of foreign music gradually infused village songs with big band, swing, country & western, rock ’n’ roll, and even the yodel of Gene Autrey. An injection of Latino ballroom dancing music sent rhythms sassy, brass surging, carnival costumes a-shimmy. Erupting out of a tremulous acapella intro, mor lam takes its name (song doctor) from the eloquent vocalist,who dispenses quick-fire raps on rural and romantic travails, or plaintive homilies from Jataka scriptures. Mor lam’s dizzying collision of sounds is driven by pulsating rasps on the khaen bamboo mouth-organ, whereas hurtling brass drives luuk thung. Nostalgia means there’s still a sizeable market for old recordings and covers of songs by Surachai’s late father, Suraphon Sombatcharoen, who pioneered the luuk thung sound and look. Killed by gangsters in 1967, the honey-tonsilled crooner in suit and bow tie still influences how male leads deport and dress. Only now the jackets reach towards the knees, with lapels flaring in a fruit cocktail palette of papaya, banana and lime.

This colour blast is largely owed to all-time great Phomphuang Duangjan, the illiterate farm girl who electrified the genre – literally with guitars and keyboards, visually with Broadway glamour – to combat the 1980s rise of luuk krung (children of the city). In the wake of her glitter, mini-skirts and chorus lines, touring troupes took luuk thung to Las Vegas extremes: spangled leotard costumes, racy choreography, feathered plumes, comic routines, MC chatter, and high kicks to complement curl-fingered ram wong dance gestures. Come the end of the show, fans shower the singers with garlands, ribbons and banknotes. While wannabe-Western T-Pop has struggled to gain a foreign audience, the brisk beats and fascinating vocals of Thai folk finds receptive ears and hips abroad, in the World Music footsteps of Griot and Bhangra, Soukous and Salsa. “Many youngsters are turning away from their roots to Western music,” laments Decha Suvinijit of country label Weyti Thai. “We can’t stop that, but we can show them that Westerners are embracing our culture too.” One of his luuk thung singers is blond Swede Jonas Anderson, who along with Briton Christy Gibson startle Thai audiences that foreigners can like the music as much as they do.

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture is a book that almost every foreigner living in Bangkok has on their bookshelf, a virtual bible on Thailand’s pop culture. For page after colourful page, author Philip Cornwel-Smith guides readers on an unconventional tour of the quirky everyday things that make Thailand truly Thai. From the 60-plus mini-chapters, we present a different excerpt each month. Prepare yourself for the sideways logic in what seems exotic. Snap up a copy at any good book shop. Very Thai – River Books l B995 l hardcover, with photos by John Goss and Philip Cornwel-Smith 44

Isaan Special

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Your Home in the Heartland



Discovering Isaan Photography by Simon Bonython


n coffee-table book Discovering Isaan, photographer Simon Bonython captures the eclectic beauty of this vast yet little visited region, from its natural landscapes to its ancient man-made monuments, exotic festivals and delectable food. However, this selection taken from it focuses on perhaps its most endearing asset â&#x20AC;&#x201C; its charming, amiable people.


Previous pages: Rice harvesting; near Buriram 1. A 72 year old villager proudly displays the tattoos on his back while his wife looks on; Baan Khao village, Dan Khun Tot, Nakorn Ratchasima 2. A proud farmer shows off his herd of cows; Dan Khun Tot, Nakorn Ratchasima 3. Villager relaxing at the end of a hard dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work in the fields; Baan Non Din Dang, Burriam



I s a a n Wo n d e r s

No trip to Isaan is complete without some time beside the Mekong, the mighty Asian river that winds like a serpent along the northern and eastern borders of the region, separating it from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Be it eating catfish laab at a floating restaurant on it, or watching illuminated golden barges glide down it, some of Isaan’s best moments are to be had here.

Simon Bonython

the mekong

Chiang Khan (map A1) One of the last genuine ‘Thai’ outposts, this little town nestled on the Mekong River in Loei Province (35km from Pakchom and 180km west of Nong Khai) has a sleepy, laidback appeal that turns visitors into guests. With its quaint wooden shophouses and romantic river front balconies, Chiang Khan echoes the gentle spirit of old Isaan – a community that has largely rejected concrete and metal facades in favour of vintage redwood and teakwood shop fronts. On top of all this charm, this is probably one of the best views of the Mekong anywhere.

Sam Phan Bok (map D3) The elements have done beautifully strange things to much of Isaan, sculpting otherworldly landscapes and rock formations in its national parks (see p53) and along many stretches of the Mekong River. One of the most evocative of these geological oddities is Sam Phan Bok, a river gorge in Ubon Ratchathani province, where eons of attrition by the Mekong has cut what appears to be a meteorite-obliterated moonscape into beds of sandstone. The adventurous will enjoy hopping around or even bathing in its deep, peculiarly shaped potholes, and the imaginative be struck by its alien beauty and the forces and time it took to create it. It’s only accessible during the winter months (i.e. now) when the Mekong’s waters have receded.

Kong Chiam (map D3)

Like Chiang Khan, this slow-paced hamlet perched on a peninsula where the Mekong meets the Mun River (60km east of Ubon Ratchathani town) is hard to drag yourself away from. For many, its greatest asset is its proximity to Pha Taem: a fiendishly rocky national park with prehistoric paintings and epic cliff views of Laos (and the first sunrise and sunset in the country). However, it’s also a great spot to take in one of Asia’s great rivers. From its verdant vantage point, one can enjoy cross-border views into untamed Laos, eat at floating restaurants serving equally untamed Isaan food, and catch a longtail boat to popular Mekong sights such as the Kaeng Tana rapids and Maenam Son Sii, the bicolour meeting point of the two rivers. Stay: Sedhapura, by Toksan. See p56


Isaan Special

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khmer ruins

Dave Stamboulis


ambodia’s Angkor Wat may be the shining jewel in the crown of the ancient Khmer kingdom, but one doesn’t necessarily have to leave Thailand to discover its treasures. The eastern and lower areas of Isaan are home to an abundance of well preserved Khmer ruins dating from the 11th and 12th centuries, all worth a visit and far quieter than their Cambodian counterparts. The most stunning – and remote – such monument in Thailand is Sisaket province’s Pra Wihan (map D4), though unfortunately a territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia means it’s now off limits. This spat – which has simmered since the 1960s but flared up again two years ago, when Cambodia applied successfully to have it listed a UNESCO World Heritage site – will hopefully be resolved in the near future, but in the meantime Phanom Rung (map B4), located down the road in Buriram province, is open to all, and located on the summit of a 380-metre high extinct volcano. Looking out over Cambodia’s distant Dong Rak Mountains, Phanom Rung houses an ornate temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and its complex of ruins the largest of its type in Thailand. It also sees an auspicious astrological event each spring and fall. Due to its unique solar alignment, the sun shines directly through all 15 of the temple’s sanctuary doorways for two sunrises and two sunsets. Also in the area is the 11th century temple Prasat Hin Mueang Tam (map B4) (meaning ‘Stone Castle of the Humble City’), a restored monument complete with five towers symbolising Mount Meru, the legendary Hindu abode of the gods. Meanwhile, close to the city of Korat is Prasat Hin Phimai (map B3), which actually predates Angkor Wat and may have served as a model for its construction. Originally Phimai was an important Khmer administrative centre and connected to Angkor by a road known as the Royal Way. Today it’s been painstakingly restored, its 28-metre high temple adorned with beautiful Hindu sandstone carvings, which loom impressively above a lush green park. bangkok 101

Isaan Special

GETTING THERE Prasat Hin Phimai (044-471-568) is open 7.30am-6pm and costs B40 to enter. It can be reached by bus in less than an hour from the main bus station in Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima). Prasat Phanom Rung (044-631-746) is open 6am-6pm and costs B40 to enter. It can be reached by public bus from the main bus terminal in Buriram, which will deposit you in nearby Ban Ta Pek village. From there a songthaew or motorcycle taxi can take you the rest of the way. Check the fare first. 51

I s a a n Wo n d e r s

sala kaew ku

A Lao monk’s vision brings the religious world to life


ong Khai is as far northeast as you can get in Thailand without crossing into Laos, which is why – apar t from the annual Naga Fireball Festival – the town is mainly a jumping off point for travellers headed to the Laotian capital, Vientiane. Yet Nong Khai merits a stop on any Isaan itinerary, as it is home to Sala Kaew Ku, a surreal sculpture garden full of enough mysticism to baffle any theologian, and weird enough to provide entertainment to even the most jaded of travellers. As the story goes, Luang Po Boun Leua Sourirat was a famed Lao priest. When Surirat was a child, he fell into a hole while wandering around the mountains of his home. In a tale reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except with a spiritual edge (and a her mit for a hat ter) , when he tumbled out the other end he met a recluse named Kaewkoo, who taught him about Buddhism and the under world. When Surirat eventually returned home, he began building a concrete sculpture garden to represent what he had learned from Kaewkoo. However, fearing the Communist Party of Laos would not be kind to his beliefs, he fled over the border in the late 1970s and began construction of his garden in Thailand. What followed is one of the most eclectic and unique sculpture gardens found anywhere in the world. Sala Kaew Ku contains hundreds of concrete statues and figures, some of them over 30 metres high, with images representing every major eastern religion. There are Hindu deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Ganesh, as well as Buddha, human-animal hybrids and Naga serpents – all portrayed in unexpected ways. For instance, a goddess with 10 arms sits waving a pitchfork in one corner of the garden, while, across the way, seven 30-metre high Naga serpents sit hissing above a meditating Buddha. In yet another part of the garden, a large-bellied Chinese Buddha towers over the Hindu elephant god


Isaan Special

Ganesh, while 50 metres away a pack of howling dogs, human in stature, surround a remarkably nonplussed royal elephant. Then there is Luang Po’s Wheel of Life, where all of his philosophies are encapsulated within one giant sculpture. Visitors must first enter a large foreboding mou t h , t he n cr aw l t hr ough a womb - like tunnel before discovering a chamber full of bizarre statues, which represent Surirat’s theor y of the life cycle. As well as the sculptures, there is also a small museum on the premises, which, among other intriguing items, contains images of Lord Buddha, 100-year-old petrified wood and pictures of all the major Hindu deities and Buddhist luminaries. Meanwhile, the mummified remains of Luang Po (he passed away in 1996) lie on the top floor of the main shrine, surrounded by hundreds of gazing Buddha images. Accommodation Nong Khai has numerous quality guesthouses and hotels. Mut Mee Guesthouse (111/4 Th. Kaew Worawut, 042-460-717; Rooms B150-B600) has a great riverside location and rave reviews. There is also the green and pleasant Ruan Thai Guesthouse (1126/2 Rim Khong Rd, 042-412-519. Rooms B300B1,200), or the more upmarket Mae Khong Royal (222 Panungchonprathan Rd, 042-465-777; www.royalmekong. com), situated 3km outside of town on the Mekong river. Getting there (map B1) Nong Khai can be reached by overnight train or bus from Bangkok, or via a flight to nearby Udon Thani and then a one hour bus ride. To get to Sala Kaew Ku, take a tuk tuk or songthaew from town, or rent a bike from a guesthouse and enjoy the 4km pedal to the complex.

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Isaan’s 24 national parks offer visitors some of the wildest landscapes in Thailand. Several feature stone-age ruins, others boast rare wildlife, while yet more offer parched, desolate landscapes. Many in the west are mountainous with sheer cliffs, where the outdoors types flock to at this time of year to enjoy the temperate climate (temperatures can drop close to freezing) and misty morning vistas. Information on them all, including an online booking service for campsites and bungalows, can be found at

national parks

Khao Yai National Park (map A4)

Pha Taem National Park (map D3)

Its proximity to Bangkok isn’t the only reason that Korat (also known as Nakhon Ratchasima) province’s Khao Yai is the most visited national park in the country. There’s also the fact that its 2,166 sq km of rainforest teems with biodiversity – over 2,000 plant species, 73 mammal species and 216 butterfly species. There are no less than 18 walking trails crisscrossing this UNESCO World Heritage site, from which you can peer through the jungle canopy in search of gibbons, great hornbills or the piebald hornbill of India. If you’re lucky, you may even cross paths with wild elephants. Also don’t miss the Nam Tok Haew Narok and Haew Suwat waterfalls, which were used as backdrops in Danny Boyle’s film, The Beach. However, avoid holiday weekends, when the whole of Bangkok seems to head there.

Harsh rock landscapes evocative of t h e a ge w h e n c ave m e n roamed about in loin clothes are found in many of Isaan’s national parks. This is especially true of Ubon Ratchathani’s Pha Taem, where it’s clear early man did just that – on the side of its sheer cliffs overlooking the Mekong and Laos are primitive drawings dating back thousands of years. Though these are Pha Taem’s calling card (Pha means cliff, Taem means painting), watching the sunrise and sunset from here is actually much more spectacular (especially when you learn that – this being the easternmost point in Thailand – you’re witnessing the first in the land). Strange shaped rocks, or sao chaliang, are also big draws, and camping in the remote north of the park is worthwhile if you can handle the chilly nighttime temperatures (take a warm fleece jacket). Now is the time to go, as from October through to February Pha Taem’s severe plateaus are sof tened by wildf lower s, including several types named by Her Majesty.

Phu Kradung National Park (map A2) Several national parks in Isaan offer dreamy mountain views, but Loei province’s Phu Kradung, with its mountain peak rising 1,350m above sea level, is far and away Thailand’s most famous. Climbing it has long been a rite of passage for young Thais, with thousands attempting the arduous 5.5km climb every winter (November to January). On reaching the flat summit of this sandstone mountain you’ll discover waterfalls, streams and coniferous forests. In terms of views, Pha Lom Sak is best for sunset but quite far from camp, while at Pha Mak Dook from November to February you can catch sunrise and sunset in the same spot. The many waterfalls are mostly located along one looping trail. Highlights include Penpob Mai Waterfall, named after the champion boxer who discovered it, and Tham Yai Waterfall. bangkok 101

Isaan Special


I s a a n Wo n d e r s

Ban Chiang

An unfortunate trip leads to history

UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1992, and made the headlines again in 2008, when many of the site’s artefacts were discovered to have been illegally sold to museums in California. The case is still pending, with the hope the items will be returned to Thailand.

Udon Thani’s premiere site is an almost too-good-to-be true story. In 1966, Steve Young, an American archaeology student from Harvard studying ancient civilisations in Southeast Asia, was living in the small rural village of Ban Chiang, carrying out interviews for his senior thesis. Walking one day, Young tripped over the root of a kapok tree – when he landed in the dust, he noticed fragments of ceramic jars jutting out of the ground. These shards turned out to be remnants of one of Asia’s oldest civilisations. Alongside the cream-coloured pottery with unique red patterns, skeletons, glass beads, and copper bells were also discovered. Subsequent radiocarbon dating placed the artefacts as being produced in around 1,500-2,000 BC, which made the site one of the most important prehistoric settlements in the world. Ban Chiang was awarded


Stay Sai Tong Resort The Sai Tong Resor t, on the edge of Udon Thani, is a comfor table place to spend the night. Self cont ained bung alow s along w i t h a s w im ming p o o l g o f r o m B 4 0 0 - B1, 2 0 0 , a l l i n c l u s i v e . 125/1 Moo 3, Udon-Sakhon Nakhon Rd, Udon Thani 41000 | 081-768-9447

A meditating monk finds a land of giants

Bronze-age pottery isn’t the only archaeological gold discovered in Isaan. Ever since an abbot stumbled across some old dinosaur bones at his temple in 1970, the northeast has emerged as Southeast Asia’s prime site for palaeontology, with fossils unearthed regularly, including new species like the snappily-titled Isaanosaurus and Siamotyrannus (the earliest known sauropod and tyrannosaur respectively).One of the best places to learn more is at Phu Kum Khao, a leafy hill in Kalasin province where a Thai-French team’s patient excavations revealed the largest horde of early Cretaceous period fossils found in Thailand. Here, visitors can peer deep into the flood-lit pits, and learn more at the sprawling Sirindhorn Museum, featuring fossils, exhibits (in Thai and English) and life-size model replicas of the region’s oldest residents. You can also take a sneaky peak, through plate-glass, into the research and storage facility where Dr. Varavudh Suteethorn – Thailand’s top palaeontologist and a walking encyclopaedia on the subject – supervises the piecing together of fossils in the hope of discovering yet more new dinosaurs. More of the same can also be found at Phu Wiang National Park over in Khon Kaen, though here there are bone sites and dinosaur footprints to see, as well as pits and a museum.


Getting there (map B1) Ban Chiang is best reached from Udon Thani, which has air, rail, and bus links to the rest of the country. From Udon, buses to Sakhon Nakhon run every 30 minutes, and deposit you at the Ban Chiang intersection for B40 (40 minutes). Tuk tuks (B60) will take you the last six kilometres. The site is comprised of a museum (closed Monday) and the nearby Wat Pho Sri exhibition of the excavation discovery. B150 gets you into both.

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Getting there (map B2) The best way to reach Phu Kum Khao and Pu Wiang National Park is by flying to Khon Kaen airport ( From here you can hire a car ( s For Phu Kum Khao, from the airport take Highway 209 until you reach Amphur Yang Ta-Lad then take Highway 213 to Kalasin and continue on Highway 227 to Amphur Sahasakhan. Then 2km before reaching Amphur Sahasakhan, turn right for the museum. s For Pu Wiang National Park take Highway 12 for 48k m until you reach Chumpae, then tur n right onto Highway 2038 for 18km until you pass Pu Wiang National Par k of f ice ( 0 43-358 - 073) . bangkok 101

A little slice of Vietnam in Isaan

Ban Na Chok

One of the lesser known ingredients in Isaan’s Lao-dominated melting pot are its ethnic Vietnamese, migrants who fled their homeland during French rule to settle in provinces by the Mekong. The most obvious indication of their presence is the food. In provinces like Nong Khai, Mukdahan and Nakhom Phanom, you can feast at restaurants and food stalls on guay jub yuan (noodle soup), moo yor (sausage), pak moh (rice pancakes) and baguettes, among other tasty Vietnamese (or Franco-Vietnamese) treats. Not that their influence only extends to the culinary: there are also Catholic churches, French colonial-style villas and, perhaps most intriguingly, in Nakhon Phanom province, the former safe house of Ho Chi Minh. The elderly ThaiVietnamese farmer who looks after it, Thieu Nguyen Wan, remembers Uncle Ho from his childhood in the 1920s. Back then the diminutive revolutionary, forced into hiding, would spend his days tending his garden, writing letters, proselytising and fomenting revolt against French colonial

rule. Visiting here, it’s not hard to imagine him doing just that, as the austere interior of this simple wooden house is still full of his personal effects, and the surrounding orchard still verdant with the starfruit and coconut trees he is said to have planted. Adding to the outpost like feel of Ban Na Chok, as it’s known, is another common sight in these parts: farmers wearing Vietnamese-style conical hats in the surrounding rice paddies.

Getting there (map D1) Ban Na Chok village is best reached by flying to Ubon Ratchathani then driving up, as part of a Mekong River focused roadtrip, to Nakhon Phanom province via highways 2034 and 212 (see map, p.59). On reaching the junction with highway 22, instead of turning right toward Nakhon Phanom city, take a left and drive 1km. Ban Na Chok is on the left hand side.

Reality bites at this village of snakes The Isaan city of Khon Kaen is a rather nondescript affair; a stopover on the road to Laos. Yet out in the quiet countryside nearby lies the bizarre village of Ban Kok Sanga, where villagers engage in displays of bravery with poisonous king cobras. Some fifty years ago, Ken Yongla, a local folk medicine expert, came up with the idea that holding snake shows might be a good way to draw crowds into the village to buy his herbal medicines. And so he started a show that evolved into today’s daily king cobra versus man routine. The shows start off with traditional mor lam Isaan dancing, only these dancers have snakes around their necks. This is then followed by a group of young boys who cajole and tease the snakes to coil, strike, and come frighteningly close to at tacking – a daunting prospect when one considers the king cobra can spit fatal venom up to a distance of two metres. However, the highlight of the show is the snake boxing and dancing, in which several trainers spar bangkok 101

Ban Kok Sanga with their charges, as well as getting the snakes to dance into a frenzy while wide-eyed visitors try to capture what they are seeing on film. Taking it a step further (as if the rest wasn’t already enough) the fearless trainers then end the show by putting the snakes’ heads in their mouths. The snake shows are free, but donations are encouraged to keep the project going, and help locals supplement their income as well as reward their fearless demonstrations.

Getting there (map B2) Buses from Khon Kaen’s bus station leave hourly (bus to Kranuan, B30), and drop you off at the turnoff for the village, which is 2km down the road. Motorcycle taxis (B30) will take you the rest of the way, or a grinning local will run you in for free. If you’re travelling by car: head north on Highway 2 out of Khon Kaen for 33km, in Nam Phong village take route 2039 east for 14km, and follow the signs for Ban Kok Sanga.

Isaan Special


I s a a n Wo n d e r s


Though mid-range hotels abound in its cities, there are digs out in Isaan’s sticks that will make your sleepovers here truly memorable. Here, a handful of boutique resorts pair hi-ply cotton beds, flatscreen tvs and other luxe features with a design that channels the rusticity of the region.

Supanniga Home (map B2) 130 Potisan Rd, Naimuang Khon Kaen | 089-944-4880 | www. | Banyan Villa & Lom Laeng Villa B4,800net, Velu Villa B12,000net (includes breakfast, until October 2011) One of only five Thai hotels to be chosen by Relais & Châteaux (an exclusive collection of 475 of the finest hotels and restaurants around the world), Khon Kaen’s Supanniga Home is surely one of Thailand’s best kept secrets. Located within thirty secluded acres, each of its three villas feels more like an architect’s dream home or writer’s private retreat than part of a boutique hotel. The one-bedroom Banyan Villa has a rustic, contemporary Thai style, featuring a homey study room and, outside, a spacious wood-deck terrace shaded by plants and gnarled trees. Meanwhile, the Lom Laeng Villa blends traditional Isaan motifs with contemporary details. Taking advantage of the surrounding garden, lots of wooden windows and doors brings the outdoors inside. Last but not least, the two-bedroom Veru Villa is a blocky rectangle structure with an ultra-hip, minimalist interior and its own private Jacuzzi. Most amazingly, this Isaan haven of serenity is only 10 minutes drive from the vibrant nightlife and shopping of Khon Kaen. 56

Isaan Special

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Sedhapura by Tohsang (map D3) 6 8 M u 7 B a a n H u a y - M a k-Ta y, Khongjiam district, Ubon Ratchathani | 045-351-174 | | Special Full Board Package, two nights stay: Pool Villa B15,000 net, Duplex Pool Villa B18,000 net. Package includes 2 x breakfast, lunch and dinner (two people). Late checkout up to 4pm. Offer valid until 24 December 2010.

Mekong Villas (map A1) 96 M oo 6 , Leab Mekong River Road, Ban Kok Pai, Pak Chom District, Loei |02-222-1290| www. | B5,000-15,000++ The three villas at this Loei province boutique resort all take in beautiful views across a rocky stretch of the Mekong to the forested hills of Laos. The largest is a magnificent two-storey house combining traditional Thai and Western design; the second is a teakpanelled, Lanna-style two double bedroom villa on stilts; while the third offers panoramic views off the veranda. They are an incredible triumverate.

B3.200-15,000 The tropical teakwood rooms at Loei’s Phu Phu Nam Resort sit at an elevation of 620 metres above sea level, and smeared over 520 acres of lush private land. When done exploring the area (or rocking out at the annual Phi Ta Khon festival, which takes place at nearby Dan Sai village), there’s a swimming pool, spa, among other recreational facilities.

Named af ter an ancient K hmer Kingdom, Sedhapura by Tohsang invites you to absorb a rich historic legacy and fascinating multi-cultural pace of life. Surrounded by rivers and mountains, the four stunning villas offer a comfortable and private escape. Situated on the banks of the Mekong River, the resort is located next to Woen Buk village, which lies right on the border with Laos. With the aim of helping the locals raise their standard of living, Sedhapura recruited staff from local villages and had them trained them by a professional team. While their English-language skills might sometimes be found lacking, they always try their very best to provide guests with warm hospitality and unique service. When the mist emerges in the evening, casting a mesmerising spell over Sedhapura, sit down to a romantic candlelit dinner of special dishes prepared by the resort chef. Enjoying an alfresco meal to remember while watching the sunset spectacularly over the Mekong, it’s apparent Sedhapura by Tohsang is a remarkable boutique property – a veritable feast for all the senses.

Agalin (map A1) 13 3 B a a n T u b Sangaw, Pak Chom Sri Chiang Mai Rd, Pak Chom, Loei | Isaan’s most ostentatious resort sits on one of the Mekong’s most endearing stretches: between Chiang Khan and Pak Chom. Spread across 15 acres of Englishstyle gardens, its five houses each reflect the whims of the well-known Thai architec t who owns it ; the Dove Cottage, for example, fuses a Balinese-style thatched roof with a British Regency inspired interior.

Lamai Homestay (map B3) 23/1 M003, Ban Khopet, Bua Yai, K or a t | w w w. thailandhomestay. com Set amid the fruit orchards of Korat’s Bua Yai district, this simple homestay-style guesthouse offers rustic rooms built by locals, as well as a long list of culturally conscious tours. Run by Lamai and Jimmy, a Thai-Welsh couple, these include silk weaving and rice farming and were nominated in Wild Asia’s 2008 Responsible Tourism Awards.

Green Gecko (map B2) Udon Thani | www. / www.geckovilla. com | B7,900net (includes 3 meals and airport transfer) This remarkable resort consists of sprawling Thai villas with steeply pitched traditional-style roofs, private swimming pools and a reclusive location amid thousands of acres of pr is tine Udon Thani countryside. The perfect retreat for both families and groups, the Green Gecko villas come equipped with your very own personal chef.

Sedhapura by Tohsang

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Phu Pha Nam Resort (map A2) 252 Moo 1, Koakngam, Dansai, Loei | 042-078-078 | www. phuphanamresort. com |

Isaan Special


I s a a n Wo n d e r s

reference TOURS Don’t let Bangkok’s roads put you off – Isaan’s well-paved highways and distinct lack of traffic (bar the odd stubborn water buffalo) mean there’s no better way to explore it than on a road trip. Rent a car at the local airport (, or alternatively enlist one of these respected tour companies to connect the dots on the map for you. Smiling Albino 02-718-9561 | The Bangkok-based tour company of fer s fully cus tomis a ble Is a a n adventures, from several days of Angkor-era temple hunting along

READING A Child of the Northeast Kampoon Boontawee (translated by Susan Fulop Kepner), Pouyzian, pp477, B390 If there’s one book you must read on Isaan, it’s A Child of the Northeast, a novel about a year in the life of a village there during the 1930s. Author Kampoon Boontawee based this award-winning novel – which was later adapted into a famous film – on memories of his own childhood during the depths of the Great Depression. Its depravation and struggle and ear thy sense of humour centres around the life of an eight yearold boy named Koon, his sisters, Yee-soon and Boonlai, and their parents, whose names we never learn. Discovering Isaan Simon Bonython, Amber House, pp162, BTK This coffee table book packed with 162 stunning, full-colour photographs puts you there – out in 58

Smiling Albino

the Angkor Road between Phi Mai and the Cambodian border, to Isaan Steel Horses, a seven day motorcycle odyssey along the fabulously curvy back roads of deepest Isaan. Expect picnics beside ride paddies, jaunts around mountain national parks, and, in Loei province, a stay in a stately teakwood residence on the banks of the Mekong. Led by some of the most fun, Isaan-savvy guides in the industry, all trips can be sculpted to you.

Exotissimo Travel 02-636-0360 | Exotissimo Travel offers ‘Isaan Insight’: a nine day loop from the south of the region, up the eastern provinces bordering the Mekong, and then west across its north-eastern rim. Includes visit s to K hmer r uins , his tor ical parks, wine vineyards, and handicraft villages. Visit their website for more details on this and other packages.

Isaan’s rice fields, temple complexes, village fairs and more. Though light on text, its pictures of the natural beauty, exotic festivals, delectable food, cultural ar ts, and stoic, welcoming people, alluringly showcase a region that’s too often overlooked by tourists.

Publications, pp146, B500 American William J. Klausner wrote this book as a young law graduate from Yale University, recording when he studied here on a Ford Foundation ethnographic grant. Illustrated with black and white photographs, it remains (if you can find a copy) a riveting and accessible introduction to Isaan village life, despite being m o r e t ha n ha l f a ce n t u r y o l d .

Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand Bonnie Pacala Brereton & Somroay Yencheuy, Mekong Press, pp84, B695 This new book is the first such study of a vibrant sub-school of painting found in Isaan’s rural heartland: its Buddhist murals. Inspired by local religious practices and created by ordinar y villager s, the colour ful, fun-loving and often mildly erotic murals portray scenes from everyday life as well as traditional rites and stories unique to the region. Reflections: One Year in an Isaan V i l l a g e Circa 1955 William J. Klausner, Siam Reflections Isaan Special

Ta Klang: The Elephant Va l l e y o f M o o l River Basin Pit taya Homk railas (translated by Pravit Rojanaphruk), Tourism Authority of Thailand, pp138, B750 The book tells of the symbiotic relationship (which continues to this day) between the Guay ethnic community of Surin province’s Baan Ta Klang village and their elephants. Here, age-old traditions of raising elephants are practised and passed down from one generation to the next. As well as detailed text about all aspects of their traditions and the methods used, the book’s photos offer insight into this fascinating feature of Thai culture. bangkok 101





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Na Yung-Nam Som National Park


Agalin Mekong Villas H

Nong Khai

Sala Keaw Ku



Phu Langka National Park

Naga Fireballs

Phu Ruea National Park Chiang Khan


Ban Chiang

Lai Reua Fai Festival


Phu Suan Sai National Park





Phi Ta Khon Phu Kradueng National Park

Ban Na Chok

Udon Thani

Phu Pha Nam

H Green Gecko Nong Phu Kao-Phu Phan Kham Bua National Park 2 LampuKhon Kaen Marathon

Phu Pha Man National Park Ubonrat Dam

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Phu Wiang National Park Cobra Village



Sakon Nakhon Phu Phan National Park

Nakhon Phanom

Phu Pha Yon National Park

Wat Phra Tat Phanom




Supanniga Home



Blooming Krachiao Flower Festival


Chaiyaphum Ban Khwao Sai Thong National Park Pa Hin Ngam National Park


Phu Pha Thoep National Park

Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake

Phu Sa Dokbua National Park


Maha Sarakham

Amnat Charoen Sedhapura by Tohsang Kong Chiam


Buriram Khao Phanom Rung


Surin Kaeng Tana

Baan Thasawang

Khao Yai National Park

Sam Phan Bok

Pha Taem National Park

Nakhon Ratchasima Farm ChokChai


Bun Bangfai Rocket

H Laimai Homestay

Thao Suranaree Fair

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Roi Ed


Prasat Hin Phimai

Phimai Festival



226 H Thong Tarin Hotel Surin Elephant Roundup

Si Sa Ket

Ubon National Park Ratchathani

Khao Phra Wihan National Park

Prasat Hin Mueang Tam

Isaan Special



contemporary art Steven Pettifor


hat could be a better memento of a stay in Thailand than hanging an original piece of contemporary art in your home? Bangkok’s shops and markets teem with nostalgic Buddhistinfluenced paintings and sculptures, but there are also numerous commercial and non-profit galleries that exhibit the fruits of Thailand’s growing artistic presence. Bangkok has a small, vibrant and highly resourceful contemporary art circle, which is slowly beginning to make waves within the international art arena, aided to some extent by the Western ar t world’s recent penchant for all things Asian. The trend has been for ambitious installation and multimedia projects, proving popular with the younger generation of artists. Spirituality and Buddhism have been, and still are , major themes in contemporary art, whether coming from neo-tr aditionalist painter s including Thawan Duchanee and Chalermchai Kositpipat, whose late 20th-centur y paintings resurrect traditional perceptions of the Thai identity – as pure, harmonious, Buddhist, monarchist and patriotic – or aromatic meditative installations during the 1990s by the late Montien Boonma. Away from the spiritual, the economic collapse of 1997 has fuelled many local ar tists to question the effects of globalisation upon the Thai populace. A return to an innocent agrarian existence became one common call, while more contentious artists like Vasan Sitthiket highlighted their disdain for national policies through faux-political electioneering. Conceptual photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom satirised local urbanity’s consumerist obsessions with his engaging Pink Man series. Ironically, as leading artists question the ceaseless and unconditional absorption of all things American and


BKK Art House

European, many of Thailand’s freshfaced generation of artists are infatuated with the street-style, urban iconography of pervasive Asian cultures like Japan, Korea and increasingly China. An indicator of the growing profile of Thai art could be in the proliferation of new commercial galleries that have opened in the last couple of years, with Bangkok gaining over a dozen new venues in different areas across the city. These include artist -run spaces such as printmaker and sculptor Thavorn Ko-Udomvit’s grey cube Ardel, and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s hotbed of young conceptualists at Gallery VER. While Thailand’s ongoing political debacle has complicated ar tistic planning, the decade-plus wait for the new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, opposite MBK shopping mall, is over. For news of its exhibitions, performances and the like log on to GALLERIES The majority of contemporary art on view in Bangkok is produced by domestic practitioners, several of whom are now receiving significant international exposure, though there is ar ts

an increasing number of regional Asian artists displaying their works, at prices often cheaper than in countries like Singapore, China and Vietnam. Whether hoping to peruse some emerging local protagonist, or purchase something a bit more com- mercial or traditional, one thing’s for certain – prices for art in Bangkok are more realistic and reasonable than overinflated, fashionable ar t centres in America, Europe and increasingly China. You’ll soon realise that the city doesn’t have a concentrated artistic enclave; rather, there are small pockets of galleries, auction houses and antiques shops randomly dispersed throughout the city. Commercial galleries are spread across town and a little route planning is advised before embarking on a day of gallery musing. On the following page is a selection of noteworthy galleries about town. Steven Pettifor is the editor of the Bangkok Art Map (BAM!), and author of Flavours: Thai Contemporary Art. He is available as a consultant to art buyers; bangkok 101

Enjoy these selected highlights from the current issue of the Bangkok Art Map. BAM! is a free-folding city map containing the latest information and critical insights into Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene. Grab a copy and participate in the promotion of art in Thailand.

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What lies within us Exotissimo Art Gallery Exotissimo Travel, Nanglinchi Soi 4 | 02-286-5786 | Mon-Sat 9am6.30pm | An established sculptor recognised for his cranial bronze works with tactile patinas, Haritorn Akarapat’s latest works tread new ground with experiments in two-dimensional painting. On view at travel company Exotissimo’s recently opened gallery space, the exhibition of distorted skulls and faces is part of the tour agency’s expanding drive to promote contemporary culture. Until Nov 10 Amporphous Kathmandu 87 Soi Pan, Silom Rd | 02-234-6700 | Tue-Sun 11am-7pm | www. l BTS Chong Nonsi Having found early success as a cosmopolitan fashion lensman, Bangkok resident British photographer David Mitchell presents a contemplative series of semi-abstract cumulus inspired photo prints. Painterly in their appearance, the ethereal cloud compositions suspend in a weightless space, leaving viewers to seek their own emotional and spiritual response. Until Nov 28 Breath of Creation Ardel Gallery of Modern Art 99/45 Belle Ville, Boromratchonnanee Rd (Km 10.5) | 02422-2092 | Tue-Sat 10:30am- 7pm, Sun 10:30am-5:30pm | Self-taught artist Pratuang Emjaroen is one of the Kingdom’s foremost modernist painters, having had a significant influence on the course of Thai art through the second half of the 20th century. Yet unlike many of the country’s current generation of established artists who have benefitted from an overseas education and can rely on familial financing to indulge their art, Pratuang was born into an underprivileged family. His compositions have undergone dramatic stylistic and thematic transformations through the course of his career, from early emotive figuration that reflect the adversity and misery of a struggling artist, to the dissenting, politically aligned canvases of the 1970s. In the 1980s he turned to abstraction to convey themes attached to Buddhism and spirituality. These recent paintings on view in Breath of Creation at Ardel Gallery of Modern Art were all created in 2007, at a time when Pratuang was coming to terms with being diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, today the senior artist isn’t physically fit enough to put brush to canvas, but these works created in the early stages of illness invoke a spirit of optimism and determination. Painted in his familiar naïve style with vivid psychedelic hues, the exhibition brims with contemplative reflections on nature’s cyclical power and magnificence. Until Nov 21 bangkok 101

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performing arts

RAM THAI (Thai traditional dance)

Siam Niramit

Bangkok’s performing arts scene may not throb like in other cities, but look under the surface and you’ll find it there, beating to its own rhythm. No, there aren’t many plays, stage shows or performance pieces being staged, and sometimes it’s as if mainstream pop and rock acts are the only things that captivate the masses. Still, fans of the performing arts can find diamonds and everybody will appreciate the low ticket prices. For more information on what’s happening, visit these sites for event information:,


AKSRA THEATRE (map C3) King Power Complex 8/1 Rangnam Rd, Phaya Thai|BTS Victory Monument | 02-677-8888 ext 5678 | Tue-Fri 7pm, Sat-Sun 1pm&7pm In this spectacular new 600-capacity theatre, lined with fabled wood carvings, bear witness to hypnotic performances by the Aksra Hoon Lakorn Lek (Aksra Small Puppets) troupe. Intricate Thai puppets, given life by puppeteers swathed in black, act out Thai literary epics. Family entertainment of the most refined kind.

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PATRAVADI THEATRE (map A3) 69/1 Soi Wat Rakhang, Arun Amarin Rd, Thonburi | 02-412-7287~8 | Outside of university art departments, this is one of the few places in Bangkok to see contemporary performing arts. Its founder, the well-known Patravadi Mejudhon, created not only a theatre, but an entire arts complex, comprising classes, artists’ residencies and international exchanges. Performers are trained in classical as well as modern traditions; and the shows are world-class.

SIAM NIRAMIT (map D2) 19 Tiam Ruammit Rd | 02-649-9222 | A breathtaking, record-breaking extravaganza, hailed as “a showcase of Thailand”. Using hundreds of costumes and amazing special effects, more than 150 performers journey whirlwind-like through seven centuries of Siamese history. Up to 2,000 guests experience this spectacle nightly; eyepopping poignancy to some, detached fantasia to others.


NATIONAL THEATRE (map A3) 2 Rachini Rd, Sanam Luang | 02-224-1342, 02-225-8457~8 Along with the National Museum, the imposing theatre forms an island of high culture. Classical Thai drama, musicals and music performances – all elaborate affairs, sometimes strange to foreign eyes and ears – are staged on a small side stage and the open-air sala. The season runs from November to May, but you can catch classical Thai dance and music on the last Friday and Saturday nights of each month.

Traditional Thai theatre and dance takes many forms. The most accessible is khon, which depicts scenes from the Ramakien (the classic Thai epic based on the Hindu Ramayana), in graceful dances. Originally reserved for royal occasions, it’s now performed mainly for tourists in five-star hotels or at cultural shows across the city. At the Erawan Shrine (p.31), pay the colourful troupe a couple of hundred baht to see them perform. When visiting Vimanmek Mansion (p.28), don’t miss the performances there. More popular amongst Thais is ligay, a lively blend of comedy, dance and music, often with contemporary subject matter. Due to its improvised nature, non-Thais find it very difficult to follow. Puppet theatre, which nearly died out, has made a comeback at the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and Aksra Theatre. It also borrows heavily from the Ramakien (as do most soap operas on Thai TV), substituting human dancers with paper and wire puppets dressed in elaborate costumes. There are regular performances of contemporary theatre in Bangkok, predominantly at the Patravadi Theatre and the Thailand Cultural Centre. Also, though more influenced by Broadway than indigenous dance, don’t miss Bangkok’s gender-bending ladyboy cabarets (p.83).

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Perhaps the most active players on Bangkok’s arts scene are its cultural centres.These ensure that the scene stays booked with top-notch exhibitions (conventional and experimental) and performances from the world of visual arts, drama, dance, music, fashion, film, design, literature and more. The foreign contingent regularly put on events showcasing international talent. Ring up, check their websites or just drop by to find out what’s on.

cultural centres



his hip design learning and resource facility, plonked atop the Emporium shopping mall, aims to stimulate creativity and innovation among young Thai designers. Everyone, however, is free to attend its workshops, talks by prominent international designers and exhibitions. These are particularly WHERE 6F,The Emporium good at opening your Shopping Complex, mind and eyes to Sukhumvit 24 (map D4) BTS curious international Phrom Phong, 02-664-8448, design concepts; be it OPEN Vivienne Westwood’s 10:30am-9pm closed Mon fearlessly nonconformist fashions, or Le Corbusier-influenced Modern Thai architecture. Don’t miss permanent exhibition, “What is Design?” a look at how 10 countries have interpreted their cultural uniqueness to create 20th century design classics; or a peek at the swish, state-of-the-art library. With over 16,000 rare books, a large selection of multimedia, even a textile centre, this is where the city’s fresh-faced art, fashion, design and film students rush to the day before their final paper is due – only to end up distracted by the obscure arthouse DVDs and glossy tomes on modern Scandinavian architecture. Fortunately in-centre café Kiosk, with its strong Italian coffee and all-day-brunch, is on hand to keep the Kingdom’s next big things on track.


29 Sathorn Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-670-4200 | 10am6pm close Sun |



254 Chulalongkorn Soi 64 Siam Square, Phaya Thai Rd, Pathumwan | BTS Siam | 02-652-5480 ext 108 |



18/1 Goethe, Sathorn Soi 1 | MRT Lumphini | 02-2870942~4 ext.22 | 8am-6pm |



Serm-mit Tower, F10, Sukhumvit Soi 21 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-260-8560~4 | Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-5pm |

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BACC (map C3) 939 Rama I Rd, Pathumwan | BTS National Stadium | 02-214-6630-1 | Tue-Sun 10am-9pm | The eleven-storey Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) structure is engulfed by neighbouring shopping malls and looks out towards the city’s elevated skytrain.The Guggenheim meets a mall, the parabolic white concrete design has an interior defined by a circular atrium accentuating smooth curves around which exhibitions are hung. Potentially an important player in Thailand’s contemporary cultural development, the centre plans to nurture a scope of creative fields including theatre, film and design, with the upper levels boasting 3,000sqm for hosting art. Combine a trip here with a shopping assault at the nearby malls, which it’s linked to via a raised concrete walkway.


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APEX Lido and Scala (retro 1960s) Siam Square, Rama 1 Rd | BTS Siam | Lido 02-252-6498, Scala 02-251-2861,



angkok boasts world-class, stateof-the-art movie theatres showing the latest Hollywood and Thai blockbusters. A select few cinemas, notably House and Lido and the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cultural centres (p.55), screen less common independent and international films. Thai films are usually, in downtown Cineplexes at least, shown with English subtitles; foreign films with subtitles in Thai. Seats are reasonably priced at around B100-180. The best place to check screening times is on the daily-updated


stand while the Thai Cinema Noy Thrupkaew king's anthem is played in respect Judging from the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s movie posters, Bangkok to Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s beloved ^Q[Q\WZ[UQOP\I[[]UM\PI\<PIQĂ&#x2026;TUQKNIZMQ[TQUQ\ML monarch. \WMTMXPIV\QVMPQ[\WZQKITMXQK[UIOOW\aPWZZWZĂ&#x2020;QKS[



If you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fancy watching a movie at the local Cineplex, or at home on your living room couch, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s another option that falls snugly between the two. Mondays are Cinema Dine night at Bed Supperclub (p84), where staff serve three-course meals by Executive Chef Dan M. Ivarie (B1,450 plus gourmet popcorn; Thai cocktails for B100), while you watch a classic or cult flick. This month's cinematic theme is â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Cold November Villainsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. On 1 November, expect a night of Misery, as Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) keeps famed novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) safely tucked up in bed (forever). A week later on 8 November itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time to Die Hard, as master criminal Hans Gruber threatens to blow up Los Angeles, while John McClane (Bruce Willis) tries to stop him. Next up, on 15 November the action head north to Fargo, where car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) resorts to kidnap and murder to solve his financial woes. On 22 November, we say â&#x20AC;&#x153;Hello Clarice,â&#x20AC;? as Anthony Hopkins turns in a terrifying performance as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs. Last but not least is the most horrifying villain of all â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the inscrutable banker. Michael Douglas stars as Gordon Gekko alongside Charlie Sheen in Oliver Stoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1987 tale of monetary greed and redemption: Wall Street.). Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all folks â&#x20AC;&#x201C; for this month. Sleep wellâ&#x20AC;Ś Movies start at 9.30pm. Call 02-651-3537 or visit for details. 64

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HOUSE (Boutique art film cinema) Royal City Avenue (RCA), Petchaburi Rd | 02-641-5177

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Krungsri IMAX Theater (features the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest movie screen) 5th Fl., Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Rd | BTS Siam | 02-129-4631


PARAGON CINEPLEX 5th Fl., Siam Paragon, Rama | Rd l BTS Siam | 02-129-4635-6 or Movie line 02-515-5555


SF CINEMA CITY MBK (VIP Class) 7th Fl., MBK Center, Phaya Thai Rd | BTS National Stadium | 02-611-6444


SFX CINEMA CITY Emporium (Cineplex) 6th Fl., Emporium, Sukhumvit 24 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-260-9333

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MAJOR CINEPLEX SUKHUMVIT 1221/39 sukhumvit Rd., North Klongtan | BTS Ekkamai | 02-381-4855

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MAJOR CINEPLEX RATCHAYOTHIN 1839 Phaholyothin Rd. | BTS Mochit, MRT Paholyothin, then taxi | 02-5113311

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SFX Emporium

bangkok 101

reading & screening

In Print

*IVOSWSQ[PWUM\WIVMaMXWXXQVOIZZIaWN M`KMTTMV\JWWS[PWX[[UITTTIZOM IVL[XZI_TQVO2][\PMILNWZIVaUIRWZUITT·;QIU8IZIOWV-UXWZQ]U)TT ;MI[WV[8TIKM+MV\ZIT?WZTLWZ+MV\ZIT+PQ\TWU\WVIUMINM_[MMUITTTQ[\ QVO[WVX·IVLTWWSNWZKPIQVNI^W]ZQ\M[TQSM)[QI*WWS[3QVWS]VQaI*;6IQ1VWZ*WWSIbQVM8TMV\aWN W\PMZ [\IVLITWVMTWKITJWWS[\WZM[IKZW[[\W_VWNNMZ\PMTI\M[\QVXZQV\VM_IVL][ML MASTERING MUAY THAI Joe E. Harvey | Tuttle Publishing | 180pp | $29.95 As the numbers of foreign pugilists flocking to kick-boxer training schools across the Kingdom suggests, Muay Thai is one of the world’s fastest growing martial arts. And behind every sporting phenomenon these days, you can be sure that a glut of how-to-master manuals will follow. With over 200 colour photographs, diagrams and easyto-follow, detailed breakdowns of all the basic movements, strikes, defences and intricate combinations, this chunky new effort will have you thinking you’re the next Tony Jaa in no time. One caveat, though: if you’re looking to learn about the sport’s history, rituals and notions of honour, as well as its techniques, look elsewhere (there is no mention of the wai kruu ceremony that precedes fights here in Thailand, for example). An excellent illustrative book, then, about muay Thai, the speed, strength and cardio-vascular improving sport – not muay Thai, the ancient artform.


Thai theatres are notorious for their rapid turnover rates, making DVDs WVM WN  \PM JM[\ _Ia[ NWZ ^Q[Q\WZ[ \W M`XTWZM <PIQ ÅTU <PIQ ,>,[ IZM ZMILQTa I^IQTIJTM QV 5IVO 8WVO W]\TM\[ QV UIRWZ UITT[ J]\ JMNWZM X]ZKPI[QVOKPMKS\PMJIKSNWZ-VOTQ[P [ ] J \ Q \ T M [  I V L  ,> ,  Z M O Q W V KWUXI\QJQTQ\a QN  aW] LWV¼\ PI^M IV ITTZMOQWV ,>, XTIaMZ -VOTQ[P []J\Q\TML ^MZ[QWV[ IZM IT[W WN\MV I^IQTIJTMI[M`XWZ\[NZWU0WVO3WVO I\_MJ[Q\M[[]KPI[___PSÅTUKWU WZ___aM[I[QIKWU bangkok 101

KLONGS Pamela Hamburger | Bangkok Book House Co | 140pp | B995 Arguably the biggest losers in Bangkok’s slapdash modernisation have been its khlongs, or canals. For proof, take a trip down Klong Saen Saeb: along this poisonous central waterway you are more likely to see people pinching their noses than glimpses of the fabled “Venice of the East”. And this is one of the lucky ones – many were unceremoniously filled in to make way for roads.This book offers a collection of interviews with those living along remaining subsidiary khlongs – ladies, as old as their wooden homes, mostly – topped off with Hamburger’s boatbound snapshots. What emerges is mainly a sad indictment of Bangkok’s environmental negligence,and a testimony to the resilience of these stoic water communities. Most edifying though are the anthropological insights to be gleaned from the stories, which span everything from local Muslim/ Buddhist relations and dying handicrafts to watery ghost folk tales. One hopes that if moves are made to preserve them, the khlongs may still have more stories to tell.

THAI CULTURE IN TRANSITION William J.Klausner | The Siam Society, under Royal Patronage | 281pp | B350 A chapter entitled “Intellectuals in Thailand” in this insightful collection discusses the distinct “paucity of intellectual ferment” in the kingdom. Despite the influence of sage, Buddhainspired thought, Thailand does not have much of a philosophical tradition; the author persuasively argues that the kind of critical reflection and academic analysis required is complete anathema to the Thai character. Although, as suggested in the title of the fourth edition of his book, all that may change when Thailand emerges, shaken and stirred, from the tumultuous hurricane of globalisation. Overall, Klausner is an impressively credentialed ethnographer, knowledgeable on myriad aspects of the culture.Yet he wears his erudition lightly, even while peppering the reader with wisdom drawn from decades of Thai studies. In sum, Thai Culture in Transition deserves a readership far beyond the dusty halls of academia.

FAN CHAN (MY GIRL) Vicha Gojiew, et al. | $13.95 | 2003 This surprise 2003 blockbuster charmed its way to the topgrossing spot with a nostalgia-brewing soundtrack and a vividly drawn relationship between childhood sweethearts, Jeab and Noi Nah. The best friends and neighbors find their childhood idyll gradually pulled apart by the forces of socialization and conformity, in the form of a belligerent boygang that pressures Jeab to give up his sissy girl-loving ways. Helmed by no less than six directors, Fan Chan feels a bit squashy and overlong in places, but is saved from treacly sentiment by dint of fresh performances from its child actors, who manage to be natural and affecting without being cloying. Make sure to get the Hong Kong-import version; the Thai release lacks English subtitles.

ar ts



dining in bangkok

Food is of the utmost importance here. Locals have been known to brave the beast of Bangkok traffic and make cross-town journeys with the sole purpose of sampling a bowl of noodles at a famous local shop. Thais often ask each other “Gin Kao Leu Yung” or “Have you eaten rice yet?”. This shouldn’t be understood in the literal sense, but almost as another way Thais say hello. It’s how Thai people socialise. The true Thai dining experience requires that all dishes be shared; real evidence of the importance of dining to the sense of community.

Sua Non Kin


taste of Bangkok doesn’t just stop at Thailand’s world-famous national cuisine; flags of all nationalities fly here, and the results can be amazing. Tom yum soup and creamy curries can be found alongside seared foie gras, crispy tempura and heart-stopping steaks. It won’t be a challenge to find some culinary dynamite for your palate. You’re bound to eat very well, whether it is at the sexiest, high-end locales, or at the origin of most local food - the streets, where you can get a very tasty, hearty meal at a nondescript stall, or even crackling grasshoppers and worms. Fantastic food is also available round the clock, although choices narrow as it gets closer to midnight. Many restaurants have closing times of 9pm or earlier. However, plenty of them feed late-night appetites (see p.75). If you really want to bump elbows with the locals and get to the heart of things, Bangkok’s street food culture doesn’t acknowledge the concept of time, with many vendors carrying on into the wee hours. If a business can survive by trading when everyone is asleep, then it must be good, right? So whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, slightly picky or a try-anything-once, you’re in for a non-stop gastronomical journey.


$ under B400 The price guide to the right indicates what you can expect to pay per-person for a meal, $$ B400 – B1,000 not including drinks. Many restaurants run special deals so don’t be shy when asking about $$$ B1,000 – B2,000 promotions, especially at lunchtime when many of the more upmarket restaurants offer $$$$ over B2,000 set-menus at great prices. Lastly, to avoid any nasty surprises be sure to read the menu carefully. When prices are followed by '++', the so called 'plus plus', this means a service charge (typically 10 per cent) and government tax (7 per cent) will be added to your bill.

Butt Out

Smokers beware. Lighting-up indoors is forbidden at all air-conditioned restaurants and bars citywide – you risk being fined B2,000 (US$60), and subjecting the restaurant owner to a lashing B20,000 (US$600) penalty. Exempted are outdoor areas, and, in practice, many Japanese and Korean restaurants. 66

food & drink

bangkok 101

meal deals

Tsu & Nami 6th Anniversary, JW Marriott Bangkok

Loy Krathong, Apsara, Banyan Tree Bangkok

Nami Teppanyaki Steakhouse and Tsu Traditional Japanese Restaurant celebrate their joint 6th anniversaries by offering a special menu at B6,666++ for two diners all through November. The tempting menu includes Australian beef amiyaki and Kobe beef striploin. 02-656-7700.

Tapas Fiesta, Minibar Royale

Live Gigantic King Crab, Déjà Vu, Pullman Bangkok

To celebrate the hotel’s third anniversary, Chef Lin Yu prepares dishes made from and inspired by imported Alaskan king crab. The set menu includes starter, soup, main course (choose any two from five) and noodles at only B388 nett per person per 100 grams. Until Nov 28. 02-680-9999.

On November 21, wine and dine the night away aboard the Apsara, which serves up a royal Thai buffet (B3,900 ++ per person) as you make your way down the Chao Praya River. Feel the romance as fireworks light up the night sky. 02-679-1200.

Thanksgiving, The Square, Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square

Full Moon Party, CM2, Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square

With an international live band and DJ every night of the week at Concept CM2 , enjoy the fun at the Full Moon Party on November 20 when the X-Posure band will rule the night. Entry costs B899 net per person with two drinks. 02-209-8888; bangkok 101

To mark the American festival on November 25, The Square presents an selection of traditional dishes for lunch and dinner. The lunch buffet costs B599++ per person, and the dinner buffet B950++ per person (including freeflow cocktails and wines). 02-209-8888

Hey gringo – it’s time for Tapas Fiesta. Get together a group of friends and enjoy a variety of authentic tapas, including Serrano ham, tomato and feta salad, and Portobello mushroom stuffed with creamy crabmeat and tiger prawn gambas al ajillo. 02-261-5533

Melbourne Cup Race Day Brunch, VIE Wine & Grill, VIE Hotel Bangkok

Chef Gaetano Trovato, La Scala, The Sukhothai Bangkok

Chef Gaetano Trovato, owner of two-Michelinstar restaurant Arnolfo Ristorante in Siena, Italy, will be at The Sukhothai Bangkok from November 9-13. Chef Trovato is one of the world’s foremost experts in Tuscan cuisine. 02-344-8888;

food & drink

On November 2, cheer on the gee-gees at the VIE Wine & Grill as the Melbourne Cup is broadcast live from Australia. Sustenance is offered via the international brunch buffet (B750 net) with fine wines and Australian imported beers also on hand. 10.30am-3pm. 02-309-3939.



thai cuisine



he chance to sample some authentic Thai cuisine is one of the best reasons to visit (and linger in) Bangkok. Its astonishing variety of flavours and textures, which comes from a marriage of centuries-old Western (namely Portuguese, Dutch and French) and Eastern (think Indian, Chinese and Japanese) influences, ranks Thai as one of the best cuisines in the world. The traditional Thai way of living unified people with their environment. Meals were communal events uniting families with the seasons. Rice is the main staple, accompanied by myriad curries and side dishes made from local ingredients.The pre-industrial custom of wrapping foods in natur al Eating is a materials per sists communal t o d a y ; l a b o u rand intensive desserts or savoury mousses are social affair in Thailand. wrapped in banana leaves and the tops of coconuts are chopped off for a quick and refreshing elixer. Compared to the West, eating is much more of a communal and social affair in Thailand. Once Thais sit together, they automatically take care of one another. No Thai dish is an independent one; at the dinner table they’re all meant to be shared. 68

Thai beliefs about the cooling and heating properties of different foods – particularly fruits – are influenced by Chinese concepts of yin and yang. Excessive consumption of heating fruits like durian (the fetidly fragrant “King of Fruits”) can lead to fever, cold sores, and a sore throat, according to traditional beliefs; overindulgence in cooling fruits like pears can result in dizziness and chills. So if you are feasting on durian, make sure to eat plenty of mangosteen, the cooling Queen of Fruits, to balance everything out.

food & drink

Mu Sa-Te Tom Yam Goong

Thai Food 101 Q Popular Thai Dishes Here’s a sampling of great local dishes to look for – and it’s just the tip of the iceberg: Tom yam goong (spicy shrimp soup) Tom kha gai (chicken in coconut soup) Phad thai (Thai-style fried noodles) Mu/gai sa-te (pork/chicken skewers) Som tam (spicy green papaya salad) Yam nua (spicy beef salad) Gai yang (grilled chicken) Phanaeng (curry coconut cream) Kaeng phet pet yang (roast duck curry) Kaeng khiao wan gai (green curry chicken) Phad kaphrao (stir-fried meat with sacred basil) Gai phad met mamuang himmaphan (stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts) Q Drinks Most street vendors offer a range of normal drinks, including coffee, but there are always some surprises available.Try any of these liquid specialties when eating on the streets. Nam ma prao (coconut juice) Nam krajeab (rosella flower juice) Nam matoom (bael fruit juice) Nam ta-krai (lemongrass juice) Nam tao hoo (hot soy bean milk) Cha yen (Thai iced tea with condensed milk) bangkok 101

thai sweets

‘Polamai’: Thai Fruits

It’s often a strange land for foreign eyes, but weirdness is all relative. To you those fuzzy, furry, spiky, hairy, sometimes humongous obscure items are just downright bizarre. But to the locals well, it’s just good ol’ healthy nutritious fruit. Having unfamiliar names like rambutan, mangosteen and durian only lends to the mysterious, perhaps even scary, stigma surrounding Thai fruits. Fruits are often eaten as a snack or transformed into a dessert, or featured in meals. Particularly coconuts. Street carts patrol the sidewalks with ice-chilled offerings of seasonal fruits. However these vendors don’t exactly uphold hygiene standards, so proceed at your own discretion. All fruits are almost always available year round in supermarkets, but some are better at certain times of year. Here’s a look at what and when to eat.


A humongous fruit, the sweet pomelo (known in Thai as the som o) is like a big green grapefruit, or a supersized orange. Almost the size of a bowling ball you can’t help but suspect it was genetically modified but we assure you this is all natural. It can be enjoyed on its own, or with some syrup. Supermarkets sell them in packages already peeled and sliced for your enjoyment. The fruit itself has a predominantly sweet flavour. It can also be mixed into Thai salad making Yum Som O. Pomelos are here year round. bangkok 101

food & drink



street eats

Street Food Hotspots


treet food is a central ingredient in the stew of Bangkok’s culture. So much so that if you took away the city’s rot khen (mobile vendor carts) it would begin to taste rather bland. Some open for lunch only; while others open all night. However, though they are common to every street, knowing which carts sell what, when and where (not to mention well) is a skill many Bangkokians pride themselves on. Short on time? Then make for one of the following hotspots, where clusters of vendors sell great feeds for little more than pocket-change.



Our roving street-food eater Nym knows her local grub inside out – and thrives on the stories behind the dishes. Each month, she takes an offbeat tour in search of the next delectable morsel. From roadside vendor stalls to hidden restaurants, serious foodies would be well advised to follow her trail.


Lying at a right angle to the backpacker bedlam of Khao San Road, Tanao Road is a welcome breath of fresh air. With its low-rise Sino-Portuguese architecture, much of which either dates from or was inspired by the era of King Rama IV (1804-1868), the street retains a nostalgic charm rapidly disappearing from Bangkok. At the northern end of the road, on the right-hand side you’ll find a shrine dedicated to the Tiger God, or San Jao Por Sue, which occupies part of what was once Bangkok’s first fresh market. Before I pay my respects at this sacred shrine, I always make sure to first stop by one of the area’s many famous food stalls for a bite to eat. One such place is Mae Lamead, which makes Thai Crispy Crepe or khanom bueng Thai. In business for more than 70 years, the traditional recipe for these delicious snacks has been passed down from generation to generation. They resemble crispy tacos with colourful filling, but the taste is nothing like what you’d expect.There are two distinct types: sweet or salty.The first is comprised of refined, shredded coconut, foy thong (a variation on fios de ovos, a golden-coloured Portuguese sweet made from duck yolk and sugar), dried persimmon and caramelised wax gourd, with each bite crunching through different layers of sweetness.The salty one, meanwhile, is made up of pepper, coriander, shredded coconut, and mixed shrimp – a delightful savoury treat. While you’re enjoying your new discovery, take the time to admire the collection of ancient altars on the wall – proof positive that this stall represents a taste of the past. Khanom Bueng Mae Lamead, 286 Tanao Rd. Open Tue-Sun, 10.30am-5pm.


food & drink

SUKHUMVIT SOI 38 Directly beneath BTS Thong Lo station, the mouth of this soi fills up with food vendors selling late-night delicacies to passing commuters. Sample the delicate, handmade egg noodles, or Hong Kong noodles; and never head home without trying the sticky rice with mango. SURAWONG A long row of street vendors offers special noodle dishes along this street near Patpong Night Market. Be sure to try the stewed chicken noodles in herbal soup in front of the Wall Street Building. Stalls are open from 10pm until 4am. CORNER OF SILOM/CONVENT ROAD The stalls at the mouth of Soi Convent are popular with inebriated night crawlers; but it’s the B10 sticks of moo ping (grilled pork) served by one rotund, Zen master vendor that are justly famous. Go before the bars close (about 2-3am) to avoid the queues. PRATUNAM Midnight khao mun gai (Hainanese chicken rice)! There are two shops at the intersection of Pratunam (on corner of Petchaburi Road Soi 30); the first one is brighter and good, but if you like your sauce authentic – with lots of ginger – go to the second one. Also, try the pork satay with peanut sauce. CHINATOWN Shops fill the streets after dark.There’s an amazing range to sample, but a must-try for seafood fans is the vendor at the corner of Soi Texas. A bit farther on the other side of the street you can get delicious egg noodles with barbecued pork. For dessert, try fantastic black sesame seed dumplings in ginger soup next door. SOI RAMBUTRI (NEAR KHAO SAN ROAD) Many a hangover has been stopped in its tracks after a pre-emptive bowl of jok moo (rice porridge with pork) from the famous stall in front of Swenson’s. Popular among tipsy Thai teenyboppers, this is just one of Soi Rambuttri’s many late night food stalls. bangkok 101



MAHANAGA (map D4) 2 Sukhumvit Soi 29 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-3060 | | 5:30pm-11pm | $$$ When Mahanaga appeared on the scene several years back, we were wowed by its seductive atmospheres â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the charming two-storied main house, the fairy-light lit courtyard, the two Arabesque dining pavilions that border it â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and it quickly became the hippest place in town for a romantic Thai meal. Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dining scene has come a long way since then though, and it appears Mahanaga knows it: in the last few months the management has phased out its signature fusion food in an attempt to recapture the old magic. Gone are the hit-and-miss nouveau creations that never caught on in favour of straight-up traditional Thai. On the menu, the new family sharing menu offers the best value, allowing your table to enjoy politely spiced dishes, like the thick pork green curry, and grilled beef with nam jiew dipping sauce, the communal Thai way. Other highlights include mieng salmon krathong thong, and warm, sweet deep-fried bananas with ice cream. One tip: after your meal, take your post-prandial cocktail or coffee in the Moroccan-style main house, where plush sofas and billowing silks threaten to delay your departure by a good half hour. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re paying for Mahanagaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sumptuous setting, so you might as well get your moneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth.


bangkok 101

TAKSURA (map C3) 334/1 Soi Thammasaroj, Saphan Chalerm Lar 56, Phayathai Road | BTS Ratchathewi | 02-215-8870; www. | 5pm-1am Taksura attracts a mixed crowd: office workers, high-school students, university undergraduates and foreign travellers all flock here to enjoy reasonably-priced food in a fantastic setting. Diners have the option of sitting inside the old wooden house (seats 20) or on the outdoor terrace, which has space for 10 or so customers. The menu is straightforward, clearly divided into gin kum kum (starters), ao nuk nuk (mains), and lastly â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and this probably explains the universal attraction â&#x20AC;&#x201C; â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Drink â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;til Dropâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Indeed, the entire food menu merely serves as a prelude to the alcoholic accompaniment, no surprise when you realise that in Thai â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Takâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; means ladle and â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Suraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; is liquor. Still, there are a number of must-try dishes, including pla shon boran (â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Serpent Headâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; fish mixed with Thai herbs), kor moo yang (fried marinated pork) and yum tua ploo (fresh wing bean salad served with hard-boiled egg). All use fresh ingredients and come in perfect sharing sized portions. With its relaxed vibe and fun-seeking crowd, this is the place to head to for an evening of dinner and drinks. Come before 7pm to reserve a table on Friday and Saturday nights when the live acoustic band performs and the crowd sings along. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that type of place.

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RUEN MALLIKA (map D4) 189 Sukhumvit Soi 22 | 02-663-3211 | | 11am-11pm | $$ Located in an enchanting 19th century teak house, this Bangkok favourite is known citywide for one dish: fried edible flowers. Once theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re on your table, the colourful arrangement is almost too beautiful to eat, but you shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be afraid to tuck in â&#x20AC;&#x201C; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a unique not-to-be-missed delicacy. The large picture menu introduces a large variety of royal Thai food, which translates into high-quality, healthy cooking, with vegetables that are grown in the restaurantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own garden. If you're new in town, spice levels can be tailored to your request.


Ruen Mallika



INTERNATIONAL DEAN & DELUCA (map C4) MahaNakhon Pavilion, Chong Nonsi | BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-234-1434 | 7am – 8pm | $ Expect to be seeing a lot more of Dean & Deluca: the gourmet food chain from New York plans to roll out not one, but two 8,000sq ft market halls in Bangkok in the next couple of years. In the meantime though, you can enjoy their fine sandwiches and cups of excellent baristabrewed coffee in this posh, scaleddown café version located beside the Mahanakorn Project, the luxury skyscraper that’s set to be Thailand’s tallest on completion. If you’re not familiar with this culinary tour de force responsible for introducing high-end food to Manhattan’s masses in the late 1970s, here’s the D&D mantra: only the best raw ingredients make the grade. And when they say best, they mean the absolute very best. The Dean & Deluca food buyers traipse the globe, sourcing the finest artisan-made produce the planet has to offer, from balsamic vinegars to exotic spices and Michel Cluizel chocolate. In this bright, modern space with soft grey tones you can browse a slim selection of these epicurean treats, before ordering in a chunky sandwich, like the best-selling (but ever so slightly messy) avocado and goat’s cheese bagel, or perhaps a fresh simple salad. There are also decadent pastries and cupcakes. All in all, Dean & Deluca looks destined for success in Bangkok: though it’s simply-flavoured foods may seem bland to some Thai palates, the lunchtime queue of Chong Nonsi-based office workers prove there’s clearly a big market for just that. Promisingly, there are also hints that it won’t just be a culturally-blind facsimile of the New York megastore – already on the menu are some new, homegrown Thai-inspired items, such as the thick and addictively textured mango and sticky rice shake.

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Dean & Deluca

LA TABLE DE TEE (map C4) 69/5 Sala Daeng Rd., Silom | BTS Sala Deang, MRT Silom | 02-636-3220 | | Tue–Sun 6.30pm-10.30pm | $$ Chef Chatree ‘Tee’ Kachornklin returned home after six years of working in the kitchens of London’s Michelin-starred Roussilon restaurant, where he climbed his way up the ladder from kitchen hand to sous chef. Now back in Bangkok, Tee made his local debut with a restaurant that is bolder and more ambitious than its modest and intimate setting suggests. La Table de Tee offers a six-course tasting menu which changes on a weekly basis. His rotating menu blends classical French techniques with fresh local ingredients, including fruit and vegetables from the Royal Project. While Tee gets full marks for presentation, and dishes such as the delicate tomato consommé with Tiger prawn ravioli, and impeccable chocolate praline; the execution on other items, like the unevenly cooked steamed seasoned vegetables, shows this young chef is still maturing.

ĈĕğúğýėĈğ÷ĐúĘčĘĈĄ food & drink

THE DECK BY THE RIVER (map A3) Arun Residence, 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Rd, Rattanakosin Island | 02-221-9158 | 11am-10pm | | $$ Make sure to reserve in advance to guarantee a coveted second-floor outdoor seat at this elegant little restaurant, attached to boutique hotel Arun Residence. While the jawdropping view at The Deck steals the show – just try to look away from the great brown swath of the Chao Phraya, and the Khmer-inflected prangs of Wat Aru – the ambitious menu attempts to live up to its setting, embracing French, touches of other Continental cuisines, as well as traditional and nouveau Thai. Highlights include the grilled mushrooms prepared with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, while the saffron risotto with grilled prawns is simply wonderful; the rich, well-textured morsels offsetting the perfectly grilled seafood. Their chocolate fondant guarantees a sweet end to the night.

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bangkok 101

ITALIAN GIANNI’S (map C3) 34/1 Soi Tonson, Ploen Chit Rd | BTS Ploen Chit & Chit Lom | 02-252-1619 | | 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm | $$$ In an area filled with restaurants, spas and art galleries, not to mention the neighbouring American and Dutch embassies, this cosy Italian place stands out thanks to its sheer consistency, faultless food and perfect service. Gianni’s was one of the first ‘real’ Italian restaurants to open in town, setting off an avalanche of openings that has yet to slow down. However, despite the increased competition, Chef Gianni has maintained a large group of regular diners. The large, warmly-lit room is bursting with diners nightly (reservations are necessary on any given evening), most ordering the daily changing specials. Though the menu doesn’t serve up too much in the way of surprises, it offers thoroughly composed, impeccable creations (and a wine list to match). If you're still peckish, they also make their own delicious banana breakfast muffins.


LIMONCELLO (map D3) 17 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-651-0707 | 12pm-2pm, 6pm11pm | $ A cosy space with warm lemon-yellow walls and arched ceilings, Limoncello is the quintessential neighbourhood pizza joint – albeit an upmarket one. Although the restaurant also serves delicious pastas, the pie is the main draw here. With only thin crust on offer, less is more when it comes to toppings – look out for the parma ham and marscapone pizza – oh-so decadent, with a whisper of smoke from the wood oven adding extra flavour. Although you may at times wish for a crust with more body to stand up to more assertive ingredients (or your raging appetite), Limoncello is good for a light, sophisticated – and traditional – bite.This is recommended dining, and a bargain at the price.


bangkok 101

Le Pre Grill


FRENCH BOUCHOT (map D4) Oakwood Residence, 15 Sukhumvit Soi 24 | 02-258-5510 | 6am-10:30am, 11:30am-2pm, 5pm-midnight | $$-$$$ Bouchot has a creative touch that belies its serviced apartment location. It stands alone, so you don’t need to walk through reception, and it’s accessed by descending stairs into a faux Parisian street scene, complete with café tables and atmospheric shop facades. It’s an ideal introduction to a cosy, basement bar and bistro whose speciality is French- and Belgian-style mussels. Imported every Monday and Thursday, the shellfish are served in half or full kilos in a silver metal bowl, accompanied by either French bread or fries and a choice of sauces. They’re best to eat with your hands, accompanied by a glass or two of house wine (four choices from B220). A half kilo is good for two people, and those with middling appetites may find that’s enough. Otherwise, there’s also a list of appetisers, salads and pastas and a few crowd-pleasing mains such as rack of lamb, salmon and rib eye. Desserts include a good crème brulée and a so-so banoffee pie. In sum, mussels are the stars of the Bouchot show, but the rest is also extremely decent bistro fare. Bon appétit.

ġĐʼnåĊĜň÷ğĆčìėğ÷ňüúŋùčěãěĄĊėúì food & drink

LE PRE GRILL (MAP C4) 2 Narathiwat Rd | 02-266-5899 | BTS Chong Nonsi | | 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm | $$ Though it’s standard practice to judge a restaurant’s quality by how busy it is, this shouldn’t always be the case. For instance, on a recent Friday evening Le Pre Grill was quiet – but the food superb. Formerly on Langsuan, the restaurant’s new location near the Chong Nonsi BTS is large, with a bar, space for private parties and upstairs mezzanine area. Here, chef and owner Jay, who lived in France for ten years, serves his food fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. The cuisine is traditional French, but free of the excessive buttery richness you often find on such menus. For instance, the prawn and avocado salad has just the right amount of spice from the reduced balsamic and seafood sauce. Meanwhile, the delicious snails have a soft, creamy texture seasoned by a thin coating of garlic butter; while the lamb is cooked a perfect medium rare. If there is one misfire, it is the soso twice cooked duck – but the rest, much like the service, is impeccable. It might be selfish, but we see the lack of crowds as an advantage – we hope to have this excellent restaurant to ourselves for as long as possible.

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VIETNAMESE XUAN MAI (mapE4) 351/3 Sukhumvit 55 (near Thong Lor Soi 17) | 02-185-2619 | BTS Thong Lor | www.xuanmairestaurant. com |11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm (11.30pm Fri-Sat) | $ A few years ago, former FBI agent and unintentional chef Meyung Robson’s popular Vietnamese restaurant left the homey confines of Soi 13 for the main stage of Thong Lor. Small, friendly and delicious, this restaurant’s army of followers happily migrated with her. Meyung has a fascinating story: having been a beauty queen in Saigon during the war, she later fled with her family only wearing the clothes on their backs, before finding a home in the USA. She then became the FBI's first ever agent of Vietnamese ethnicity, before eventually leaving the agency and settling here and opening Xuan Mai. Start off with the feather-light, Imperial spring rolls, and follow it up with a healthy portion of young lotus shoot salad with shrimp and BBQ pork. The ridiculously tender tamarind braised pork with rice was delicious, but despite being a Vietnamese restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself an injustice if you don’t save room (be warned: portions are massive) for the brilliant passion fruit crème brulee. Served in a coconut it’s irresistibly creamy, and you won’t be able to stop yourself scraping the scrumptious dish off the sides of its shell.



Roadhouse Barbecue

AMERICAN ROADHOUSE BARBECUE SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL (map B3) 942/1 Surawong Rd | BTS Saladaeng, MRT Silom | 02-236-8010 | | daily 11am-2am | $$ Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And spewing out from this honky-tonk rib joint are the sweet aromas of genuine, chop-lickin’ bliss. Hunkered down at the intersection of Surawong and Rama IV, Roadhouse is a carnivores’ pleasure dome. A bustling street level bar and restaurant offers up live music, while a quieter non-smoking dining room is

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upstairs. Meanwhile, a sports bar on the third floor boasts a professional billiards table, a full-length shuffle board, foosball and wide-screen TVs. The open-kitchen and its US-made smokers churn out perfectly cooked ribs, buffalo wings, beef brisket and hickory smoked chicken. The awardwinning beanless Roadhouse Chili – a must-try– features tender steak; while grill fans should order the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Don’t forget to save room for dessert. We suggest a succulent slice of Key Lime pie or their deep-fried vanilla ice cream.


bangkok 101

Grand Pearl

RIVER DINING CRUISES A cruise along the legendary Chao Phraya can only be topped by combining it with exquisite Thai food. Although touristy, a gastro-cruise is one of Bangkok’s most romantic outings, the chance to take in the river sights while getting stuffed. Most riverside hotels offer lunch and/or dinner cruises, some on large, modern ships seating hundreds (Shangri-La) or on smaller, refurbished antique rice barges (Apsara, Manohra, Oriental).Whether you are looking for a peaceful romantic sojourn, traditional dance shows or a blaring disco dinner buffet, you won’t be disappointed. Cruises range from B700 to B1,700 pp, depending on how well you dine, and last two to three hours. Most include a buffet or set dinner. Advance reservations suggested. Manohra

QCHAO PHRAYA CRUISE 02-541-5599 | QGRAND PEARL CRUISE 02-861-0255 | QHORIZON CRUISE The Shangri-La | 02-266-8165-6 | QLOY NAVA 02-437-4932 | QMANOHRA CRUISES 02-477-0770 | QWAN FAH 02-222-8679 | QYOK YOR 02-863-0565 |

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Thai-style buffet

Oliver Benjamin

One of the most interesting modes of communal chowing-down in Thailand is moo kata. Though it’s probably a remote descendant of Mongolian barbecue, and similar in some ways to Korean barbecue, it has evolved over the eons into something quintessentially Thai. No visitor should leave the country before engaging in one of these fun, frenzied communal cookouts, which are especially abundant in and around Bangkok. Moo kata literally means “skillet pork,” though it’s a bit of a misnomer as pork is only one of the many foodstuffs that end up in the mix. The skillet itself is a sort of dome-shaped metal pan with a trough running around its outer edge – like a derby hat for a robot.The entire thing sits upon hot coals in the centre of the table and is laden with all variety of meats and seafood. The trough is filled with hot water and rapidly becomes broth as the meat juices run down the side of the dome. Leafy green vegetables are dunked in the clear soup as well. No moo kata would be complete without a hunk of pig fat placed on top like a cholesterol cherry: it helps flavour the skillet and turns from white to black in the course of the evening. Q36 MOO KATA THONG 1582/1 Sukhumvit Rd. Soi 50 | On Nut BTS | 02-742-7288 | 4pm-midnight | B99++ 76

JAPANESE Imoya IMOYA (MAP D4) 3/F Terminal Shop Cabin, 2/17-19 Sukhumvit 24 BTS Phrom Phong | 02663-5185 | 5pm – midnight | $$ An upstairs hidey-hole just yards from Emporium mall, Imoya resembles a gritty Tokyo joint from a noir 1970s gangster flick – and comes off all the more memorable for it. Tatty old Japanese B-movie and beer posters adorn the corrugated iron walls, while the staff flit up and down the skuzzy, oddly alley-like corridors, serving cures for homesickness to Bangkok’s salarymen. Lone sake sippers sit up at the moody sushi bar while groups grab a table or cubicle with tatami mats, and those allergic to Imoya’s tobacco tang (erm, hello, smoking ban?) grab the smoke-free seats. Reasonable prices and bags of variety on the plastic-backed menu make this a good place for impulse ordering. Tuck into the sanma yaki fish or kimuchi nabe (vegetable hotpot) and don’t be surprised if you find yourself demanding another – we did. Not that everything’s great. The sashimi’s okay, for example, but not a patch on the stuff that you find in the best hotels, while the maguro don (tuna over rice) just left us shrugging our shoulders. Well worth seeking out then – where else in Bangkok can you sink glasses of sake while pretending you’re a yakuza boss with nothing to lose? – but do beware the odd duff dish.


KUSHI-TEI OF TOKYO (MAPE4) Penny’s Balcony GF,Thong Lor Soi 16(opposite J-Avenue) | 02 - 3923518 | BTS Thong Lor | 6-11pm | $ Cameron Diaz’s titular character in the 1997 comedy, There’s Something About Mary, once said: “I don’t think they have enough meats on sticks.” She’s obviously never been to Asia. Japan, for example, has an entire subgenre of food called kushiyaki (“kushi” means sticks), which only involves meats on sticks. With a few branches already up and grilling in Europe, this is the restaurant’s first food & drink

Southeast Asian branch. The menu consists of your basic, like chicken, to your notso- basic, like maguro with wasabi mayonnaise and lobster, while some of the scarier staples like chicken hearts/livers/gizzards/cartilage, which are quite common in restaurants of this kind, are non-existant. Perhaps the only complaint about the food are the items that include bacon, where the chef seems to have added an extra sprinkling of salt that will instantly send your sodium levels soaring. Though, perhaps it’s just their clever way of getting you to quench yourself with another bottle of their refreshing umeshu plum wine.



KOREAN KONGJU (MAP C3) 2nd Fl. Pathumwan Princess Hotel (behind MBK) 444 Phayathai Rd | BTS National Stadium | 02-216-3700 | | 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 10pm | $-$$ When K-pop fever swept through town a few years ago, this Korean eatery shot up the popularity charts like Rain on the Asian billboard. Like all other things Korean in Bangkok, Kongju has its own pack of overexcited fans these days. Start with geo jeol pan, a Korean hors d’oeuvre, where nine different fillings are rolled in a thin pancake. Unlike other outlets, lazy diners can have these pre-rolled by the restaurant. But with the sizzling grill front and centre on your table, it’s almost impossible to remain handsoff when it comes to the barbecue. Communal, Do-It-Yourself cooking is very popular in Thailand – this being a perfect example – and almost every kind of meat is available for your choosing, from prime ribeye steaks via spare ribs to seafood accompanied by one of the tastiest dipping sauces around. Knock that all down with a stiff shot of soju, a vodkalike Korean rice wine that can come in different flavours, and for dessert go for an icy cinnamon punch, for a cool and pleasingly refreshing finish.

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bangkok 101




Wholesome ingredients, honest cooking and serious drinks â&#x20AC;&#x201C; thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the promise of new Thong Lor starlet Soul Food Mahanakorn. The restaurant is the creation of food critic Jarrett Wrisley, who once plied his trade in Shanghai before upping sticks and relocating to Bangkok. Originally conceived as a full-on eatery, Wrisley quickly realised that a better use of the small former shop space would be a Thai-style izakaya, serving a menu of unique, signature cocktails, and regional street food made from quality ingredients, including homemade north-eastern-style sausages and larb; herb-fed, free range pork and chicken dishes; and organic rice brought in from Yasothorn. With the entrance (about 50m up from Thong Lo BTS station) marked by a swinging sign, the cosy interior features wooden-panelled ZDOOVVWRQHĂ&#x20AC;RRUVGLVFUHWHOLJKWLQJDQGRULJLQDODUWZRUNFRPPLVVLRQHGDW Jatujak. At the far end is an L-shaped bar, a popular perch from which to watch the bartender at work, while upstairs features relaxed seating, and large, colourful photography of Bangkok street scenes. WHERE 56/10 Sukhumvit Soi 55 The daily specials are (Thong Lor), 085-904-2691, written on a chalkboard (and also tweeted: @wrisjarrett); a OPEN 6.30pm-1am PRICE $$ selection that depends on what the owner has picked up from his morning trip to the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fresh markets such as Sam Yan. Regular menu favourites, however, include the moreish vam makrua yao (classic Bangkok salad with duck eggs, mint, coriander and bacon, B140) and crispy chan kao chicken wings (served with sriracha sauce and pickled ginger, B120). Meanwhile, the drinks menu takes almost as long to browse as LWV FXOLQDU\ FRXQWHUSDUW IHDWXULQJ DQ DUUD\ RI H[FHOOHQW 7KDLĂ&#x20AC;DYRXUHG signature cocktails â&#x20AC;&#x201C; donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go home without trying the strong Bun Bang Fai (tequila, lime, chilli, almond syrup and egg white, B190). In sum, after a career spent on the customer side of the counter, Wrisley seems remarkably at home in the kitchen; and, if we can paraphrase, at putting his meal where his mouth is.


bangkok 101

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Food&Drink Baan Somtum

LAOS/ISAAN BAAN SOMTUM (map C4) 9/1 Soi Srivieng, near Sathorn Road | BTS Surasak | 02-630-3485 | 11am10pm | $ Love somtum? If so, then your ship has come in. This Isaan restaurant on a residential side street just off Sathorn serves a staggering 22 varieties of the world famous northeastern papaya salad. Among the many interpretations, there’s pork neck somtum, salted egg somtum, even a Luang Prabang somtum. We tried the somtum pu ma, and marvelled at its fiery tang and legs of horseshoe crab. As for the other Issan dishes – all 80 of them – the chef seems just as skilled with the deep-fryer and soup pot as he does with the pestle and mortar. The golden-fried tub tim fish is sublime, the gaeng hed poh (spicy mushroom soup) beguilingly spiced, and the laab tod a deep-fried, crackling variation on the minced meat salad – just one of several playful signature dishes. Best of all are the pocket-friendly prices – although the owner pays inner-city rents, she charges the same as at her other branches out in the suburbs. In sum, for assertive, flavourful Isaan food in a bright, clean townhouse setting (with plentiful parking to boot), Baan Somtum is a no-brainer destination.


VEGETARIAN VEGETA HOUSE (map C2) Ari Soi 1, Phaholyothin Rd. | BTS Ari | 02271-3406-7 | Mon-Sat 10am-8pm | $ This lime-green shophouse – just five minutes walk from BTS Ari – might be a bit off the radar, but its delicious take on Thai vegetarian means herbivores should definitely consider seeking it out, especially on the return trip from Chatuchak weekend market. Instead of menus, diners instead choose from the seven daily dishes written on a chalkboard, alongside drinks and smoothies. It’s in Thai, but the owner will (after ribbing you a bit) happily point you in the right direction, be it towards the spaghetti pla kem; or steamed rice with taro – only served on Buddhist holidays. There are no

desserts, but at these prices – B40-60 per dish – there’s no need to be shy about ordering another bowl of that flavourful guay deo lod (mushroomlaced noodles). You’ll find Vegeta House about 50 metres down Ari Soi 1 on the right, buried knee deep inbetween clothes and food stalls.


Vegeta House

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bangkok 101


runching is big business in Bangkok, with both family-friendly and adults-only offerings to choose from. However, no matter if you’re looking to cure your hangover, chill out to live music or simply soak up the sun, the city serves up something to suit all tastes. Here we sample some of the best.



COLONNADE WHERE The Sukhothai Bangkok | 13 South Sathorn RD | 02-344-8888 MRT Lumpini WHEN Sun noon – 3pm PRICE 2200++




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sweet treats Magic Stick


ookies, Cakes, Pies, oh my! Thais surely love it sweet, taking every opportunity to lace their foods with sugar or syrup whether it is noodles or teas. Kids even drink sweetened milk! So itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no surprise that almost everywhere you look there are bakeries or sweet shops selling sugary, creamy, crusty goodies for all. Of course with everything thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good and bad. Though itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to complain about desserts in general one has to keep in mind that not all are created equal. Rest assured the decadent little treats at these spots are surely from the upper crust.

Mandarin Sparking Jello Soda

desserts featured

Crazy Banana





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QBAAN PRA ATIT COFFEE AND MORE 102/1 Pra Atit Rd | 02-2807878 | Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm QCAKEWALK Natural Ville, 61 Langsuan Rd | 02-250-7050 | BTS Chitlom | daily 6am-10:30pm QCHERUBIN Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02-2609800 | BTS Asoke | Tue-Sun 10:30am-7pm QCOFFEE BEAN BY DAO 20/12-15, Soi Ruamrudee, Ploenchit Rd | 02-254-7117-9 | daily 10am-10pm QIBERRY Siam Square Soi2 | 02-6583829 | daily Sun-Thur 10am10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10:30pm QJIM THOMPSONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S HOUSE 6/1 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama I Rd | 02-612-3601 | BTS National Stadium | Tue-Sun 9am-6pm QKAKAO CAFĂ&#x2030; 99/361-8 Sukhumvit soi 24 (opp. Camp Davis) | 02-6611777 | BTS Phrom Phong | daily 10 am-10pm QKIOSK 6F,Thailand Creative Design Center, Emporium Shopping Complex | 02-664-8702 BTS Phrom Phong | Tue-Sun 9:30amâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;9:30pm QKUPPA 39 Sukhumvit Soi 16 | 02663-0495 | BTS Asoke, MRT Sukhumvit | Tue-Sun 10:30am11:30pm QMOUSSES AND MERINGUES 245 Sukhumvit Soi 31 | 02 662-1290 | BTS Phrompong | daily 10am-7pm QRUEN KHUN NOI 71 Sukhumvit Soi 4 | 02-2556049 | BTS Ploenchit | daily 10am-6pm QSAFFRONâ&#x20AC;Ś JUST BAKED 86 Phra Athit Rd | 02-2814228 | daily 8am-9pm QSOMETHING SWEET SATHORN 47/4 Soi Sathorn 8 Sathorn Nua, Silom | 02-235-4834 | BTS Chong Non Si | daily 10am-10pm QT42 4 Fl. Siam center Rama 1 Rd | 02-251-6197 | BTS Siam | daily 10am-9pm QTHE ORIENTAL SHOP The Emporium, 5th Fl | 02664-8147~8 | BTS Phrom Phong | www.mandarinoriental. com | daily 10:30am-10pm QSECRET RECIPE La Villa, 1st Fl., Paholyothin Rd | BTS Aree, 02-613-0575 | | daily 10:30am-10pm

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QSUKHUMVIT Q BAR 34 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-252-3274 | | 8pm-2am The popular nightclub serves mighty tasty quesadilla, burgers, ribs, khao mun gai, beef jerky and schwarma and has a cool, al fresco terrace area perfect for enjoying them on with friends.

RAMEN TEI 23/8-9 Soi Thaniya | Silom Rd | 02-2348082 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 2am Ramen noodles in Soi Thaniya.

TOOK LAE DEE Foodland Supermarkets Nana Branch | BTS Nana | Sukhumvit Soi 16 Branch | BTS Asok | open 24 hours Means “cheap and good” and it is for the most part. Round-the-clock diner serves Thai and Western food and is attached to a supermarket that never closes either.

QLANG SUAN NGWAN LEE Corner of Soi Lang Suan & Soi Sarasin | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-250-0936 | Until 3am This Soi Lang Suan stalwart is popular with clubbers; and the humdrum décor doesn’t distract from the reason why: excellent Thai/Chinese fare.

SUNRISE TACOS 236/3-4 Sukhumvit (btw Soi 12 and 14) | 02-229-4851 | BTS Asok | open 24 hours | A little take-out joint serving Mexican fare and margaritas “by the yard” where you can get a super-sized halfkilo burrito. The presentation is a bit sloppy but by now, so are you.

QKHAO SAN PADTHAI THIPSAMAI 313 Mahachai Rd (near the Golden Mountain) | 02-221-6280 | open 5pm3am | If you find yourself around Khao San log in to this hole in the wall considered by most to have the best pad thai in Bangkok. And oh yeah, it’s probably the only pad thai with a website.

ROYAL KITCHEN 912/6 Soi Thong Lo (opp. Soi 25) | BTS Thong Lo | until 1am | 02-391-9634| Congee, standard roast duck and BBQ pork along with a full Chinese menu. QSILOM EAT ME Off Convent Rd In Pipat 2. | 02238-0931 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 1am Half restaurant, half art gallery with innovative Thai and Pacific Rim cuisine.

GOOD EVENING RESTAURANT 1120 Narthiwas-Ratchanakarin Soi 17 | 02-286-4676 | BTS Chong Nonsi | until 1am | Stylish Thai cuisine


hais usually have dinner fairly early, on average around 6-7pm so visitors to Thailand may be surprised by the early closing times at restaurants which quite often take their last orders around 9:30-10pm. So what do you do when you’ve just come out of that show or late-night movie? Or what if all that club-hopping has gotten your stomach growling? No worries, as there’s food to be had at all corners at all times. Obviously most hotels have 24hour restaurants, pub kitchens usually stay open till midnight (see Pub Crawling p.96) and certain areas are bustling all night (see Street Eats p.62). But with all due respect to the above we’ve come up with a list of excellent, independent establishments where you can settle in and tuck into a meal ‘round midnight and beyond.

MAYOMPURI 22 Chakraphong Rd | 02-629-3883 | until 1am | Enjoy garden dining amidst colonial architecture, from a menu that serves a selection of Thai and Western dishes. TOM YUM KUNG 9 Trokmayom | Off Khao San Rd. towards Police Station (Look for the big sign) | 02-629-1818 | until 2am | Reasonably priced Thai food.

COYOTE ON CONVENT Sivadon Building | 1/2 Convent Rd | 02631-2325 | BTS Sala Daeng | until 1am Tex-Mex Fare with an endless list of margaritas.

THE OLD PRAATHIT PIER RESTAURANT 23 Phra Athit Rd | 02-282-9202 | until midnight Thai food on a wooden deck right beside the pier.

BUG AND BEE18 Silom Rd. | 02-2338118 | BTS Sala Daeng | open 24 hours | Four storey café offers up Thai and fusion dishes like curried crab crêpes.

SILK BAR AND RESTAURANT 129-131 Khao San Rd | 02-281-9981 | Food until 2am, Closes at 6am | Though it may not be as smooth as silk, the Thai and International food is fine.

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Sunrise Tacos

Bug and Bee




Siam Winery


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MORE BANGKOK WINE BARS QBAR @ 494 Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, 494 Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Chit Lom | 02254-1234 QBACCHUS 20/6-7 Ruam Rudee, Ploenchit | BTS Ploenchit | 02-650-8986 QCLUB NOVE La Villa Restaurant, 131 Thong Lo Soi 9 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-712-9991 82

QGLASS @ GIUSTO 16 Sukhumvit 23 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02258-4321, 02-258-1159 QOPUS 64 Pan Road, Soi Wat Kaek, Silom | BTS Surasak | 02-637-9899 QVINO DI ZANOTTI 41 Soi Yommarat, Sala Daeng Rd | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-636-0855 QWINE BRIDGE PLUS

99/15-16 Langsuan Balcony, Langsuan soi 6-7 | BTS Chit Lom, 02-2512187 QWINE LOFT Sukhumvit 31 (Soi Sawasdee) | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-260-0027 QWINE PUB Pullman Bangkok King Power Hotel | BTS Victory Monument | 02-680-9999

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â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;New Latitudeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Thai wine Thai cuisine is considered one of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best, and deservedly so â&#x20AC;&#x201C; fresh ingreLQMV\[ KWUXTM` Ă&#x2020;I^W]Z[ and tangy, tongue-teasing dishes. One thing gourmets rarely expect to drink over a Thai meal is wine, for fear that the foodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s piquancy would overpower any subtle Ă&#x2020;I^W]Z[*]\QVZMKMV\aMIZ[ several Thai vineyards have sprung up; and they are fast beginning to make their mark in a market dominated, as one would expect, by the usual array of old and new world wines. Thai-made â&#x20AC;&#x153;New Latitude Winesâ&#x20AC;? are mostly blended from grape varieties like Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is a tendency towards light to medium-bodied dry wines, which balance well with the richness of spicy Thai dishes. Several Thai wineries are within easy driving distance of Bangkok â&#x20AC;&#x201C; around two hours away. Head for Hua Hin, or the favourable altitude, rich soil and microclimate around Khao Yai National Park. Discover more at: bangkok 101



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art scene, pick up a free AD. kok’s BAM copy of BAM! citywide at art galleries, cultural centres or from your hotel concierge.

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one night in bangkok

Q Bar


angkok’s vibrant nightlife offers an almost infinite Soi Cowboy (between sois 21 & 23). And voguish but amount of options – so much more than just the affordable hotspots (all tall tables, live hip-hop and naughty male’s One Night in Bangkok wet dream. whisky-sippin’ urban youth) abound in the hot-to-trot A night out here can easily have you flitting between sois of Thong Lor and Ekamai (sois 55 & 63). Northeast of the Sukhumvit conventional, cutting-edge and downright surreal, and usually in “Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s major area, Royal City Avenue – or thoroughfare and its myriad RCA (p.95) – features a malla matter of steps, or, failing that, a short taxi ride. It’s little wonder that adjoining sois, hosts many of strip of megaclubs where hordes of young, flirty Thais congregate, Bangkok pulls in so many revellers the city’s best nightspots.” especially on weekends. Other from across the city – and beyond. Glitzy bars and cocktail lounges attract the well-heeled notable hot spots include Bang Lamphu, the hedonistic and fabulous for slick drinks and smart design. Innovative backpacker hub that is legendary Khao San Road (p.94), nightclubs thrill international clubbers with rave-scene/ and the bohemian café/bar scene on Phra Athit Road. The Chao Phraya River has yet to live up to its hip-hop culture sounds. Folksy jazz, blues and rock venues please live music fans. Alternatively, sports junkies and the true potential as a nightlife centre. However, many of homesick have pubs… heaps of them, many as welcoming the city’s top hotels (The Oriental, Peninsula, Shangri-La, and well-stocked as your local boozer. Want to party till Millennium Hilton & Royal Orchid Sheraton) offer fivesunrise or thereabouts? Despite party-pooping official star cocktails, riverside. Alternatively, for bird’s-eye views closing hours (most venues must shut between 1-2am), of the river and high-altitude cocktails, turn to p.84. On and as long as you’re cool with doing it in a louche back- the following pages we list the cream of the crop – from lounges to live music venues, wine bars to nightclubs – street style, you can. The lively Silom/Sathorn commercial district is a to help you achieve that perfect night out. throbbing nightlife centre. From Irish-themed pubs to Patpong’s glaring go-go scene, right through to pumping DJs and bars-in-the-sky (p.86), there’s something for all. NIGHTLIFE NOUS The city’s gay scene is also busiest here, with the pink flag Want the scoop on Bangkok’s notoriously under-theflying proudest around Silom sois 2 & 4, and the sleazier radar nightlife scene? Keep your eye on these websites Surawong Road. and before long you’ll be tipping off the locals. Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s major thoroughfare, and its Q – jazz, rock, reggae… myriad adjoining sois host many of the city’s flashest all the live music bases are covered in comprehensive, (and debauched) nightspots. On Soi 11, Q Bar and Bed night-by-night detail here. Supperclub (p.82) lead the way in international-style Q – club scene listings & nightlife. The more degenerate side of Bangkok nightlife post-party galleries. shines in Sukhumvit’s two adults-only streetscapes Q – their gossipy forum is – Nana Plaza (off Soi 4), and the more carnivalesque where news of upcoming DJ fly-ins often breaks. 84


bangkok 101



Bed Supperclub

Clubbing in Bangkok? Stand-alone clubs are required by law to close at 1am, though many manage to stay open later; officially hotel nightclubs can stay open until 2am. The legal drinking age is 20. All patrons must carry proof. No ID, no entry. No joke. And as of late, smoking inside bars is a no-no. Q BAR (map D3) 34 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-2523274 | | 8pm-1am Long-standing, New York-style night spot Q Bar is well-known for pouring stiff drinks (there are over 70 varieties of topshelf vodka!) and its strong music policy, with international DJs leading the way. Q Bar raised the ‘bar’ for Bangkok nightlife nine years ago and is still going strong, with a flirty crowd every night and many big name guest DJs. Best nights: Sunday’s Gin & Juice hip-hop party, Wednesday’s Block Party with hip-hop & funk classics (ladies enter free), and Friday’s Houseduction. Upstairs at Q a chic, remarkably different vibe resounds in the bar/lounge, especially on Mondays when jazz music rules the speaker system (and the downstairs dancefloor takes a rest). Some relative solitude and a choice pick ‘n’ mix of the expat and jetset scene can usually be found here and on the outdoor terrace, perfect for a breather, people watching and a late evening snack (including tasty meat wraps from a shawarma station).

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TAPAS (map C4) Silom Soi 4 | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom | 02-632-7982 | 8pm-2am On the groovy little enclave of Silom Soi 4,Tapas is a party institution and one of the few mixed hang-outs on a heavily gay strip of lively bars and clubs. For more than 10 years it’s been pumping out excellent house music and live, bongo-bangin’ percussion sets as well. Multilevelled, with a dark, Moroccan feel, it’s easy to chill here, whether lounging or dancing your tail off! Like Soi 4 in general, weeknights can be hit-ormiss, but weekends are always hopping.

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BED SUPPERCLUB (map D3) 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02651-3537 | | nightly 7:30pm-1am With its über-modern elliptical spaceship design, Bed Supperclub is a hugely successful hybrid, and a Bangkok icon: fine dining on what may be the world’s largest sofas on one side, and an adjoining bar on the other. For the past eight years, Bed has attracted a fashionable crowd, and with its à-la-page white interior, is definitely a place to see and be seen. The food is world-class on the cosy restaurant side, and the sleek design extends to an all-white bar on the club side, where bartenders blend cocktails using everything from local herbs to cutting-edge foams and sorbets. Bed has talented resident DJs and brings over topclass world talent (including some very eclectic art) for special events. Tuesday’s hip-hop party Pop Champagne packs them in while Wednesday’s Model Night throbs with Latin house music. Big-room house and mash-up hip-hop rules on Friday, and Sunday mixes 1980s pop hits with house music. It’s time to go to bed.

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bangkok 101



Cabarets DEMO (map E4) Thonglor Soi 10 (next to Funky Villa) | BTS Thong Lo | 02-711-6970-1 | 8pm1am | free (except one-off parties) Is Demo a sign of clubs to come in Thonglor? Or just a blip on the slickly gentrified area’s cookie-cutter nightclub factory line? Time will tell. In the meantime, we strongly suggest you check out this ramshackle tenement building turned gritty warehouse. Not only does it look like a venue you’d find in shabby, hipster-heaving East London. It sounds like one too: instead of mainstream hip-hop and live-bands, Demo’s DJs blast trendy nu-disco, house and electro through a kicking sound-system. And when they do go hip-hop, on Wednesdays, they keep it old-school. Further boosting its streetcool hip quotient, 1980s Brooklynstyle graffiti covers the brick walls and a vintage white Toyota Celica gleams in one corner. They offer a huge range of (quite expensive) beers, shots and cocktails and, though it’s only recently opened, weekends are already packed out with an international crowd.

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808 (map D3) RCA, Block C | 02-203-1043 | MRT Praram 9 | | 9am-late This slick nightclub – all imposing red lighting, exposed brick and steelcladding – has been a hit with clubbers bangkok 101

ever since it landed on RCA in 2007. The reason: the consistently worldclass line-up. Grandmaster Flash, James Lavelle and Derrick May to name but a few global DJ giants, have all rocked this post-industrial warehouse, aided in no small part by the ear-drum/ body/table rattling sound-system (watch that drink dance!). Head up to the balcony for a comfy leather perch, or gyrate with the diehards on the dancefloor. Entrance prices vary depending on which superstar is gracing the decks that night.

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GLOW (map D3) 96/4-5 Sukhumvit Soi 23 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-261-3007 | | 6pm-2am This boutique club, bar and lounge challenges Bangkok’s biggies when it comes to delivering innovative music from the world of electronic pleasures. An intimate, stylish cave is decked out in dark walls, funky seating, innovative lighting and a dramatic bar. The music palette changes night-to-night, with deep-house and electro looming large and no hip-hop (hurrah!). Foxy coyote girls, dancing on the bar, make queuing for drinks here something of a guilty pleasure. For more details on events and regular updates, check Glow’s very cool and up-to-date website.



MAMBO (map C4) 59/28 Rama 3 Rd | 02-294-7381-2 | show time 7:15pm, 8:30pm, 10pm (please reserve for 10pm) | B800, VIP B1,000 The mother of Bangkok drag cabarets, tongue-in-cheek Mambo is still going strong, thanks to its fab ensemble of the city’s most glam kathoey giving their all amid rather drab décor. The very popular show is somewhat mainstreamy, but its professionalism keeps you entertained. The gals are so good they’ve even toured London. Be prepared for mimed pop tunes, Broadway evergreens, glitz and big, big melodrama.

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CALYPSO (map C3) Asia Hotel | 296 Phaya Thai Rd | 02-216-8937| daily 8:15pm & 9:45pm | | B1,200 (includes 1 drink) Bangkok’s biggest drag show cabaret features more than 50 kathoey (ladyboys) in a gender-bending and dazzling show twice a night. The show’s a rollercoaster of fun: envisage Madonna and Marilyn mimes, Nippon kitsch and the Paris Folies. Their Spice Girls are frighteningly good. Calypso offers an intriguing blend of the comic, the sexy and the bizarre. Don’t be afraid to take the kids along.




bars with a view

Fed up with Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fume-filled streets? Fancy a breather? Take to the skies. Bangkok offers a clutch of dramatic high-altitude bars (both indoor and outdoor) from where to survey the glittering skyline below.


THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am A beacon over Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s night sky is ablaze. Picture a gorgeously moody, sexy place with world-class jazz, awesome cocktails and hear t-stopping views. Sprinkle this with the fact that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be par t of the international trendsetter scene just because youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve managed to cross the Chao Phraya. Sound inviting? Head over to the Millennium Hilton and take the glass elevator to the 32nd floor. Up in a glassed-in, UFO-like construction 130 metres high, Three Sixty perfects a circle. Soft couches and smooth cocktails enhance a dizzying view: Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s downtown and a row of riverside hotels spread out in front of you. Good thing this place doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t revolve. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a grown-up crowd which values Osetra on blinis with their drinks. Pure Post-Millennium Magic. And do check out the hotel lobby.

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BALCO (map B4) 5th FL River City Shopping Complex, Yota Road, Charoen Krung 30 | Si Phaya Pier | 084-928-6161 | 6pmlate, closed Mondays If coasting along the Chaophraya River on a dinner cruiser leaves you wanting, after disembarking the boat at the River City Shopping Complex, pop up to Balco Bar on its rooftop. This airy alfresco hangout offers farreaching views of all the action on this busy waterway, a good mix of friendly locals and tourists, and soothing music from bossa nova tunes to house beats as the night rolls on. Reasonably priced drinks (beer B80, cocktails B180, whiskey B1, 200) include interesting cocktail choices created by the barâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s owner. If your favorite drink is off the menu, request it and theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be happy to mix it for you. A good place for lovebirds and flocks of friends to sit back on the funky nest-shape chairs or couches, catch a breeze and that memorable Bangkok riverscape.

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LONG TABLE (map D3) 48 Column Bldg, Sukhumvit Soi 16 | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-3022557-9 | | 11am-2am Top-end Thai food isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the only thing drawing Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in-crowd to this impossibly swish restaurant-cum-bar in droves. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also the trendsetting twist: a sleek communal dining table so long it makes a medieval banquet bench look positively petite. However, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what happens at the end of the room that propels this place deep into the nightlife stratosphere. Where the long table ends, a tall plate glass window and huge poolside patio, complete with bar, begins. Out here, 25 floors up, you can glug signature â&#x20AC;&#x153;long-tailâ&#x20AC;? cocktails or fine wines with the best of high-flying Bangkok: a glitzy hotchpotch of celebrities, models and power players; hair-tousling breezes; and â&#x20AC;&#x201C; best of all â&#x20AC;&#x201C; widescreen city vistas. A Sukhumvit high point.

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PANORAMA (map C3) Pan Pacific Bangkok, Rama IV Rd | BTS Saladaeng | 02-632-9000 | | 11.30am2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm Ideal for interminably hot or drizzly nights, the Deck Bar is a low-slung little bar counter found in the partitioned area at the rear of the Pan Pacificâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s upmarket Panorama restaurant. Perfect for pre-dinner, the wine-list here is a facsimile of the restaurants (i.e. expansive and top-notch), and on cool nights the windows are open to the night air and a 23rd floor view across Bangkok. Plonk yourself on one of its stools, order in a scotch and some fancy tapas, and let your eyes wander across the grounds of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and up over downtown â&#x20AC;&#x201C; not quite breathtaking, but still very Bangkok.


bangkok 101

V9 (map C4) 37F Sofitel Silom Hotel | 188 Silom Rd BTS Chong Nonsi | 02-238-1991 | 6pm-2am Smart V9 is a funky space, one-third comfy bar, one-third slick restaurant, one-third huge wine retail shop. Oenophiles undergo orgiastic experiences once they walk past the dozens of wine crates lining the entrance. All of the wines can be bought at supermarket prices and consumed on the premises with no corkage fee.The in-house Sommelierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pairings are exquisite, with 15 house wines to tempt you by the glass or short carafe.The French food served up is faultless (try their snack trees), as are the cocktails â&#x20AC;&#x201C; dozens of signature blends in a long menu. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all very Sex and The City, especially on Friday & Saturday nights.The music is good, and the view through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls wrapping V9 is heart-stopping â&#x20AC;&#x201C; thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what really counts. Perfect for those rainy nights.

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MOON BAR (map C4) 61F Banyan Tree Hotel | 21/100 South Sathorn Rd | 02-679-1200 | | 5pm-1am As the name suggests, this is one place that will get you closer to the moon. The open-air bar lets you take in the urban Moloch from up-above in smart surroundings. Banyan Treeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Moon Bar is a romantic hideaway. With stunning 360 degree views, the hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rooftop has been turned into a slick grill restaurant; one end is occupied by the bar. Nothing obstructs your view here, almost 200 metres high up. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the perfect spot for honeymooners â&#x20AC;&#x201C; take a seat on the smart sofa stations, sip on a classy Martini or a yummy signature cocktail and feel romance welling up. For voyeurs, the telescopes and binoculars come in handy. Glamour girls and unwinding business guys feel right at home here, too. Stay until the wee hours, nibble on sophisticated snacks, take in the light jazz â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and never ever forget your camera.


SKY BAR / DISTIL (map B3-4) State Tower, 1055 Silom Rd | 02624-9555 | | 6pm-1am High fliers hankering after a taste for the dramatic can head over to The Dome at State Tower. Among the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s highest outdoor bars, Skybar â&#x20AC;&#x201C; attached to Med restaurant Sirocco â&#x20AC;&#x201C; offers panoramic views of the city and river below, earning its popularity with visitors new to the City of Angels and those intent on rediscovering it. Indoor-outdoor Distil boasts a roomful of comfy sofas, beyond-premium liquor Distil


AMOROSA (map A3) Arun Residence Hotel, 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Young, Maharat Road (near Wat Po temple) | 02-221-9158 | | 6pm-1am Balmy breezes, soft Latin Jazz, sour-sweet cocktails and passable wine list: all the ingredients for an agreeable open-air bar are in place at the Mediterraneanthemed Amorosa. The show-stopper though is the view: perched on the roof of a four-storey boutique hotel, it overlooks the weaving Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun, the stunning Temple of Dawn. Go before sundown and gaze out as the sun disappears behind it. Or instead come later, when spotlights make it glow amber against the night sky. Wat Po is also just around the corner, so a tipple here is an easily attainable â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and fitting â&#x20AC;&#x201C; reward after a day spent temple hopping. And if you fall for the view, the hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s restaurant, The Deck, and six lovely suites mean you can prolong the love affair.

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bangkok 101

and The Domeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s signature breathtaking view. These places are definately not spots for the casual beach bum; so be sure to leave your flip-flops and shopping bags at home â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a strict smartcasual dress code is enforced.




hotel bars & nightclubs

Zuk Bar

Bamboo Chic

CM2 (map C3) Basement, Novotel Siam Square, Siam Square Soi 6 | BTS Siam | 02-255-6888 | | 6:30pm-2am The Novotel Siam Square Hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s party cave par excellence still packs them in over a decade after it opened, especially on weekends when it heaves with tourists and nocturnal beauties. Gone is the old karaoke complex, making room for pool tables and lounging space overlooking the big and quite 1980s looking (black and metal and neon lighting rule) dancefloor. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mainstreamy all the way. DJs play Club 18-30-style dance-pop and bubbly live bands perform as if every song is a potentially life-changing audition (Simon Cowell would be impressed). Cheesy? Maybe, a bit; but still a fun (and always eye-opening) experience. International and Thai food, as well as a whopping great cocktail list that includes some made with Amalteryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s alcoholic ice-cream, is served.

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BAMBOO CHIC (map C4) Le Meridien Bangkok 4F, 40/5 Surawong Rd | 02-232-8888 | BTS Sala Daeng | | 6pm-1am Dim-tones and giant chandeliers set the tone for haute Sino-Nippon cuisine at Bamboo Chic, which is Le Meridien hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dashing designer resto-bar. But Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s jetset have also taken a shine to whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s being served over at the arresting lime-florescent bar â&#x20AC;&#x201C; innovative cocktails such as the Kyoto martini: a delectable blend of dry gin, midori, dry vermouth and lemon juice, served in a fishbowl glass. Highwattage smiles and slick service rounds off this voguish venue, as apt for postwork or pre-dancefloor tipples as it is a swanky dinner. Just steel yourself for a blast of cognitive dissonance upon arrivalâ&#x20AC;Ś Unfortunately, Patpong, the notorious neon sleazepit and tourist night market, is Bamboo Chicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unscrupulous neighbour.

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ZUK BAR (map C4) The Sukhothai, South Sathorn Rd | MRT Lumpini | 02-344-8888 | MonSat 5pm-1am, Sun noon- midnight Hotel guests and clued-up suits enjoy zesty cocktails, creative canapĂŠs and an air of ultra-sophisticated tranquillity at this classy hotel bar. Drinks are on a par with the rooftop bars (in price and panache), but here youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re paying for the understated exoticism of it all: the sultry look, mood and service. The barely lit interior, with its dim nooks and raw silk couches, is perfect for heart-to-hearts. The underlit outdoors area, flanked by huge oriental jars and cooled by overhead fans, a sociable spot where a ring of plump divan sofas invite you to plant your posterior. Quietly solicitous lady staff clad in silk serve while a DJ from Tues to Sat spins soulful tunes.



bangkok 101


BARSU (map D3) Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Rd | 02-649-8358 | | 6pm-2am The informal yet sleek and minimally styled BarSu features the tagline â&#x20AC;&#x153;eat, play, dance,â&#x20AC;? and appeals to the over-30 Bangkok crowd who feel disenfranchised by the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current nightlife offerings. To this end, house, hip hop and techno are banned; in-house DJs spin soul, funk, rock, vintage 70s, 80s and world music. An audacious dining concept features a menu of sophisticated bar snacks created by a Belgian two-star Michelin chef. In all fairness, calling this premium fare â&#x20AC;&#x153;bar snacksâ&#x20AC;? is doing it a disservice: itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s finger food designed to be shared â&#x20AC;&#x201C; sushi, sashimi, tapas and â&#x20AC;&#x153;wapasâ&#x20AC;? (world tapas) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; although not finger food as you know it. Ladies get a free standard drink on Wednesdays and the chance to win a bottle of Baileys.

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CLUB 87 PLUS (map C3) Conrad Hotel, 87 Wireless Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-690-9087 | 6pm - 2am Bigger, sleeker and sexier, the Conrad hotelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recently relaunched flagship nightspot has targeted its audience from the get-go. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be expecting minimalist jungle or Ibiza-style foam par ties, but if you like to cut a little rug to tunes from the 1980s and 90s, this joint should do just fine. The main draw here is the band, Citybeat (Tues-Sun, 10pm2am). They know how to get a party going with their tried and tested repertoire of funked-up pop classics. Meanwhile, DJ 90 provides the soundtrack for the daily buy-oneget-one-free Happy Hour (6pm9.30pm), and takes centre stage on Monday evenings. Thursday is Ladies Night and Sundayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Latin, while there is also a nifty new smoking lounge adjoining the venue.


SPASSO (map C3) Lower lobby, Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, 494 Ratchadamri Rd | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-254-1234 | | noon2:30pm, 6:30pm-2am After going strong for more than a decade, the mother of all live venues still doles out fantastic Italian food and cool bands.The food is so good lunches and brunches teem with high society types.Thai execs and bubbly after-work expats turn up from 7pm onwards to tuck into simple-soundings but firstclass Italian specialties; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a pretty good value, especially considering this is a five-star hotel joint. Whatever youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll try, have it with what must be Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s best sangria. Come 10pm, diners thin out when the live band starts pumping out high-energy songs which get the dance floor heaving with a mixed, grown-up crowd â&#x20AC;&#x201C; weekend nights can see people queuing up to get in.

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AD. Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit

bangkok 101




bars FAT GUTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Z 264, Soi 12, Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor) | 027-149-832 | www.fatgutz. com | 6pm-2am | $$$ | Food delivery available Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let the fish â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; chips fool you; Fat Gutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;z is not about the food. Already a place to see and be seen, this sleek saloon is packed nightly with a crowd of beautiful people, there to listen to live blues, indulge in carefully crafted drinks, and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of its in-demand owner, Ashley Sutton, the Australian behind the already legendary Iron Fairies. Unlike his first bar, Fat Gutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;z displays a less obvious sense of whimsy â&#x20AC;&#x201C; here, the random fittings and industrial decor are replaced by straight lines and black-coloured, modern furnishings. It all feels rather serious, until you open the drinks menu. Sutton brought in master New York mixologist Joseph Boroski to create 16 unique cocktails (B285 each), all named â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the rub â&#x20AC;&#x201C; after famous WWII shipwrecks. This nautical theme loosely ties in with the short menu, from which the most popular order is, of course, the fish â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; chips (B320 for one person, B600 for two). Made from an old family recipe, it comes served in a wooden tub, turning a takeaway staple into finger food. Tucking in as we listened to the blues band play on the tiny stage, and observed the hi-so crowd sipping politely on their aquatic-inspired cocktails, it was obvious that this bar is an unusual, albeit successful blend of ingredients.

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Fat Gutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;z

WTF (map E4) 7 Sukhumvit Soi 51 |BTS Thonglor | 02626-6246 | BTS Thong Lo | | Tues-Sun 6pm1am (gallery open from 3pm) â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just like a bar in BarcelonaBerlin-Brooklynâ&#x20AC;? (take your pick), say punters when they enter WTF. The tiny shophouse â&#x20AC;&#x201C; signposted by graffiti on a corrugated tin wall in the street opposite â&#x20AC;&#x201C; has a bar on the ground floor, decked out with mirrors along one wall, old Thai movie posters on the other, and found items like wooden screen doors and chairs apparently salvaged from an old Czech cafĂŠ. It works. The Thai-farang owners (an art manager, hotelier and photographer by trade) have made a good fist of cocktails (from B130) with rye whiskies and unusual bitters in the mix, while plates of tapas consist of Thai and Euro choices such as Portuguese chorizo, feta salad and pork fried-rice steamed in lotus leaf. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more intimate and much, much smaller, but WTF definitely owes a DNA strand or two to Raindogs, the creative social club that shutdown earlier this year. And thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good thing. Just like it, there are occasional live gigs, edgy art exhibitions (in two bare white rooms upstairs), and, on busy nights, a mix of local indie hipsters, journos and art-scensters to chew the fat with.

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HYDE & SEEK (map C3) 65/1 AthenĂŠe Residence, Soi Ruamrudee | 02-168-5152 | BTS Phloen Chit | | 11am-1am | $$ Two bright lights of Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s F&B scene opened this stylish downtown gastro bar: a dead-ringer for one of those chic London haunts that draw the after-work crowd for pick-me-up cocktails and good food that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t break the bank. Heading the kitchen is Ian Kittichai, the brains behind the successful Kittichai restaurant in New York, while the bar is fuelled by Chanond Purananda, a partner in Flow, the cocktail consultancy that inspires much drunken fun around the region. The sleek, Georgianinfluenced dĂŠcor has panelled walls, clubby chairs and a large central bar, where snacks like beer battered popcorn shrimps and baby back ribs glazed with chocolate and chilli go well with fancy, custom-made cocktails or Belgian ales. Outside, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a spacious terrace with swing seats and the beginnings of a mini-maze of tea plants to partition dining areas. In sum, Hyde & Seek is a rare entry into the still huge market for high quality drinks and food at middle prices. Because of this, it gets very busy with the rich and powerful looking most nights, so best book ahead.


bangkok 101

The Iron Fairies

CHEAP CHARLIEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S (map D3) Sukhumvit Soi 11 | 02-253-4648 | Mon-Sat 5pm-12:30am This shabby open-air streetside joint is a real Bangkok institution, bringing the charm of a rickety island hole-inthe-wall bar to one of Sukhumvitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s swankiest sois. A no-brainer meet-up spot, Cheap Charlieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s draws crowds of expats, NGOers and tourists inthe-know to fill up on B70 beers and pocket-change G&Ts before heading off to eat and party â&#x20AC;&#x201C; though donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be surprised if you end up here all night. CCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s is the kind of place where itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easy to fall into conversation with other patrons; whether itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s because youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re sheltering from a rain shower together or end up sharing one of the few tables. Its location is a winner, situated as it is on a cool little subsoi (first on the left as you walk down from Sukhumvit) packed with restaurants and a short walk from hallowed Bangkok gin-palaces Q Bar and Bed Supperclub.

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THE IRON FAIRIES & CO (map E4) 394 Thonglor (Sukhumvit Soi 55) | 084520-2301 | BTS Thong Lor | This recent arrival injects a healthy dose of creativity into the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nightlife scene and is probably the coolest bar in Bangkok right now. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an oddball cross between a curiosity-cum-antiques shop â&#x20AC;&#x201D; yes, you can actually buy the eponymous iron fairies themselves â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and homage to the 1920s. Walls are daubed black, silent movies are projected on the walls upstairs, an in-house magician tours the tables impressing inebriated revellers with his slight of hand, and Doris Day classics are belted out from the castiron spiral staircase. The venue has the labyrinthine otherworldliness of a Terry Gilliam set with a touch of the bordello. Beers start from B120 a bottle, a wellmixed dirty martini goes for B280 and the range of burgers, which are served pinned to a wooden chopping board with a steak knife, are divine.


bangkok 101

36/11-12 Soi Lang Suan | 02-2526572 | BTS Chit Lom | daily 6pm1am, closed on the second and fourth Sundays of every month Tucked into a narrow alley off Soi Lang Suan, this cozy jazz bar & art gallery is a welcome alternative to Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s raucous pubs and haughty lounge bars. CafĂŠ Trio is overflowing with plush couches, the lighting is delightfully soft, and the music is always subdued. The tranquil atmosphere helps to make it a true neighbourhood place.The vivacious owner and bartender Patti holds court nightly and the walls are plastered with her Modigliani-esque, Vietnameseinspired paintings â&#x20AC;&#x201C; have a few drinks and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be surprised to find yourself taking one home. Resident regulars come for live jazz (often toward the end of the month). For drinks, expect to pay what you would at better known, yet more generic, venues. The service is laid-back, like the bar in general. To find it, look for the Chinese restaurant across from Starbucks and 50m down the road.



WONGâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S PLACE (map C4) 27/3 Soi Sri Bumphen/Soi Ngam Duplee, near Malaysia Hotel | 02- 286-1558 | MRT Lumpini | Mon â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Sat 10pm till late Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s amazing how Wongâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Place stays in business. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not near any public transport; opens when it wants, closes when it wants; plays crackly videos from Top of the Pops in 1985; has a couple of serveyourself beer fridges and is not much bigger than a living room. Put it this way: if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re looking for a chocolate Martini and a plate of Catalan-inspired tapas, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re definitely in the wrong place. Yet, because or despite of this, it attracts a fiercely loyal crowd of expat journalists, English teachers and professional barflies who have been coming here for years and regard owner Sam as a wbenevolent dictator, knowing better than to take advantage of the beer-fridges honour system. Come before midnight and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pretty dead (the Wongâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Place at the wong time?). Come after the other bars close â&#x20AC;&#x201C; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a mere hop skip and a jump from Silom â&#x20AC;&#x201C;and watch the night unfold.




jazz clubs

Bamboo Bar

THE LIVING ROOM (map D3) Sheraton Grande, 250 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok, MRT Sukhumvit | 02-6498888 | www.sheratongrandesukhumvit. com | 10am- 12:30am Perhaps the cosiest of all Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s luxury hotel bars, the leather couches at The Living Room are so snug itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be hard to get up again once youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re seated. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a stylish place, and the usually middle-aged patrons live it up on great wines, champagne and strong cocktails in a quiet way. The high-ceilinged foyer offers perfect acoustics for the fabulous jazz band. Be prepared to be well-entertained. World-class talents are booked in continuously, guaranteeing top-notch jazz and always a warm audience rapport. Currently The Living Room plays host to Trio Live, performing every Tuesday jazz clubs through Thursday nights from 9pm to 11:45pm, plus Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30pm to 12:15am. You can also catch them during the Sheraton Grandeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legendary Sunday DIPLOMAT BAR (map C3) Jazzy Brunch. Conrad Bangkok, 87 Witthayu Rd | BTS Ploen Chit | 02-690-9999 | Â&#x2018;Â&#x2018;ÂŞÂ&#x203A;Â&#x2018;Â&#x;Â&#x2021;Â&#x17E;Ă&#x2122;ÂŤwÂ&#x2018;Ă&#x2122;Â&#x2020;Ă?Â&#x2DC;¤x¤Â?Â&#x2022;ÂĄÂ&#x2030; | Sun-Thu Â&#x2018;Ă?Â&#x2122;Â&#x2022;hÂ&#x;|Â&#x2DC;¤x¤Â?Â&#x2022;ÂĄÂ&#x2030;ÂŤÂ&#x201C;Ă? 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am An architecturally striking hotel bar, The Living Room mixing a funky, stylish dĂŠcor with soft teak sofas and an arresting chandelier hanging over the massive round bar. Bronze silks and wood dominate this dark, contemporary, but always relaxed place. A boozy, high-profile crowd fills the Diplomat Bar nightly, especially during the elongated, buyone-get-one-free Happy Hour from 4-7pm (standard drinks only). Very hip among the diplomatic corps (Witthayu is stuffed with embassies), trendy guys in suits and glitzy society ladies â&#x20AC;&#x201C; ideal for people-ogling. But the main attraction at the Diplomat Bar is more aural than visual and exceptional jazz acts are de rigueur.




BAMBOO BAR (map B4) Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Ave | 02-659-9000 | | Sun-Thu 11am-1am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am This Bangkok institution is a symbol of past glories of the East. Situated in the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most fabled hotel, the former Oriental, the 50-year-old bar oozes class, sophistication and style. Reminiscent of a tropical film noir-setting, it features a jungle theme â&#x20AC;&#x201C; bamboo, palm fronds and furry patterns. Small and busy, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nevertheless romantic and intimate â&#x20AC;&#x201C; balanced by the legendary Russian jazz band thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been on the stage here for ages. Monday through Saturday nights catch the sultry sounds of their current resident. Everybody here sips on faultless cocktails, mixed by skilled old-school bartenders and served by superb staff. A definite big Bangkok must, even if just the once.


bangkok 101

Niuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on Silom

THREESIXTY (map B4) 32F Millennium Hilton Hotel |123 Charoennakorn Rd | BTS Saphan Taksin | 02-442-2000 | 5pm-1am Dizzying 32nd floor views across the Chao Phraya. Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s downtown flickering in front of you. Well worth crossing the river for, Threesixty is Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most jaw-dropping jazz venue. Since July its dressy crowd has been soaking up that camera-grabbing panoramic alongside the sounds of Micki L Murphy. Her sultry renditions â&#x20AC;&#x201C; spanning jazz to bossa nova to RnB â&#x20AC;&#x201C; make this glassed in, flying saucer-like construction seem gorgeously moody. And the wan blue lounge lights, soft couches and smooth cocktails help. Requests are welcomed.


NIUâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S ON SILOM (mapC4) F1-2, 661 Silom Rd | 02-266-5333 | | 5pm-1am This New York-style wine bar â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with its hot jazz, old leather armchairs and roses on candlelit tables â&#x20AC;&#x201C; has a house band with some of Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s better local talent. They provide the backbone for international guest vocalists, and trumpeter Steve Lowry and guitarist Dan Phillips, who rotate nightly. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a jazz jam every bangkok 101

Sunday and occasional concerts featuring overseas visitors. Niuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s is a class act, but still casual, comfortable for both beers or brandy; and you can eat bar snacks or dine formally in the impressive Concerto Italian restaurant upstairs. Pleasant outside seating is also available.


BROWN SUGAR (map C4) 231/20 Sarasin Rd | BTS Ratchadamri | 02-250-1826 | Mon-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 5pm-1am Sarasin Road, bordering Lumphini Park, hosts a strip of teeming bars. The best one is definitely this long-standing, smoky jazz club.The joint evokes a jazz haunt of yesteryear with dark woods, tight benches and a tiny stage. Newsweek called it â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Asiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Number One Spotâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and to prove the point, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s packed every night. If you care for seats, arrive early, before the brilliant band starts at 9pm. You can have some decent pub grub, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pricier than one might assume from the look of the haunt â&#x20AC;&#x201C; same goes for the strong drinks. Sunday nights are the best â&#x20AC;&#x201C; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the night off for most hotel bar singers, who all congregate here to let their hair down and jam with local pros.



Niuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on Silom Jazz Club Is Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s newest and brightest jazz club location, Where you can enjoy live performances daily, which include International musicians and some of the hottest local musicians.

Niuâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on Silom Jazz Club

Wine Bar & Restaurant 661 Floor 1-2 Silom Road (cnr Soi 19) Tel: 0 2266 5333-4 Daily 5pm-1am; Free valet parking



live music

AD HERE THE 13TH (map A2) 13 Samsen Rd, Bang Lamphu | 089769-4613 | 5pm-midnight Funky, jammy, bare â&#x20AC;&#x201C; one of Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s coolest hangouts is nothing more than an aisle packed with five tables, a tiny bar and instruments. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a joint youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d expect to find on Manhattanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lower East Side, except for the Chang beer. North of Khao San Road (ask for â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Ad Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, once in the quarter), the down-to-earth, bohemian hang-out packs â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;em in nightly. On weekends, young Thais, expats and tourists spill out on the sidewalk when the joint is jumpinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. The resident band churns out cool blues, Motown and Janis Joplin; Georgia, the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only true Blues Mama, has a voice and figure to match, and would never sing Hotel California. People from around the globe drop in for a quick jam; youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re bound to meet more nationalities than you can list. Down some crazy cocktails, or do theThai-style whiskey-soda-ice thing, along with some super-cheap booze munchies. An insiderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s must.

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OVERTONE (map D3) 29/70-72 RCA Zone D | 02-2030423 | | Closed Mon/Tues Overtone has what every venerable rock club needs: a wall of fame. And itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good one. Megadeth and Jimmy Page have both graced Overtone with their straggly-haired presence, as has pretty much every lightening fingered axe-grinder in the Kingdom. Not bad 96

for a live music cave tucked along RCA, a club-strip that usually does a good line in brash hip-hop superclubs. Inside, bands rock out while vintage Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster guitars, presented like hallowed museum pieces in backlit wall alcoves, look on. The orange-themed dĂŠcor is a little more suave than your average rock dive, but the steady line-up of hard rock acts intermingled with the odd night of jazz, indie, blues or ska one of the most intriquing in town. Check their website for the latest.


NOMADS 106-108 Silom Soi 4, 02-266-3552 | Tue-Sun 5pm-late A live music bar located just a few minutes from Sala Daeng Skytrain could be just what the doctor ordered. Nomads is a beer and boogie joint with a friendly owner and nightly bands including long-time favourites the Soi Dog Blues Band and the Fugitives, a sax and trumpet-led five piece doing soul, funk and jazz. Sundays is a band jam, with everyone welcome, while the Tuesday open mike is a more acoustic opportunity to try out your new songs. Not the easiest place to find, the small square room is located right at the end of Soi 4. Beers start at B90, cocktails from B100 and thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a snacky menu of dishes like wings, spaghetti and spicy Thai salads.

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BRICK BAR (map A2-3) 265 Khao San Rd, Taladyod, Phranakorn | 02-629-4477 | Mon-Sun 7pm1am | free entry (Monâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;Thu), B150 incl. 1 free drink (Fri-Sat) Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge shopping arcade, this dark and airy redbrick vault features benches downstairs, an upstairs terrace for people or band watching and plenty of nooks and crannies to party in. A magnet for young live music lovers, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s jumping most nights of the week with freshy 20-somethings out to catch some of Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s biggest ska, reggae, funk and blues bands, many of whom play their own material. Perfect for friends whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve just hit town.


BANGKOK ROCKS (map D3) The Key Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 19 | BTS Asok | | 6pm-late Covers of Hendrix, U2 and Santana are the staples from rotating bands at this new bar dedicated to live â&#x20AC;&#x153;classicâ&#x20AC;? rock music. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s potential in the decent acoustics, a mezzanine with good views of the stage, and beers and wine that start at B100. The downsides are a lack of character in the small boxy room of featureless white walls, and a soulless soundtrack. The Saturday night band we saw, 61 Highway, were competent but a little too harmless to drag across town for. This is a drop-in beer and boogie spot if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in the area, but Bangkok will only truly rock here if they attract stronger acts.

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Brown Sugar

bangkok 101

RAINTREE PUB (map C3) 116/63-34 Soi Ruamjit, Rang Nam Rd | BTS Victory Monument | 022457230, 081-926-1604 | | 5pm-1am This rustic Thai â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; bar is a sort of all-wooden, pre-consumerist age timecapsule. Raintree hosts musicians playing Pleng Peua Chiwit (Songs for Life), the once phenomenally popular 1970s folk-protest music and soundtrack for Thailandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s politically disaffected. On a stage decorated with the movementâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s trademark buffalo skulls, two artists strum nightly: a long-haired singer croons plaintive songs at 8:30pm, a grizzled band steps up at around 11pm. Owner Porn Pimon opened Raintree 19 years ago and has changed little since. And why should she? The people are friendly, the beer snacks cheap and tasty, and the music, made famous by household names like Caravan and Caribou, often soul-stirring.

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PARKING TOYS (off map) 17/22 Soi Maiyalap, Kaset-Navamin Highway, Bang Khen (pier 135-136 on left hand side) | BTS Mo Chit (then taxi) | 02-907-2228 | 6pm-1am Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quite unusual for a business to go out of its way not to be noticed, but Parking Toys seems to do just that. With a dark, dismal exterior, the venueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;We Accept Visaâ&#x20AC;? logo is surprisingly larger than the actual bar sign. Once you finally do manage to get inside the ex-garage (here the choice of name becomes a little clearer) itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a pure sensory overload. Wall-to-wall retro furniture becomes instant eye-candy, while chairs without upholstery dangle from the ceiling. But if the funky furniture creates the space, the live music definitely defines it. Parking Toys has a band for every alternative music lover; in just one weekend night you can variously catch reggae root, electronic, rockabilly, and metal â&#x20AC;&#x201C; now thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we call a variety pack. With no nearby BTS or MRT station, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a hike, but well worth the effort. So get off your couch and sit on someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s.

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bangkok 101

Parking Toys

TAWANDAENG GERMAN BREWERY (map C4) 462/61 Narathiwat Rama 3 Road | 02-678-1114 | | If thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one place that slaps you round the chops and screams â&#x20AC;&#x153;youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in Thailand!â&#x20AC;? itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tawandang. This humungous, barrel-shaped beer hall with decent micro-brewed beer takes its cue from Deutschland. But the live music and unchecked sanuk up to 1,600 lary revelers enjoy here each night here is something very Thai. Its laidback early on, with everyone chomping on plates of the famous deep fried pork knuckle and German sausage, among other decent Thai, Chinese and German dishes. By 10pm though, when bellies are full, the lagerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kicked in and the Thai/Western pop, luk krung and mor lam performances by the famous Fong Nam houseband and guests are at full pelt, everybody is on the feet and the place going bananas. Tipsy tourists clink glasses with every stranger in reach, while middle-aged mums shake their tooshes beside ladyboys. In sum, it offers great, goofy, love-for-Bangkok reaffirming fun. Reservations are a must for large groups.

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THE ROCK PUB (map C3) 93/26-28 Radchatewee, Phayathai Road, (opposite Asia Hotel) | BTS Ratchathewi | | 9:30pm-2am If AC/DC or Def Leppard were in town youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d find them here. A tatty faux-castle exterior, visible from the Ratchatewi BTS Station, makes you wonder what kind of weird, 1980s theme-park ride youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve stumbled on, while inside bands with Brian May hairdos thrash out everything Van Halen and Motorhead covers.


TITANIUM CLUB & ICE BAR (map D4) Sukhumvit Soi 22 | BTS Phrom Pong | 02-258-3758 www.titaniumbangkok. com | 6pm-1:30am Well folks, and now for something different. Picture this: congenial hostesses clad in Bangkok-Zeitgeist ao dai. A gifted all girl rock â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; roll band, Unicorn, jamming six nights a week (with two male bands filling in for them on Sundays). Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s widest selection of vodka â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 70 varieties to choose from.An intimate atmosphere, especially in The Vodka Room, chilled to a nipple-raising minus 10 degrees. Not exactly a place to bring Mum, but a fun night out on the slightly wild side.

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nightlife areas




Police Station



The streets around Khao San Road – that famed budget travellers’ mecca – are buzzing with a frenetic mix of dek naew (trendy teens) and bronzed backpackers. Found at the rear of the Buddy Lodge complex, Brick Bar [1] is a red brick cavern where young locals bounce along to excellent live ska. A few doors down, Lava Bar [2] is a dark hip-hop dungeon, while Sunset Street [3] is an architecturally interesting conglomerate of bars, but mostly attracts sweaty backpackers. Down the alley opposite, Zest [4] focuses on live Brit Rock, while Hippie De Bar [5], tucked down another alley, is a retro-cool cocktail house. More full-on, The Club [6] is a popular techno palace offering free UV glowsticks and a huge dancefloor. Just off the strip, Gazebo [7] is an open-sided rooftop featuring live reggae, hubbly-bubblies and DJs till the wee hours. For a more laid-back, cool evening, head to nearby Phra Athit Road, lined with trendy hole-in-the-wall bars, cafés and restaurants. Often compared with NYC’s Greenwich Village, it’s a favourite for young Thais going “beat” and the odd expat. Stop for a cheap caffeine intake at Coffee & More [8] in a beautifully restored colonial mansion. Elegant Hemlock [9] is invaded nightly by artsy folk, drawn to the eclectic Thai food at 1 6 3 2 rock-bottom prices. Minimalist but friendly Joy Luck Club Burger KHAO SANROAD RD KHAO SAN [10] also deserves a mention. King 5





Funky Villa



Ekkamai Soi 28

Soi 20

Soi 16

Thong Lor Soi 10

Ekkamai Soi 10

Soi 1


Soi 21

In recent years these parallel boulevards have embraced sweeping gentrification and emerged as upmarket playgrounds for the young, studiously cool zeitgeist follower, be they celebrity, model, arty type, uni student or slick professional. Aside from their surfeit of luxury condos, boutique lifestyle emporiums, designer spas and restaurants both are studded with trendy nightspots catering to a mixed international and Thai clientele. New ones pop up every few months, as if to keep hipsters on their toes and match that season’s colours. For now Muse [1], Funky Villa [2] and Demo [3] – three giganto clubs on Thonglor Soi 10 – are all the rage, as is the unique Iron Fairies [4]. Meanwhile, scattered about are old-timers like Song Saleung [5], a recently refurbished and often heaving live music joint, and Shades of Retro [6] – a combo furniture-store café and hangout for the writer/designer/artiste crowd. Ekkamai’s main drag and side-streets are even better endowed party-wise. Curvaceous Curve [7] and glamorous Jet Metropolitan [8] are big, top-shelf joints offering the usual failsafe blend of live Thai music and DJ’s spinning R’n’B. As the scene stands both are big draws, though the crowds are so gleefully fickle that could change in a Bangkok minute. Track them to the cool club of the moment. Or try two 5 BTS Thong Lor that have achieved longevity: nightclub Nunglen [9] and Soi 55 (Thong lor) scruffy little bar Happy 6 4 Monday [10]. Pretty young 1 2 things bounce along to Thai 3 tunes in the former; while 7 9 media types (mostly aged 25 Soi 63 (Ekkamai) plus) hobnob while enjoying 8 10 low-key DJ sessions (May T BTS Ekkamai from Modern Dog etc). nightlife

bangkok 101








For a night of clubbing, Thai twenty-something style, jump in a taxi and say “RCA” to your driver. On arrival, follow the stream of high-heeled and well-coiffed onto Royal City Avenue: a flash, brash, neon-charged nightlife strip much cherished by the city’s dressed-to-kill urban youth. Boasting a slew of swish bars and sprawling split-room clubs – many elbow room only after 11pm – it offers the perfect adventure for indecisive club-goers. Go in and out as the mega-decibel music takes you (making sure to flash your ID card as you go), as most venues have no cover charge and flaunts a different genre of music. Hip-hop haven Slim [1] is never short on crowds gettin’ jiggy to Biggie, while other room, Slim Live, offers live music in a more sane setting, and glam alter-ego, Flix [2] bangs out bass-thumping trance and house. Next door, slick granddaddy Route 66 [3] seethes with spaghetti-strapped students and baseball-capped boppers, who flit between its three glam zones and outdoors chill-out zone. Despise radio rap? For edgier dance-music (and funkier Thai/farang crowds) hit 808 [4], a red-brick warehouse with a crisp sound system and sets by global DJ gods. And opposite sits Cosmic Cafe [5], where indie types catch up with pals and nod appreciatively to live bands. Few foreigners venture further, but they should: Old Leng [6] is a rickety wooden pub great for warm-up drinks; while music cave Overtone [7] hosts some of the best rock, reggae or blues nights in town. There’s also Zeta [8], a live-music bar with a girls-only policy. Seriously: no men, gay men, drag queens or peeping Tom’s allowed.


1 2

Q Bar







Soi 11

On the global nightlife radar Bangkok now registers a strong, steady bleep. And this buzzing soi – with its cosmopolitan collective of hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs tucked off Sukhumvit Road – is one of the reasons. Go here tonight and you’ll rub shoulder straps with hedonist expats, slinky Singaporeans and the odd urbane local, among many other breeds of clubber. Would they all be here if it weren’t for Q Bar [1]? Unlikely. This beat lounge was the first to bring international design, DJs and drinks to the club scene – and, against the odds, 10 years later it still is. Just around the corner is the other Soi 11 superstar, Bed Supperclub [2]: a spaceship-like club-cum-restaurant that attracts a dressy international crowd every night. Many just rock up at one of these, ID card in hand, at around 11pm. Better, though, to make a night of it and start out early evening. Kick off with bargain al fresco beers 1 at Cheap Charlies [3], a countrified bar only a tad 4 bigger than a 2 Bed Supperclub broom cupboard. Nest [4], a breezy rooftop bar atop the sleek Le Fenix hotel, is a more upscale option offering 5 laid-back, bird-nest seating and music that matches (think 3 Sade’s Smooth Operator). Not quite the racy, subterranean Bangkok you were after? Then sheepishly make your way to the backend of the Ambassador Hotel’s basement carpark, where thumping after-hours nightclub Climax [5] lures in the city’s good, the bad, the beautiful and, SUKHUMVIT ROAD unfortunately, the ugly till the wee hours. bangkok 101





pub Balcony Humidor



We came across Durty Nelly’s on a drizzly, grey Saturday afternoon. Strolling up the southern part of Ekkamai, we were in need of a hearty lunch and a cosy place to dry off. Drawn in by the promise of ‘Pure Irish’, the welcoming words written W^MZ \PM LWWZ _M MV\MZML <PM ÅZ[\ \PQVO \PI\ [\ZQSM[ aW] about Durty Nelly’s is how familiar it feels. With no offense to the owners, the reason Irish pubs have succeeded so well around the world, is because they have a winning formula. First, décor. Use dark wooden furnishings, put up vintage alcohol posters (those with the Guinness toucan work best), and incorporate a ubiquitous symbol within your logo (a leprechaun, say, or perhaps a four-leaf clover). Second, drinks. Line up the usual selection of ales and stouts on tap (Guinness and Kilkenny, for example), and supplement with beers popular in your local market (such as Singha, Tiger and Asahi). Third, dining. Put out a simple menu with run-of-themill staples. Except that this last point doesn’t apply at Durty 6MTTa¼[1V[\MIL_PI\aW]ÅVLQ[WVMWN\PMUW[\M`\MV[Q^M impressive and downright delicious menus in Bangkok. It’s obvious they take their food seriously here, so much so they’ve brought in a chef from Northern Ireland to run things. Executive Chef Sam Reid heads up a large kitchen team of 11, a necessary size when his menu covers half the table when folded out (it really does), and he makes almost everything in-house. Being a Saturday, we settled on the Weekend Roast (B300/two courses, B350/three courses), an especially fantastic deal for families as children eat for free. With such a large menu (and thus ingredients) to maintain, you’d think Chef Reid might struggle to maintain WHERE 56-56/1 Soi standards across the board – but Sukhumvit 63 (Ekkamai), you’d be wrong. Everything we 02-714-2692, www. \ZQML NZWU \PM Å[P KISM _Q\P horseradish veloute to the lamb BTS Ekkamai OPEN shank in red wine sauce to the 10am-1am panna cotta with pineapple ‘salsa’, was unbelievably good. Surprised, sated and extremely impressed, we eventually, reluctantly bade farewell to our KWUNa[MI\[IN\MZITIbaIN\MZVWWVÅTTMLJaM`KMTTMV\LQVQVO (and a little drinking). So is Durty Nelly’s ‘Pure Irish? Not really. But with a menu this good it doesn’t even matter.

Cigar lounges are slowly catching on in Bangkok, with a handful of venues now providing outstanding facilities for lovers of quality coronas and fine figurados. As well as cigars from Cuba, Ecuador and beyond, the lounges typically feature luxurious leather sofas, rich wood accents, discreet staff and stellar selections of wine and single malt whisky. Some, like Club Perdomo, operate on a members-only basis, with membership granting access to their worldwide network of lounges. Others, like the Balcony Humidor & Cigar Bar at the InterContinental hotel, are open to guests and the general public. The members-only Pacific Cigar Company opened its first lounge, La Casa del Habano, at The Oriental hotel in 1997, and now operates another four venues in Bangkok, as well as one in Pattaya. One of PCC’s more interesting venues is the P&L Club which incorporates a traditional barber shop and what is billed as Thailand’s largest collection of single barrel malt whiskies. Q BALCONY HUMIDOR & P&L Club CIGAR BAR Lobby level, InterContinental Bangkok, 973 Ploenchit Road | 8am-1am | 02-656-0444 Q CLUB PERDOMO BANGKOK 3/1 Sukhumvit Soi 28 | 02-661-3220 | www.clubperdomobangkok. com | 6pm-midnight Q LA CASA DEL HABANO The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue | 02267-1596 | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm, Sat-Sun: 10am-11pm, Sun and public holidays: noon-6pm | Q P&L CLUB GF Conrad Bangkok, All Seasons Place, 87 Wireless Road | Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-11pm, Sun: noon-6pm | 02-685-3898

ª†›‘Ї¢ªÙ““¢˜Ð!."#$#%&'( 63

Club Perdomo



bangkok 101

Pubs 101


Hidden among the salacious delights of Silom Road, you will still find some of the “grand old men” of libation locales. O’Reilly’s [1] is a slightly dingy affair whose décor matches its demeanour – grizzled, but down-to-earth. Even so, it’s popular due to nightly drinks specials, live music, and an outdoor seating area to view the exotic sights of Silom. Just down the street is The Barbican [2] a multi-level contemporary concoction of granite and steel where the mixed crowd of expats and locals enjoy superior food and a wide choice of imported beers. Molly Malone’s [3] offers a real taste of Ireland. Drop in during their extended happy hour (5pm-9pm) for live music and multiple big screens for sport. Friendly staff and excellent food (especially their Sunday roast) means this place is always busy. Opposite the infamous Patpong stands The Duke of Wellington [4]. Its open plan layout makes it a bit sterile, but it does have good beer, a daily happy hour 4pm to 9pm and uninterrupted views of the four screens for sport. Jameson’s [5] sat under the Holiday Inn in the heart of the gem district is the newest kid on the block. It’s a cavernous place but still packs in the punters thanks to fantastic happy hours, including ladies’ night on Tuesdays featuring Margaritas for a ridiculously cheap B29 a glass.










BTS Sala Daeng


Silom area


bangkok 101

SOI 39




BTS Asoke

SOI 22

SOI 12





BTS Nana



SOI 35

SOI 11

SOI 13

SOI 33


SOI 33/1

Sukhumvit Road, a haven for expats, is jammed with joints catering to ale aficionados. Beside BTS Phrom Phong station, The Robin Hood [13] offers daily happy hour and drinks specials, as well as live music and sports. Even so, it can sometimes seem a little sedate. Down a nearby alley is The Bull’s Head [12], whose oak-panelled walls and low ceilings give off a cosy feel. It’s notable for a top jukebox and occasional comedy nights featuring international stand-ups. Sundays it’s “Toss the Boss”; call the flip of a coin right and the pub pays for the round. The Londoner [11] is a vast subterranean hideaway that brews its own real ale and lager, has good food and a regular house band. Opposite is the ever-popular Dubliner [10], a three-storey edifice. Though slightly pricy, the superb food (try the sausages), live music and Guinness pull in the punters. Just around the corner, behind the old Mambo Cabaret, Bourbon Street [9] backs up its Cajun/Creole dining with a well-stocked bar and good atmosphere. Up the road in the shadow of Asok BTS, is The Black Swan [8], a proper British booze abode. No bands. No happy hours. Just a snug escape offering a warm atmosphere and a wise-cracking landlord. Tucked down a dead-end street of Soi 11 is The Pickled Liver [7]. A shrine to soccer and suds, the décor is unfussy with a focus on big screen sports. But with friendly staff and daily happy hour it’s not just the sport that makes it worth a visit. Finally, Hanrahans [6] offers a genuine reason to be seen in Nana. Light and airy it ticks all the right boxes with regular music, special drinks deals and daily happy hour.

BTS Phrom Phong




Q BOURBON STREET 29/4-6 Sukhumvit Soi 22 | BTS Asoke | 02259-0328-9, 02-2594317 | 7am – 1am Q HANRAHANS Sukhumvit Soi 4 l BTS Nana l 02-255-0644-5l daily 9am-1am Q JAMESON’S Holiday Inn Silom, Gr. Fl, 981 Silom Rd, BTS Surasak, 02-2667703-5, daily 10am1am Q MOLLY MALONE’S Convent Rd, Silom | BTS Sala Daeng | 02-2667160 | daily 9am-1am QO’REILLYS 62/1-4 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom l 02-632-7515 | daily 9am – 2am Q THE BARBICAN 9/4-5 Soi Thaniya Rd | 02-234-3590 | BTS Sala Daeng MRT Silom | daily 11:30am – 1am QTHE BLACK SWAN 326/8-9 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Asok | MRT Sukhumvit | 02-2294542 | daily 8:00am – midnight Q THE BULL’S HEAD Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-259-4444 | daily 11:30am – 1am Q BULLY’S Sukhumvit Rd, btw Sois 2 & 4 | BTS Nana | 02-656-4609 | daily 11am-1am Q THE DUBLINER 440 Sukhumvit Rd | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-204-1841/2 | daily 9am-1am Q THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON 323 Silom Rd | BTS Sala Daeng l 02-234-2874 | daily 10am-1am Q THE LONDONER Basement, UBC II Bldg. Sukhumvit Soi 33 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-261-0238/9 | daily 11am-1am Q THE PICKLED LIVER Sukhumvit Soi 11 | BTS Nana | 02-254-3484 | daily 2pm – 3am Q THE ROBIN HOOD Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-3390 | daily 10pm-midnight 101


shopper scene

As clichés go, “shop till you drop” could have been written after a demanding spending spree in Bangkok’s sweltering heat. And while we’re dispensing mindless platitudes: there’s something for everyone in this town, however peculiar your peccadilloes may be. For locals, conspicuous consumption in one of the myriad swish mega-malls is the name of the face-gaining game, while foreigners often prefer to dig for buried treasure at the bustling street markets. Whatever your angle, stamina is a must, especially when it comes to pressing sticky flesh with the perspiring masses at the sweltering citysized jumble sale that is Chatuchak Weekend Market. So brush up on your bargaining patter, arm yourself with Nancy Chandler’s invaluable shopping map, and prepare for sheer retail overload.



Though little more than a glorified broom-cupboard, this Siam Square shop is home to the biggest and best collection of old Thai movie posters in the Kingdom. There’s no table in here – there isn’t room for one. Instead its WHERE Siam Square Soi owner, the smiley Mr Santi, improvises 2, near Lido Theatre (behind by plonking you on a stool facing him 7eleven) BTS Siam, 02and stretching plyboard across both our 255-3677 OPEN Mon – Fri knees. Once wedged in place, out comes 2pm- 8pm, Sat – Sun 2pm-7pm his stash, accumulated via years of tipsPRICES B150 - B10,000+ offs and plundering of old cinemas. And what a stash. Spanning all the way from the two-tone, cut-and-paste photo posters of the 1950s, to the more generic Western-style movie posters of today, it’s a wonder this lot hasn’t already been snapped for safe-keeping by the National Museum.Their loss is your gain. Recent discoveries include a little two-tone Nang Kwak poster from 1958, and onesheets for Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, the latter being debatably the creative high watermark of Thailand’s distinctive hand-painted poster style; a style which saw Thai artists being commissioned to paint all the juicy scenes from each film into one lurid, technicolour montage.The foyers they used to hang in are mostly dust now, but seek out this little obscurity and you can give them a proud new home. If you think the prices steep, work that smile and see if Mr Santi won’t cut you a deal worthy of the silver screen.




bangkok 101

stuff Want to find the best deals in town? Read on and we’ll tell you where to go and what to buy. Not the global brands you can find anywhere, or the tat you will soon regret ever having wasted your money on, but the cool, home-grown ‘stuff’ that Bangkok is justly famous for. Sretsis

SILK/APPAREL Thai silk only started getting international attention quite recently, but quickly became renowned for its thickness and lustrous sheen. Jim Thompson is the legendary American silk revivalist who – with the help of a small community of weavers – pioneered the modern industry. Since then the brand has branched out from ties and cushions into a fully-fledged fashion label that even dabbles in Zen furniture design, as you’ll see if you visit one of their many sleek stores. LP Silk and Shinawong are two exporting wholesalers who can be trusted to fix you up with the whole nine yards (or more if you like). Q JIM THOMPSON Paragon F1; King Power Duty Free; Jim Thompson House Museum; Surawong Rd | QLP THAI SILK Silom Village Trade Centre, 286 Silom Road | 02-234-4448 | QSHINAWONG No C500 , C501 Ayudthaya Soi 8 Suan Lum; No27, 6F MBK Centre| HANDICRAFTS Beyond triangular pillows and woven shoulder bags, there are hordes of native trinkets up for grabs, with stiff competition keeping prices down.The main markets all bristle with goodies made from bamboo, coconut, rattan, wicker, wood and water hyacinth. As does Narayanaphand, an indoor bazaar offering ceramics, hand stitched fabrics and artisan goods; Silom bangkok 101

Village; and the 6th floor of mazy MBK. The monthly, OTOP-approved ThaiCraft Fair is a place to pick up that bulrush basket for less (while ensuring its maker also gets a fair price). For Celadon and Benjarong ceramics (a form of Thai porcelain originally made for members of the Royal family), try one of Siam Ceramic Handmade’s showrooms. Q THAICRAFT FAIR Third floor, Ambassador Hotel’s Tower Wing, Sukhumvit Rd Soi 11 | QNARAYANAPHAND InterContinental Hotel GF, 973 Ploenchit Road | BTS Chidlom | 02-656-0173-4 QSIAM CERAMIC HANDMADE Room 325-326, River City Shopping Complex F3; 202 Sukhumvit Soi 10 |

FASHION Spotted the local trendies yet? Then you’ll be wondering where it is they get their cool indigenous fashions. Several malls and markets around town act as little fashion hatcheries, giving you the chance to snap up dazzling pieces by local up-and-comers. Section 3 of Chatuchak, for starters, is jammed with fecund fashions. Here, amidst piles of vintage and aisles packed with kids who know how it wear it, you’ll find next season’s trends. Suan Lum and Siam Square are also spotted with dainty designer boutiques; while youth-orientated shopping malls Siam Centre and Gaysorn offer up a host of homespun high fashion by trendy labels such as Jaspal and Greyhound.

JEWELLERY/GEMS Some of the world’s best lapidaries are based here, stocking cut and uncut domestic and regionallymined precious stones. The best local jewellers can also turn wondrous tricks with gold, silver and platinum. Assuming, that is, you can find them – the city is, sadly, alive with shysters out to lure you away from legit dealers and into an intricate gem scam. There are a few diamonds in the rough, though. Lambert Industries, with their friendly and reliable service, has been coming up with the goods for 35 years. QLAMBERT INDUSTRIES (807-809 Silom Shanghai Bldg 4F, Silom Rd Soi 17, 02-236-4343).

OTOP: One Tambon One Product One of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s more laudable legacies is his instigation of OTOP (One Tambon One Product), a government initiative that markets handicrafts made in one of Thailand’s 7,000 tambons (subdistricts). These quality gifts, snacks, handicrafts, toys, gems, textiles and jewellery, can be purchased at fairs at the city’s exhibition halls, Narayanaphand and the monthly ThaiCraft Fair. By choosing OTOP products you’ll be helping preserve local crafts and ensure that the villager who made them can earn a fair living.




ANTIQUES Thai, Burmese and Cambodian antiques are among Asia’s finest – but all that glitters ain’t gold, so you’ll often be hard-pressed to find the real deal among the look-alikes. Unless, that is, you’re willing to shell out, in which case you’ll love the River City Complex, the sprawling, mother-of-allantique centres (p.102). Auctions are on the first Saturday of each month with viewings the preceding week. Alternatives include period antique centre OP Place (p.102); Amantee, a gorgeous Thai house offering Oriental and Tibetan antiques on Bangkok’s outskirts; and L’Arcadia. And who can say what treasures the dustier straits of Chatuchak and Chinatown hold in store for the determined? QAMANTEE 131/3 Chaeng Wattana 13, Laksi, 10210 | 02-982-8694-5 | QL’ARCADIA 12/2 Sukhumvit Rd Soi 23 | 02-259-9595

AROMATHERAPY & SPA One of Bangkok’s more fitting titles is “Spa Capital of Asia”. The following slick local product lines should get you fragrant, gooey and purring with pleasure in next to no time. Panpuri offers Asian-inspired sensory purification – pricy but wonderful combinations of holistic spa-inspired treatments and products. Worldly mixtures for washing, moisturising, cleansing and relaxing can be found at Thann; while Karmakamet specialise in long-lasting lotions, gels, incense and candles that create the perfect bridge between scent and soul. Finally, Anyadharu offers health-imbuing natural oils, bath body gels and perfumes that are designed to give you much more than just a whiff of indulgence. QANYADHARU Chatuchak (Section 3); Isetan (MBK F4) | QKARMAKAMET CentralWorld F2; Chatuchak Market, Section 2, Soi 3 |


Q Bargaining: This is a way of life when shopping on the streets in Bangkok. The key is not to act too interested. They know you can find it further down the street, and if they want to make the sale they’d better be prepared to drop their price. If they ask B500, offer B350. You might get it for B380-400. Don’t be shy: it’s expected. Most importantly when haggling over price: keep a smile on your face and a cool head.

Q Counterfeit Stoners: Bounders running gem scams are ubiquitous on Bangkok’s streets. Beware anyone (tuk-tuk drivers especially) offering free rides to nearby “stockists” – they’re conmen on the make. The TAT provides quality assurance through the Jewel Fest Club; look for their ruby-ring logo on shop-fronts.

Q Keep it Real: As elsewhere in Asia, counterfeit goods abound in Bangkok. From the latest DVDs to luxury brand clothes, watches, handbags and fragrances, it’s all here – at a fraction of the price. But, tempting though it may be, remember that the quality never matches the original and you’ll struggle to get refunds. Perhaps scarier, you risk getting busted at customs back home; and by purchasing fake goods you inadvertently sponsor organised crime. So, just keep it real. 104


DUTY FREE – DURESS FREE Much more civilized than sprinting through the long corridors of Suvarnabhumi is a visit to King Power. At this glassy, space-port like complex on Soi Rang Nam (BTS Victory Monument, then catch a free tuk-tuk from Century Plaza), you can do your duty-free shopping at your own pace, days (instead of minutes) before your plane takes off. Peruse products such as cosmetics, clothes, computers and more – all at tax-free prices. Find what you want, order it and it will be waiting for you at the airport on your way out. Just be sure to bring your air ticket and passport. QPANPURI

Paragon F1; King Power Duty Free; Central Chidlom F4; Gaysorn F7 | QTHANN Central Chidlom F4; Central Ladprao F5; Siam Discovery Centre F5; Emporium F4 | Q VAT: When shopping, look out for signs advertising ‘VAT Refund or Tourists’. At these places, they should have the paperwork (ask for a PP10 form) to enable you to claim back 7 per cent on purchases when you leave the country on an international flight. The deal is you have to spend at least B2,000 at the same store on any given day, and you can only claim back on totals of B5,000 or over. It’s worth doing if you have a department store blitz, or fancy splashing out on electronics, jewellery or other expensive goods. Have your passpor t and tickets with you when you queue up to buy, and prepare to have your purchases, PP10 forms and receipts inspected when you claim back at the airpor t VAT refund counter. A word of caution: if you are making large purchases and not being asked to pay VAT, you aren’t guaranteed they are quality products. For more info, check out bangkok 101

bangkok design

GILLES CAFFIER Secret Qualities

Dark sensuality suffuses the designs of Gilles Caffier, a Frenchman who melds Asian-influenced minimalism with his own metropolitan chic in accessories like vases, candleholders, lamps and cushions. Some foreign designers come to Southeast Asia to exploit luxury materials, often unsustainable ones, but Caffier relies on design innovation, crafting subtle new textures, finishes and forms especially when using such materials as terra cotta, acrylic, steel and mango tree wood. “I like to respect the materials, to use their secret qualities, but to make them disappear into a new thing,” he says.

Brian Mertens

Caffier’s strength is his signature style and perfectionist approach to construction. His best designs are as finely crafted as jewelry. Developing a new model can take months of experiments with prototypes and trial production runs. A design multi-talent who previously worked in fashion, textiles and interiors, Caffier has spent most of his life in Asia, first in Tokyo, and since 1993 in Bangkok, where his workshop employs dozens of artisans. The Gilles Caffier Collection spans well over 1,000 designs, sold by elite shops in Europe, America and Thailand. Contact:

BANGKOK DESIGN:THAI IDEAS IN TEXTILES AND FURNITURE is the first book to explore Asia’s new wave in design creativity. Award-winning author Brian Mertens profiles 36 of Thailand’s top designers, showing how they translate their own culture and experiences into unique furnishings that have won international awards and museum exhibitions. Typically handcrafted from natural materials, the best contemporary Thai designs celebrate wit, warmth, sustainability and alluring form. BANGKOK DESIGN – published by Marshall Cavendish – B1,200 - hardcover, written by Brian Mertens, with photos by Robert McLeod. bangkok 101





isitors to Bangkok will be amazed at how prevalent mall culture is in the weave of modern Thai society. Malls are not just places to shop for designer labels; there are restaurants, cinemas, bowling, aquariums and more. Bangkok’s retail mall epicentre is around the Siam and Chit Lom areas.

mall crawl MBK BTS National Stadium Perpetually packed shopper’s paradise; a mind-boggling, onestop bargain. Always busy, on weekends half of Bangkok’s teens converge here, hunting for the latest mobile phones and more.

SIAM DISCOVERY BTS Siam Light, pleasant and never too busy. Inside it’s international hip young brands (Diesel, Replay, Armani Exchange) and impressive interior stores (Loft and Mae Fah Luang).


BTS National Stadium

MAJOR HOTELS 1 Pathumwan Princess 2 Novotel Siam 3 Amari Watergate 4 The Four Seasons 5 Grand Hyatt Erawan 6 Intercontinental 7 Holiday Inn 8 Conrad 9 Plaza Athenee 10 Royal Orchid Sheraton 11 The Oriental 12 The Peninsula 13 Shangri-La 14 OP Place


Elevated RAMA 1 RDWalkway

E R AWA N B A N G KO K BTS Chitlom Posh boutique mall adjacent to the bright Erawan Shrine.


SIAM CENTER BTS Siam The mall that started it all in 1973 hauls in trendy teens and young adults who shop for Euro-fashion and innovative local brands like Jaspal and Soda.

BTS Siam





SIAM SQUARE BTS Siam Bangkok’s heart for trendsetters, this maze of narrow streets has heaps of tiny boutiques carrying local up-and-comers, gastrogems and indie cinemas.

PANTHIP PLAZA Bangkok’s one-stop shop for any and all computing needs: be it hardware, software and gadgets. It’s a loud, brash mecca for technology geeks.

SIAM PARAGON BTS Siam This gigantic shopping complex is legendary among Bangkok hi-sos. It’s also home to Siam Ocean World aquarium, too. 3

RIVER CITY Four well laid-out floors of stores selling antiques, plus ethnic and tribal ar t from Southeast Asia, with a bit of the South Pacific, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan thrown in.


5 6 7

BTS Chitlom











To Emporium shopping mall, get off at BTS Phrom Phong


EMPORIUM BTS Phrom Phong Ver y chic mall with the most amiable atmosphere, thanks to its airy architecture. Make sure you pay a visit to TCDC, the neat Thailand Creative Design Center.



BTS Ploenchit









CENTRAL CHIT LOM BTS Chitlom Seven floors of clothes, shoes and accessories from all the major labels, plus some eye-catching Thai designers.The Food Loft is one of Bangkok’s best food courts.



ALL SEASONS PLACE BTS Ploenchit The sleek mall in a skyscraper complex is known more for its battery of excellent eateries than its selection of shops; although the high-end retail range is impressive, including numerous art galleries, cigar shops, tailors and Euro-fashion.

GAYSORN BTS Chitlom Allwhite interior features glitzy, topclass brands – expect the likes of Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.


J E W E L R Y TRADE CENTER A treasure trove of gleaming gems and priceless souvenirs. 13


bangkok 101

Jatujak weekend market

Forget designer malls. JJ weekend market is Bangkok’s true paragon of retail. This is shopping as survival of the fittest: only those with finely tuned consumer instincts shall persevere. The rest can get lost – literally.

JJ Gem


aking a wrong turn’s almost a given in this sprawling, city-sized marketplace, upon which thousands descend every weekend, to trade everything from Burmese antiques to pedigree livestock. Originally a flea market, Jatujak (also spelled as Chatuchak) quickly outgrew the confines of the insect world to become much more than the sum of its disparate parts. These days, young Thai designers take advantage of the low onsite rent to punt their creative wares; if you so desire, you can peruse piles of customised Zippos that once belonged to American GIs; and tasty pickings conveniently punctuate every which way. Additionally, the exotic pet section supports the theory that JJ has evolved its own diverse ecosystem (albeit one that periodically gets busted). All this can be a bit overwhelming at first, but persevere and a semblance of order should begin to crystallise from the chaos. Go in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. Or, with many stalls opening for business on Friday, you can come for a leisurely browse before the real deluge hits; although only the weekend gig gives ardent shopaholics the fullyblown, unadulterated Jatujak fix they desire.

of the month Anything-Air

When shopping, rather than just going along with the crowd, why not look for something unpredictable instead? With a bright white sign that features the owner shouting its name, that’s the suggestion and concept of this month’s JJ Gem, Anything-Air. As the title suggests, at this little store they sell design accessories made from absolutely anything, think necktie headbands, doll key chains, scrap cloth wristbands, light-bulb necklaces, Lego earrings, tape measure bows and button bracelets. In business since 2003, owner Khun Air (who else?) has become a firm favourite of weekend shoppers of all kinds for her unique, creative and fun designs. After all, who couldn’t be attracted by a place where anything goes?

WHERE Section 3, Soi 45/1 | 086-320-1196

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14. Clothing, miscellaneous 15. Pets and accessories 16. Clothing, miscellaneous 17. Ceramics 18. Clothing, miscellaneous 19. Ceramics 20. Clothing, miscellaneous 21. Clothing, miscellaneous 22. Home utensils and décor, furniture 23. Clothing, miscellaneous 24. Home utensils and décor, furniture 25. Home utensils and décor, furniture 26. Antiques






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1. Books, antiques, collectibles, food & drink 2. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 3. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 4. Hip fashion boutiques, plants, food & drink 5. Second-hand clothing 6. Second-hand clothing 7. Art, food & drink 8. Handicraft, home décor and miscellaneous 9. Pets and accessories 10. Clothing, accessories, miscellaneous 11. Pets and accessories 12. Clothing, miscellaneous 13. Pets and accessories

Chatuchak Park Station

Mo Chit Station



markets RATCHADA NIGHT MARKET Fri-Sat Nights (busiest on Saturday) | parallel with Ratchadapisek-Ladprao intersection | MRT Ratchadaphisek or MRT Lat Phrao Vendors at this nighttime (and teenthronged) flea market flog all sorts of retro and secondhand stuff, from art deco lamps and ghetto blasters to Polaroids and vintage clothing. Somewhat like a country fair, it’s open-air and most wares are laid out on the ground, so expect to squat a lot. Besides the used items, lots of handmade products, such as paintings and women’s accessories, also squeeze into this small-city sized market; as does a live band, lots of local food and a mini motor show of classic cars and bikes (nope, those VW vans and pastel-coloured Vespas aren’t for sale unfortunately). It’s still worth the trip, but bring a flashlight and your bargaining skills.

Specialists in Bangkok for high-quality fabrics for women!! ...from french laces, silk jacquards, chiffon prints, cording laces, embroidered laces, taffettas linens, cottons, satins, and more...

Chakphet Rd. Chakphet Rd.


Wangburapa Rd.

Chakphet Rd.


The Old Siam

Visit us now for the lastest collections and new designs!! Gandhi-326 Phahurat Road Bangkok10200 T02-2255-997/503 H 9-6pm (Mon-Sat) 9-5.30pm (Sun) Cynosure-A002 G/F ChinaWorld Phahurat Road Bangkok10200 T 02-225-2001-3 H 9.30-7pm (Mon-Sun) 108

PAK KHLONG TALAD (Flower Market) Wake up and smell the roses, as next to Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) lies Bangkok’s main flower market, a 24-hour hive of floral activity bristling with blooms carted in from around the country. Horticulturalists and those with a well developed olfactory sense will enjoy strolling around these rather fragrant surrounds.


THEWET Not far north from the flower market is the riverside plant market. The street is lined with small shops selling a wide selection of tropical potted flora. It’s easiest and most scenic to access Thewet by river taxi, thus evoking the waterborne glories of the days when Bangkok was once hailed as the ‘Venice of the East’.



SUAN LUM NIGHT BAZAAR (map C4) The official (read: tourist authorityrecommended) civic night bazaar is far more manageable than JJ - and mercifully less sweaty and intimidating. In fact, as Bangkok markets go, this amiable though sanitised effort probably ranks as the most consistently civilised – and its lively food court and expansive German beer garden offer extra incentive to linger. Bear in mind, however, that the market is mainly geared to separate tourists from dollars, with the standardised mix of crafts, textiles and knick-knacks offered at inflated prices. Don’t take that as reason not to come, because wandering round “Suan Lum” makes for a pleasant early evening stroll, before moving on to the nearby entertainment zones. In fact, endeavour to visit while you can: Lumpini Night Market’s days are numbered, after the powers-thatbe auctioned off its multifarious charms to make space for yet another redundant addition to the city’s modern shopping malls.


SILOM ROAD/PATPONG Both sides of Silom Road, just off Sala Daeng BTS station, offer day and night time shopping, but it really gets going between 6pm and 2am, when stalls set up here and along the notorious strip of sleazy gogo bars known as Patpong. This is a bizarre but uniquely ripe set-up that sees vendors plying busy nightly trade on the doorsteps of the bars concurrently plying an open trade in flesh; and young families rubbing shoulders with a motley crew of pimps, johns and scantily clad strippers. Among the illicit booty of pirated DVDs and designer knockoffs, the market actually does offer some decent local crafts, t-shirts and souvenirs – although, with prices naturally tilted towards the tourist end of the scale, robust bargaining skills are essential here.


bangkok 101

KHAO SAN ROAD Along every budget travellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favourite sidewalk, stallholders do a sterling trade in â&#x20AC;&#x153;noveltyâ&#x20AC;? T-shirts and cigarette papers, not to mention phoney degree certificates, driving licenses and press passes. And yes, if you must, you can still get your tie-dye and fishermanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pants, your hair dreadlocked, or eat B20 noodles from a polystyrene plate. However, these days post-millennial Khao San has been gentrified into somewhere bearing scant resemblance to its humble past as a tropical haven for wandering hippies. And youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find no better proof than night times here, when whole mounds, suitcases and racks of young-at-heart stuff (frayed t-shirts, handbags, polka dot dresses etc) are dragged down and splayed on the street for sale by the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s baby-faced entrepreneurs.


SUKHUMVIT ROAD The choices start around Soi 4 near BTS Nana station, on both sides of the major thoroughfare, and stretch nearly to Soi 20. In amidst the streetfood shacks and fortune tellers, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find its mostly bogus tat all the way â&#x20AC;&#x201C; polyester football shirts, DVDs, blown-up prints of longtail boats moored on idyllic southern beaches. Although, right past Soi 6 is a group of deaf merchants who are always eager to find you something nice to remember beloved Thailand by. Velvet oil painting anyone?

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PRATUNAM A ten-minute walk from CentralWorld, this sidewalk is famed for its bulk clothing deals. Loaded with knock-offs, and crowded with tourists shopping for all things casual, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find textiles, fabrics, fancy dress (Catwoman mask ensemble anyone?) and great jeans at affordable prices (never pay more than B600!). Spreading out from the base of the looming Baiyoke Sky Hotel, it attracts a multinational mix of fast-talking traders, all on the make, and continues around the intense indoor fashion market, Platinum Fashion Mall, where everything is available at discounted rates for bulk orders. Buy three or more and save yourself anywhere from B150-300 per item.

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boutique bangkok

In every issue, the Bangkok 101 puts its heads on the line to bring you the very best of Bangkok’s new breed of hotel. Each month we uncover those quirky, elegant, or downright luxurious lodgings that fit under the trendy boutique banner.


In a city where many hotels are soulless slabs, it’s good to know that places like Ariyasom Villa – a retro-fabulous, 24-room boutique resort – still exist. Thoughtfully built around a grandiose 1942 townhouse designed by a dean at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Engineering, its sloping roofs sit at the tail-end of Sukumvit Soi 1, beside klong saen saeb canal and just a 10-minute stroll from Ploenchit Skytrain station. On walking through the gates, one enters a lush, old-world realm more redolent of tranquil Chiang Mai than high-rise Bangkok. Here, mature trees dominate a luxuriant garden; while ceiling fans revolve in the elegant, woodadorned time-warp of a restaurant (Somerset Maugham would have loved it here). And everywhere you turn there is a gorgeous antique, painting, mural or Buddhist statue gazing back at you. The spacious accommodation (a mixture of studio, WHERE 65 Sukhumvit Soi 1, deluxe and suite rooms) brim with old-world velveteen BTS Ploenchit, 02-254-8880, fabrics, silk curtains, and vintage teak furniture sourced from Ayutthaya. These are skillfully combined with the latest in PRICE B6,500 - B15,000++ new technology – including LCD TVs, bedside control panels and free Wi-Fi – and expansive balconies, designer toiletries and oversize bathtubs: we’re weak-kneed just remembering it all. However, our favourite rooms by far have to be the three ground-floor deluxe suites with doors that open out onto the garden; and the cosy, antique-filled suite upstairs in the original house, with its four-poster bed, homey living room and nostalgic aura of a bygone era. The very hands-on owners, Khun Pariya Sheanakul and her husband David Lees, tell us that Ariyasom Villa is a hit with recovering patients from nearby Bumrungrad International Hospital. Frankly, we’re not surprised in the slightest. With a reading room, meditation loft, blue-tiled infinity pool, teak massage pavilion with open-air option, not to mention a hearty breakfast to kick-start the day each morning, who could resist convalescing here?




bangkok 101

Daily the resident herbal ball creator demonstrates how she fills the Lavana herbal ball pouch with 18 different fresh herbs that will be used to massage along the energy lines of the body. Another exclusive treatment is the Shirodhara Indian head massage. This is an ancient theraphy performed by certified therapists. As you lie back a continuous stream of warm oil is poured on the middle of the forehead. The soothing cares of your ‘third eye’ lulls you into a deep sleep and balances the brain and calms the mind.

Daily the resident herbal ball creator demonstrates how she fills the Lavana herbal ball pouch with 18 different freshherbs that will be used to massage along the energy lines of the body

Breakfast at Lavana

Imagine leaving all the cares of the world behind and spending a slow leisurely morning relaxing in your own private room. Spend the hours lingering over a sumptuous American breakfast after pampering yourself with our exclusive massage treatment. Could breakfast at Lavana’s become your own secret escape? (free breakfast at Lavana everyday from 09.00 am.-13.00 pm. with any oil massage treatment)

Special Promotion 1st – 30th November 2010 FREE breakfast at Lavana everyday

SPECIAL PROMOTION 1st  31st OCTOBER 2010 am.- 13.00 pm with any from 09.00

- 09.00 am.- 13.00 pm. Any oil massage. Free facial treatment - Aroma oil massage 60 min. 800 THB / 90 min. 1,000 THB / 120 min. 1,200 THB - 4 hand aroma 60 min. 1,400 THB / 90 min. 1,600 THB / 120 min. 1,800 THB - Thai Massage 60 min. 450 THB/ 90 min. 550 THB/ 120 min. 650 THB - Thai Massage with Herbal Ball 90 min. 850 THB/ 120 min. 950 THB

oil massage treatment and any oil massage get free facial treatment from 09.00 am.- 15.00 pm.


No.4 soisoi Sukhumvit 12,Sukhumvit Sukhumvit Road, Klongtoey, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110 No.4 Sukhumvit 12, Road, Klongtoey, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110 Tel:Tel: +66(0) +66(0)222294510-12, 2294510-12, ForFor taxi: ěĄĊėú 12 þĆēĄĕöğĄøĆĐąĜ üãĊĕĄĚ taxi:ĈĕĊĕüĕøĆèéĕâþĕâìĐąčě ĈĕĊĕüĕøĆèéĕâþĕâìĐąčěãěĄĊėúãþĆēĄĕöğĄøĆĐąĜ Ň÷ňĕüãĊĕĄĚĐøęŇ÷âňĕĢĎîŇ čĘğãĘąĊĐøęâĢĎîŇčĘğãĘąĊ Opening hours: am.-00.00 reception 23.00 pm.) Opening hours: 09.00 09.00 am.-00.00 (last(last reception 23.00 pm.) Advance ishighly highly recommended Advancebooking booking is recommended

H e a l t h & We l l n e s s

body & beauty


angkok offers more places to indulge in massage than any other city on earth. A great Thai massage can cost just B100 per hour, while posher spas can easily cost 10 times that. Like any place else, spa value can be gauged by the quality of the therapists, oils, atmosphere and so on. In each issue we introduce several local spas in different price categories to help you find the best rub-down for your baht (see p.109 for this monthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s listings) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no need to break the bank to get a good treatment. Reservations always recommended.


What could be more quintessentially Thai than the world-renowned practice of traditional Thai-style massage? Known in Thailand as nuad pan boran â&#x20AC;&#x201C; literally â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;ancient style massageâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Thais have been practising this time-honoured, therapeutic custom for over 2,500 years, dating back to the life of Buddha. Traditional Thai massage is performed without oil, with people typically wearing TQOP\_MQOP\TWW[MĂ&#x2026;\\QVOXaRIUI[*a_IaWN IK]XZM[[]ZM points that stimulate muscles and nerves, and assisted yogic stretching, skilled Thai massage practitioners employ their hands, elbows, knees, as well as their own body weight, to apply various degrees of pressure and mobilisation to different parts of the body. This ancient form of healing can do wonders for all of the bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s organic systems by helping to align and balance the energies of the body. By enhancing blood circulation, Thai massage can help to break down and release toxins trapped in the body, in turn strengthening the immune system. Though Thai massage can at moments be a bit painful, the after-effect is not one of fatigue, but calm. Common remarks IZMWN ZMTQMN \WIKPQVOU][KTM[IVQVKZMI[MQVĂ&#x2020;M`QJQTQ\aIVL higher general energy levels. Others report better sleep, a decrease in stress and an overall boost, both on a physical and emotional, as well as a spiritual level.


Nuance Facial & Body Combination, Coran Bangkok

On a backstreet located behind Sukhumvit Soi 11 and 13 sits this spain-a-big-white-townhouse. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a therapeutic place for the stressed city survivalist â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a pebbledash driveway up a lush garden; a cool, fragrant lobby; 6 bohemian rooms with wood floors; along with sumptuous packages offering unusual treatments like Thalassotherapy (the application of seawater, seaweed and other ocean derivatives). One sumptuous treatment making use of this is three hour facial and body combo, the 'Nuance', which starts off with a crystal salt and seaweed bodyscrub. After showering this coarse exfoliant off an hour long body massage follows, with an active thalasso cream infused with marine minerals applied instead of the usual aromatherapy oil. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s as sensuous a treatment as it is a skin-beautifying one, your therapist drawing out clumps of tension as she goes. After this a tender facial treatment includes a deep cleansing, scrub, face mask and the application of a cool, velvety UV moisturizer. Gentle body compresses with warm towels, to remove excess thalasso cream, conclude the treatment. You WHERE 27/1-2, Soi 13 leave the building with soft, radiant Sukhumvit Road BTS skin and in a dream-like state that not Nana OPEN 11am - 10pm even the chaos outside can disturb. PRICE B4,200/150 mins



health & wellness

bangkok 101


THANN SANCTUARY (map C3) Room 518B, Siam Discovery Center, 5th Fl. | BTS National Stadium | 02658-0500 | 10am-9pm | $$$ A dime-sized delight. Stagger away from the madness at MBK and head to serene Thann Spa â&#x20AC;&#x201C; just a few tasteful, small rooms tucked away in Siam Discovery. As with the Harnn sister spa at Paragon, this sweet little storefront is an extension of a highend beauty product line. Rooms are finished in black stone, high ceilings compensating for compact quarters. The menu is small, but very appealing, featuring a variety of massage forms â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Thai, aromatherapy, Ayurvedic, among others. The Purifying Facial is one of the best little pick-me-ups in Bangkok â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 45 minutes of cleansing and mask application, along with facial massage. Neck, shoulders, arms and legs donâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;t go neglected. Expert technicians are generous with those heavenly Thann products, even applying balm to dry lips. Staff are a delight, and are handsoff but happy to help you pick out little Thann treats to take home.



bangkok 101

$ under B600 $$ B600 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; B1,000 $$$ B1,000-2,000 $$$$ B2,000+ Credit cards accepted unless otherwise noted

BANGKOK OASIS SPA (map D3) 64 Sukhumvit 31 (Soi Sawasdee) | BTS Phromphong, MRT Sukhumvit | www. | 02-262-2122 | Daily 10am-10pm | $$ Calm and relaxation arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t words that spring to mind when one thinks of Sukhumvit Road. But in the bucolic, picturesque surroundings of this luxurious spa, jasmine scents, soothing music, wood dĂŠcor and â&#x20AC;&#x153;aestheticâ&#x20AC;? vases of reeds combine to impart the feeling of being at one with nature. A link in a chain of up-and-coming day spas with therapists imported from Chiang Mai, the signature treatment here is the â&#x20AC;&#x153;four handsâ&#x20AC;? massage, with two members of the team applying pressure simultaneously on both the upper and lower parts of the body. Resistance is futile: aches and pains will deliciously melt away. It might even be too much for visitors still reeling from the sheer abundance â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and privileged pricing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; of spas in the Kingdom.

spas URBAN RETREAT SPA (Map D3-4) 31/10 Soi Promjai, Sukhumvit 39 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-204-2008-9 | www. | 10am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 10pm | $ This accurately monikered little dollop of indulgence is tucked away off Sukhumvit, down soi 31 and around a corner. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a walkable, pleasant even, 5-minute wander to reach this place, with its sleek white-framed, glass-panelled front. Upstairs thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a curtained hallway lined with mattresses primed for traditional Thai massage, with fresh towels folded so expertly into orchid shapes they should be entered into an origami bath-ware contest. Although the multi-limed delights of the Four Hands Massage are also offered here, we recommend, the Urban Touch treatment: a hybrid healer combining Thai twists with the strokes influenced by Indonesia and manipulation from the Maldives.

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health & wellness


H e a l t h & We l l n e s s

wellness centres YOGA & PILATES THE PILATES STUDIO (map C3) 888/58-9 Mahatun Plaza | Phloen Chit Rd | BTS Phloen Chit | 02-6507797 | Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first dedicated Pilates studio also offers pre- and postnatal breathing classes, vinyasa yoga, and gyrotonic expansion in well-lit, airy studios. First-timer sessions (Wed & Sun, B400) include mats and towels. Check the website. Ä Ä&#x2014;Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x2022;ĂťÄ&#x2DC;Ä?Ä?øÄ&#x153;áÄ&#x2014;ÄĄÄ?Ä&#x201E;Ä&#x17D;Ä&#x2022;ĂşÄ&#x203A;ĂźÄ Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x2022;ĂŹĹ&#x2021;Ä&#x2022;Ä&#x;Ä Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x2014;ßÊÄ&#x2014;ø YOGA ELEMENTS (map C3) 29 Vanissa Bldg, Soi Chit Lom | BTS Chit Lom | 02-655-5671 | | 7am-9pm (Mon-Fri), 9am-6pm (Sat-Sun) Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first vinyasa / ashtanga yoga studio specialises in dynamic yoga techniques. The large practice studios are bright, quiet and ideal for small classes. Learning methods include four levels, so absolute beginners will feel at ease with popping â&#x20AC;&#x2122;round for a class of the techniques of breathing and body opening postures. ÄĄÄ&#x2026;ĂĽÄ&#x201C;Ä&#x;Ä?Ä&#x;Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x;Ä&#x201E;Ĺ&#x2C6;ßúĹ&#x2039;Ä?Ä&#x2022;ĂĽÄ&#x2022;Ä&#x2020;Ä&#x160;Ä&#x2022;ĂźÄ&#x2014;Ä?Ä?Ä&#x2022;  ĂŹÄ?Ä&#x2026;ĂŤÄ&#x2014;áÄ&#x2C6;Ä&#x201E; Ä&#x17D;Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x201D;èÄ&#x;ÏČßúÄ&#x2020;Ä&#x201D;Ä&#x2C6;ĂŤÄ&#x2014;áÄ&#x2C6;Ä&#x201E;

Urban lifestyle taking its toll? Fastpaced city life getting you down? Just in need of some downtime? Well, fear not dear reader, for there are a wealth of wellness centres around Bangkok, standing ready to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. TRIA INTEGRATIVE WELLNESS (map D3) 998 Rimklongsamsen Rd, Bangkapi | 02660-2600 | www.triaintegrativewellness. com | 7am-10pm Embrace your wellness at this urban retreat. With state-of-the-art equipment coupled with expert specialists, Tria is ready to carry out its philosophy of caring for what it believes to be the three most crucial health components â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the elemental, structural and emotional states. These three elements, when integrated will provide complete harmony and true wellness for you.

Ä&#x2039;Ä&#x153;ĂźÄ&#x2026;Ĺ&#x2039;Ä?ĂŁÄ&#x203A; Ä&#x192;Ä&#x2022;Ä Ä?èüĹ&#x2039;Ä&#x2020;Ä&#x160;Ä&#x201E;64+# øÄ&#x2020;Ä&#x201D;Ä&#x2026;Ä&#x2026;Ä&#x2022;  ĂšÄ&#x2020;Ä&#x2014;Ä&#x201E;ĂĽÄ&#x2C6;Ä?èÄ?Ä&#x2022;Ä&#x201E;Ä&#x;Ä?Ăź Ä&#x17D;Ä&#x2C6;Ä&#x201D;èĥÄ&#x2020;Ă¨Ä Ä&#x2026;Ä&#x2022;Ă˝Ä&#x2022;Ä&#x2C6;ÞĞÄ&#x2026;Ä&#x201C;Ä&#x;Ä&#x160;Ăş

HYDROHEALTH (map C3) 494 Erawan Bangkok, 4th Fl, Phloen Chit Rd l BTS Chit Lom | 02- 250-7800 | | 10am-8pm The first hydrotherapy colonic centre in Thailand has some of the most innovative equipment around. The colonic procedure not only rids you of all the unwanted toxins in your intestine but has shown it can improve overall health and

other conditions such as allergies and skin problems. The centre also has massage packages and infrared sauna, along with organic food and supplements available.

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RASAYANA RETREAT (map D4) 57 Soi Prom-mitr, Sukhumvit 39 | BTS Phrom Phong | 02-662-4803-5 | www. | 9am-8pm Specialists in deep cleansing programmes and hydrotherapy colonics that leave you refreshed and reborn and also a little bit lighter. Also the Raw Food cafĂŠ at Rasayana is definitely worth stopping by as they promote raw fresh foods using organic fruits and vegetables to help your body stay as clean as possible.

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AMRUTH WELLNESS (map E4) Sukhumvit 55,Thong Lo Soi 8 | BTS Thong Lo | 02-715-9440 | 7am - 10:30pm Get treated for everything from sexual dysfunction to back problems at this fully-fledged Ayurvedic medical centre â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Bangkokâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first. Every patient at this leafy garden townhouse gets a consultation with Keralan Doctor Baspin K., whether youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re in for a yoga sesh or to embark on a panchakarma package. Highlights include a hanging massage and the head oil-dribbling odyssey that is a shiro dhara.

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health & wellness

bangkok 101


edical tourism is big business in Thailand; quite literally a billion dollar industry. In 2007, Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital alone reckoned to have treated over 400,000 patients from nearly 200 different countries. And while Bumrungrad may be the market leader, there are plenty of other world-class medical centres – such as Samitivej, BNH Hospital and Bangkok Hospital – who are increasingly courting international patients. THE PRICE IS RIGHT Reasons for the popularity of travelling to Thailand for medical attention are manifold, but essentially come down to price. Healthcare in your own country may be prohibitively expensive, or maybe your insurance does not cover a procedure you need. Or maybe you’ve decided that for the same price as an operation in your home town you could fly to exotic Thailand, have the operation then recover on a warm beach with a mango shake in one hand and a paperback in the other. When you consider that procedures like heart bypass surgery in the USA can cost anywhere in the region of $70,000, while in Thailand it’s be more like $15,000, the numbers start to make sense. Especially when you consider your doctor here is likely to be foreign trained anyway. And it’s not just major surgery that provides the draw. Cosmetic surgery such as breast enhancement and liposuction is readily available at attractive prices, as is dental work and Lasik eye surgery. In fact, you can grab a Botox shot while you cruise the Bangkok malls. FOUR STAR TREATMENT Some of the hospitals here have to be seen to be believed. When you walk into Samitivej Hospital, for example, the lush décor, cute cafes and chic boutiques give it an almost resort atmosphere. And back at Bumrungrad International, once you’ve been met at the airport, sped through customs and situated in your

bangkok 101

private room, they have their own immigration department and a team of translators to take all the hassle out of your visit. You have to do your homework, though. Is the hospital you’re considering properly accredited? What are your doctor’s actual qualifications? Will you really be ready to go scuba diving only three days after a back operation? How soon after your operation is it safe to fly long-haul? And what happens if complications arise when you’re back home in Tulsa? These are all the kind of questions you should think about and take advice on before committing to treatment.

Eye Care


33 Sukhumvit 3 (Soi Nana Nua) | 02667-1000 | Q SAMITIVEJ SUKHUMVIT 133 Sukhumvit 39 | 02-711-8000 | QBNH HOSPITAL 9/1 Convent Road | 02-686-2700 | QBANGKOK HOSPITAL 2 Soi Soonvijai 7, New Petchburi Road | 02-310-3000 |


There’s nothing more annoying than to Rutnin suffer from faltering vision. Having to squint wherever you go and struggling to decrypt even the largest billboards isn’t desirable for anyone. Here in Thailand there are number of remedies for your eyesight difficulties. The most obvious option (if you haven’t thought of it already) is to get a pair of designer spectacles. Just walk in whenever, get your free examination, choose some snazzy frames and that’s it. The world is in focus again. Check out MBK Centre, where there are no less than 16 optical shops, for very competitive prices on frames and lenses. However, if you are looking for full correction you may want to consider Lasik surgery. The procedure involves utilising a laser to remodel any defects on your cornea, and is relatively painless with short recovery times. Surveys show that up to 98 per cent of patients report full satisfaction with the results. As you might expect, there are many centres specialising in Lasik here. With state of the art equipment and Englishspeaking staff, you can rest assured that you’ll soon be seeing clearly. OPTOMETRISTS: Q BETTER VISION SIAM PARAGON 2nd Fl. | 02-610-9645 | Q EYE LAB MBK CENTRE 1st Fl. | 02-620-9490 Lasik Centres Q TRSC INTERNATIONAL LASIK CENTRE 6th Floor, U Chu Liang Bldg. Rama IV Rd | 02-733-2020 | Q RUTNIN-GIMBEL EXCIMER LASER EYE CENTRE 80/1 Sukhumvit 21(Soi Asoke) | 02-639-3355 | Q BUMRUNGRUD HOSPITAL LASIK CENTRE 33 Sukhumvit Soi 3 | 02-667-1555 | Q LASER VISION LASIK CENTRE OF THAILAND 49/5 Laser Vision Building., Ratchadapisek 48 (Ratchayothin intersection) | 02-511-2111 | health & wellness



sports MASTER MUAY THAI Many a champ started out punching mitts at one of Bangkok’s many muay Thai schools. Some are livein training camps, others geared towards drop-in sessions, but all will train you up and teach you how to deflect – and deliver – the basic moves, be it kick, jab, elbow, foot thrust or standing grapple. Beginners and female pugilists are welcome, though they often receive inordinate attention in the ring Q CHACRIT MUAY THAI SCHOOL Washington Square next to Sukhumvit Soi 22 | 02-260-5816 QMUAY THAI INSTITUTE 336/932 Prahonyothin 118 Vipravadee Road, Rangsit | 02-9920096-99 | QMUAYTHAI SASIPRAPA 401 Soi Ladprao 130 Klongchan, Bangkapi | 02-378-0270 | QTHE INTERNATIONAL MUAY THAI SCHOOL 22/8 Moo 8, Soi 10, Pracharaj Sai1 Road, Bangsue | 02-585-6807 eng_mai.htm

Muay Thai Institute


THAI BOXING VENUES Lumphini Boxing Stadium Rama IV Rd, next to Suan Lum Night Bazaar | MRT Lumphini | 02-251-4303, 02-252-8765 | Fights Tue & Fri from 6:30pm10:30pm, Sat 5pm-8pm, 8:30pmmidnight | B1,000 B1,500 B2,000)

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MUAY THAI (THAI BOXING) Thai boxing, or muay Thai, is very popular in Bangkok with most major bouts held at either the Lumphini or Ratchadamnoen stadium. This brutal but graceful martial art has been practised in Thailand for centuries. Past kings are reported to have been champion fighters and one, King Naresuan, introduced the sport as part of military training in the 16th century. Due to the high incidence of deaths during combat, the sport was banned in the 1920s but reintroduced soon after under the more safetyconscious Queensbury rules. Bouts consist of three five minute rounds during which the fighters use every part of the body (except the head) to bludgeon the opponent into defeat. Before the bout begins, a graceful and mesmerising ritual dance named ram muay is performed by both fighters to placate the spirits and show respect to the art and its teachers. Bouts are extremely boisterous, noisy affairs and should be witnessed for the spectacle alone. Be warned though, this isn’t the fake action of the WWF; here the blows are hard hitting, the blood real. spor ts

Ratchadamnoen Stadium Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue | 02-281-4205, 02-280-1684-6 | Fights Mon, Wed, Thu 6:30pm11pm, Sun 5pm-8pm, 8:30pmmidnight | B1,000 B1,500 B2,000

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TAKRAW (Kick Volleyball) Go to Lumphini Park (see p.37) on any given day and watch sweaty Thais combine the skills of volleyball, football and gymnastics. As many as two dozen men pair off to leap and dive through the air with one objective in mind: without using their hands, keep a rattan ball from hitting the ground on their net side. The diverse mix of players – tuk-tuk drivers, security guards and students – says much about the widespread Thai love of takraw, the most beautiful Asian game. Played since the 11th century, it has spread throughout the region, but nowhere is it played with as much relish as here, where it fills stadiums.The sport’s killer move, the somersault scissor kick, can send the ball hurtling back over the net at amazing speeds. Watch in awe. bangkok 101

t’ai chi

ACTIVE SPORTS AEROBICS It might be hard to imagine, but every day, busy Bangkokians find the time for some energising aerobics – out in the open. Many practise graceful, meditative t’ai chi moves just after sunrise. And head to any park in the city around 5-6pm and you’ll spot large groups of office workers, kids and the elderly doing a hi-energy, Jane Fonda style workout in synch with blaring pop-techno songs and an enthusiastic coach clad in spandex. The best places for the free classes are the centrally located Lumphini Park and the smaller Benjasiri Park (next to The Emporium, Sukhumvit Rd, BTS Phrom Phong). Others, a bit off the beaten path, include Rommaninat Park (Siriphong Rd, near the Giant Swing), Saranrom Park (Thaiwang Rd) near the Grand Palace and Santiphap Park (Soi Rangnam). Never mind the possibility of fainting – simply join in. BOWLING Bowling is a favourite pastime among Thais. Most shopping malls have topof- the-line tenpin alleys on-site and many of these teeter dangerously close to being a nightclub with full bars and closing times after midnight. During after-hours, bowling alleys often have a DJ blasting thumping tunes, and they’ll often kill the lights and flood the halls with black light for a particularly psychedelic experience. Great spots to get your bowl on include trendy Blu-O at Siam Paragon and Esplanade, which also has platinum rooms for rent for your own private area and lane for your party. Also worth mentioning is the Major Bowl atop posh J-Avenue in Thong Lor, and also SF Strike Bowl in MBK, by National Stadium BTS. bangkok 101

Major Bowl

CYCLING SPICEROADS 14/1-B Soi Promsi 2 | Sukhumvit 39 | 02-712-5305, 089- 895-5680 | www. This company has been organising bicycle tours in Southeast Asia for over 12 years, and it offers extraordinary day tours in the outskirts of Bangkok. The daytrips take you to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Koh Kred, around Bangkok’s old city, Chinatown or along atmospheric canals through Bang Krachao, an unspoilt rural peninsula just across the river. They usually start early in the day (pick-up from your hotel is included). The rides, organised throughout the week, are demanding but fun. Groups are held small (two to 16 participants), but private tailormade itineraries are also possible, even for seriously adrenalineparched mountain bikers who are up for a technical 30km nailbiter. SpiceRoads also offers two-and three-day trips around Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and in the Mae Khlong Delta south of Bangkok; it also organises much longer trips in Thailand ICE SKATING SUB-ZERO ICE SKATE CLUB (map D2) Ratchadaphisek Rd, Esplanade 4F | MRT Thailand Cultural Centre | 02354-2134 This isn’t a boring sterile rink, more like a nightclub on ice. Popular among spor ts

youngsters, its 682m2 of fluorescent ice lights up at night when Sub Zero morphs into an “Ice Bar” with DJs and strobe lights blasting the floor. For the novice, there are pros on hand with lessons ranging from speed skating, figure skating, ice skating and even hockey. Lessons are B900-2,400 and the complex has a fully stocked pro shop if you want brand new blades of glory. Even if you just want to have a look there are bars ringside, and of course they are made of ice. And this is Thailand so of course there’s also a popular karaoke set-up on-site. TENNIS Lumphini Park Youth Centre (map C4) Soi Klang Racquet Club Sukhumvit Soi 49-9 (map E4) National Stadium Rama I Rd (map C3) Smash it down the line as tennis has become one of the most popular sports in all of Thailand, with local ace (and recently retired) Paradorn Srichaphan bearing much of the responsibility for inducing hordes of Thais to pick up the racquet and start practising their serves. Many of the leading hotels offer an in-house court for you but if you’d like to get out among the people, there are quite a few public courts around town that you can use for free or for a small fee. For spectators, towards the end of the men’s and women’s seasons, Bangkok hosts the ATP’s Thailand Open and the WTA’s Bangkok Open. 117

Courses&Ser vices


apron, knives and wok, each student works at a personal cooking station in a spacious kitchen after short, informative demonstrations. Lunch consists of your own cooking plus additional dishes. No reason to limit yourself to just tom yam goong and phad thai – each session includes four innovative dishes; the selection changes daily. Perfect for tourists on a short Bangkok stint.

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COOKING CLASSES BAIPAI COOKING SCHOOL (map C4) 150/12 Soi Naksuwan, Nonsee Road, Chong Nonsi | 02-294-9029 | No sitting back and just watching at this leafy two-storey townhouse. Shortly after being picked up from your hotel, passed an apron and given a brief demonstration of how to cook four dishes it’s over to you. Fortunately the breezy open-plan workshop, individual cooking stations and pre-prepped ingredients mean cooking here is no chore. Plus the staff are smiley and professional, as they answer your questions (“But what if I can’t find kaffir lime leaves?” etc) and ensure you don’t singe your spring rolls. Later you get to feast on the fruits of your labour – so do your research on the seven set menus if you’re allergic to tom yum. Some takehome recipes and a souvenir fridge magnet featuring a snap of you in action completes the four-hour morning or afternoon experience; one so palatable and productive and, gasp, fun that many come back for seconds.

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BLUE ELEPHANT (map B4) Thai Chine Building, 233 South Sathorn Rd | 02-673-9353 | www.blueelephant. com | from B2,800 The class offered at this classy restaurant is very hands-on and easy to follow. The morning class is preferable since it starts with a visit to the Bang Rak market with the chef, where you’re shown the ingredients you’ll use later. Equipped with 118

MEDITATION CLASSES INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST MEDITATION CENTRE (map A3) Wat Mahathat, Na Phra Lan Rd | 02-2226011 | | free This is the most traditional, noncommercial meditation class, based on Vipassana (‘insight’) mindfulness. For Buddhists, meditation is essential to cleanse the mind and accomplish clarity and inner peace. Close to Sanam Luang, the atmospheric temple complex is the teaching centre of Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of Thailand’s highest seats of Buddhist learning. Daily classes conducted in English (1pm-4pm, 6pm-8pm, 7pm-10pm) are mixed; you’ll find monks, locals and tourists here. Participants can stay on the compound in simple, quiet rooms; complimentary meals are provided. Bring offerings of flowers, a candle and nine incense sticks for the opening ceremony. Donations are accepted. Retreats of three or more days are available as well, which are perfect for a serious, but short stint into the world of Buddhist meditation.

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THAI MASSAGE CLASSES WAT PO THAI TRADITIONAL MEDICAL SCHOOL (map A3) 2 Sanamchai Rd | 02-622-3551, 02622-3533 | | daily 8am – 5pm | B8,500/30hrs Any good spa therapist will have undergone their training in traditional Thai massage at this temple school. Constructed in a concealed building away from the tourist-infested but peaceful cour ses & ser vices

Wat Po

Wat Po temple grounds, the instruction area is more functional than stylish, but the efficient course run by competent instructors more than makes up for the missing luxury. Thai massage, an ancient form of healing, uses pressure application on the various body meridians. Your costudents will mainly be Thai and Japanese, along with the odd Westerner. The 30hour course can be completed in five, six or ten days; a foot reflexology course and other instruction are available too. The tired tourist can also get Bangkok’s best Thai massage in fan-cooled, opensided salas for just B360/hour.

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CHIVA-SOM INTERNATIONAL ACADEMY (map E4) Modern Town Bldg, 87/104 Ekamai Rd, Sukhumvit Soi 63 | BTS Ekkamai | 02-711-5270-3 | www. | from B9,000 Asia’s premier training centre for spa and holistic therapies offers intensive courses covering all aspects of spa-ing, from anatomy and Thai massage to stress management. Held in peaceful surroundings and conducted by skilled international instructors, half the time is spent on theory and practice, the other half is filled with case studies. The academy takes its instruction seriously; all students receive internationally accepted accreditation on completion of courses. Prices range from B9,000 (two-day reiki course) to B59,000 (spa development course). Most courses are too long for a usual holiday (two to four weeks), but there are one-week courses in reflexology and shiatsu.

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bangkok 101

Want to shore up your karma reserves? Even if you’re only visiting Thailand for a short time, there are plenty of worthwhile causes that rely on public support for their services. In each issue of Bangkok 101, we highlight the work of a local charitable organisation, along with details on how you can help.

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SWING (Service Workers In Group)

This month’s charity does invaluable grassroots work among Thailand’s male, female and transgender sex worker population – three sectors of society that are typically lacking in education and opportunities and among which HIV transmission rates are still rising. Founded in 2004 by long-time human rights activist Suranya Janyaem, SWING (Service Workers In Group) currently operates from three drop-in centres, one in Bangkok’s notorious Patpong red-light district and two in Pattaya. The nub of its work is promoting HIV/AIDS and STI (sexually transmitted infections) prevention among both male and female sex workers. SWING’s volunteers visit sex establishments regularly (57 in Bangkok alone), where they hold workshops that enlighten – be it about safe sex practices, STI, trafficking or human rights. In addition to its outreach in these establishments, SWING’s drop-in centres provide HIV and STI prevention information, counselling, free STI/HIV test clinics, English and Japanese language classes, computer classes and other nonformal education. The drop-in centres also serve as a safe space for sex workers to gather and discuss issues that affect them. And recreational camps and events, like condom fashion shows, also help spread the word about SWING and educate in a fun, not-at-allsanctimonious manner. Initially set up using funds granted by USAID (the US Agency for International Development), SWING today counts the Thai government and individuals among its donors. If you’d like to be one of them, get in touch with them using the contact details below. CONTACT: SWING: 5/F, Building 3, Soi Patpong, Surawong Road | 02-632-9052 | | or bangkok 101

cour ses & ser vices



getting around


angkok’s heaving traffic is legendary, presenting a constant challenge for residents and visitors to the city. River and canal boats, along with the BTS skytrain and MRT subway systems, offer some reliable alternatives to getting jammed on the road. Nonetheless, traffic remains horrendous, particularly mid-week. Below is a layman’s guide to inner-city transport options.

also provides free shuttle buses which transit passengers to and from stations and nearby areas.

ROAD BUS Bangkok has an extensive and inexpensive public bus service. Both open-air and air-conditioned vehicles are available, respectively for B5 and B7.50-23 Pink-white mini-buses are a little more expensive (B25 per person) but seats are guaranteed. As most destinations are noted only in Thai, it is advisable to get a bus route map (available at hotels, TAT offices and bookshops) before boarding. MOTORCYCLE TAXI In Bangkok’s heavy traffic, motorcycle taxis are the fastest, albeit most dangerous, form of road transport. Easily recognisable by their colourful vests, motorbike taxi drivers gather in groups by department stores, at the end of long sois or by tourist spots. As with tuk-tuks, fares definitely have to be negotiated beforehand. TAXI Bangkok has thousands of metered, air-con taxis available 24 hours. Flag fall is B35 (for the first 2kms) and the fare climbs in B2 increments. Be sure the driver switches the metre on. No tipping is required, but rounding the fare up to the nearest B5 or B10 is common. Additional passengers are not charged, 120

nor is baggage. For trips to and from the airport, passengers should pay the expressway toll fees. When boarding from the public taxi queue outside the terminal, an additional B50 surcharge is added to the metered fare. TUK-TUK Those three-wheeled taxis (or samlor) are best known as tuk-tuks, named for the steady whirr of their engines. They are popular amongst tourists and can be fun for short trips around town. A 10-minute ride should cost around B40, but always bargain before boarding. Beware: if a tuk-tuk driver offers to deliver you anywhere in town for as low as B10, it’s part of a setup that will lead you to an overpriced souvenir or jewellery shop. It would be wise to decline any such offers. RAIL SKYTRAIN The Bangkok Transit System, or BTS, is a two-line elevated train network covering the major commercial areas. Trains run every few minutes from 6am to midnight, making the BTS a quick and reliable transport option, especially during heavy traffic jams. Fares range from B15 to B40; special tourist passes allowing unlimited travel for one day (B120) is available. BTS reference

SUBWAY Bangkok’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is another fast and reliable way to get across town. The 18-station line stretches 20kms from Hualamphong (near the central railway station) up to Bang Sue in the north. Subways run from 6am to midnight daily, with trains arriving every 5-7 minutes. The underground connects with the BTS at MRT Silom/BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Sukhumvit/BTS Asok and MRT Chatuchak Park/BTS Mo Chit stations. Subway fares range from B15 to B39. RIVER (also see River Tourism on p.24) CANAL BOAT Khlong Saen Saep canal boats operate from Banglamphu across the city to Ramkhamhaeng University. Canal (khlong) boats tend to be frequent and cost around B8 to B18. Tickets are bought onboard. Note that the piers are a little hidden away, which makes them sometimes difficult to find. EXPRESS RIVER BOAT Bangkok’s vast network of inter-city waterways offer a quick and colourful alternative for getting around the city. Express boats ply the Chao Phraya River from the Saphan Taksin Bridge up to Nonthaburi, stopping at some 30 main piers. Fares range from B9 to B32 depending on the distance. Tickets can either be bought on the boat or at the pier. Boats depart every 20 minutes or so between 5:30am and 6pm. Cross-river services operate throughout the day at each pier for the modest sum of B3. bangkok 101

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Bangkok 101 - November 2010  

Inside Thailand’s Northeast seven design hotel november 2010 100 baht 3/15 Sukhumvit 31 Bangkok 10110 t: +662.662.0951 f: +662.662.3344 e: i...

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