Bangkok used to be a chaotic, congested, dirty mess of a megalopolis that visitors used to escape as quickly as possible on their way to a paradise island in the south of Thailand. However, as the nation’s popularity began to increase among Western visitors, hip restaurants, exclusive nightclubs, and glitzy shopping centers began to spring up around the city.
The highest concentrations of these modern attractions can be found along Sukhumvit Road, which was at the heart of development during the start of these heady times in the 1990s. This area also included some of the most modern hotels in Bangkok prior to the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998. Since then, things have continued to grow and develop.
With Bangkok’s super-convenient BTS Skytrain running down the middle of this busy boulevard, experiencing the best of this cool district is incredibly easy. By getting off at the stops listed below, you will soon understand why this city is now a place to be instead of an irritant to be avoided.
At the start of Sukhumvit Road, disembark the Skytrain at Chit Lom, where the Erawan Shrine is the biggest example of the tradition of building spirit houses in Thailand. After a series of unfortunate events that occurred during the construction of the Erawan Hotel in the 1950s, laborers refused to continue with its construction until the spirits that used to inhabit the land were appeased. Once the experts were consulted, a mini-palace was built for these supernatural denizens, and the hotel went on to be a success straight through to the present day.
After paying your respects to the spirits of Chidlom, satisfy your consumerist impulses by paying a visit to CentralWorld, the largest mall in Thailand. This massive retail environment offers the best in fashion, gadgets, sporting goods, and much more. It also has a number of entertainment venues, including an ice skating rink.
End your action-packed day by indulging in fine cuisine at d’Orsay Moules Steak Frites. This cozy space specializes in steak and mussels, and although it isn’t the cheapest place to dine in Bangkok, the restaurant’s rapt attention to detail will ensure that your meal here is one of the best meals of your life.
Nana is well-known as a lively nightlife district in Bangkok by both foreigners and locals, but before you dive headfirst into the scene here, fill your stomach with excellent fish and chips at Snapper New Zealand.
Located in a snug alleyway off Sukhumvit Soi 11, this battered fish emporium is accented with a mix of Thai and modern design elements, which will keep you distracted until entrees like blue warehou or red gurnard arrive at your table, piping hot and with a side of sweet potato fries.
If you are looking for a good time in Nana that won’t loot your checking account, then Cheap Charlie’s Bar will provide you with all the good times you can handle for less than 500 baht per person (about $16 USD). This bar doesn’t waste much expense on overhead (literally, as there is no roof), so drinks here come cheap: Chang goes for 60 baht ($2 USD) a bottle and tequila shots run 70 baht ($2.30 USD).
Cheap Charlie’s may not appeal to you if you are staying at one of many numerous Bangkok luxury hotels in the area, so if you looking for something a bit more highbrow, Q Bar Bangkok will likely be of interest to you. Note that your dress should be a great deal smarter at this venue, as it is quite popular with Bangkok’s social elite. If you manage to make the cut and get inside, you might end up spotting a few celebrities, as this establishment is a favorite of many A-listers visiting Bangkok.
If you are looking for a glimpse into Thai provincial life in the midst of this super-modern metropolis, visiting the Kamthieng House Museum, which is within a short walk of Asok station, is the perfect way to accomplish this goal.
Sitting in the shadows of towering condos, office buildings, and shopping malls that sit adjacent to it, this institution peels back the curtain of twenty-first century Thailand to allow its guests a view into how life was in the countryside in centuries past. The earthy tones of teak wood and the lush greenery that thrives in Bangkok’s tropical climate will provide a much-needed counterpoint to the hectic city outside, and the artifacts within will show you how rural farmers made a living in previous generations.
Plunge straight back into present times by walking into Terminal 21, which is one of Bangkok’s most beloved theme malls. Each section of this shopping center represents a different area of the world, so you can walk from the claustrophobic alleyways of Tokyo to the wide open concourse that represents Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Of course, these representations are limited in their authenticity but the shops associated with these zones are unique enough to justify a fun-filled visit that will provide a welcome respite from the stifling Bangkok heat.
After relaxing for a while at one of the more highly regarded boutique hotels in Bangkok, enjoy a few relaxing drinks at the Long Table Sky Bar. This stunning spot high in the sky above this city’s densest collection of skyscrapers has become quite the popular spot among Bangkok’s trendiest citizens. The view of the skyline from this vantage point in Bangkok will pair well with a cosmopolitan and the fanciest version of mango and sticky rice you have ever had in Thailand.
Any Sukhumvit secrets that we missed? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!
Author bio: Alex is a freelance travel writer and adventure blogger at http://findingthefreedom.com/. When he is not living on the beach, you can find him riding a motorcycle through India. Have a look at his blog and follow his adventures!