Spend a day in Siam, and you'll realize that it's more than a cram-school-center or a shopping mecca. Here are all the places that make Bangkok’s most youthful neighborhood so much fun to be in.
Malls aside, Siam has always been a hub for Thailand’s youth. Home to student-run clothing stalls and Thai designer brands, plus all the latest, most-hyped dessert cafes, Siam remains a tourist trap and uni student haunt, but there’s a lot to love if you look beneath the surface. Here’s how to spend a day like a true dek siam in Bangkok’s quintessential hipster district.
Image: Brave Roasters
Image: Chim Chim Bangkok
The neighborhood isn’t exactly one for early-risers, but there are a handful of excellent cafes where you can get your day started right. Go for a slow-pour coffee at Gallery Drip Coffee, an iced latte at Lido Cafe by Coffeelism, a bourbon caramel latte at ever-popular Brave Roasters in Siam Discovery (the view of the BTS ain’t bad, either), or cold drip coffee at Pour Over Lab. For actual food and not just espressos, visit art-filled all-day-dining hub Chim Chim for loaded breakfast burritos, avocado and lox bagels, or a brunch-appropriate menu that runs the gamut from sandwiches to pizza. Jok Samyan, meanwhile, is a Bangkok congee institution. It opens as early as 5:30am, even. And if you want to bask in the glory of days gone by, visit the Reno Hotel, a former GI haunt on Soi Kasemsan 1 that not only has been renovated, but also offers a menu full of Thai classics at its cafe.
By and large, the area is centered on chain restaurants and shopping malls when it comes to food. If you’re looking for something with a little more character, check out the Chula sois, and Banthat Thong Road in particular.
Image: Mustard Sneakers
Despite funding cuts and the ongoing threat of a hostile takeover by the BMA, the Bangkok Art and Culture Center continues to be one of the city’s most important spaces for the promotion of the arts. If you’re spending the day in the neighborhood, you should start here. It isn’t the only art gallery in the area, though.
If you’re into Olympic sports, National Stadium is your North Star. Thephasadin Stadium boasts a track that’s open to the public in the morning and evening, as well as a football pitch. The greater complex also houses a 50m pool, two other tracks, and an open-to-the-elements, concrete football pitch, where skaters and futsal groups regularly do their thing. It’s good for photo ops, if you’re not coming for fitness. While you’re here, check out the sprawling Stadium One and its 100-plus sports stores and five floors of fitness offerings, spas, and more.
Shopping? The neighborhood’s got that. Look for sneakers at Rompboy, Mustard Sneakers, or Off-White. For something more formal, visit Arcobareno in Siam Square One for quality yet
affordable loafers, or go to Selvedgework on Siam Square Soi 2 to get some legit custom denim. If you’re not in the market for footwear or jeans, you can pick up home goods at shops like Everyday I Love My Life, the flagship Everyday Karmakamet store that sells everything from plates, scented candles, and diffusers to, uh, sneakers in its fashion zone.
Fans of Thai designer brands like Leisure Projects and Takara Wong should visit the Absolute Siam Store in Siam Center, or ODS and Ecotopia in Siam Discovery for Thai-made souvenirs, clothing, and home items with an edge. Lido Connect also houses several cool places, like the DVD shop on the ground level that sells cheap hidden gems (assuming you still have
a DVD player), and Sculpture Bangkok’s retro photobooth.
While it’s typically overrun with the elephant-panted masses, the Jim Thompson House has lately been hosting some fun events too, like the annual Fruitfull, a food-oriented festival put on by the people behind Wonderfruit.
Image: Taan Bangkok
Image: Alati Bangkok
Though not on the level of Thonglor or Sathorn, the Siam area is developing into a respectable upscale dining hub. Try the inventive, great-value Thai tasting menus at the Siam@Siam Hotel’s Taan, or go full-on Mediterranean with a mezze platter at the Siam Kempinski’s Alati, fresh pasta at the Grand Hyatt Erawan’s Salvia, or tapas at high-flying Uno Mas, 54 floors up at the Centara Grand at CentralWorld.
Image: Paradise Lost Bangkok
Feat Lab is the best option for beer geeks: the bottle shop-slash-cafe and bar boasts a good selection of imported craft beers. Though it has barely had a chance to get its feet beneath it, pastel-clad rooftop bar Paradise Lost is still primed to be a welcome addition to the community once life returns to normal, thanks to its inventive drinks and fun playlists. Nearby Philtration, meanwhile, is helping to make the sois by the Saen Saep Canal something of a destination for cocktail drinkers.
Apart from these bars, or Groove at CentralWorld, there isn’t much to experience in the way of nightlife. With Siam Square continuing its evolution from grungry street-style hub to whitewashed commercial center, you need to go a little further to capture the young, creative culture that still underlies everything here. Grab your camera and hoof it around Banthat Thong, the canal, or National Stadium to witness the eclectic energy that has historically drawn Bangkok’s cool kids, the dek siam, and outsiders alike to this neighborhood.