No part of Bangkok is so saturated in worthwhile bars as the crumbling streets of Charoenkrung and Yaowarat, so if you’re looking to splash the cash on a payday bar crawl, here’s where to head.
BK's annual B.A.D. Awards celebrate all that's good in Bangkok nightlife. For the 2018 guide, it was impossible to look past Charoenkung and Chinatown for Nightlife Neighborhood of the Year. Whether it's the neon light and tropical drinks of Tropic City, the low-key riverside views of Jack's Bar or the stately charm of cocktail institution Bamboo Bar, this area has a bit of everything.
Dive. When the craft cocktails of its hipster neighbors have drained your wallet dry, you can always rely on this little spot to pour you a stiff one for under B200. A soundtrack pumping with Britpop classics also means you’re way more likely to get up and dance.
92 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd., 080-264-4471. Open Tue-Sun 8pm-1am.
Cocktails. What a year it’s been for Soi Nana. From arty backwater to fully fledged cafe-hopper’s paradise. Fortunately, we have Asia Today to thank for still keeping the cool credentials alive. It’s not just about those incredible drinks—no idea what’s in them but damn they taste good—but also a properly cool, speakeasy vibe.
35 Soi Maitri Chit, 097-134-4704. Open Tue-Sun 7pm-1am.
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Cocktails. Take Bangkok’s oldest jazz bar (open since 1953), lavish it with a respectful new interior of lacquered bamboo and animal print, install a head barkeep (Jamie Rhind) who earned his stripes at London’s Artesian Bar, and you have a damn fine place to knock back a Manhattan and watch the live performances.
1/F, Mandarin Oriental, 48 Charoenkrung Soi 40 (Oriental Avenue), 02-659-9000. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-1am; Fri-Sat 5pm-2am.
La Casa del Habano
Cigars. This intimate time-capsule of a cigar lounge mixes safari chic and gentlemen’s club stateliness—a colonial throwback in keeping with the hotel in which it sits. This was the first official retailer of Habanos cigars in Thailand, and today you can select from a range of 300 cigars (all Cubans). Pair your choice with one of the rare liquors in stock or order in one of the creative Thai concoctions from the adjoining Bamboo Bar.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 48 Oriental Avenue, 02-267-1596. Open daily 12pm-1am.
Restaurant-bar. This shop-house bar is one of a new breed of Chinatown bar attracting Bangkok's young and hip. There's a charming retro ambience courtesy of reclaimed wooden furniture, classic sewing tables, old posters and an adorable chalkboard menu displaying Spanish tapas drawn from the owner's six years living in Spain. Try the tortilla de patatas (omelet), patatas bravas (fried potatoes) and bocadillos (sandwiches), all washed down with a Spanish Xoriguer gin.
221 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung Rd., 086-340-4791, Thu-Sun 6pm-midnight
Restaurant-bar/Live Music. Step inside this old shop-house and you're transported to a retro Hong Kong diner like something out of In the Mood for Love—think warm lighting, carefully positioned mirrors, vintage mosaic tiles. Downstairs you'll find a hip bistro serving cold cuts and crepes alongside wine. A prohibition era-themed cocktail bar sits upstairs, where French spirits are spotlighted in classic cocktails based on The Savoy Cocktail Book (first published back in 1930).
831 Charoen Krung Soi 31, 085-527-3511, Wed-Sat 7pm-midnight
Riverside. Hidden behind the Shangri-La hotel you’ll find a drinking den of the old-school variety—flexing plastic chairs, classic Thai stir-fries (including knockout southern dishes beloved of chefs like 80/20’s Napol Jantraget) and ice-cool, sub-B100 Leos. There’s no air-con and you’ll have to arrive early if you want a rickety riverside perch, but we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Soi Wat Suan Plu, Charoenkrung Soi 42/1, 086-416-8182;089-138-1922. Open daily 12pm-2am.
Restaurant-bar. Chef Chet Adkins knows his Japanese-style skewers, but you could delete Jua’s food menu and it would hold up as a respectable booze den. His business partner, photographer Jason Lang, is an expert on sake and ensures the bar remains well stocked—hence why Charoenkrung’s party set clamor to get near that smooth, smooth terrazzo counter.
672/49 Charoenkrung Soi 28, 02-103-6598. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight; Sun 5-10pm.
Beer. All dark woods, vintage signage and spare lighting, this Chinatown beer bar swings to the sounds of upbeat piano jazz while pouring craft beers like Los Locos Mexican lager and Tuatara Weiz Guy Hefeweizen at some of the best prices in town. In the fridge you'll find beers from the top local craft brewers like Happy New Beer.
16 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd., 081-839-2832 Open Tue-Sun 6pm-1am.
Squeezed between a motorbike repair shop and a spirit house shop, this Yaowarat bar goes for a red-lit, retro Chinese look. Rabbit Hill celebrates Asian drinking culture by offering beer, whiskey, sake and other booze from around the region. Step inside and things get a lot more kitschy with bright red walls and a striking mural of a qipao-clad woman drinking Moonzen, a Hong Kong craft beer—try the South Cloud Lager, a session beer with subtle Chinese tea notes.
1 Santi Phap Rd., 092-646-6636. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-midnight.
Riverside. Tucked down a little alley behind Wat Pathumkongka, this charming riverside wooden house feels halfway between a gallery and a friend’s house, brimming with personality from colorful vintage furnishings, paintings, resident cats and all sorts of cat-related curios. The tasty Thai cuisine is augmented by Japanese touches, while drinks span craft beer, sake and cocktails, like the Purple Rain with butterfly pea tea, tequila, lemongrass and mint. Head there for a chilled sundowner on the riverside terrace to live DJ beats.
1612 Songwat Rd., 086-978-9331. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 4pm-1am.
Umeshu. This teensy, neon speakeasy on the ground floor of a Chinatown hostel is dedicated to Japan’s syrupy liquor umeshu. Start with the rotating 101 option, an introductory, easy-to-down (here, a euphemism for very sweet) offering. Up from there is the premium-grade and noticeably more tangy stuff, like the 888 Aotan no Yuzushu.
Songwat Rd., 089-783-3099, Open Fri-Sat 7-11pm.
Cocktails. Soi Nana was buzzing well before Teens of Thailand opened its doors, but no venue on the street has made as much impact on Bangkok’s bar scene. Built from the remains of a near-crumbling shop-house, the venue’s haunting Indian-style door and sticker-starred exterior concrete walls are a loud-andproud counter to speakeasy cocktail culture. Co-owner and mixologist Niks Anuman-Rajadhon stockpiles an apocalypse-ready supply of gin, while venue’s small, dimly-lit room gets rammed every weekend.
76 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung Rd., 096-846-0506, Sun-Thu 7pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 7pm-1am.
Cocktails/Live Music. Located in the crumbling streets of the up-and-coming Charoenkrung area, this restored shop-house has plenty of raw appeal, emphasized with mood lighting and simple wooden tables. Here, you'll find potent cocktails mixed with Thai fruits, herbs and spices. There's also a good line of home-infused ya dong (Thai herbal whiskey) as well as a kitchen specializing in Thai tapas (as well as a few classics like pad Thai). Come nightfall, enjoy your meal while Thai musicians take the stage to play traditional music from the Central region.
69-71 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung Rd., 098-467-2944, Tue-Thu 5pm-midnight; Sun 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 5pm-1am.
Cocktails. This community-focused tropical cocktail bar has made waves in the neighborhood, hosting collaborative block parties with local restaurants like 80/20 that have kick-started a shift down the road for the area’s nightlife. Despite their impressive cockt ail list from award-winning bartenders—think fat-washed rums and bark-infused vodkas—they manage to dodge stuffiness with their tropical shirts and jovial atmosphere. And pssst, top tip—if you don't wanna drink the cocktails they'll pour you a cheapo whiskey soda instead.
672/65 Charoenkrung Soi 28, 083-838-2750. Open Tue-Sun 7pm-1am.
Rooftop. You’ll feel like you’re entering the secret garden as you ascend the creaky wooden staircase that leads to this rustic rooftop bar. Through a maze of hanging plants, flower tube chandeliers, exposed brick walls, fairy lights and wooden ladders, you’ll be met with international dishes and Garden of Eden-themed cocktails.
Rooftop/F, Oneday Wallflowers, 37-39-41 Soi Nana, 096-727-6789. Open daily 6pm-midnight.