See also: Bangkok's best small bars

Charoenkrung Road's shop-house revival

In recent years, Bangkok’s nightlife scene has had a welcome injection of sophistication on the drinks front. Whether it’s the imported craft beers of Beervana, Mikkeller’s stellar selection of small-batch brews, or the crafty cocktail concoctions of messrs Joseph Boroski at J. Boroski Mixology, Vipop Jiriaphan at Sugar Ray or Mirko Gardelliano at Bamboo Bar, drinking in the city has never been so good. But there’s also been another, more subtle shift in the types of venues people are choosing to frequent. Across the city, from the historic Charoenkrung Road to rising Phra Khanong, smaller venues are springing up to blur the lines between art, music, drinking and community.
At the forefront of this trend is a recent revival that’s seen some of the city’s old shop-houses transformed into galleries, art spaces and bars that bring creative sights and sounds to unlikely residential or traditional neighborhoods. Far from the bright lights of Thonglor or Siam, the likes of Chinatown’s Soy Sauce Factory, a gallery-slash-nightlife venue set in an actual old soy sauce factory, pulls in a cool, art-conscious crowd with its photography exhibitions from big names in the region. Across town in Phra Khanong, GOJA manages a similar feat, but its focus is more on showcasing Bangkok’s burgeoning street art and EDM scenes, with exhibition openings that resemble a night at a heaving, albeit tiny, nightclub. These venues, with their savvy use of social media, have built a swelling following for their diverse lineups, from theater performances to artist talks to, well, good old-fashioned parties.
The past 12 months have seen Bangkok’s hippest crowds move to the once nightlife-free streets of Chinatown and Charoenkrung. Joining Soy Sauce in the neighborhood are a number of smaller, unconventional venues, including art-space-for-hire Cho Why, live music venue Soulbar and bars-slash-galleries Speedy Grandma, El Chiringuito, Bridge and, most recently, 23 Bar & Gallery. And there’s more to come. Speaking of his choice of location, Thomas Menard, the French national behind Soy Sauce Factory said, “For me the Old Town is the center of the city. It’s close to Silom, Hua Lamphong, the riverside. It’s a gamble that the area is going to take off, but you come here to be a part of something different. In Thonglor, you can spend a lot of money on a place and in the first year things will be buzzing, you’ll make a lot of that back, but it’s hard to make it last.”
This trend of small, multidisciplinary spaces is not an overnight sensation, though. The opening of WTF Bar & Gallery in 2010 is largely credited with kick-starting the city’s bar and gallery trend. Other venues have come and gone, but this expat favorite continues to host thought-provoking exhibitions, gigs, and the occasional block party, while also serving as a simple spot for friends to catch up over drinks. Similarly, over in Surasak, Jam has been pairing exhibitions, DJ sets, cult movie screenings and garage sales with cheap drinks since its opening in 2012.
Studio Lam
Among this new wave of shop-house transformations are some more conventional bars that nevertheless add diversity to Bangkok’s nightlife scene. One of the most exciting new live music spots in the capital is Thonglor’s Studio Lam, the latest project by Bangkok DJ Maft Sai, one of the guys behind Zudrangma Records. More than most live venues, the bar feels like a genuine community, pulling in one of the city’s coolest crowds thanks to its adventurous nightly DJ sets and bands. Here, the focus is on forgotten mo lam and luk thung sounds from Thailand’s Northeast, along with plentiful ya dong.
Elsewhere, Smalls on Soi Suan Phlu and the aforementioned Soulbar in Talad Noi have brought regular live music to unlikely settings. The former, situated in a three-story corner house in a low-key residential area, plays host to live jazz, served up with plenty of absinthe shots and cocktails. The people behind Soulbar, meanwhile, transformed a shop-house in one of Bangkok’s oldest neighborhoods into the city’s first bar dedicated solely to live soul and funk performances. It’s the twists that make it most memorable, though, like the bar stools hewed from industrial clutter found in the neighborhood and the kombucha- spiked beers.

Romain Dupuy, one of the partners in Soulbar, explained that the decision to set up shop in one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods was first met with opposition from locals, who feared a repeat of Khao San. But that soon changed. “We send a lot of our guests to local eateries, and in turn they help us get customers,” he said. “I hope more people are encouraged to create small and sincere restaurants or bars around Talad Noi or Chinatown. We chose the place for its spirit and soul. There are plenty of other spaces, and the investment is low—people need to act fast before the big promoters destroy the heart of the city for the wrong reasons.”



Bridge. Charoenkrung Soi 51, 086-986-9421. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-10pm.
Cho Why. 17 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd. Open for events. 
El Chiringuito. 211 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung Rd, 086,340-4791. Open Thu-Sat 6pm-midnight.
GOJA.10/5 Sukhumvit soi 67, 087-112-7774. Open daily 6pm-1am.
Jam. 41 Charoen Rat Soi 1, 083-545-1833. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight.
J. Boroski Mixology. 125/13 SukhumvitSoi 55 (between Thonglor soi 5and 7), 02-712-6025.
Mikkeller. 22 Ekkamai Soi 10, 02-381-9891. Open daily 5pm-midnight.
Smalls. 186/3 Suan Phlu Soi 1, 085-585-1398. Open Mon,Wed-Sun 7:30pm-2am.
Soulbar. 945 Charoenkrung Rd.,083-092-2266. Open Tue-Sat 6pm-midnight.
Soy Sauce Factory. 11/1 Charoenkrung soi 24, 061-835-6824.Open Tue-Sat noon-11pm
Studio Lam. Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-261-6661. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-1am.
Sugar Ray. Ekkamai Soi 21, 094-417-9898. Open Wed, Fri, Sat 8pm-2am.
WTF. 7 Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-662-6246. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight.