Invariably the safest of Bangkok's infamous carnal pleasures, food is serious business in this city.. Attracting hungry visitors from across the globe, Bangkok's eats also draw natives from disparate ends of the city, happy to brave traffic or floods for a bowl of noodles or a plate of rice.
The selection is enormous, with eating places in Bangkok ranging from wheeled carts that set up shop on a daily basis to chic dining rooms in five-star hotels. In our experience the tastiest eats are generally found somewhere in-between, at family-run shophouse restaurants serving a limited repertoire ol dishes.
The influences are also vast, and you'll Muslim, not to mention most regional Thai cuisines. And if at some point you do tire of rice noodles and curries, Bangkok has an ever-expanding selection of high-quality international restaurants, encompassing everything from hole-in-the-wall French bistros to authentic Japanese ramen houses.
Ko Ratanakosin & Banglamphu
Bangkok's royal district has an abundance of sights but a dearth of restaurants - a pity, considering the potential views.
Despite its proximity to the fauxptit tai and tame dom yam of Th Khao San, Banglamphu is one of the city's most legendary eating areas. Decades old restaurants and legendary hawkers line the streets in this leafy corner of Olde Bangkok, and you could easily spend an entire day grazing the southern end of Th Tanao alone.
Although you'd be wisest to get your do-mestic nosh away from the main drag, the foreign influence on Th Khao San has led to a few import standouts.
Nang Loeng Market : Dating back to 1899, this atmospheric market is primarily associated with Thai sweets, but at lunchtime it's also an excellent place to fill up on savouries. Try a bowl of handmade egg noodles at Rung Reuang or the wonderful curries across the way at Ratana.
Chote Chitr : This third-generation shophouse restaurant boasting just six tables is a true Bangkok foodie landmark. The kitchen can be inconsistent, but when they're on, dishes like meegrorp (crispy fried noodles) and yam too'aploo (wing-bean salad) are in a class of their own.
Kirn Leng : This tiny family-run restaurant specialises in the dishes of central Thailand. The grumpy owner doesn't speak English, so simply point at what ever looks good from the well-stocked glass case, or refer to the English-language menu.
Pan : If you are looking for authentic Thai, but don't want to stray far from Th Khao San, this streetside eatery is your best bet. Simply look for the overflowing tray of raw ingredients, point to whatever looks tasty, and Pan will fry it up for you.
RubAroon : Strategically located across from Wat Pho, this tastefully restored shophouse is the perfect temple-exploring pit stop. Basic one-plate dishes and refreshing drinks bulk out the menu.
Krua Noppharat : A few dusty paintings are the only effort at interior design at this family-run standby. Where it concerns flavour, however, Krua Noppharat is willing to expend considerably more energy, and thankfully does not tone down its excellent central- and southern-style Thai fare for foreign diners.
Rachanawi Samosorn : The restaurant of the Royal Navy Association has one of the few coveted riverfront locations along this stretch of the Chao Phraya. Locals come for the combination of riverfront views and cheap and tasty seafood-based eats. The entrance to the restaurant is near the ATM machines at Tha Chang.
Hemlock : Taking full advantage of its cosy shophouse setting, this white-tablecloth local is an excellent intro to Thai food. The vast menu has the usual suspects, but also includes some dishes you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere, as well as a strong veggie section.
Poj Spa Kar : Pronounced poht sa-pah kahn, this is the oldest restaurant in Bangkok, and continues to maintain recipes handed down from a former palace cook. Be sure to order the simple but tasty lemon-grass omelette or the deliciously sour/sweet gang sôm, a traditional central Thai soup.
Shoshana : Although prices have gone up slightly since it began back in 1982, Shoshana still puts together a cheap but tasty Israeli meal. Feel safe ordering anything deep-tried - it does an excellent job of it - and don't miss the eggplant dip.
Ricky's Coffeeshop : This cosy cafe has moved - a door down - and now serves Mexican food in addition to authentic coffee drinks, hearty bteakfasts and baguette sandwiches.
Oh My Cod! : Fish and chips, the signature dish here, takes the form of an immense, puffy fillet accompanied by thick-cut chips and peas. Breakfast is served all day, and parched Anglophiles can enjoy a proper cuppa in the sunny courtyard dining area.
Ann'JSweet : Ann, a native of Bangkok and a graduate of the Cordon Bleu cooking program, makes some of the most authentic Western-style cakes you'll find anywhere in town. Lavazza coffee and iBerry ice creams fill out the tasty menu.
Deck : The Deck's claim to fame is its commanding views over Wat Arun, but the restaurant's short but diverse menu, ranging from duck confit to Thai-style pomelo salad, sweetens the pot. After dinner, drinks are served at the hotel's open-air rooftop bar.
Chinatown & Phahurat
When you mention Chinatown, most Bangkokians immediately dream of street food, the best of which we've included in our 'Eats Walk' . On the area is also farrjous as ground zero for the yearly Vegetarian Festival (see the boxed text, opposite). On the western side of the neighbourhood is Bangkok's Little India, the fabric district of Phahurat, filled with small Indian and restaurants tucked into the soi off Th Chakraphet.
Old Siam Plaza : Sugar junkies, be sure to in-clude this stop on your Bangkok eating itinerary. The ground floor of this shopping centre is a candyland of traditional Thai sweets and snacks, most made right before your eyes.
Royal India : Yes, we realise that this legendary hole in the wall has been in every edition of our guide since the beginning, but after all these years it's still the most reliable place to eat in Bangkok's Little India. Try any of the delicious breads or rich curries, and don't forget to finish with a homemade Punjabi sweet.
TangJaiYuu: In Bangkok, policemen and big-haired women are usually a tip-off for good eats, not suspicious activity. This longstanding fave is great for a decadent night out, and specialises in Teo Chew and Chinese-Thai specialties with an emphasis on seafood.
Silom, Sathon & Riverside
Th Silom has a bit of everything, from truly old-skool Thai to some of the city's best upscale international dining. The western end of the street, near the Chao Phraya River, is home to several Indian and Thai-Muslim restaurants.
Soi 10 Food Centres : These two adjacent hangarlike buildings tucked behind Soi 10 are the main hmchtime fuelling stations for this area's office staff. . Choices range from southern-style kowgaang (point-and-choose curries ladled over rice) to virtually every form of Thai noodle.
Khrua Aroy Aroy : It can be crowded and hot, but Khrua Aroy Aroy ('Delicious Delicious Kitchen') rarely fails to live up to its lofty name. Stop by for some of Bangkok's richest curries, as well as a revolving menu of daily specials.
Home Cuisine Islamic Restaurant : This bungalow-style restaurant does tasty Thai-Muslim with an Indian accent. Sit out on the breezy patio and try the rich and sour fish curry, ideally accompanied by a flaky roti or three.
Kalapapruek :This venerable Thai eatery has numerous branches and mall spin-ofls around town, but we still like the quasi-concealed original branch. The diverse menu spans regional Thai specialties from just about ever)' region, daily specials and, occasionally, seasonal treats as well.
Chennai Kitchen : This thimble-sized restaurant puts out some of the most solid southern Indian vegetarian around. The arm-length dosais (a crispy southern Indian bread) are always a good choice, but if you're feeling indecisive go for the thali set that seems to incorporate just about everything in the kitchen.
Souvlaki : Greek is among Bangkok's most elusive cuisines, and this new eatery has finally brought Hellenic flava to town. The menu runs the predictable gamut of Greek-style fast food and mezze, but also offers interesting daily specials. Warning: serving sizes are truly Olympian.
Scoozi : Now boasting several locations across Bangkok, we still think the wood-fired pizzas taste best at this, the original branch. However, if you find yourself elsewhere with a dough craving, you can also get your pizza pie on at Th Khao San ami Thonglor.
Le Bouchon : The Patpong address alone is a tip-off that this is anything but haute cuisine. Instead, this homey bistro is the kind of place where Bangkok's French population comes to forget where they really are. Choose your dishes from the chalkboard menu toted around by the cheery staff, but it'd be a shame to miss the garlicky frogs' legs or savoury foie gras pate.
Le Normandie : When it opened in 1962, Le Normandie was Bangkok's only destination for fine dining. Despite the passing of more than four decades, it wouldn't be entirely incorrect to say that little has changed. As the menu, which boasts an entire foie gras section, suggests, this is classic French cuisine, and no fewer than 20 three-starred Michelin chefs have helped to prepare it over the years. To see these influences firsthand, try the de-gustation menu (4400B), which is also available with a selection of wines (7400B).
Siam Square & Pratunam
If you find yourself hungry in this part of ' central Bangkok, you're largely at the mercy of shopping-Mall food courts and chain restaurants. However, this is still Thailand, and if you can ignore the prefabricated atmosphere, the food can often be quite good. If you don't need air-conditioning, stop by the numerous food stalls at Siam Square for a quick Thai lunch.
Sanguan Sri. : If you don't manage to walk right past it, join the area's hungry office workers at this old-school Thai eater)'. There's a limited English-language menu, but simply pointing to the delicious dishes being consumed around you is probably a better strategy.
Coca Suki : Immensely popular with Thai-families, sii-gee takes the form of a bubbling hotpot of broth and the raw ingredients to dip therein. Coca is one of the oldest purveyors of the dish, and the Siam Square branch reflects the brand's eflorts to appear more modern. Fans of spice be sure to request the tangy torn yam broth.
New Light Coffee House : Travel back in time to 1960s-era Bangkok at this vintage diner popular with students from nearby Ohulalongkorn University. Try old-style Western dishes, all of which come accompanied by a soft roll and green salad, or choose from the extensive Thai menu.
Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao : The tonguc-twistingly long name of this excellent Singaporean chain refers to the restaurant's signature wheat noodles (la mian) and the famous Shanghainese steamed dumplings (xiao long piio). If you order the hand pulled noodles, allow the staff to cut them with kitchen shears, otherwise you'll end up with evidence of your meal on your shirt.
This endless ribbon ot a road is where to go if you wish to forget you're in Thailand. From Korean to Middle Eastern, just about every cuisine has an outpost here. We've mentioned a few Thai places below, but most domestic eats in this area are more miss than hit, and it's really the place to indulge in the flavours you left at home.
Soi 38 Night Market : After a hard night of clubbing, this gathering of basic Thai-Chinese hawker stalls will look like a shimmering oasis. If you're going sober, stick to the knot of'famous' vendors tucked into an alley on the right-hand side as you enter the street.
Pharani Home Cuisine : This cosy Thai restaurant dabbles in a bit of everything, from ox-tongue stew to rice fried with shrimp paste, but the real reason to come is for the rich, meaty 'boat noodles' - so called because they used to be sold from boats plying the klorngs of Ayuthaya.
Thonglee : One of the few remaining mom-and-pop Thai places on Sukhumvit, this tiny kitchen offers a few dishes you won't find elsewhere, like pork fried with shrimp paste, and sweet-and-spicy crispy fried noodles.
Face : This handsome dining complex is essentially two very good restaurants in one: Lan Nfa Thai does some of the best upscale Thai around, while Hazara dabbles in exotic-sounding 'North Indian frontier cuisine'. To make matters even better, Visage, the cafe/bakery next door, pre-pares some of the best cakes and chocolates in Bangkok.
Bo.lan : Upscale Thai is usually more garnish than flavour, hut this chic new restaurant, started up by two former chefs oT London's Michelin-starred Nahm, is the exception. Bo and Dylan (Bo.lan, a play on words that also means 'ancient') take a scholarly approach to Thai cuisine, and perfectly executed set meals featuring full-flavoured regional Thai dishes are the results of this tuition.
Due de Praslin : Travel from sweaty Bangkok to Olde Europe in one step at this classy cafe-slash-chocolatier. Other than the spot-on bonbons and good coffee, try a hot cocoa, made in front of your eyes by combining steaming milk with shards of rich chocolate.
AH! : The Atlanta Hotel's de-lightful vintage diner is one of the few places that excels both in atmosphere and cuisine Helve back into 1950s-era ‘continental' dishes, such as Hungarian goulash or wiener schnitzel, or acclaimed vegetarian Thai.
Boon long Kiat Singapore Hainanese Chicken : Order a plate of the restaurant's namesake and bear witness to how a dish can be simultaneously simple and profound. And while you're there you'd be daft not order rojak, the spicy/sour fruit 'salad', which here is called 'Singapore Som Tarn'.
Nasser Elmassry : One of several similar Middle Eastern restaurants on Soi 3/1, Nasser Elmassry is easily recognisable by its genuinely impressive floor-to-ceiling stainless-steel 'theme'. Middle Eastern food generally means meat, meat and more meat, but there are also several delicious veggie-based mezze.
Tapas Cafe : Vibrant tapas, refreshing sangria and an open, airy atmosphere make this new Spaniard on the block worth the visit. Come before 7pm when tapas are buy-two, get-one-free.
Ramentei : Located smack dab in the middle of Bangkok's de facto Japanese district, this workaday ramen joint serves up a variety of authentic noodle dishes for the city's Japanese expat conynunity. Katsudon (breaded pork cutlet served over rice) and otKer basic rice dishes are also available.
Sukhumvit Plaza : Known around town as 'Korean Town', this multistorey complex is the city's best destination for authentic 'Seoul' food. Local residents swear by.Arirang (0 2653 0177, dishes 120B to 350B) on the 1st floor, although there are slightly cheaper places in the complex as well.
Bed Supperclub : 7.30-10.30pm Sun-Thu, dinner 9pm Fri & Sat; Skyjrain Nana) Kiwi chef Paul Hutt and his army of talented Thai chefs are creating the most cutting-edge cuisine in town. Tools and techniques ranging from liquid nitrogen to sous-vide have resulted in creations such as tomato hops-infused broth with pure haloumi cheese noodle, avocado snow and basil oil. Dinner is a la carte except on Fridays and Saturdays when Hutt does a four-course surprise menu at 9pm sharp.
Lumphini Park & Th Phra Ram IV
Kai Thort Jay Kee : Although the sotn -dam (spicy green papaya salad), sticky rice and lahp (a Thai-style 'salad' of minced meat) give the impression of a northeastern Thai-style eatery, the restaurant's namesake deep-fried bird is more southern in origin. Regardless, smothered in a thick layer of crispy deep-fried garlic, it is none other lhan a truly Bangkok experience.
Cafe 1912 : Part of the French cultural centre, and with food provided by a good local bakery, this cafeteria is a great place to fuel up while on an embassy run. Both French and Thai dishes are available, as well as coffee and delicious cakes and sweets.
Ngwan Lee Lang Suan : This cavernous food hall is centrally located and open late, making it n perfect post-clubbing destination. It's, also a great place to try those dishes you never dare to order elsewhere such as jap chdi, Chinese-style stewed veggies, or the delicious bet dun, duck stewed in Chinese spices.
Cy'an : The city's best chefs rave about this teal and grey den of gastronomic delight - always a good sign. Combining vibrant Mediterranean and Moroccan flavours, a healthy obsession with the finest seafood, and a stylish and intimate atmosphere, this is one of the best destinations for a splurge.
Central & Greater Bangkok
Phat Thai Ari : One of the city's better-known pat tai shops is just steps away from the An Skytrain station..Try the innovative 'noodle-less' version, where long strips of crispy green papaya are substituted for the traditional rice noodles from Chanthaburi.
Pathe : The Thai equivalent of a 1950s-era American diner, this popular place combines solid Thai food, a fun atmosphere and a jukebox playing scratched records. Don't miss the deep-fried ice cream.
Mallika : A dream come true: authentic regional Thai (southern, in this case), with a legible English menu, good service and tidy setting.. The prices are slightly high for a mom-and-pop Thai joint, but you're paving for quality" .
RiverBarCafe: Sporting a picture-perfect riverside location, good food and live music, River Bar Cafe combines all the essentials for a perfect Bangkok night out.
Once infamous as an anything-goes nightlife destination, in recent years Bangkok has been edging towards teetotalism with strict regulations limiting the sale of alcohol and increas-' ingly conservative closing times. Regardless, the city still boasts a diverse and fun bar scene, I and there are even a few places to go if you find I am too early to get back on the wagon.
Keep in mind that smoking has been out-lawed at all indoor (and some quasi-outdoor) entertainment places since 2008; surprisingly for Thailand, the rule is strictly enforced.
Ko Ratanakosin & Banglamphu
During the day, Th Khao San is dominated by j just about everybody but Thais. At night the j natives deem it safe to join the crowds, giving the area an entirely different atmosphere. In addition to the main strip, Th Rambutri and Th Phra Athit also draw drinkers and fun j seekers from across the city, and the world.
Hippie de Bar : Popular with the domestic crowd, Hippie boasts several levels of fun, both indoor and outdoor. There's food, pool tables and a soundtrack you're unlikely to hear elsewhere in town.
Old Phra Arthtt Pier :This self-proclaimed 'Gastronobar' consists of an attractive wooden loungelike bar and an open-air deck with fleeting views of the river. As the name apparently suggests, there's food as well.
Taksura : There are no signs to lead you to this seemingly abandoned century-old mansion in the heart of old Bangkok, which is all the better, according to the cool uni-artsy arowd who frequent the place. Take a seat outside to soak up the breezes, and go Thai and Order some spicy nibbles with your drinks.
Phranakorn Bar : It must have taken a true visionary to transform this characterless multilevel building into a warm, fun destination for a night out. Students and arty types make Phranakorn Bar a home away from hovel with eclectic decor and changing gallery exhibits.
Bars tend to segregate into foreigner and Thai factions, but you can always reverse that trend. Here are a few popular options:
Buddy Bar : Spotless colonial-themed bar for when only air-conditioning will do.
Center Khao San : One of many front-row views of the human parade on Th Khao San; the upstairs bar hosts late-night bands.
Molly Bar : Packed on weekends for Thai local bands; more mellow on weekdays with outdoor seating.
Roof Bar : Although the live acoustic soundtrack is hit and miss, the views are solid from this elevated pub.
Susie Pub :Thai pop and pool tables.
Silom, Sathon & Riverside
Sirocco Sky Bar : Bangkok seems to be one of the only places in the world where nobody minds if you slap a bar on top of a skyscraper. Enjoy this liberty while it lasts, and preferably witb one of SEy Bar's tasty drink creations. But be sure to dress the part; shorts and sandal wearers have to stay at ground level.
Moon Bar at Vertigo : Also precariously perched on top of a skyscraper, Moon Bar offers a slightly different bird's-eye view of Bangkok. Things can get a bit crowded here come sunset, so be sure to show up a bit early to get the best seats.
Vino di Zanotti : A branch of the nearby Italian restaurant of the same name, Vino keeps it casual with live music, a huge wine list and lots of delicious nibbles.
Barbican Bar : Surrounded by massage parlours with teenage prom queens cat-calling at Japanese business men, this is a straight-laced yuppie bar where office crews come for some happy-hour drinks and stay until closing time.
Coyote on Convent : Forget the overpriced Tex-Mex cuisine; the real reason to visit Coyote is for its 75+ varieties of margaritas. On Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm and Saturdays from 10pm to midnight, the icy drinks are distributed free to all women who pass through the door.
MollyMalone's: A recent makeover has this longstanding local leaning perilously towards Irish kitsch, but it still pulls a fun crowd and the service is friendly and fast.
Siam Square & Pratunam
Diplomat Bar : This is one of the few hotel lounges that the locals make a point of visiting. Choose from an expansive list of innovative marti-nis and sip to live jazz, played gracefully at conversation level.
To-Sit : To-Sit epitomises everything a Thai university student could wish for on a night out: sappy Thai music and cheap, spicy eats. There are branches all over town, but the Siam Square location has the advantage of being virtually the only option in an area that's buzzing during the day, but dead at night.
CafeTrio: Spend an evening at this cosy jazz bar and you'll go home feeling like a local. Live music is featured on an irregular basis -best to call ahead to find out who and when.
Tuba : Part storage room for over-the-top vintage furniture, partfriendly local boozer, this bizarre bar certainly doesn't lack jn character. Indulge in a whole bottle for once, and don't miss the delicious chicken wings.
Spring : Although not technically a bar, the expansive lawn of this smartly reconverted 1970s-era house is probably the only chance you'll ever have to witness Bangkok's fair and beautiful willingly exposing themselves to the elements.
Cheap Charlie's : There's never enough seating, and the design concept is best classified as 'junkyard', but on most nights this chummy open-air beer corner is a great place to meet everybody, from package tourists to resident English teachers.
Bull's Head : Bangkok boasts several English-style pubs, and this is probably the most 'authentic' of the lot. With friendly management and staff, and more events and activities than a summer camp, it's also a good place to meet people, parficularly those of the British persuasion.
HOBS : Arguably the word's best brews, Belgian beers have been fleetingly available around Bangkok for a while now, but have found a permanent home at this new pub. Be sure to accompany your beer with a bowl of crispy frites, served here Belgian-style with mayonnaise.
Shame on you if you find yourself bored in Bangkok. And even more shame if you think the only entertainment options involve the word 'go-go'. Nowadays Bangkok's nightlife is as diverse as tliat of virtually any modern city - but a lot cheaper. Even if you're usually in bed by 9pm, Bangkok still offers interesting postdinner diversions, from flash cinemas to traditional cultural performances.
Music is an essential element of a Thai night out, and just about every pub worth its salted peanuts has a house band of varying quality. l:or the most part this means perky Thai pop covers or tired international standards (if you've left Bangkok with out having heard a live version of 'Hotel " California', well, you haven't really been to Bangkok), but an increasing number of places are starting to deviate from the norm with quirky and/or inspired bands and performances. Nightly line-ups at smaller venues can be found online at Bangkok Gig Guide (www.bangkokgigguide.com).
Brick Bar : This cavelike pub hosts a nightly revolving cast of live music for an almost exclusively Thai crowd. Come before midnight, wedge yourself into a table a few inches from the horn section, and lose it to Teddy Ska, one of the most energetic live acts in town.
Living Room : Don't let looks deceive you; every night this bland hotel lounge transforms into the city's best venue for live jazz. Contact ahead of time to see which sax master or hide hitter is currently in town.
Parking Toys :Essentially a rambling shed stuffed with vintage furniture, Parking Toys hosts an eclectic revolving cast of fun bands ranging in genre from acoustic/classical ensembles to electro-funk jam acts. To get here, take a taxi heading north from Mo Chit Skytrain station and tell the driver to take you to Th Kaset-Navamin. Immediately upon passing the second stop light on this road, look for the Heineken sign on your left.
Saxophone Pub &Restaurant : This nightlife staple is the big stage of Bangkok's live music scene. It's a bit too loud for a first date, but the quality and variety of the music makes it a great destination for music-loving buddies on a night out.
Raintree: This atmospheric pub is one of the few remaining places in town to hear 'songs for life', Thai folk music with roots in the communist insurgency of the 1960s and'70s.
Ad Here the 13th : Beside Khlong Banglamphu, Ad Here is everything a neighbourhood joint should be: lots of regulars, cold beer and heartwarming tunes delivered by a masterful house band starting at 10pm. Everyone knows each other, so don't be shy about mingling.
Tawan Daeng urman Brewhouse : It's Oktoberfest all year round at this hangar-sized music hall. The Thai-German food is tasty, the house-made brews are entirely potable, and the nightly stage shows make singing along a necessity. Music starts at 8.30pm; take a taxi.
Brown Sugar : Plant yourself in a corner of this cosy, mazelike pub, and bump to Zao-za-dung, the nine-piece house band. The tables are so close that you can't help but make new friends.
Bamboo Bar : The Oriental's Bamboo Bar is famous for its live lounge jazz, which holds court inside a colonial-era cabin of lazy fans, broad-leafed palms and rattan decor.
Bangkok's discos are largely fly-by-night outfits, and that really fun club you found on your last trip two years ago is most likely history today. To find out what is going on, check Dude Sweet (www.dudesweet. o'rg), organisers of hugely popular monthly parties, and Bangkok Recorder (www.bangkokre-corder.com) for rotating theme nights and vis-iting celeb D.
Cover charges for clubs and discos range from 250B to 600B and usually include a drink. Don't even think about showing up before 11pm, and always bring ID. Most clubs close at 2am. You'll see more Thais out on the town at the beginning of the month (pay day) than other times.
Tapas Room : You won't find food here,, but the name is an accurate indicator of the Spanish/Moroccan-inspired vibe of this multilevel den. Come Thursday to Saturday when the combination of DJs and live percussion brings the body count to critical level.
Club Culture : Housed in a unique 40-year-old Thai-style building, Club Culture is the biggest and quirkiest recent arrival on Bangkok's club scene. Come to shake to internationally recognised DJs and the most-touted system in town.
Glow : Glow is a small venue with a big reputation. Boasting! a huge variety of vodkas and a recently up- f graded sound system, the tunes range from hip-hop (Fridays) to electronica (Saturdays), and just about everything in between.
Nung-Len : Young, loud and Thai, Nung-Len (literally 'sit ard chill') is a ridiculously popular sardine tin of live music and uni students on popular Th Ekamai. Make sure you get in before 10pm or you won't get in at all.
Bed Supperclub : This illuminated tube has been a literal highlight of the Bangkok club scene,for a good while now. Arrive early to squeeze in dinner, or if you've only got dancing on your mind, come on Tuesday for the popular hip-hop nights.
Soi 11 is now also home to longstanding Q Bar : and newer Twisted Republic.
Royal City Avenue : is well and truly Club Alley. Formerly a bastion of the teen scene, this Vegas-like strip has finally graduated from high school and at such clubs as the following now hosts partiers of every age.
808 Club : Currently the leader of the pack with big-name DJs and insanely crowded events.
Cosmic Cafe :Somewhere between a pub and disco, come on Wednesday nights when the DJ spins Thai music from the 1980s.
Flix/Slim : The poshest choice on the strip with big thumping house beats and a more club-jaded clientele.
Route 66 : It rocks to a younger beat with hip-hop and R&B to the 'east' and varying shades of house to the 'west.
All those things your dodgy Uncle Larry told you about Bangkok are true. Although technically illegal, prostitution is fully 'out' in Bangkok, and the influence of organised crime and healthy kickbacks means that it will be a long while before the laws are ever enforced. Yet, despite the image presented by much of the Western media, the underlying,nosphere of Bangkok's red light districts is not one'of illicitness and exploitation (although these do inevitably exist), but rather an aura of tackiness and boredom. Stages where ambivalent-looking women perform fabled feats with their genitalia are found at Patpong, and are nowadays largely shows for tourists. Men strictly looking for women (or ladyboys; ga-tcu-i, also spelt kathoey) have mostly moved to Soi Cowboy or Nana.
Patpong : Possibly one of the most famous red-light districts in the world, but today any 'charm' that the area used to possess has been eroded by modern tourism, and fake Rolexes and Diesel t-shirts are more ubiquitous than flesh. There is, of course, a considerable amount of naughtiness going on, although much of it takes place upstairs and behind closed doors. If you must, before taking a seat at one of Patpong's 'pussy shows', be sure to agree to the price beforehand, otherwise you're likely to receive an astronomical bill.
Soi Cowboy : This single-lane strip of raunchy bars claims direct lineage to the post-Vietnam War R8cR era. A real flesh trade functions amid the flashing neon.
Nana Entertainment Plaza : Much like Soi Cowboy, this three-storey complex is where the sexpats are separated from the gawking tourists. It's also home to a few ladyboy bars.
Soi Twilight : Patpong's queer little brother, the shows here range in scope from muscle boy to ladyboy.
Escape the smog and hea.t at one of the city's high-tech cinemas. All of Hollywood's big releases plus a steady diet of locally bred comedies and horror flicks hit Bangkok's cin-emas in a timely fashion. The foreign films are sometimes altered by Thailand's film censors before distribution; this usually involves obscuring nude sequences. Film buffs may prefer the offerings at Bangkok's foreign cultural centres; for contact details. For the royal treatment, opt for the VIP amenities that only Bangkok would provide. All movies screened in Thai cin-emas are preceded by the Thai royal anthem and everyone is expected to stand respectfully for its duration.
At the following cinemas, English movies are shown with Thai subtitles rather than being dubbed. The shopping-centre cinemas have plush VIP options, while Lido and Scala are older and artier. House is Bangkok's first 'art-house' theatre.
Visit Movie Seer (www.movie seer.com) for show times.
EGV Grand (02515 5555; Siam Discovery Center, Th Phra Ram I; Skylrain Siam)
House (0 2641 5177; www.house rama.com; UMG Bldg, Royal City Ave, near Th Petchaburi; Metro Phetburi)
Lido Cinema (0 2252 6498; Siam Sq, Th Phra Ram I; Skytrain Siam)
Paragon Cineplex (0 2515 5555; Siam Paragon, Th Phra Ram I; Skytrain Siam)
Scala Cinema (022512861; Siam Sq, Soi 1, Th Phra Ram I; Skytrain Siam)
SF Cinema City (0 2268 8888; 7th fl, MBK Center, cnr Th Phra Ram I & Th Phayathai Skytrain National Stadium)
SFX Cinema (0 2268 8888; 6th fl, Emporium Shopping Centre, Th Sukhumvit; Skytrain Phrom Phong)
Traditional Arts Performances
As Thailand's cultural repository, Bangkok offers an array ot dance and theatre performances. For background information about these ancient traditions,.
Chalermkrung Royal Theatre : In a Thai Art Deco building at the edge of the Chinatown-Phahurat district, this theatre provides a striking venue for kohn (masked dance-drama based on stories from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana). When it opened in 1933, the royally funded Chalermkrung was the largest and most modern theatre in Asia. Kohn performances last about two hours plus intermission; call for the schedule. The theatre requests that patrons dress respectfully, which means no shorts, tank tops or sandals. Bring along a wrap or long-sleeved shirt in case the air-con . is running full blast.
Aksra Theatre : The former Joe Louis Puppet Theatre has moved house and is starting a new life here as the Aksra Hoon Lakorn Lek. A variety of performances are now held at this modern theatre, but the highlight are performances of the Ramakian by using knee-high puppets requiring three puppeteers to strike humanlike poses.
National Theatre : When its seemingly never-ending reconstruction is eventually finished, the National_ Theatre will host monthly performances of the royal dance traditions ofld'kon (classical dance-drama) and kohn. The nearby Bangkok Information Center can provide an English-language calendar of performances.
Patravadi Theatre : This open-air theatre is Bangkok's leading promoter of avant-garde dance and drama. The new Studio 9 annexe offers dinner theatre on Friday and Saturday nights. A free river shuttle picks up patrons at Tha Mahathat, near Silpakorn University; reservations for performances are recommended.
Thailand Cultural Centre : Occasionally, classical dance performances are held at this venue featuring a concert hall, art gallery and outdoor studios. International dance and theatre groups are also profiled, especially during the International Festival of Music & Dance, held twice a year in June and September Call for upcoming events as the website doesn't carry an up-to-date schedule.
Dusit Palace Park : also hosts daily classical dance performances at 1 Oam and 2pm.
Thai boxing's best of the best fight it out at Bangkok's two boxing stadiums: Lumphini Stadium and Ratchadamnoen Stadium. You'll note that tickets are not cheap, and these prices are exponentially more than what Thais pay. To add insult to injury, the inflated price offers no special service or seating, and at Ratchadamnoen Stadium foreigners are sometimes corralled into an area with an obstructed view. As long as you are mentally prepared for the financial jabs from the promoters, you'll be better prepared to enjoy the real fight.
Ringside puts you right up in the central 'action but amid a fairly subdued crowd where gambling is prohibited. Second-class seats are filled with backpackers and numbers runners who take the bets from the crowd. Like being in the pit of a stock whangs hand signals fly between the 2nd-nd 3rd-class areas communicating bets nd odds. The 3rd-class area is the rowdiest section. Fenced off from the rest of the sta-dium most of the die-hard fans follow the match (or their bets) too closely to sit down. If you're lukewarm on watching two men punch and kick each other, then 3rd-class offers the diversion of the crowd.
Fights are held throughout, the week, alternating between the two stadiums. Ratchadamnoen hosts the matches on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6pm and on Sunday at 5pm. Lumphini hosts matches on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 6pm. Aficionados say the best-matched bouts are reserved for Tuesday nights at Lumphini and Thursday nights at Ratchadamnoen. There is a total of eight to 10 tights of five rounds a piece. The stadiums don't usually fill up until the main events, which usually start around 8pm or 9pm.
There are English-speaking 'staff standing outside the stadium who will practically tackle you upon arrival. Although there have been a few reports of scamming, most of these assistants help steer visitors to the foreigner ticket windows and hand out a fight roster; they can also be helpful in telling you which fights are the best match-ups between contestants. (Some say that weltervyeights, between L35lb and I47lb, are the best.) To keep everyone honest, though, remember to purchase tickets from the ticket window, not from a person outside the stadium.
As a prematch warm-up, grab a plate of gai yahng (grilled chicken) and other northeastern dishes from the restaurants surrounding the Ratchadamnoen Stadium.
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