The vibrant city of Bangkok transforms itself when the sun goes down. Neon signs light up, more tents pop up, and party people start prowling the streets. It seems that the capital becomes even more alive in the dark. Even for the seasoned traveler, this can all feel overwhelming.
The bright lights, loud sounds, and strong smells can be overpowering, drowning all logic with them. You know you want to try them all: from the backpacker central Khao San, to the red light bars of Patpong and Silom Road.
But where do you even begin? How do you make the most of the unforgettable nightlife in Bangkok?
When the night is short, here are the best things to see and do:
Eat the Streets
Whether you’re on a budget or you’re just in Bangkok for a layover, you can’t go wrong with a food trip right on the streets.
Khao San Road is great for starters. There are seemingly endless night stalls for cheap but amazing eats. Get your fill of Pad Thai, Rotis, curries, and milk cakes for just a few baht. There’s also no shortage of restaurants and fast food joints offering Western cuisine. Plus, you get to mingle with other travelers from all over the world, as well as friendly Thai locals.
If you want to grab a beer with your meal, then head on over to Rod Fai Night Market 2 (near Esplanada mall). It’s a street jampacked with about 20 to 30 small bars and restaurants. It’s a favorite among locals because of its fun atmosphere and regular stream of live bands. There’s something for every taste: from loud rock music to more laidback al fresco dining.
Dine and Touch the Skies
Want to feel like you’re ‘on top of the world’? Then try some of Bangkok’s best rooftop bars!
The tallest you can go is The Rooftop Bar at Baiyoke Sky Hotel. Located at the 83rd floor of the Baiyoke Tower, it’s considered the highest rooftop, and the building itself is the second tallest in Thailand. Enjoy cocktails as you look down from a dizzying height. Bonus: go up to the 84th floor and be mesmerized with their revolving observation deck, allowing you to view the city in 360 degrees!
Fans of the Hangover franchise on the other hand, will recognize Sky Bar at lebua at State Tower. Aside from vertigo-inducing views, you’ll feel like every night is a bachelor party thanks to their signature cocktails. Don’t leave without trying the famous Hangovertini, a drink especially crafted to celebrate The Hangover Part II.
Cruise by the Moonlight
In the mood for a romantic evening instead? Then hop onto one of the city’s dinner cruises and see Bangkok in the comfort of a modern barge.
Most of these tours take about an hour or more and pass by important attractions along the Chao Phraya River. Swoon over the stunning views of the Grand Palace, Wat Arun temple, and the Golden Rama Bridge under the light of the stars. It also includes sumptuous dinner buffets, featuring local and international cuisine.
Depending on your budget range, you can check out Apsara Dinner Cruise by Banyan Tree, or the Chao Phraya Dinner Cruise by Travstore Travel Management.
Paint the Town Red
You can’t just go to Bangkok without taking a little peek at their infamous red light districts. Depending on how adventurous you are, there are three main spots to choose from.
Patpong is the oldest and most famous of the red light districts. If you’re looking for the one that started it all, then this is what you’re looking for. Check out their best go-go bars, like Bada Bing (fun and easygoing with themed nights) and King Castle (with ladyboys).
For those who want to be more discreet – and maybe do a bit of shopping along the way – Nana Plaza won’t disappoint. Claiming to be the ‘world’s largest adult playground’, this three-storey complex is comprised of not just bars, but also small shops and hotel rooms. If you’re game for a visit, don’t miss Angel Witch (themed rock shows) and Billboard (lots of dancing girls).
The youngest in the scene is Soi Cowboy. Today, this is the more popular destination because of its more relaxed and friendly vibe. From colourful neon signs to pretty go-go girls along the street, you can take your pick from any of their 30+ bars. Tilac Bar and Crazy House though, comes highly recommended for their fun and wild atmosphere.
Shop after Dark
Shopping in one of the night markets in Bangkok is definitely an experience of its own. Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s always something new or fascinating that will certainly catch your eyes.
Don’t limit yourself to the well-known Chatuchak Weekend Market. Explore other – if not better – alternatives, like JJ Green Night Market, loved by the young crowd for their selection of cheap vintage items. The chilled out ambience is perfect if you’re out with friends or your loved one.
For something bigger, head on over to Rod Fai Market (Train Market). This open-air bazaar has more than 2,000 stalls and shops, where you can find absolutely anything: from premium antiques, to bargain clothing.
Asiatique on the other hand, combines the feel of a night market with the convenience of a mall. It’s a bit pricier here, but you’ll be at the center of everything: from food, shopping, to entertainment (i.e. the famed Calypso ladyboy cabaret show). Plus, they’re beautifully located by the river, so the views at night are spectacular.
Dance the Night Away
What nightlife would be complete without dancing to the best beats of the city? In Bangkok, you’ll never run out of clubs to get your kicks out of. From some of the oldest in the business (GLOW), to the one with the biggest floor space (Onyx), it’s simply a matter of taste. Sugar (hip-hop) and Beam (techno/deep house) are two more that you should add on your list if you want to party until dawn.
Enjoy a Cultural Show
Take your pick from quirky ladyboy shows, live Muay Thai boxing, to dazzling theatrics.
If you love history, there’s no better choice than the extravagant Siam Niramit stage production held at Ratchada Theatre. Expect your senses to be dazzled for the night as you watch 700 years of Thai culture and history as depicted by brilliant actors, real animals, and stunning visuals.
Meanwhile, Muay Thai fans can get their adrenaline fix at Rajadamnern Stadium. As the oldest stadium in Thailand, you’re guaranteed fist-clenching moments here, as you watch talented fighters bring their all to the ring. Just make sure you secure a booking online so you don’t miss out on all the action!
Ladyboy shows on the other hand, are good clean fun for the whole family. It’s great if you want to unwind and have a couple of laughs by day’s end. You surely won’t regret any of these lively and highly artsy cabaret-style shows that feature all kinds of exotic themes – from Hollywood glam to extravagant mythical creatures of the Orient!
As with everything else, expect most of these places to be packed on weekends and peak season, like summer. If you want to get a good spot but don’t want to be there early, weekdays is your best bet.
No matter where you end up spending your night in, Bangkok has got you covered. Go for an evening cruise in the Chao Praya River, hang around new friends at Khao San, or just enjoy cheap beers at open bars in Sukhumvit Soi 23. Just make sure you savor every moment. You’re in the city of angels, after all.