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Sukhumvit in Bangkok: You have to experience this on Sukhumvit and in the trendy neighborhoods of Ekkamai and Thong Lo

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Bangkok is Thailand's hectic capital, and the city's crowds can be overwhelming. You can start here.
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Sukhumvit in Bangkok: You have to experience this on Sukhumvit and in the trendy neighborhoods of Ekkamai and Thong Lo is written by  Jacob Gowland Jørgensen.

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Sukhumvit is “One Night in Bangkok”

The Sukhumvit neighborhood is Bangkok at its most intense, wild and fun.

Sukhumvit is the roaring heart of Bangkok, where a combination of thousands of people, cars, trains, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and hotels are mixed into a cocktail that you can't help but be fascinated by.

It can also be easy to just get overwhelmed and give up, but if you're into big city experiences, this neighborhood can deliver.

So here is therefore both a guide to what you can experience in the tourist core of Sukhumvit Road, and also to the more overlooked – and rather trendy – neighborhoods of Ekkamai and Thong Lo.

Finally, we also share a few tips for some peaceful and exciting corners of the big city of Bangkok.

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Sukhumvit is a road, a neighborhood and a phenomenon

Many people know Sukhumvit as the place where Bangkok's efficient Skytrain runs above the road, and of course the line that runs here is called the Sukhumvit Line.

Sukhumvit Road is long. Really long.

In fact, Suhkumvit is one of the world's longest roads! It stretches almost 500 kilometers from Bangkok to Cambodia, and is one of the most important traffic arteries in the country.

Sukhumvit Road gives its name to the entire neighborhood in central Bangkok where it starts, and far away from the center of Sukhumvit you can find side roads that bear the same name because it is just that long.

The first step is therefore to find the logic in the road names so that you can find your way around.

Sukhumvit Road itself has regular numbers out there, and a great many side streets, and it is the numbers of the side streets that you navigate by.

Sukhumvit Road gives its name to hundreds of these “soi's”, or side streets, and they can themselves be several kilometers long and therefore important. "Soi 18" in Bangkok is most often used as an abbreviation for "Sukhumvit Soi 18".

The first is obviously Soi 1.

The even soi numbers are on one side of Sukhumvit Road, and the odd numbers on the other. They don't quite follow each other, so for example Soi 18 is opposite Soi 23 on the other side, and further out Soi 50 is opposite Soi Soi 77.

Also be aware that there are often side streets with almost the same number, where the first is, for example, Soi 11, and the next a little down the street is Soi 11/1, and only then comes Soi 13.

It's always the soi numbers you need to navigate by, and them as one taxi driver know

Some of these side streets are main roads in local neighbourhoods, and therefore it also happens that they get double names. For example, Soi 63 is also called Ekkamai Road, as it is a major main road in the small, trendy neighborhood of Ekkamai. Large side streets can also have side streets themselves, which are for example called Ekkamai Alley or just a number.

The address "414 Sukhumvit Soi 63 26 Ekkamai Rd" can therefore be translated to Number 414 on street 26, which is a side street to Soi Sukhumvit 63, also called Ekkamai Road.

It sounds harder than it is. In practice, it's actually surprisingly easy to find your way around once you've understood the logic: the road goes straight out, and you always have to navigate according to the soi numbers, and then the rest comes by itself.

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How to get around Sukhumvit

It's a big neighborhood, so get your walking shoes out, find one good offline maps app, and use Skytrain (also called BTS – see the map here), the subway and Grave to take some longer stretches.

The most interesting places are from Soi 4 ​​to Soi 69. There is clearly most traffic in the street between Soi 4 ​​and 23, between Nana and Asok Skytrain stations.

In addition, you can take the green Skytrain line Sukhumvit further south. You can easily get down to the river, temples, etc “The Ancient City”, there is a must see for anyone with a penchant for architecture and history – just remember to hire a golf cart, because it's a huge area. You must get off at terminus Kheka, and take a taxi for 10 minutes from there.

In the same direction, and on the same green Skytrain line, there are two large, and very Thai-authentic food markets, right by the On Nut and Baering stations. The last one in particular is cozy in the evening, where there is often live music and very few other tourists.

From Bang Na station on the same southbound line, you can get out to the green island in the river, Bang Krachao. It is a small island in the river delta, and the area is also aptly called Bangkok's "green lungs". Go there for a weekend and enjoy the tranquility and the view of the Bangkok skyline.

In the opposite direction on the same Skytrain line you can get to beautiful Wat Arun which is an ancient temple site and it's a nice and easy ride on the Skytrain from Sukhumvit to Taksin station and then a big ferry out there on the river. The ferries sail all day, and you can easily combine beautiful Wat Pho with the huge reclining Buddha, which is Thailand's most visited sight, and from there you can go to the royal palace.

But back to Sukhumvit itself, where we start the guide in one of the more overlooked neighborhoods, namely Ekkamai.

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Ekkamai in Bangkok: A cozy and exclusive neighborhood

Ekkamai and Thong Lo are neighboring neighborhoods around Sukhumvit Soi 55-67 and to some extent have grown together so much that it can be difficult to tell them apart.

However, there is an easy little test: if you can hear bird whistles, you are probably in Ekkamai. Because here there are still villas with gardens all around, while Thong Lo is more densely built up and more young and hip. Ekkamai is also sometimes spelled Ekamai, but it is the same neighborhood.

Ekkamai's main street is Soi 63 and is also called Ekkamai Road.

In Ekkamai you will find cozy and handsome places like TUBA, which is both a good restaurant and a quirky little venue, located off Soi Ekkamai 21, which is a side street to Ekkamai Road itself. It is full of creative features and recycled furniture.

There is no doubt that we are in hipsterland when you get out there, because there is both a tattoo shop, an urban café and a bang of a coffee salon called Kaffe50 within 100 meters of Tuba.

The rest of the street, on the other hand, is rather uninteresting, and that's how it is in this area: you have to go exploring, because there are many hidden gems.

Restaurant Hom Duan is a local favorite on the main road Ekkamai Road itself, where they cook Northern Thai specialities. And yes, there is definitely a difference in food quality even in a gastronomic paradise like Bangkok, and this restaurant is one of the better ones.

Mikkeller is at the back of Ekkamai 10 – actually on a side street to a side street to a side street to Sukhumvit! The Danish beer specialist is housed in a small, cozy house in the neighbourhood, and although the prices are on the exclusive side, it is definitely worth a visit.

Overall, Ekkamai 10 is one Hotspot for Ekkamai area. Here, for example, is The Cassette Music Bar, where the entire front is a tribute to the cassette tape, and then there is one of the best restaurants in the whole of Sukhumvit: Restaurant Khao.

Restaurant Khao is one of Bangkok's Michelin restaurants, and in true Ekkamai style, it's tucked away down a side street.

Although food prices have gone crazy in many parts of the world, food is still really cheap in Bangkok. Where else in the world would you be able to eat at a nice modern Michelin restaurant with fast service for 100 kroner?

You can even get a discount here by buying a voucher via Socialgiver, which at the same time supports a green and sustainable development in Thailand, so it's clean win-win.

At Khao, it stands on a mixture of more traditional dishes such as chicken in green curry and papaya salad and for fish soufflé and seafood- dishes. Whatever you order, it is made with good ingredients by chefs who know what they are doing.

Khao can definitely be recommended. Just remember to wear nice clothes and book a table.

In continuation of Ekkamai is Soi 69, and here you will find the small area District W very close to Skytrain and Sukhumvit Road. The local station here is Phrakanong, which is also the official name of the area.

In District W lies one of Bangkok's many roof top bars, and reportedly is Heaven the roof terrace where you can best enjoy the Bangkok skyline in the evening, because it is slightly away from other skyscrapers and therefore has an unobstructed view.

In District W, there is also something as rare as a beautiful and outdoor street food, and it is only open in the evening. It is of course also a bit hidden away behind the small square 50 meters after the 7-11 on the other side of the building.

There are lots of fantastic street food in Bangkok, but this one is stylistically inspired by similar European places, and is really cosy.

For better or for worse, Bangkok is also the city of construction cranes, and it is not certain that this little oasis will survive, so try it while you can.

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Thong Lo: Asia meets Bangkok

Soi 55 is also called Thong Lo Road and is the main street in the trendy neighborhood, which is also sometimes spelled Thong Lor.

Thong Lo is equal parts party and where Bangkok meets Asia. This is where the Thais themselves go out when it's going to be a particularly good city trip, or you just have enough money.

Soi Thonglor 10 is the center of the cozy part of the party. Here is, for example, Beast & Butter, which is an (expensive) blast of a burger place, and Atmos right next door, where there is often live music both on weekdays and at the weekend. There are also enough bars and music venues within 100 meters to keep you going for a whole evening.

If you want to try the assisted kitchen, Thong Lo is also the place. In fact, there are so many Japanese restaurants in the middle of Soi 55 that it is called “Little Japan”.

There are also a multitude of Korean restaurants, and in general it is difficult to come home from Thong Lo without being full – and saturated with impressions from happy people.

The youthful and trendy part of the party also takes place on Soi 55 in nightclubs and bars with names such as Proud and Rabbit Hole. It is clearly for a select young group who want to be seen and want to look good.

Bangkok is a very international city, and this is quite evident in Thong Lo, which stamps right in as a greeting to the rest of the world.

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Sukhumvit Soi 4-23: The heart of Sukhumvit

As mentioned, it is mainly between the Skytrain stations Nana and Asok that there is extra traffic in the street. It is from Soi 4-18 on the even side, and Soi 7-23 on the odd side of the road, and is definitely the core of the Sukhumvit area.

Sukhumvit offers in with so many places and hotels, that it is difficult to oversee. However, here are some places that can do a little extra.

We start on the straight side.

Soi 8 is a cozy and festive street with hotels, open air bars and restaurants that are mostly aimed at tourists. But like most places, you can also find places in a tourist zone that can do a little extra. Vesuvio Pizza is, for example, perfect if you need a break from Thai food, and when there are happy Italians at the neighboring tables, you know they can do something special.

Stable Lodge in Soi 8 is something as unusual as a Scandinavian hotel, where their Danish and Swedish food is recommended by Lonely Planet, and the little time bubble of a hotel does indeed deliver really delicious food, so if you - or your stomach - miss the rye bread is just to look in there.

At the very bottom of the corner towards Sukhumvit Road itself on Soi 8 is Street Bar, which is so small that you easily miss it.

The bar is no more than 5 meters wide, and with a few chairs in front, it is as modest as it is cosy. Here you choose the music yourself on a screen, so it's a jukebox à la Bangkok, right in the middle of the street with cold beer and great service. It is Sukhumvit classic of the best kind.

Soi 10 is perfect for the day after a night out on Sukhumvit itself, or in Ekkamai and Thong Lo. Down at the end is a large park: Benchakitti Forest Park, with a nice lake.

And speaking of parks: The nearby Lumpini Park (10 minutes by taxi or take the metro) is also obvious if you need fresh air. It is also said to be obvious if you have children with you, as there are free-ranging and peaceful oversized lizards; the so-called monitor lizards, which are otherwise completely peaceful. They often live out on the small artificial island where you can go out.

Soi 18 is another of the cozy streets also found in the neighborhood. Here we lived on fine Maitria Hotel, which is located a little down the street. It is a 4 star boutique with large modern rooms, a fantastic roof terrace with pool and within easy walking distance of the Skytrain.

Just like with restaurant Khao, we had also booked via here Socialgiver, so we knew that the chosen hotel makes an extra environmental effort. Socialgiver has a nice calculator, so you can see that we have also supported replanting, and not least the maintenance of as many as 240 trees, including in several of the parks around Sukhumvit. That is good opinion.

We also prefer Bangkok Hotels, which gives something to the local environment, so that a local street is not, for example, destroyed by high hotel walls and massive traffic, and Hotel Maitria just has a really good café at street level, and it is open to everyone.

It suited the atmosphere of the street, which was cozy and relaxed. There were several good restaurants in the street, including the really cozy café-restaurant-bar Palm @18, which is significantly more Thai than the name suggests.

On the odd side of Sukhumvit Road is the restaurant Krua Khun Puk, which means Mrs Puk's kitchen. The restaurant is a new classic in Sukhumvit 11/1 right next to the main road itself, just above Soi 8.

Don't be fooled by its rather ordinary appearance, worn-out menu and tongue-in-cheek name, as this is a local favourite. If you are up to it real thai food, is theirs Panang curry (Panang Gai) absolutely terrific and probably some of the best Thai food we've tried in recent times.

Krua Khun Puk is an open restaurant without air conditioning, but with fans. They have menus in English and it's right next to the Nana Skytrain station. It is justifiably popular.

Belga rooftop bar & brasserie is one of the city's best restaurants in Soi 13 and has a fantastic outdoor terrace on the 32nd floor. Although it is excellent, it is still “casual”, so you certainly do not need to wear the finest clothes here while enjoying the European specialities.

If you want to see the diversity of Sukhumvit, you can continue to explore the odd side.

Soi 7 and 7/1 are some of Bangkok's cheeky streets, which together with, for example, Nana Plaza in Soi 4, "Soi Cowboy" in Soi 23 and Soi 33 help to give Bangkok part of its reputation as a playground for adults. It may be an idea to avoid those streets if you are traveling with children.

Then you move on to Soi 5, which is like the Middle East in Bangkok, with halal restaurants, falafel stalls and the occasional burka-clad woman. Soi 3 is again completely different with a large shopping mall.

And speaking of shopping centres: There are a number of huge shopping centers in this very area, with Terminal 21 as the well-known, and trendy Emsphere with an IKEA as the latest shot. They are all within walking distance from Asok Skytrain station.

Sukhumvit is wild, over-the-top and quite fascinating, and the neighborhoods of Ekkamai and Thong Lo are definitely two overlooked gems where you probably won't bump into your neighbor. Because here is the most local that comes, and it certainly has its charm.

If you want to experience a completely different part of the city is Khao San Road another Bangkok classic, and here too there are hidden gems down towards the river.

Good trip to Bangkok and safe journey to the always lovely Thailand.

10 restaurants and bars you must experience in the Sukhumvit area

  • Restaurant Khao – Michelin restaurant
  • The Cassette Music Bar – fun bar
  • Cielo – one of the best rooftop bars
  • Beast & Butter – good burger place
  • Atmos – here there is beer and live music
  • Bar Palm @18 – good Thai cafe and restaurant 
  • Vesuvio Pizza - really good pizza
  • Street Bar – cozy bar
  • Krua Khun Puk – best Thai food in the area
  • Belga rooftop bar & brasserie – top European restaurant with fantastic outdoor terrace

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About the author

Jacob Jørgensen, editor

Jacob is a cheerful travel geek who has traveled in more than 100 countries from Rwanda and Romania to Samoa and Samsø.

Jacob is a member of De Berejstes Klub, where he has been a board member for five years, and he has extensive experience in the world of travel as a lecturer, magazine editor, adviser, writer and photographer. And, of course, most importantly: As a traveller. Jacob enjoys both traditional travel such as a car holiday to Norway, a cruise in the Caribbean and a city break in Vilnius, and more out-of-the-box trips such as a solo trip to the highlands of Ethiopia, a road trip to unknown national parks in Argentina and a friend trip to Iran.

Jacob is a country expert in Argentina, where he has been 10 times so far. He has spent almost a year in total traveling through the many diverse provinces, from the penguin land in the south to deserts, mountains and waterfalls in the north, and has also lived in Buenos Aires for a few months. In addition, he has special travel knowledge of such diverse places as East Africa, Malta and the countries around Argentina.

In addition to travelling, Jacob is an honorable badminton player, Malbec fan and always up for a board game. Jacob has also had a career in the communications industry for a number of years, most recently with the title of Communication Lead in one of Denmark's largest companies, and has also worked for several years with the Danish and international meeting industry as a consultant, e.g. for VisitDenmark and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Today, Jacob is also a senior lecturer at CBS.

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