Sukhumvit in Bangkok: You must experience this in the trendy districts of Ekkamai and Thong Lo is written by Jacob Gowland Jørgensen.
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 to that degree, so here is a guide to the lesser-known – and rather trendy – neighborhoods of Ekkamai and Thong Lo and selected places on Sukhumvit Road itself. Finally, we also share a few tips for some peaceful and exciting corners of the big city.
Sukhumvit is a road, a neighborhood and a phenomenon
Many know Sukhumvit as the place where Bangkok's efficient 'skytrain' runs above the road.
Sukhumvit Road is really just one big road, but it gives its name to the whole neighborhood and as far as 10 kilometers away from the center of Sukhumvit you can find side roads bearing the same name. The first step is therefore to find the logic in the names.
Sukhumvit Road itself has regular numbers out there; however, there are occasionally several streets with almost the same number, where the first one is, for example, Soi 11, and the next a little further down the street is Soi 11/1.
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 even soi numbers are on one side of Sukhumwit Road and the odd numbers are on the other. They don't quite follow each other, so for example Soi 18 is opposite opposite Soi 23 on the other side.
It's the soi numbers you need to navigate by and them as a 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”, where we lived last time, can therefore be translated to Number 414 on street 26, which is a side street to Soi Sukhumwit 63, also called Ekkamai Road.
In practice, it's actually surprisingly easy to find your way around once you've understood the logic: You always have to navigate by the soi numbers, and then the rest comes by itself.
It's a big neighborhood, so get your walking shoes out, find one good offline maps app, and use the Skytrain, the subway and Uber to take some longer stretches.
The most interesting places are from Soi 4 to Soi 69, and then you can take the Skytrain further away to the river, temples and e.g. to “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.
Wat Arun by the river is also worth a visit as it is both a beautiful temple area and a nice and easy Skytrain ride to Taksin station and then a big boat out there. They sail all day, and you can easily combine with beautiful Wat Pho with the giant reclining Buddha.
Ekkamai in Bangkok: Cozy and exclusive
Ekkamai and Thong Lo are neighboring neighborhoods around Soi 55-69 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'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.
Restaurants 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 located at the back at Ekkamai 10 – actually in 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, 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 remember to reserve a table.
At Soi 69 you will find the small area District W very close to Skytrain and Sukhumvit Road.
I District W lies one of Bangkok's many roof top bars, and it is said to be 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.
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.
Sukhumwit Soi 5-18: Maitria Hotel, restaurants, bars and parks
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.
Soi 18 is one of the cozy streets that can also be found in the neighborhood. Here we stayed in cozy 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.
A little further down Sukhumvit Road is Soi 8 and the neighboring street Soi 10. Soi 8 is a party 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.
At the very bottom of the corner towards Sukhumvit Road 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 in Soi 8, Ekkamai or Thong Lo. Down at the end is a large park: Benchakitti Forest Park.
The nearby Lumpini Park is also an obvious choice if you need some 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.
On the other side of Sukhumvit Road is the restaurant Krua Khun Puk. The restaurant is a new classic in Sukhumvit 11/1 Alley right next to the main road itself.
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 and therefore best when it is not too hot outside. They have menus in English and it's right next to the Nana Skytrain station. Come early for lunch if you want a (good) seat.
If you want to see the diversity of Sukhumvit, you can continue down the odd side.
Soi 7/1 is one of Bangkok's cheeky streets, which together with, for example, Nana Plaza in Soi 4, "Soi Cowboy" in Soi 21 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.
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 classic, and here too there are hidden gems down towards the river.
If you need a quieter city experience, the neighborhood Ari (also spelled Aree) is another trendy and quiet neighborhood on the edge of the center. Bang Krachao 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.
Good trip to Bangkok and safe journey to the always lovely Thailand.
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