Ramkhamhaeng (Thai: รามคำแหง) is a vast district that lies along Ramkhamhaeng Road, a major arterial road in east Bangkok. The area could be considered a suburb and is almost completely unknown to foreign travellers, with the notable exception of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Most venues cater to locals who have their own transport, so attractions are spread far out and it is hard to get around. Hua Mak and Bang Kapi in the southwest are the most interesting neighbourhoods, and also the easiest to navigate as the Saen Saep Express Boat runs right through them. These are lively areas with shopping malls and restaurants that cater to commuters and university students.
Eastern Bangkok is virtually synonymous with Ramkhamhaeng Road, a major traffic artery jammed every morning and evening with commuters working downtown. Rising property values in Sukhumvit has made this area more interesting to foreign expatriates in recent years, although seeing a farang is still a rare occurrence. With a total length of 18km, Ramkhamhaeng Road starts at Phetchaburi Road near Sukhumvit and ends in the far northeast at the junction with Suwinthawong Road (in the neighbourhood, Min Buri).
The lower southwestern part is known as Hua Mak, a neighbourhood completely dominated by Ramkhamhaeng University. "RU", as it is commonly known, was opened in 1971 as Thailand's first open-admissions university. It has an astonishing number of students. Official statistics claim about half a million, almost all of them undergraduates. The university gives the neighbourhood its lively appearance, with many students shopping and dining at the Mall Ramkhamhaeng. Rajamangala Stadium is also be found here. Completed in 1998, it played an important role in the 1998 Asian Games and the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. It is home to Thailand's national football team.
The junction with Srinagarindra Road is known as Lam Sali intersection. Go north from here and you'll stumble upon Lat Phrao Road, which marks the beginning of a neighbourhood known as Bang Kapi. It is actually quite similar to Hua Mak, as everything still looks like a big grey mass of concrete, but students are outnumbered here by daily commuters. The Bangkapi Mall stole the hearts of the locals, and Thais flock to it in big numbers. For foreigners, there is actually not that much to do. Attractions are few and far off, and the shopping malls are inferior to those in other districts. It can easily be skipped on any Bangkok itinerary, but then you miss out on seeing where and how most of the locals live.
You would almost forget that nearly all foreign visitors to Thailand land here at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the far east of the district. Development in eastern Bangkok has been relatively slow, but it is expected that the relatively recent construction of the airport will be the spur for more urban development in the area. Until now, this has at least been true for the hotel business, with many new hotels constructed at Lat Krabang Road trying to make a buck out of transferring passengers.
Bangkok and its traffic-congested commercial districts, including Ramkhamhaeng Road, are hard to navigate by car. Thus, the best way to get into the area is by boat. The Saen Saep Express Boat service runs on the canal of the same name, and you don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic! The service runs about every 5-10 minutes and as the canal is exactly parallel to Ramkhamhaeng Road with many stops along that road.
It is a fast and inexpensive way of transport as a single trip costs about 9-19 baht, depending on distance travelled. The most important stops are The Mall Ram (in Hua Mak) and The Mall Bangkapi, both of which are served by the NIDA Line (that starts in Pratunam and goes all the way northeast to Wat Sriboonreung). The route is served by 100 boats of 40-50 seats, and operates from 05:30-20:30 daily. Most piers have English signs up, but be wary, as The Mall Ram does not have any sign at all, and from the boat it is not clear that you have reached the mall!
Be wary of sitting on the outer sides of the boat as polluted water from the canal sometimes spills over on board. Also be careful when entering and exiting the boats as "safety first" does not seem to apply for the crew here. During rush hour, you might have to fight your way in the boat as too many people are trying to get on. Another minor annoyance is the noisy atmosphere during the ride. Don't expect a romantic experience.
By public transit
Opened in August 2010, the Airport Rail Link is an alternative way of getting in. The City Line of that service has a stop at Ramkhamhaeng, which is at the extreme southwest of the district at the beginning of Ramkhamhaeng Road. There is a direct service from Suvarnabhumi Airport in the east, as well as from Phaya Thai, Ratchaprarop and Makkasan stations in the west. Do not take the Express Line as it skips Ramkhamhaeng completely.
Getting to Ramkhamhaeng by bus is very troublesome, but at least its a cheap way of doing some exploring. Expect a long ride though, and ask a local where to get off as you easily get lost in traffic. An important route is Bus 40, that starts at Hualamphong Train Station and then passes Rama IV Road, Phaya Thai Road, Siam Square, Sukhumvit, Pridi Phanomyong Road, and Ramkhamhaeng Road with The Mall Ramkhamhaeng as its final destination.
Getting around this vast district is sure to give you a headache. The locals use their own transport for attractions that lie too far off a boat pier or ARL station. Of course, metered taxis are abundant, but expect long rides and high fares (especially during rush hour). Buses are cheaper, but without a decent bus map, you are sure to get lost. Bus 58 and Bus 113 from Makkasan Station drive over Phetchaburi Road and then head for Ramkhamhaeng Road. Both are useful bus routes for getting around as they travel all along Ramkhamhaeng Road from Hua Mak in the southwest to Min Buri in the northeast (and back).
- Museum of Buddhism Art (พิพิธภัณฑ์พุทธศิลปะ), 104 Phattanakan Soi 40, ☎ +66 2 321-0048(-50). M-Sa, 10:00-17:30. Contact in advance. This museum features a large private collection of Buddha images. It's operated by the Foundation of Thai Arts Preservation. The exhibition focuses on the art of Buddha images in conjunction with Thai history. An international presentation comprising light, sound (chanting), and scent (incense) explains the information to the visitor in an air conditioned room. Besides Buddha images and artefacts of different periods, there is also an area allocated to be a shrine and a museum dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy and other major gods of various beliefs in Asia. 250 baht.
- Prasart Museum, 9 Soi Krungthep Kritha 8 Yaek 14, ☎ +66 2 379-3601. F-Su, 10:00-15:00, must call for appointment. This eclectic museum sprawls across manicured gardens, pavilions, shrines, chapels, and even an exact replica of the teak Red Palace (built by King Rama I for his sister). On display are art and antiques from all eras of Thai history, as well books and manuscripts, and replicas of various prominent Thai architectural works. Mr. Prasart is usually around, and he and his staff will make sure you have a nice guided tour of the place. 500 baht.
- Rama IX Royal Park (สวนหลวง ร. 9), Udom Suk Rd (BTS Udom Suk, then taxi), ☎ +66 2 328-1395. 05:00-18:00 daily. Built in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the present king, HM Bhumibol Adulyadej, this is the largest public park of Bangkok. It consists of six zones: the homage to His Majesty, the botanical garden, the Trapangkaew Reservoir, the Rommaniya Garden, the Sanam Rasdara and the Water Garden. It is very very deep down the sois of Sukhumvit, so its best to take a taxi to find it. 10 baht.
- Wat Thep Lila (วัดเทพลีลา), Ramkhamhaeng Soi 41 (Wat Thepleela pier; at the end of Soi 41). One of the few temples in the Ramkhamhaeng area, this is a local temple that shows how the local inhabitants practice Buddhism. It is a big compound, which is fairly lively with people praying and paying respect to the Buddha statues. It was built in 1842 during the reign of King Nangklao (King Rama III). At that time, the temple was known as Wat Tuek or Wat Tuek Khlong Ton. Saen Saep Canal was dug for transporting troops and weapons to Cambodia. During excavations Pang Lila, a 1.2 m tall Sukhothai-style walking Buddha image, was found here. The temple was renamed Wat Theplila during the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
- Major Cineplex Bangkapi, 3F, Lotus Supercenter, 3109 Lat Phrao Rd (The Mall Bangkapi pier), ☎ +66 2 378-2435(-7). M-F, 10:00-00:00; Sa-Su, 09:00-00:00. 60-220 baht.
- Major Cineplex Ramkhamhaeng, 73 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (Ramkhamhaeng 29 pier), ☎ +66 2 319-3036(-8). Daily, 10:30-00:00. One of the Major Cineplex chain of cinemas, this is a fairly modern cinema that is close to Ramkhamhaeng University. English movies are shown, and Thai movies have subtitles in English. There are plenty of shops and places to eat if you want to kill time till your movie begins. 120 baht.
- Safari World (ซาฟารีเวิลด์), 99 Panyaintra Rd (bus 26, 60, 71, 96 or 501, get off at Fashion Island, then take a taxi to Safari World), ☎ +66 2 518-1000. 09:00-17:00 daily. Safari World is Bangkok's greatest open zoo and leisure park. The 300-acre complex comprises a safari park that is populated by African and Asian mammals, a marine park with amusing performances of well-trained dolphins and seals, a bird park, and a games corner. There are separate tickets for Safari Park and Marine Park. Combined ticket price: adults 900 baht, children 550 baht.
- Siam Park City (สวนสยาม), Sukhaphiban 2 Rd, ☎ +66 2 919-7200(-19). Daily, 10:00-18:00. This water amusement park contains a man-made sea with towering slides. Satellite attractions include children's playgrounds, aviaries, an open zoo, and a botanical garden. 200 baht.
There are plenty of shopping malls in the area, and these are your best bet for getting daily necessities. If you want to buy cheap, there is an interesting street market running kilometres north along Ramkhamhaeng Road from The Mall Ramkhamhaeng 3. Many of the stalls only set up around 18:00, so the area is at its liveliest around 19:00. Expect endless stalls of clothes and accessories, mostly visited by local (female) commuters.
- Central Power Center Huamark, 177 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (Between Ramkhamhaeng Soi 27 and 29), ☎ +66 2 718-6000. Daily, 09:00-23:00. Another ordinary shopping mall, which is quite lively but not as crowded as downtown. It looks a bit old, but is still a nice browse as prices are noticeably cheaper than in The Mall. As usual, most of the products cater to local 20-somethings, including clothes, accessories, bags, beauty products, and mobile phones.
- Fashion Island (แฟชั่นไอส์แลนด์), 587-589 Ram Intra Rd (bus 26, 60, 71, 95 or 501), ☎ +66 2 947-5000. M-F 11:00-21:00, Sa Su hols 10:00-21:00. A large shopping mall that, as the name indicates, mostly focuses on fashion stores. But it's not just clothes, shoes, and design, as there are plenty of books, gems, jewellery and furniture on sale. The usual chain restaurants, cafes and cinemas are also present, as is Robinson Department Store. There's even an amusement park with a monorail running around the mall.
- The Mall Ramkhamhaeng 2, 144 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (The Mall Ram pier), ☎ +66 2 310-1200. M-F, 10:30-22:00; Sa-Su, hols 10:00-22:00. This complex consists of two separate shopping malls, The Mall 3 on the north side of Ramkhamhaeng Road and The Mall 2 on the south side. Both are connected to each other and the road by an overhead pedestrian bridge. It is a good place to eat. For example, at Home Fresh Mart. There are plenty of chain restaurants too, including McDonald's at the side of the road.
- The Mall Ramkhamhaeng 3, 49 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (The Mall Ram pier), ☎ +66 2 310-1000. M-F, 10:30-22:00; Sa-Su, hols 10:00-22:00. The Mall 3 is rather generic and uninspiring, and anything on sale here can be found elsewhere in Bangkok (probably for less too). As it opened in 1986, it is obvious that it is older and more cramped than The Mall Bangkapi, but prices are somewhat cheaper. There are only a few escalators, so expect to walk the stairs to get to the upper levels. There are a lot of clothing stores, and clothes always seem to be on sale in the common space on the ground floor. Of course there are also the usual DVD and book stores, and many chain restaurants such as KFC.
- The Mall Bangkapi, 3522 Lat Phrao Rd (The Mall Bangkapi pier), ☎ +66 2 173-1000. M-F, 10:30-22:00; Sa-Su, hols 10:00-22:00. A huge shopping mall that looks like it has just been pumped out of the ground, although it dates from 1994! It looks brand new, shiny white, and boasts four floors with all the chain stores you could possibly imagine. Thais absolutely love it, and flock to it in large numbers, but for travellers it is "been there, done that". All the usual stores are in place, but at least it is a lively area with many commuters.
If you're looking for a quick snack, nearly all the sois of lower Ramkhamhaeng have carts serving simple street food for 50 baht or less. Aimed at the locals, prices at these street markets are remarkably cheaper than in common tourist spots. All three The Mall shopping centres have a big selection of chain restaurants in all shapes and sizes.
- Chlorophyll Bar and Grill, 82 Lat Phrao Soi 64 (Just inside the soi from Lat Phrao Rd), ☎ +66 8 707-0268. This Bali-inspired restaurant features outdoor dining in a quaint garden setting. They serve Thai and Japanese fare with an occasional musician at the weekends.
- Na Phra Ram 9 Market (ตลาดนัด พระรามเก้า), Ramkhamhaeng Rd (ARL Ramkhamhaeng, just S of the intersection with Rama IX Rd). Just a simple street food market at the south end of Ramkhamhaeng Road. It seems to be at its best during evening commute time, when many locals are picking up snacks at the hawker stalls. You can get many varieties of satay, fish, rice, and many other things.
- The Nine Neighborhood Center, Corporate Center 999 Bldg, 999/1-4 Rama IX Rd (10 min drive E from the Ramkhamhaeng-Rama IX intersection), ☎ +66 2 716-7999. 24 hours. A new community mall clustered with a selection of restaurants. You can enjoy Thai, Chinese, or Japanese food here, as well as steaks, pastas or American fast food. If you just want a drink, Starbucks is present alongside other coffee shops and tea houses.
- Power Food Center, GF, Central Power Center Huamark, 177 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (Between Ramkhamhaeng Soi 27 and 29), ☎ +66 2 718-6000. Daily, 09:00-23:00. This is the food court of Central Power Center shopping mall, and it does a really good job at it. There are about a dozen separate counters for different kinds of food, including a Japanese, a Thai, and a European food counter and a beverages counter. It works with a coupon system, so first buy coupons at the booth. Then you can spend these at any of the counters surrounding the central seating area. Recommended for those on a budget. 45-70 baht.
- Sinthorn Steak House, 3331/2 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (Between soi 85 and 87, near Lam Sali intersection), ☎ +66 2 377-7322. Daily, 11:00-23:00. Touted as the largest halal restaurant in Thailand. They serve American steaks, European steaks, Italian food, Thai food, and (from 16:00 on) a Korean-style meat buffet. 300-1,000 baht.
There are plenty of coffee chains at the malls, including a Starbucks at The Mall Bangkapi. Some gay bars have congregated at Ramkhamhaeng Soi 89/2 near Lam Sali intersection. They are popular among Ramkhamhaeng University students.
- Jungle Jim's International Restaurant & Sports Bar, 165/5 Moo 3, Ramkhamhaeng Soi 112, ☎ +66 2 729-4763. M-F, 15:00-23:00; Sa-Su, 07:30-23:00. Probably the only bar in the area that caters to foreigners living in the area. You can shoot some pool or sit outside at the lake. It's a place for relaxing, having a conversation and listening to music. There are 25 different beers on tap.
The west end of Ramkhamhaeng Road has lately become more popular among expatriates, as accommodation is cheaper than in Sukhumvit and Siam Square, while the Saen Saep Express Boat brings you to those districts in around 20 minutes. But further off it is still a long taxi ride to the city centre.
- Bangkok Rama Hotel, 1546 Phatthanakan Rd (Between Phatthanakan Soi 48 and 50), ☎ +66 2 722-6612. Cable TV, mini-bar, refrigerator, radio, and telephone. 575 baht.
- JL Bangkok, 5 Ramkhamhaeng Soi 23 (The Mall Ram pier), ☎ +66 2 369-2407(-9). Boutique accommodation in a cosy and friendly atmosphere. It is only a one-minute walk to the night market and nearby malls. It is 23km from the airport, so not particularly close. The rate includes daily breakfast and free Wi-Fi. 1,400-2,200 baht.
- King Park Avenue Hotel, 9/999 Moo 1, Srinagarindra Rd (Taxi or Bus 553, near Rama IX Royal Park), ☎ +66 2 748-1035(-49). A 15-20 minute drive from the airport. There are some shopping malls and a large park nearby, but for the rest, it's very far off from the centre of Bangkok. It has recently been remodeled, which is a good thing. Rooms are good, beds are comfy, breakfast is nice, and there's a friendly staff. 2,300-4,500 baht.
- MetroPoint Bangkok Hotel (เมโทร พ้อยท์ กรุงเทพ), 666 Lat Phrao Soi 130 (Wat Klang pier), ☎ +66 2 138-7777. Far from the airport (about 22km), but it is near the lively Bang Kapi neighbourhood and The Mall Bangkapi shopping mall. The hotel has 172 all non-smoking rooms that have private terraces and free Wi-Fi. 1,900-3,500 baht.
- Nasa Vegas Hotel (โรงแรม นาซ่าเวกัส), 44 Ramkhamhaeng Rd (ARL Ramkhamhaeng), ☎ +66 2 719-9888. You can't miss this hotel walking down the road as the building is enormous. Rooms are a bit small and furniture a bit dated, but they are clean, so for the money paid it is a good value. Not really close to the airport, but it is close to the Ramkhamhaeng ARL stop, which takes you to the airport in about 20 minutes. The downside of the ARL is that it runs right beside the hotel, which makes some rooms noisy. 890-2,900 baht.
Most hotels have free Wi-Fi, but check before booking. Getting online on the street is harder, but you can try the shopping malls. There's a Starbucks with paid Wi-Fi at The Mall Bangkapi. If you don't want to pay, there's free Wi-Fi at Assumption University in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 16 (Hua Mak). If you happen to be far out into the 'burbs, Fashion Island also has free Wi-Fi (but you need to register for a username and password). Follow the instructions from the manual at their website.
If you keep driving on Ramkhamhaeng Road and continue on Suwinthawong Road, eventually you will end up in Chachoengsao. Here you can find the large Wat Sothon with a busy market in front of it (especially fun in the morning). In the evening, the market magically disappears, leaving no trace of its existence.
|Routes through Ramkhamhaeng|