Bangkok/Silom

Silom (Thai: สีลม) is the closest Bangkok gets to Wall Street, with glistening skyscrapers all boasting the names of financial institutions. However, the character of the area changes after nightfall: the small sois between Silom Road and Surawong Road come alive with people who are out for a good time, and Patpong's well-known "red light" district is often a sought-out location. The former trade quarter Bang Rak (บางรัก) is also included here and is home to many of Bangkok's top luxury hotels, such as the Oriental.

Understand

Skytrain near Sala Daeng Station

In the 19th century, daily life in Bangkok mostly took place on and around the canals. Silom was rural farmland with rice fields, orchards, and windmills criss-crossed by canals. During this era, most urban life happened on the riverside, which was a busy trading quarter welcoming European merchant ships and envoys. This area, known as Bang Rak, still has a kind of European atmosphere with many exclusive colonial-style hotels and old abandoned warehouses. Silom ("windmills" in Thai) has changed immensely with in modern times. Charoen Krung Road (New Road) was the first paved road in Bangkok, built in 1861 during the reign of King Rama IV at the request of foreign consuls who wanted to ride their horses and carriages. Over time, most of the canals have disappeared and turned into roads.

With the rise of Thailand as a newly industrialised economy, Silom turned into Thailand's major financial centre filled with banking institutions, corporate high-rises and condominiums. Many banks, insurance companies, audit and law firms have congregated along Sathorn Rd (ถนนสาทร) as well. The district's importance as a business centre has been acknowledged by the recent construction of the Skytrain and the metro line right through the district. Their construction has not helped much as traffic congestion continues to be a serious problem in the area. Days, there's not that much to do here, except when white collar workers flock onto the streets for lunch. The fusion of peoples make this a great place for people-watching. Cigar-smoking Thai business men walk through masses of well-dressed secretaries, office workers, and Western expatriates. Recently, many Indians and Muslims have taken up residence around the intersection with Charoen Krung Road.

At night, Silom turns into the place to be. It is a vibrant neighbourhood that is actually a little hard to describe because it becomes one of Bangkok's most cosmopolitan streets— as well as one of the sleaziest. Soi Patpong is the hedonistic playground all of Bangkok is generally stereotyped for, but it actually consists of just two small sois. The so-called "go-go bars" might as well be called "takeaway brothels", but a trip to Bangkok is not complete without a visit to this surreal environment. But if you fancy something more upmarket and refined, Silom is also the place to be. Some of the expensive hotels in the area cater to rich visitors who like to talk business over a glass of fine wine. Having a cocktail at the top of the Banyan Tree Building or the State Tower gives some of the best views in Southeast Asia.

Orientation is fairly easy as most of the magic happens at Silom Road, especially where it intersects with Rama IV Road. The area starts to liven up again when you get closer to the river in the area known as Bang Rak. Parallel to Silom Road lies Sathorn Road to the south and Surawong Road to the north. With the reinvigoration of Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road as creative and tourism hub with the addition of Mahankorn Pavilion and Cube, W Hotel , the reinvention of Empire Tower, the area around the Chong Nonsi BTS and BRT Station is increasingly known as SOLU, abbreviated from South of Lumphini.

Get in

By public transit

Skytrain

Map of Silom

Silom Road and Sathorn Road can handily be reached using the BTS Skytrain's Silom Line. BTS station Sala Daeng is right in the middle of the action, close to pretty much all party venues. At the other side is Saphan Taksin station, which is close to Bang Rak's riverside hotels. Surasak and Chong Nonsi fill up the area in between.

There is a direct connection with Siam Square, which takes about five minutes, but if you're coming from another district, traveling will be more complex. From Sukhumvit, you'll need to take the Skytrain to Siam station and transfer onto the Silom Line. The same goes if you're coming from Phahonyothin.

Metro

The MRT metro system is a good way to reach Silom from Yaowarat and Phahurat, Sukhumvit and Ratchadaphisek. The central stop is MRT station Si Lom, that lies at the entrance of Lumphini Park. It can be used as an interchange station with Sala Daeng BTS station. Other stops include Lumphini, Sam Yan and Hua Lamphong. The metro ride from Sukhumvit or Hualamphong Train Station takes about five minutes, while the ride from Ratchadaphisek takes about ten to fifteen minutes. Trains leave every five to ten minutes for a fare of about 16 to 41 baht.

By boat

If you're coming from Rattanakosin, Khao San Road or some areas of Yaowarat and Phahurat, the fastest way to reach Silom is by Chao Phraya Express Boat. A single trip from Chang Pier in Rattanakosin to Sathorn takes about 25 minutes and costs around 18 baht. From here, you can transfer onto the Skytrain's Silom Line and get to many destinations in Silom.

The river boat is the best way to get to and around the Bang Rak area. Si Phraya in the north of Bang Rak and Sathorn in the south are served by fast yellow flag boats. Oriental is the most centrally located, but is only served by orange-flag and no-flag lines. Wat Muang Kae is slightly north of Oriental, but is kind of a sleepy pier only served by no-flag lines.

If you happen to be in Thonburi (the area around Khlong San), you can easily take a ferry across the river. There are ferries from Klongsan to Si Phraya, from Wat Suwan to Oriental and from Sathorn across the river to the pier of the same name. Every 15 minutes a ferry leaves and won't cost you more than a mere 3 baht.

By bus

Due to heavy congestion and the complexity of the bus system, getting to Silom by bus can only be advised if you have a lot of time or are on a stringent budget. Being a part of Bangkok's downtown, many lines run through Silom, but finding the right one is a challenge. Ordinary and air-conditioned bus 15 comes from Phra Athit Road and then passes Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (for Khao San Road), moves along Lan Luang Road, Chakkaphatdi Phong Road and Bamrung Muang to Siam Square. From there, it continues along Ratchadamri Road and then goes all the way over Silom Road to Charoen Krung Road, the Krung Thep Bridge and The Mall Tha Phra in Thonburi.

From Yaowarat, catch bus 4 from Charoen Krung Road which goes along Rama IV Road, passing Hualamphong Train Station and the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm before reaching the intersection with Silom Road. In the opposite direction, this bus will skip Charoen Krung Road, passing Yaowarat Road instead (which is a one-way traffic road).

The first line of the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system starts at the intersection of Sathorn Road and Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road. There is a pedestrian walkway from Chong Nonsi BTS station to Sathorn BRT station, the first stop. From there, the line heads south along Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road, then follows Rama III Road along the Chao Phraya River, with Ratchaphruek in Thonburi its final destination. As a commuter line, it is not of much use for foreign visitors, unless you're going to Mambo Cabaret, Tawandang Microbrewery or a distant hotel.

By train

Hualamphong Train Station, whilst over the edge in Yaowarat and Phahurat, is very easy to reach from elsewhere in the district. Just take the metro to Hua Lamphong station and the station will be in front of you. From there you can get a train to Ayutthaya or Chiang Mai.

See

Traditional sightseeing attractions are rather rare on the ground in Silom. A popular attraction is to have a drink on one of the rooftop bars with an amazing view over Bangkok's skyline. You could also head for Lumphini Park or visit one of the twice-daily shows at the Queen Saovabha Institute Snake Farm.

Skyline

Sunset over Sathorn's skyline

While Silom's skyline doesn't match Hong Kong's or New York's, the views are still worth it. A part of Bangkok's skyline, most of Silom's towers are financial institutions and office buildings. The best way to enjoy it is by taking a trip up the Banyan Tree Hotel or the State Tower. The 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel has the Vertigo and Moon Bar, where you can dine or have a beer with one of the most spectacular views of Southeast Asia. Sirocco and Moon Bar on the State Tower is even a few metres higher up than Vertigo—making it the world's tallest rooftop bar/restaurant. Due to its slightly off-centre location, the views are arguably not quite as stunning, although it gives a great view of the Chao Phraya River. See the Drink section for more information about these rooftop bars.

Most of Silom's buildings are office buildings not meant to be visited. Heading out to take a look at these office buildings can only be recommended for those having a deeper interest in modern architecture and/or the financial sector. Some notable office buildings that dominate the skyline include the CP Tower, Empire Tower, ITF Tower and the United Center Building, but the Robot Building has to be the quirkiest of them all.

Parks and monuments

Houses of worship

Silom lacks the impressive overload of Buddhist temples common in other districts. There are some interesting ones, but they are no must-visit by any means. Due to the presence of the historic trade quarter, there are some European-style churches and old shophouses that can be visited. Also, the current Hindu and Muslim population has chipped in with the most important Hindu temple of Thailand on Silom Road and several mosques.

Assumption Cathedral

Museums and art galleries

The last remaining windmill in Silom

Historic buildings

Do

Due to many rich business travellers visiting Silom, it is an excellent destination for high-class spas. Particularly well-regarded spas include Devarana Spa (at the Dusit Thani Hotel), and the eponymous operations at Banyan Tree and the legendary Oriental — the last of these probably being the most expensive in town, offering (among other things) a six-hour Oriental Romance package for two costing a whopping 16,000 baht.

Learn

Buy

At first, shopping around Silom might feel a little lacklustre compared to Siam Square. Its department stores and malls are bland at best, but if you're in need of something, they are not short on supply. If you're looking for antiques, arts, handicrafts, silk, and suits, however, Silom is the place to be. Especially the Bang Rak area is good, as that's where the rich potential buyers stay in expensive riverside hotels. Hundreds of jewellery and silver stores are lined up along Charoen Krung Road.

Antiques

Don't forget the licence

Antique shopping is fun, and statues, fabrics, woodcarvings and furniture are some of the products that might interest you. Be careful that some cultural objects need an export licence if you want to take them out of the country. This is especially the case for Buddha images, Bodhisattva images or parts of ancient monuments and prehistoric objects. Any reputable dealer should be able to give advice and get the paperwork in order. You can also contact the Office of Archaeology and National Museums (81/1 Si Ayutthaya Rd, Dusit, ☎ +66 2 628-5032) for more information.

Tailor-made clothes

Markets

Malls and department stores

Eat

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under 100 baht
Mid-range 100-500 baht
Splurge Over 500 baht

Fancy restaurants, cafés, noodle shops and international chain stores line the streets around Silom Road.

Budget

As Silom is a popular neighborhood with the locals, there are enough places for cheap meals. For authentic Japanese food at reasonable prices, pop into one of the many eateries on Soi Thaniya. The Lalai Sap Market has some affordable seafood stalls (see Buy).

Bang Rak defines the melting pot of Bangkok's cuisine. There are various ethnic eateries in that area, including Thai, Chinese, Indian and Muslim cuisines. But you can also find plenty of noodle shops, stewed pork with rice (ข้าวขาหมู) stalls and roasted duck with rice (ข้าวหน้าเป็ด) eateries. As this is a poorer neighborhood, dishes are served for no more than 80 baht.

Mid-range


Splurge

The Chao Phraya riverside hotels (see Sleep) have the usual splurge restaurants with overpriced menus, although The Oriental's dinner buffet (2,000+ baht) is acclaimed.

Drink

There's more to Silom's nightlife than just Patpong, but can a visitor say they've been to Bangkok without at least a quick peek into the 'Pong?

Soi Patpong

Patpong

You might want to take a deep breath and down a few shots before heading into the insanity of Patpong (พัฒน์พงษ์), which in fact consists only of two small sois (Patpong 1 and Patpong 2). It's a short walk from BTS Sala Daeng station, deserted by day but jam-packed and overflowing in all directions by night. The throngs of middle age tourists shopping for sarongs and chopsticks just makes the sex shows going on in every open door seem that much more surreal.

Prepare to be harassed by touts armed with laminated 'menus' of acts you can order up. If you follow the touts, you might end up spending a ton of money on drinks to watch sad looking girls perform unhygienic acts with various garden-party accessories (lawn darts, ping pongs, etc.) in one of the upstairs bars. While seemingly cheap at first, be prepared to pay thousands of bahts when the girls flock to you with drinks in their hands, as you'd have to pay for them. The bill comes to you within minutes and the dispute could become violent.

If you instead try one of the bars on the lower level, you can safely watch girls dancing on stage, but will occasionally be asked by one of the girls if you could buy her a drink. She will get upwards of 50% of the drink price as a bonus and will join you at your table for some conversation in exchange. As a rule of thumb, only trust bars that already have a fair number of customers; a drink should not cost more than 130 baht or so. Note, all the go-go bars in Patpong close by 01:00.

It must be said that Patpong has changed remarkably over the years. While it used to be just a sleazy den of go-go bars, nowadays a lot of visitors come to the area just to see what the fuss is about. It is not unusual to see families with children walk through the area in the early evening. The locals found a way to make money from this new group of curious tourists: an enormous night market stocked with overpriced souvenirs that takes up the whole road and even spills over to the surrounding area (including Silom Road). See the Buy section for more information on the night market.

Soi Thaniya

Soi Thaniya is Patpong for the Japanese; you might be excused for thinking you've ended up in Shinjuku when you see the plethora of signs in Japanese and kimono-clad girls beckoning you in. Most bars and clubs are off-limits to Westerners (except for the occasional British pub), but some of the restaurants aren't bad for Japanese food and some beer or sake to wash it down.

Silom Soi 2 and 4

Sois 2 and 4 are the centre of gay nightlife in Bangkok, although these days Soi 4 packs in a mixed crowd with plenty of bars that aren't gay by any stretch of the imagination. On weekends Soi 4 is cordoned off and a valid ID is (theoretically) required to enter. Across Surawong Road is Soi Twilight, Bangkok's largest gay go-go bar strip.

Bars and pubs


Superhip

Sirocco at State Tower (The Dome)

Note that fairly strictly applied dress codes apply to all of the following, so no flip-flops, shorts or sleeveless shirts.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 1,000 baht
Mid-range 1,000 baht to 2,500 baht
Splurge Over 2,500 baht

Most of the hotels in Silom are four or five-star hotels catering to business travellers. Most splurge hotels can be found along Silom Road and Sathorn Road. The Bang Rak area at the Chao Phraya River has some of the world's best hotels, including Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La (another contender for this title is The Peninsula, right at the other side of the river in Thonburi).

Due to high property values, dorm rooms, which are pretty much unheard of elsewhere in Thailand, are becoming the norm here for budget travellers. Ngam Duphli Road used to be the heart of Bangkok's backpacker scene, and was a lively area with dozens of guest houses. As Khao San Road took over, this road has gone significantly downhill and most guest houses there have turned creaky and dusty.

Budget

Mid-range


Splurge

Connect

Finding Wi-Fi in Silom is just as easy as finding a girl in Patpong. Nearly every hotel has free Wi-Fi for their customers (except, perversely, some of the more expensive ones, where you have to pay extra), or available for everyone in the lobby. Many of them also have Internet terminals available. If you're just visiting, many cafés and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi, such as the Bonita Cafe or Molly Malone's.

Go next

Routes through Silom

Thonburi  W  E  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, December 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.