Bangkok/Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit (Thai: สุขุมวิท) is an exclusive district in Bangkok. It is home to fancy apartments, villas, restaurants, bars and clubs. Popular among foreign visitors and expats, it becomes more and more a Thai residential neighbourhood as you follow the road southeast. Khlong Toei is also dealt with here, which, by contrast, is one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Bangkok.

Understand

Sunset in Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit Road is not only one of the longest roads in Thailand, but one of the longest roads in the world. Towards the west end it changes name to Phloen Chit Road and Rama I Road as it enters the Siam Square area, but to the east it runs most of the way to the Cambodian border. The sois are numbered from west to east, with odd numbers north and even numbers south of Sukhumvit Road. The sois on the north and south sides of Sukhumvit don't line up; for example, Soi 33 is opposite Soi 24. Confusing is that these sois also have names of their own (for example, Soi 55 is better known as Soi Thong Lo) and these sois can also have sois of their own (such as Thong Lo Soi 1).

Looking at the high-rise apartment buildings, the Skytrain and the perennial traffic jam on Sukhumvit Road, it is hard to believe that this area used to consist of rice fields until World War II. After the war, this area became developed with large contemporary villas catering to the upper class. As property values kept rising, developers have been buying more and more land and cashed them in by constructing big apartment high-rises. The construction of the BTS Skytrain in 1999, covering most of Sukhumvit Road, has increased the popularity of this district even more.

The lowered-numbered sois (roughly between Soi 1 and 63) are a popular residential area for western expatriates and affluent Thais. It is densely packed with shopping centres, restaurants and hotels. The fleshpots of Nana Entertainment Plaza (in Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (between Soi 21 and 23) are also in this area, as are plenty of more (and less) salubrious bars. Also, the pavement of Sukhumvit itself has become a huge market carrying everything from luggage to fake Rolex watches, and after midnight they turn into roadside bars and pubs. Sukhumvit offers the best dining in Bangkok, from five-star dining to street stands, the variety of choices and tastes are almost overwhelming. Japanese nationals can be found in the area Soi 21 and upwards, but most tend to congregate around Soi 55. Indians have settled around Soi 12, while Arabs are grouped at Soi 3/1, which informally is known as Soi Arab. After Soi 63, Thais take over again, though this might change when the Skytrain extension is completed in late 2011.

South of Sukhumvit's sois lies Khlong Toei, which, if recognised at all, foreigners only know for the Khlong Toei Market. Khlong Toei is a borough, a market and a port, all named after the canal that flows through the area. It means "canal of pandan" as that plant used to grow along the southern bank of the canal. A large part of it was filled up to make way for Rama IV Road in 1947. South (and under) the Chalerm Maha Nakhon Expressway are the infamous Khlong Toei slums, generally unexplored by even the most adventurous travellers. At the banks of the Chao Phraya river is the Khlong Toei Port, which has a history dating back to the ninth century, when it connected Bangkok with the cities upstream the river. Since 1981, it has lost most of its economic relevance when the larger Laem Chabang Port near Pattaya took over business.

Get in

By public transit

Skytrain

Map of Sukhumvit

The BTS Sukhumvit Line runs, as the name suggests, over Sukhumvit Road from west to east. Sukhumvit can directly be reached by Skytrain from Siam Square or Phahonyothin. The journey from Mo Chit takes about 25 minutes to reach Asok station, while from Siam station takes about 10 minutes. If you're coming from Silom, you'll need to take the Silom Line north and change onto the Sukhumvit Line at Siam station. It takes about 20 minutes for a ride from Saphan Taksin station to reach Asok station, including the transfer at Siam. Trains leave every 5–10 minutes for a fare of about 15-40 baht.

The most important BTS stations are (from west to east) Nana, Asok, Phrom Phong, Thong Lo, Ekkamai, Phra Khanong, On Nut, Udom Suk, Bang Na and Bearing. Each station serves the neighbourhood of the same name. Asok is the most convenient station as it is in the centre of Sukhumvit and has a direct transfer with Bangkok's MRT metro system. In the following years, the Sukhumvit Line will be extended southwards to Samut Prakan and eastwards to Suvarnabhumi Airport's proposed second terminal.

Metro

If you're coming from Silom or Ratchadaphisek, you can directly reach Sukhumvit by Bangkok's MRT metro system. The most convenient station is Sukhumvit, which is right in the middle of the district and you can transfer onto the BTS Sukhumvit Line. The other stations in the district are Khlong Toei and QSNCC. The metro ride from Silom takes about 10 minutes, while the ride from Ratchadaphisek takes about 15 minutes. Trains leave every 5–10 minutes for a fare of about 15-40 baht.

Airport Rail Link

The Airport Rail Link provides a direct connection between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Phaya Thai station, a ride that takes 17 minutes. At Phaya Thai, you have to switch onto the BTS Skytrain. As the systems are not integrated, you will have to buy a new ticket. Take a train in the direction of Bearing and get out at the station of your choice — Nana and Asok are the most widely used stations.

By boat

The Saen Saep Express Boat service is a rough, but entertaining way of getting in and around Sukhumvit. The Saen Saeb canal forms the northern boundary of Sukhumvit's sois and is a cheap alternative means of escaping the traffic jams if you're coming from Khao San Road, the eastern side of Rattanakosin or Ramkhamhaeng.

There are two lines: The Golden Mount Line runs from Panfa Leelard near the Golden Mount in Rattanakosin east to Pratunam near Ratchaprasong intersection. The NIDA Line runs from Pratunam all the way northeast along Ramkhamhaeng Road to Wat Sriboonreung. A single trip from Panfa Leelard to Nana Nua takes about 35 minutes and costs 13 baht. You must switch boats at Pratunam. Other stops along Sukhumvit's northern sois (from west to east) are Nana Chard, Asoke-Petchaburi, Prasanmit, Italthai, Wat Mai Chonglom, Baan Don Mosque, Soi Thonglor, Charn Issara and Vijit School.

If you're coming from the Grand Palace area in Rattanakosin, there are two ways to get into Sukhumvit. The fastest way is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Sathorn pier in Silom. From there, continue your way north using the BTS Skytrain Silom Line. You'll need to switch trains at Siam BTS station and continue your way east onto the Sukhumvit Line. The whole journey from Rattanakosin takes about 40 minutes. Alternatively walk for about 30 minutes, or a 5 minute taxi journey, to Panfa Leelard pier and continue your journey using the Saen Saep Express Boat.

By bus

This first tip on bus travel is one to remember: do not do it! Sukhumvit Road is probably the most congested road of Bangkok and traffic jams exist the whole day until late in the evening. Also, it is difficult to find out which bus goes where or where to get out. Better take the Skytrain, metro or express boat, even if it costs a little more.

If you insist, there are many bus routes through the Sukhumvit area. The most important one is ordinary and air-conditioned bus 25, which starts far southeast of Sukhumvit Road. From there, it goes all the way northwest along Sukhumvit Road and then rides over Ratchadamri Road and Rama IV Road to Silom. It then continues its way to Hualamphong Train Station, through either Charoen Krung Road or Yaowarat Road (depending on direction) and finally on to Tha Chang in Rattanakosin (for the Grand Palace).

From the new Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can take bus AE3 for 150 baht to Sukhumvit. It runs up the Bang Na-Trat Expressway and along Sukhumvit all the way up to Siam Square. It then loops back around to Nana and then back out to the airport. Another option is bus 552, which heads on to On Nut, where you can continue your way with the Skytrain. There are many stops and depending on traffic the ride can take from 1 to 2 hours.

See

Parks

Nana station

Museums

Do

Focus on yourself and get pampered at one of the many massage establishments around Sukhumvit. If you want a more upmarket experience, you could head for a spa. Some of the better ones include:

Learn

If you are one of the more sporty types who like to keep active on your vacation, the national sport of Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is a great way to stay in shape. Other learning activities include cooking and meditating.

Buy

As Sukhumvit is one of Bangkok's main thoroughfares, the long road is lined with shops, boutiques and modern shopping plazas ranging from Soi 3 (Soi Nana Nuea) up to Soi 63 (Soi Ekkamai). Most shops and restaurants are concentrated between Soi 3 and Soi 21 (Asok Rd) and along shortcuts between Asok and Ekkamai.

Markets

Shopping in Sukhumvit starts on the street. The pavement is cramped with endless roadside stalls that offer many of the same items as the Patpong Night Market, such as souvenirs, accessories, knock-off clothes, pornographic DVDs, pirated films and other junk. Prices are somewhat better than in Patpong. The stalls are open most of the day, and only seem to close late in the evening. The stores are at the main thoroughfare from Soi 1 till Soi 20. The part between Nana and Asok stations is particularly a hard walk, as many pedestrians queue up at the stalls to take a look. Haggling is generally expected, but it'll only save you a few more baht.

Malls and department stores

Terminal 21

There are plenty of malls and department stores throughout Sukhumvit Road. The best ones are Emporium and the recently opened Terminal 21, but you might as well hop on the Skytrain to Siam Square. At Thong Lo, all things are cool, be it clothing, gadgets or interior design. It could be called the "Siam Square of Sukhumvit" with its hip fashion boutiques, trendy designer stores and overall swanky appearance.

Stores

If you know where to go, Sukhumvit offers some of the best bespoke tailoring in Bangkok. Never go to custom tailor shops that get your suits and shirts ready in 24 hours or less. If you want good quality, go to a reliable tailor which will ask for two to five sittings. The entire process will take about a week. For more information on bespoke tailoring, see the Buy section of the main Bangkok article.

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

There is a huge selection of places to eat in and around Sukhumvit and its side sois, although prices tend to be on the high side by Thai standards. With practically every cuisine in the world represented, this is the place to break your pad thai diet and sample some of the best Japanese, Lebanese or Indian food you will ever eat.

Budget

While not as much an institution as in Siam Square, the food courts in any mall or department store are a good option if you're trying to survive Sukhumvit on budget and want air-conditioning. Just like in Siam Square, food courts come in many varieties, from basic snack places to more upscale dining. The Emporium Mall, Ploenchit Center and Robinson all have decent food courts (see Buy). Most food courts use some variation of a coupon system; unused coupons are always refunded.

There are some cheapie sois with excellent street food if you know where to go:

Budget restaurants are generally hard to find, but the following are favorites among Bangkok's large expat population:

Mid-range

Fusion

Thai food with a modern twist has become particularly popular the last years. Fusion restaurants are centred around the H1 complex on Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Soi Thong Lo).

Thai


Asian

Finding your way around the mindblowing variety in Sukhumvit might feel a bit daunting at first. One way to approach the area is to visit its ethnic food neighbourhoods. Little Japan is located near Sukhumvit Soi 33 and across the street at Sukhumvit Soi 24, with Phrom Phong BTS station straddling the two. There is also a smaller concentration of Japanese restaurants along Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Soi Thong Lo), notably the Nihonmura ("Japan Village") in Thong Lo Soi 13.

Indian and Middle Eastern

Soi 3 and Soi 3/1, a short walk from Nana BTS station, are known as Soi Arab for the heavy concentration of Middle Eastern businesses in the area; in some spots you will see more signs in Arabic than in Thai! Thanks to a demanding clientele and heavy competition, the food here is some of the best this side of Lebanon.

European

American and Tex-Mex

Splurge

Drink

The Sukhumvit area contains more watering holes than can easily be counted, and touts are not as big of a problem here as in Patpong. However, the scene is oriented towards Western ex-pats and wealthy high-society Thais, for more of a local ambience (and local prices) head a bit north to Ratchadaphisek instead.

Go-go and beer bars

Bright neon signs in Soi Cowboy. Yee-haw!

Soi Cowboy (off Asok Road) and Nana Entertainment Plaza (Soi 4) are packed full of go-go bars much like those in Patpong. Soi 33 is packed with hostess bars, which are more upscale than the Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza bars and do not feature go-go dancing. Since the establishments are jammed side by side on the streets (or along the interior courtyard, in Nana Plaza), it's easy to go go-go bar hopping: they all come in different sizes, music, lighting and dancer physiques. You'll probably find one to fit your preferences.

While the places all operate with more or less the same concept, the following have been around for a while and are unlikely to rip you off:

Bars and pubs

Looking for a place to watch your favorite sport on the big screen? Sukhumvit from Soi 2 to 33 offers plenty of choices. The stereotypic bars here are British pubs with rugby on, selling lots of beer and pub grub (be it grill menus or other simple snacks). The workers are young Thai hostesses in tight outfits who serve Western ex-pats that generally are older than 40.


Wine bars

With a growing interest in foreign as well as local wines, there is a growing number of wine bars in Bangkok and many of these are in the Sukhumvit area. Most of these are trendy establishments with selections of exclusive French, Italian, Spanish and other international wines.


Superhip

Tuk-tuks waiting for passengers on Soi 11

Soi 11 and 23 have some of the trendiest clubs in town. These venues are all about seeing and being seen, popular among the well-to-do Thai and expat crowd. Soi 55 (Thong Lo) and Soi 63 (Ekkamai) also have their fair share of places to spend the night, but these are somewhat more modest and have more in common with traditional bars.

Note that fairly strictly applied dress codes apply to the following listings, so no flip-flops, shorts or sleeveless shirts. Always bring your passport as club owners must (and will) check it upon entry.

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

Property values in Sukhumvit are among the highest in Bangkok, and accommodation is priced to match. There are plenty of four and five-star hotels that cater to those with a lot of money (including business travellers). Guest houses à la Khao San Road are hard to find, and will set you back at least twice as much.

Another market is the sex industry. Some hotels nearby Nana Entertainment Plaza and Soi Cowboy offer "short time" stays. This short term option is cheaper, but can only be used for a couple of hours. It is meant for sex tourists and locals who want to spend a couple of hours with their "date". These hotels generally are quite cheap, but they can feel seedy and are not recommended for overnight stays.

Many other hotels explicitly hang up signs banning sex tourists; many of these don't allow you to bring in any Thai lady (which can lead to an awkward situation if you just want to bring a friend or your Thai girlfriend), while others will allow them only if they are present with an ID card at the time of initial registration.

Budget

Mid-range

Taxis on Sukhumvit Road

There is plenty of good quality, mid-range accommodation on Sukhumvit. It is possible to book on a weekly basis and get a large discount at many places.

Splurge

Several of Bangkok's luxury hotels are concentrated on and near Sukhumvit. To splurge in Bangkok is cheaper than you initially think. Your options include:

Connect

Sukhumvit is packed with Internet cafés, pubs and bars offering free Wi-Fi and computer access at rates as low as 0.5 baht/minute. Trying to print something will probably shed a whole new light on your experience. Be wary of key loggers which reputedly are epidemic at Thai Internet cafés. There have also been cases where memory cards get infected with a virus when plugged into an Internet café computer.

Go next

Routes through Sukhumvit


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