Bangkok is currently split into two broader areas of Silom and Sukhamvit. Silom is the old settlement of the city, where more residents stay while Sukhamvit is fairly new, attracts a lot of tourists and newbies and is livelier. Till the mid 90’s Silom used to be the preferred destination for tourists and business hunters but now Sukhamvit rules all corners.
Sukhamvit could easily be termed as the heart of the city, it has everything from good to bad & even ugly. What’s important to understand is the layout of this area before we get into any more details about it. Sukhamvit is basically a road that stretches way outside the borders of city Bangkok, but a small patch of this road houses all Soi (lanes) and that’s where all the energy lies. The area has an abundance of things like hotels, food, shopping-spots, party places, massage parlours (which carry ulterior motive too).
My Initial Experience–
The first night I reached here, I got mugged. I was looking for a place to stay as I came out of the airport and took the cab, he took me to Soi 13A. This is a dingy by-lane and I managed to grab a cheap style hotel for the first night, by now the time was already 11 PM and I was hungry as anything. I came to the main Sukhamvit road and walked till Soi 21, in search of a place to eat, to my surprise there were none.
I asked a Tuk-Tuk driver to guide me and he made a deal for 200 THB stating he would take me to a place to eat, took another 15 mins and took me to a fairly expensive place to eat, which by the way charged me 400 THB and wasted another 40 minutes. I was fuming by the end of this meal, desperately wanted to go back home and just sleep. Had to take another Tuk-Tuk to get back, no choice.
Got back to the hotel, spent the night and inquired about places to eat at the hotel and then I came to know about Soi 11 and 3A, where the whole town comes to eat. This was still a relief as I wasn’t willing to shed that kind of amount or time to eat anymore. Post that I took on foot and explored the area nearby, made local friends and figured out everything I should.
The essential guide for Sukhamvit
- The main lane works in 3 separate shifts. Shift one starts around 6 Pm and goes till 9 Pm, shift 2 takes over from 9 or 10 onwards depending on the mutual understanding between shops and stretches till midnight & the last one sets post-midnight, goes strong till 2 AM.
- The first and the second shift are mostly selling mobile accessories, clothes, trinket, fake watches, shoes and wallets, some good leather stuff (if you have an eye for it) and a lot of sex toys. Remember to bargain as hard as you can.
- The third shift which sets post-midnight has a different look and feel, these are micro-sized bars placed under an umbrella. The African majority run these bars mostly to hook-up with fellow tourists, who are looking for some fun.
- All odd-numbered Soi are on one side and even on the other across the road. So on one side, you have 3, 5 and 7 while on the other you would have 4,6 & 8.
- Most of the good food joints are on Soi 3, 11 and 21 but all of them are different from each other. Soi 3 has a smaller sub-section which is Soi 3A which is commonly called “Little Arabia” and serves all the great middle-eastern food. Soi 11 has a lot of local street food options while Soi 21 has offices and is good for people staying that side when it comes to finding cheaper decent meals.
- The cheap hotels lie in most of the sub-sections of Soi like Soi 3A, Soi 11B and so on. They are far from being the best option but they certainly help you save a lot of money if that is your target.
- Soi 4 or the Nana area is one of the infamous red-light district of Bangkok unless that is your target do not go there.
- Soi 3A has an ever smaller connecting lane which connects to Soi 5, this is your go-to spot for best exchange rate across the city. Do not waste your time elsewhere.
- Soi 11 has the best party options, cheap drinks and a lot of liveliness.
- Soi 9B is mostly hush-hush and has a lot of massage parlours which do everything under the name of massage. The first massage parlour on the left is run by a polite old lady where you can get a good foot massage and there is no reason to not get it done. After a tiring long walk, that is exactly what helps.
- Stay away from Soi 4, that’s not the place you want to visit.
- Soi 3A has the finest food at a reasonable cost; You should give it a try.
- Do not roam around in Sukhamvit after midnight; there is not much to see.