The Lively Sois of Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road
Sukhumvit Road is the longest road in Thailand. It stretches from central Bangkok all the way down to Pattaya. Today we’re interested in the Bangkok end. Both the road and its many adjoining ‘sois’ (sub-streets) from Soi 1 to Soi 25 or so are poor on traditional tourist attractions, but rich in impromptu, informal and inspired eating, drinking, nightlife and street stalls. Some of the city’s most sinful spots, the red-light districts of Nana Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (off Soi 23) are also found here.
Khiri Travel Thailand has crafted a new urban walking tour between Sukhumvit Soi 5 and Soi 11. We start at the Nana intersection and walk to Check Inn 99, on our way passing numerous street vendors selling everything from funky t-shirts and bootleg DVDs to Viagra and sex toys. In Check Inn 99, a uniquely retro bar, we enjoy the Filipino band and mellow atmosphere.
From here we walk to our second stop of the evening: Cheap Charlie’s, a ‘proper’ Bangkok institution! Cheap Charlie’s was founded in 1982. It is just a bar counter with seats and a couple of tables. However, its unique and ever-changing décor is a sight to behold.
“People bring things and add them to the bar whenever they pass by or come back,” says owner Satit, brother of the eponymous Charlie, who died many years ago. “We have a lot of return customers and when they come back they add a little bit of their adventures to our place.” These souvenirs include gigantic snakeheads, wooden carvings and fake boobs.
The bar made a name for itself decades ago mainly because of its cheap prices and convenient location. In interviews, Charlie always spouted the same three rules: no prostitutes; stay inside the yellow line (so patrons can pass through to the other restaurants and bars on the sub-soi), and no pooping in the toilet. [Plumbing was never a forte at Charlie’s.]
We continue into Soi 11, a busy lane with funky bars and nightclubs catering to a mixed modern crowd of Thai and foreign visitors. On the sidewalk, taste delicious snacks like local roti (pancake).
We arrive at the Nest, a funky ‘high-so’ rooftop bar with cabanas set in sand, oversized daybeds to laze back on and an impressive cocktail list.
Finally we end up at Above Eleven, a chilled-out Central Park inspired rooftop bar. On the balcony outside the view does most of the talking. The 180-degree view of Bangkok, looking towards Siam and the famous row of Bangkok’s shopping malls, offers a great opportunity for taking photos.
There is nothing better than looking down at the slow-moving traffic whilst you enjoy the breeze and the drink in your hand.
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