Bangkok nightlife: 5 RCA bars for 5 different tastes
One of just three government-designated nightlife zones in the city, RCA in recent years has become more than a drinking spot. There’s go-kart racing, art cinema at House, bowling, a golf driving range, shopping and plenty of restaurants and cafes.
But let's be honest. For most, it’s still all about the party. RCA has something for all tastes, whether you’re looking for a wild club night with a top U.K. DJ or a simple dive bar to fill up on cheap beer.
It's also home to Bangkok’s only two lesbian bars.
One warning. Many of RCA’s venues come and go faster than a backpacker through Khao San Road. Here is a small sample of some of our favorite venues that have so far managed to prove they've got staying power.
A long-time favorite of those in the know, Cosmic Café may be a café by name, but by nature it’s an itty bitty party explosion.
Weekdays are usually quieter affairs, but come Friday and Saturday Cosmic Café is filled with a mostly Thai crowd of indie kids slamming back their preferred brands of whiskey while local bands throw together familiar covers until the early hours of the morning.
Go early and stay late to get the full, cosmic effect.
RCA Block C, opposite Club 808
Old Leng is the black sheep of Bangkok’s premier clubbing lane, but that is part of its appeal. While the busy street shudders with bass-heavy club anthems, Old Leng swings to goofy renditions of 1980s-era love songs performed by a ragtag cover band.
Old Leng’s interior seems appropriately ancient, like a centuries-old Chinese drinking hall. Dusty Marlboro ads and faded signs hang from the rafters. Avoid the bar’s sugary, homemade booze concoctions and have a Sangsom whiskey and Coke instead.
And don’t be afraid to request a song. The versatile cover band can crank out both Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” or Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” on command.
Block S, RCA. Tel: +66 (0)2 203 0972
Overtone Music Cave
Originally this bar was meant to be a platform for music students and a venue for music workshops, but it's become a hotspot for recording artists to perform.
Overtone is more like a mini-concert hall than a bar with live bands. The music varies from mainstream rock, punk, ska, vocal pop and jazz and sometimes they even have jam sessions between local artists and international acts, or between local indie bands of different music genres.
29/70-72 RCA Zone D. Tel: +66 (0) 2641 4283
One of the busiest RCA nightclubs is 808, a frequent late-night stop for the city’s electro and house fans and a regular site for Bangkok's much-loved Dudesweet club nights.
808 Nightclub manages to pull in some of the world's top DJs on a regular basis such as Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, DJ Die and Roger Sanchez.
It's been said by some electro connoisseurs that Club 808 has the city's top sound and light systems, which is to be expected if you're bringing all these top DJs. Adding to the club's appeal is an elevated stage that places the DJ high above the spacious dance floor.
Cover charges vary from night to night. Check out their website for the latest schedule.
RCA Block C, Soi Soonvijai
For Bangkok’s hip-hop set, Route 66 is ground zero.
More a funky compound than a club, the nightspot many simply call “Route” is geographically divided into North, South, East and West wings. It’s that big. And yet, on any given weekend, the place is shoulder-to-shoulder, wiggle-your-way-to-the-bathroom packed.
If you can find one of Route’s many bars, you’ll want to order two rounds to cut back on trips. If the crowd doesn’t scare you off, you’ll enjoy all the hip-hop that can be found in American clubs, only with far less fighting, posing and strangers who think dancing equals butt grind sneak attacks.
29/33-48 RCA. Tel: +66 (0)2 203 0936