Where to party on Bangkok's west side
Who knows what's really delayed the extension of the BTS in Thonburi? Maybe it's tech issues, or squabbles over who has rights to the “procurement leakage” from the multibillion-baht infrastructure project.
But the fact that the mass transit system keeps expanding has given the Chaophraya River’s West Side a cosmopolitan shot in the arm.
The proliferation of new condominium, townhouse and gated housing communities has accelerated at a breakneck pace in Thonburi, resulting in a more left-field, youthful crowd taking up residence.
The development of essential supporting services -- namely hip places to get a drink –- has taken place at a slower pace; but a few pioneering minds have taken the opportunity to carve out their own unique spaces on newly fertile ground in an area at least one optimist has dubbed “the Brooklyn of Bangkok."
Currently the best hangouts are a cab ride apart, but the lack of a defined strip of bars and clubs has a definite upside: the area is completely devoid of irritating brace-wearing vacuous teenagers, with the patrons of most of the decent joints aged from the mid-20s to early-40s.
Here are some of the best.
Sura Bar Party Bai Mao Santi
The name of this bar loosely translates into “Whisky Bar Party Where You Can Get Mellow Drunk” and it's the best venue on this side of the river because of its simplicity.
It all started when a group of five friends who studied at nearby Siam University decided to open a bar big on creativity and low on investment. But while it may have had a low start-up budget, the outside beach bar complete with sand, speedboat and palm trees can’t be faulted in terms of atmosphere and affordability.
Prices are reasonable with beer and cocktails costing from 70 to 150 baht on average and food from 40 to 140 baht a dish.
There’s live music every day, mostly pop-folk with the odd smattering of ska, with two bands a night on the weekends. The crowd is very laid-back, but the bar is always busy so be sure to book a table if you’re planning to go on Friday or Saturday.
317/1 Ratchapruek Road. Tel: +66 (0)85 188 6131. Open daily, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Email: Surabarparty@hotmail.com
Kudos, which is a few hundred meters away from Sura Bar, is a much grander affair.
Despite a slow start when it opened last year, the two-story venue complete with club and rooftop terrace has proven that large-scale massage parlors are not the only entertainment centers that can make it as suburban destination venues on this side of the river.
While the joint boasts a massive menu, a solid drinks list and acoustic music, it has started to make a name for itself by bringing in fairly heavyweight Thai bands, such as Scrubb.
249 Ratchapruek Rd (about 500 meters along from the Petchkasaem Rd/Siam University junction). Tel: +66 (0)2 457 8094. Open daily, 6 p.m.-4 a.m. www.kudosclub.net
Cube by Moody’s Bar has started to lure a relatively diverse crowd of locals and bright young things who usually inhabit the Silom area.
The live music is uplifting without being oppressive (think the diametric opposite of Lee Shamrock).
And while it’s certainly of a more urbane design than many of the other nearby venues, there’s not a whiff of pretension to be found among the clientele.
The owners have adopted the same doctrine of opening a bar that will be patronized by people they enjoy hanging out with.
151/8 Ratchapruek Road. Open daily, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 477 8335
Last but not least, Fangthon Tha-Phra rounds of this quartet of west side bars.
Located in a 60-year-old wooden house, with walls bedecked with 1980s gigs and movie posters, the offering is simple: Thai and Isaan food, cheap beer, whisky by the bottle and live music a few nights a week.
When the bands aren’t playing, Max the owner, a Fine Arts graduate from Silpakorn University, lets patrons kick back to an eclectic mix of Luek Thung, Phleng Phuea Chiwit (Songs for Life), country music and hits from the 40s to the 80s. So expect anything from Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack to Queen and Ad Carabou.
367/12 Petchkasaem Road. Open daily, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tel: +66 (0)84 921 5012