30 reasons Bangkok has the best nightlife in the world
We concede, most of Bangkok's nightlife venues -- especially those outside the designated zones -- shut down way too early. But that doesn't mean Bangkok's nightlife doesn't remain the best in the world. Offerings range from the cheap to the ostentatious, with venues that are able to cater to even the strangest of after-dark whims. Here are 30 great reasons why we love our city's nightlife more than any other's in the world.
1. Venues for any taste only a quick tuk-tuk ride from wherever you are
In town with your family? How about a buffet and some dancing while you cruise up the River of Kings? Mom visiting? Take her to the 24-hour flower market and then buy her a glass of wine at a bar overlooking an ancient temple, such as the Arun Residence. Colleagues from the head office in town for a conference? Take them to a club like Bed Supperclub or Q Bar to dance and drink with Bangkok’s prettiest players. No matter where or who you are, the sky’s the limit.
2. No one cares if you have a mullet
Fashion is in the eye of the beholder, and with the exception of the hi-so set, Bangkokians rarely care what you’re wearing when you show up at the party (though they might mock you behind your back). From the hippest threads to the most outdated look or tastes in music, you’re likely to find at least a few like-minded people to share your shame. So put on your neon pink spandex and glitter wigs and let’s get this party started.
3. You usually end the night with more friends than you started with
Bangkok’s party people are a close-knit crew and conversations with strangers often start at one club, continue in the taxi and finish sometime later at a new venue. By the end of the night you’ve likely exchanged phone numbers and Facebook details and have planned the next outing. The Big Mango may not have the craziest partiers, but it sure does have the friendliest.
4. VW Van bars that act as rest stops
While barhopping, it’s nice to be able to pull up a chair at a place that’s friendly, inexpensive and not concerned about dress codes. Enter the VW Van bars -- mobile drink platforms that open the roof, drop the windows and serve a long list of drinks in the fashion of some Faustian-inspired ice cream truck. If you get rowdy and start causing a scene, no problem -- they just close up shop and drive off. Pro tip: don’t go chasing/stumbling after them, it’s terribly embarrassing for your friends.
5. Everyone has a favorite place you probably haven’t heard of
Be it the pool party near Chatuchak, the hole in the wall on Sathorn, the ‘secret’ after-hours club near (shh, it’s secret), or the impromptu concert at RCA, someone probably knows where you’re going next, even if you don’t. Set your compass on ‘follow’.
6. Wonderfully bizarre gentleman’s clubs
The term ‘Gentleman’s Club’ is pretty subjective, and Bangkok has them in spades. From cigar lounges to absinthe bars to weird, neon-lit caves where you literally pay girls (a lot) to stand next to you and smile, exclusive boys-only dens of derring-do cater to every taste. As long as you have the money.
7. The party doesn’t stop when the party stops
Despite what the brilliant minds in charge of bar closing times believe, not everyone goes home to sleep at 2am, and there are plenty of places that cater to the nocturnal masses. Some are big and loud, others are tiny and barely known, but all ensure that -- despite Bangkok’s prudish push over the past few years -- your party doesn’t end until you want it to. Just follow the crowds.
8. Hang out with the celebs
Unlike LA or London, you don't have to be worth a small fortune or a VIP to rub elbows with A-listers. Check out some of these popular celebrity haunts known for their star clients that you too can check out in our article on "Where to spot a celebrity in Bangkok."
9. Gay? Lesbian? Transgender? Something else? Welcome!
Bangkok’s famous tolerance of alternative lifestyles is in full force when the sun goes down, with bars, restaurants, after-hours clubs and even entire streets dedicated to various orientations. Sure, you can see a ladyboy cabaret anywhere in Asia, but have you ever actually partied with a group of glammed-out kathoeys? It’s an experience you’ll never forget. Bangkok doesn’t have any gay pride parades, but then again -- we don’t really need to. Every day is gay pride day here.
10. All night street food of every ilk
Nothing beats a greasy late night snack with friends and Bangkok has more options than you can possibly ask for. From artery-hardening egg/bacon cheeseburgers on Silom and tangy chicken shwarmas in Nana to noodles, rice and bugs of all types on every street corner, getting your snack on pre-, during, or post-party has never been easier. Just remember: for maximum alertness, eat two mid-size grasshoppers for every shot of whiskey.
11. Cheap, neon-lit, beer-fueled bowling
Up for some fun but not in the mood for the the pubs? Bangkok's neon-lit bowling alleys are top notch. Many major shopping malls have bowling venues on offer that stay open late, most featuring a glow-in-the-dark motif that pits the dimly lit hall's palette of popping neon-colored bowling balls against its ultra-violet lanes. Major Bowl, for instance, has a clubesque theme, complete with a boothed DJ who plays various radio hits on full volume, while a menu of pub grub and beer towers keeps bowlers energized.
12. Massages while you wee
We touched on this one in our list of 50 reasons Bangkok is the greatest city in the world and it deserves repeating as it's just so creepily awesome. Men using the urinals at many bars and clubs might be startled when a strong pair of hands grabs theirs shoulders. Don’t whip around with your zipper down ready for a fight -- it’s just the bathroom attendant, who will put a hot towel on your neck and give you a quick shoulder rub -- for a small tip.
13. 'Winter' beer gardens
Not everyone is down with partying hard until all hours of the morning and if the time of year is right (November-January) then you’re in for a treat. This is beer garden season, when every large expanse of pavement -- the best ones are at the shopping malls -- is covered in tables that are in turn covered in mugs of beer and plates of sausages, surrounded by live music that ranges from grunge rock to jazz. Sit back, relax, sip your brew and enjoy the moment.
14. A different roof-top bar for every night of the week
If your wallet can take the heat, there are enough al-fresco rooftop bars and restaurants in this city for you to take a different date to a different venue every night of the week for several months. Top of the price chain are Lebua's Sky Bar and Banyan Tree's Vertigo, but there are some less expensive options too like the Baioke Sky, which is the city's tallest building, for the moment.
15. A crazy variety of wobbly-pops
Most bars in Bangkok carry the usual slew of ingredients, but there are several that go all out to represent a particular corner of the drink spectrum in all its variety, from wine to absinthe to whiskey to vodka. Check out our article on Bangkok bars that take their tipples very seriously.
16. One word: Tawandaeng
Shaped like a massive keg (nice), the famous Tawandaeng beer hall has room for about 1,500 partiers, serves some badass Thai and international food and brews its own ales under supervision of a German brewmaster. It also boasts some of the liveliest music in the city, from Thai country music to wailing cover bands that do mean homages to everyone from Barry Manilow to Alice Cooper.
17. You’ll (probably) get home even if you can’t see
A true story: a friend once passed out on a sidewalk after a night of heavy drinking. After mumbling the location of his apartment to some motorbike taxi guys, they took it upon themselves to somehow get him home. A few hours later his girlfriend was awoken by a knock on the door to find two motorbike guys propping up her boyfriend -- who was shirtless and covered in magic marker graffiti. It wasn’t pretty, but at least he got home.
18. Awesome karaoke rooms
Yes, the Japanese perfected it, but Bangkok’s karaoke joints offer the same VIP status that’s just plain odd to most Westerners. Private rooms in a range of sizes, booming sound systems, room service, and even the ability to record your own CD for distribution to the world! If you want a night out with friends without being ‘out’, this is your destination. Check out our guide to Bangkok's karaoke dive bar scene.
19. The world's most cliched song
"One night in Bangkok." Need we say more?
20. It’s never cold
Those of us from colder climates have all heard stories about some tippler going missing after a short walk and turning up during Spring thaw three months later. Obviously, this never happens in Bangkok, where it’s a pretty steady 28ºC every night. You’re guaranteed to never freeze to death under a snow drift.
21. 3am Massages
Not what you think, dirty bird. If the sweat, noise and smells of a thumping night out get too much after a while, head to one of the many (legitimate) massage shops in tourist-heavy areas to take a load off and reset your party clock. If the room starts spinning and you need to lay down anyway, it might as well be amid soothing music and aroma oils.
22. Epic characters on every barstool
Whether it’s a guy who dined on jungle rat for five years, a rich kid on walkabout before college drains his life force, or the CEO of a major company, you’re never sure who you’ll end up sharing a beer with. Keep a few good stories handy -- you may end up in a contest to see who has the craziest yarn. Just head to any major tourist zone (Silom, Sukhumvit or Khao San Road) if you're looking to make some strange new friends.
23. World's friendliest bouncers
Thailand’s black-clad bouncers look stern, but are usually the first to joke around if you’re just out for a rule-abiding good time. Though Bangkok’s potent mix of party-people personalities ensures that they’ve seen it all, they’re usually lovers, not fighters. However, keep in mind that most are trained in Muay Thai; you don’t want to be the goofball who decides to test them.
24. A steady stream of international DJs
Bangkok has earned itself a stop on the itineraries of the world's top touring international DJs, who have recognized the city's love for house, hip hop and everything in between. Every week a big name is billed for one of the city's night clubs, from RCA's 808 to Sukhumvit's Bed Supperclub. We've also got some fantastic home grown DJs too, such as DJ Nakadia and Maft Sai.
25. Thai hangover cures
Thais don’t waste time the morning after a party -- there’s work to be done, dammit! From hair-of-the-dog ‘cures’ to mass produced remedies, Thailand’s after-party, anti-headache market has you covered. Take Hang, sold in 7-11’s nationwide and marketed as able to “improve liver activity and reduce gastro constriction caused by hangovers.”
26. Homespun whisky that doubles as an aphrodisiac
Speaking of hangover cures, you'll need some after a night on the ya dong. Dotted down dark streets across the country are stalls selling 10 baht shots of this herb-infused Thai whisky. Typically the city's blue-collar set swigs them after a hard day at the cement-grinder. These earthy brews are considered libido-boosters and so should be necked with considerable gusto.
27. Legendary dive bar owners
Though Bangkok might seem like a big, faceless metropolis, it's filled with bars owned by fascinating people with great insights into the city. One of our favorites is Sam Wong, owner of the famed Bangkok institution Wong's.
28. We have a bar that used to be a gas station
Ever in the mood to chill at a run-down Shell gas station, surrounded by old petrol pumps? Aren't we all. Try Drink ‘n Dine by the Station, around the corner from Khao San Road. Yellow metal tables and foldable chairs -- hey, they match Shell's colors -- surround the old pumps, all topped with a lit candle to give the place an oddly romantic vibe. Fear not, the candles won't create a fireball end to your night. The pumps haven't been used for an eternity.
29. That lift home won’t break the bank
How many times have you been partying with the boys and realized that instead of saving your money for the US$40 cab ride home, you bought a few too many belly-button shooters from Cinnamon the attractive cowgirl waitress and now have to wait for the bus headed home via Pothole Corner and Pukesville? Yeah, uh…us either. But that rarely happens in Bangkok! Even after the craziest of crazy nights, a lift to your door in an air-conditioned cab will rarely cost more than 200-300 baht. Dry cleaning for your favorite shirt not included.
30. The term 'beer goggles' takes on a whole new meaning
Picking someone up when you've had a few too many is a risk in any bar in the world. Are they still going to look like a super model the morning after? Probably not. But here the worry's not so much about hooking up with a nice looking girl, as it is about hooking up with a girl at all. Some ladyboys look so good it's easy to be fooled even when you're stone-cold sober. Why does this make Bangkok's nightlife awesome, you might ask? Because everybody's got a 'friend' who has made said discovery too late in the game, which makes for classic dinner party material.
We know there are hundreds of other reasons out there. Share yours in the comment section below or tell us why you think we're dead wrong. For more "Uncovering Bangkok" articles, click here.