Sukhumvit Road is the vibrant vein which pumps pulsating life into the heart of Bangkok city. A mix of Thai, Western, Arabic, Japanese, Korean and many other cultures comprise Thailand’s greatest human cocktail. From sleazy red-light districts to hi-so hangouts, trashy karaoke bars to cutting-edge concept malls, Sukhumvit Road attracts a mix of weird and wonderful individuals, making it a people watcher’s paradise.
With its busy boutiques and mini malls, cool cafes and even cooler bars, Thong Lor and Ekamai offer a chance to study Bangkok’s rich kids and hi-so hipsters in their natural habitat. The art of people watching is made more pleasurable by the many laidback coffee shops and lounge bars such as Iron Fairies, Catbird Seat and Tuba. Two great places to take on some people spotting are Gateway and Sukhumvit 55. Gateway is Ekamai’s Japanese themed shopping mall and where you’ll find Bangkok’s cool kids and young fashionistas, all sporting the latest garments and must have accessories, treating the mall hallways as their own personal catwalk. Sukhumvit 55, Thong Lor’s most hip and happening soi, is home to a line up of Thai hipsters and 20-something party goers. On weekend nights you can find them all bar hopping along the lane, many of them looking like extras from the latest K-Pop and indie music videos.
The highlights of Asoke and Phrom Phong people watching are the impressive malls, Terminal 21 and Emporium. Terminal 21 is a feast for the eyes, not just for the hordes of young middleclass shopaholics exploring the boutique stores, and hungry office workers taking advantage of the large, low-priced food court and a chance to swap office gossip, but also for its striking design and decor. Each floor is themed on a different part of the world, with lots of iconic images and scenes such as Carnaby Street, London, and the souks of Istanbul. The Emporium on the other and is where you’ll find the luxury shoppers and hi-so locals, browsing the windows and racks of some of Bangkok best brand-name, high-end shopping. Expect to see the latest fashions already being showcased, and if you are lucky you may just spot a Thai celeb or two.
Nana is all about nightlife, not to say that it isn’t busy during the day, the traffic is constant and the pavements are permanently crowded, but after dark is when this area of downtown Bangkok becomes electric. Soi Arab is consistently good value with reliably lively street scenes, and it’s always entertaining to watch the tailors and tuk tuk drivers of upper Sukhumvit trying the hard sell to passing tourists. Soi Nana (Soi 4) and the Nana Plaza is where the wild and weird takes place. Pull up a pew at one of the many beer bars lining soi Nana, close to the Nana Plaza entrance, and witness gogo dancers, ladyboys, street hawkers and tuk tuk drivers mingling with starry eyed western men and curious backpackers. It all takes places under the warm glow of bright neon lights, in what could easily pass as a scene from Blade Runner, or some other farfetched Sci-Fi flick.