Once the sun sets, all bets are off in Bangkok. Yes, the ladyboys and gogo girls and infamous ping pong shows are all around, but those looking for live music, cabaret, clubs, a world-class gay scene and more will find something to suit their tastes as well. An epic night out will more than likely turn into a night you can’t remember, especially if the too much Thai whiskey makes an appearance, but the headache, mysterious bruises and foggy memories are absolutely worth it.
[Also see our travel article “Cities With The World’s Best Nightlife“]
Time to choose a genre and get ready to groove, as Bangkok’s nightlife has a lot of choice for music lovers. Popscene Live organizes monthly showcases of local and international bands for those who have a hankering for quality live shows. Cosmic Café is part of the RCA complex and offers a different type of live music every night. Adhere the 13th Blues Bar and Saxophone offer up live blues, jazz and Motown to an eclectic crowd that likes to get rowdy. For a real show, bust out your best feather boa and body glitter and check out the Calypso Ladyboy Cabaret, starring Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Carmen Miranda.
Dance the Night Away
[Also see our travel article “24 Hours in Bangkok“]
RCA is a government-designated clubbing complex that caters to every type and taste, and it closes between 2 and 2:30 a.m. Most places require a cover but usually include a drink or two. Make sure to bring ID, as the clubs here card everyone. LED, Slim & Flix and especially The Beat Lounge serve up hip-hop beats, while Route 66 covers all musical bases. Top up on Thai food and cheap beer at Taksura first – or after. Ratchada Soi 4 is a much more local but no less busy place to dance, drink and visit dens of ill-repute.
Upscale Cocktails at Trendy Joints
[Also see our travel article “Visiting the Upscale Side of Bangkok“]
Let’s forget about Bangkok’s epic dance clubs, many strip clubs and the cheap beers of Khao San Road for a while and instead focus on one of the city’s more upscale nightlife neighborhoods, Thong Lo. Thong Lo is the hot spot for Bangkok’s elite and the city’s suave expats.
Iron Fairies is one of the many cool bars along the stretch of Thong Lo Road near the BTS station that is packed with clubs, bars and restaurants. The bar doubles as an iron workshop during the day, which gives it a unique feel that perfectly complements the raspy live jazz music for which the bar is known.
Just down the street, Funky Villa is one of the city’s hottest nightclubs, as evidenced by its parking lot full of Porsches and its dance floor packed with Thai celebrities and models. Come dressed to impress and there should be no problem getting past the door.
Gay and Lesbian Nightlife
Head down to Soi 2 and Soi 4 in Silom for a gay paradise. DJ Station on Soi 2 is a great place to work up a sweat while dancing, and mysterious acid-hued drinks seem to be ubiquitous around there. Soi 4 is a bit more relaxed with more bars and pubs than clubs. End the night at after-hours X Boom, or head to nearby Patpong. Although a commercial district by day, Patpong boasts a huge (and expensive) night market filled with bootlegs and knockoffs, and ping pong shows and other hedonistic activities dominate after dark.
Lesbian bars are far fewer, but there are quality ones, including no-boys-allowed Zeta in RCA and Vega Café, where tom and dee celebs often make an appearance on weekends. Keep in mind that outside of Khao San Road, most places have dress codes, so leave the flip-flops, raggedy shorts and tank tops at the hotel.
After-Hours Nightlife Options
Most nightclubs in Bangkok close at the officially mandated time of 2 a.m., so it can actually be quite difficult for the uninitiated to keep the night going in a truly epic fashion. Thankfully, there are some options. Grease Nightclub has a restaurant, bar, dance floor and rooftop lounge where those in need of a respite can order some hookah. Futuristic lighting complements the edgy house and techno music featured at the small but friendly Glow. Finish the night at Narz, which doesn’t even get going until after 2 a.m. Its trance music doesn’t allow partiers to slow down for even a second, and the glass-fronted mansion often features famous European DJs. Khao San Road is another after-hours option, as its bars typically stay open later than the rest of the city. Backpackers can be found drinking away on the many bar terraces on the street until late night.
Girls, Boys and Ladyboys
Ladyboy bars line seedy Nana Plaza, where eye-searing neon lights lend an absurdist reality to the three stories of regular bars, go-go bars and ladyboy clubs. Cascade would be better off named Bedrock with its cave-like lair setup, and a steady stream of ladyboys who dance and pose on the multi-level stages. Order them a drink when they stop by for a chat. Nana Plaza closes at 2 a.m., so stick around to see the hook-up culture in action or jump over to Cockatoo on Soi Cowboy or King’s Corner in Patpong to continue stilted conversations with the ladyboys.
Three Red-Light Districts to Cap the Night
Bangkok’s seedy side is also one of its biggest selling points, as travelers from around the world come to the city to catch a glimpse of its famed depravity. Patpong is the most famous of the city’s red-light districts. Literally swarming with tourists, Patpong is a both a night market and a sketchy entertainment area. Strip clubs line the streets, which are crowded with market stalls selling knock off jewelry and pirated DVDs, and touts try their best to entice tourists to come in for a beer. The area’s most infamous attraction is the “ping pong show,” which, as its name suggests, involves ping pong balls and a few more things that we can’t talk about here.
Across town, the aforementioned Nana Plaza is another red-light district. Though it’s a popular hangout for ladyboys, there are also a number of seedy hetero bars in the area. The fun is relatively good-natured in the early evening, but later the crowd is comprised mostly of middle-aged tourists and working girls.
Soi Cowboy is another nightlife area known for its working girls and strip clubs. Unlike Patpong, though, there are less tourists and no market, as the focus is squarely on sinful pursuits. Nevertheless, the street’s iconic neon signs and the compact density of the girly bars makes it one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the dark side of Bangkok’s nightlife