Rip-roaring Thanon Sukhumvit, Bangkok’s boulevard of dreams and schemes is the city’s longest thoroughfare. Stretching 490 km east towards Cambodia, it is also one of the longest in the world. For most visitors Sukhumvit Road means the hyperactive strip between about sois 4 and 33, a glorious overload of people, shops, woks and insomnia. Travel writer John Borthwick provides a guide to the after-dark hub of shopping and eating in the heart of Bangkok.
A Sukhumvit sidewalk challenges you with its anarchy of vendor stalls, utility boxes, excavations and food carts. (Walking here can be more like a steeplechase than a footpath, which is half the fun.) Hawker stalls, mostly west of the Sukhumvit—Asok intersection are laden with cheap clothing, pirated media and every form of inessential but “must-have” gizmos. Price haggle for the sport of it but don’t imagine you’ve beaten the house.
Serious Sukhumvit shopping is often a vertical, mall-to-mall experience, with the major institutions including Emporium mall (Phrom Phong Skytrain station) and the mammoth Terminal 21 (Asok station). Then add hundreds of individual shops plus department store like Robinsons. The malls are towers of franchise, full of the name-brand stuff — watches, cosmetics, footwear, fashion — you find worldwide. (The prices are fixed, so don’t bother to haggle.) The large upmarket EmQuartier mall (Phrom Phong) also features restaurants, cinema complex and quality food court.
Beat the gridlock, head straight for the elevated BTS Skytrain. The Sukhumvit line zips you down the middle of the road, hurdling the taxi, motorcycle and tuk-tuk melee below. The trains are clean and air-conditioned, though often with SRO. Go for the 120 baht, one-day pass.
Taxis, when you must, are plentiful and cheap but be sure the meter is turned on. Tuk-tuks are unmetered and will try to charge a tourist more than locals. Always fix the price before you jump aboard.
The zone around Nana (pronounced Naa-naa) station at Soi 11 comes out at night to party full-tilt. Beyond the bars and go-go’s Nana has plenty of eateries. Also bargain tailors, although skip the cheapo, “overnight” offers; a quality suit or dress will need at least two fittings and several days.
Perhaps because it skimps on sleeping, the Big Mango (Bangkok) seems always to be eating. Sukhumvit offers some of the best dining variety in town, from five-star hotel restaurants to street carts selling fried crickets and grasshoppers.
A new kid on the block is the pop-up Artbox Bangkok night market on Sukhumvit between sois 8 and 10. Its food trucks and stalls dish up quick, quality fare (Mexican, Thai, burgers, etc) plus music and drinks. Family friendly.
And don’t dismiss the mega-mall food courts – the quality is above what you might expect. At Terminal 21 (Asok station) the fifth floor food court is one of the best. Wherever you graze be sure to try the classic Thai dessert, khao niow mamuang, mango and sticky rice.