One could write a book about the Khao San Road nightlife, legendary in Bangkok annals. It certainly never sleeps, that is for sure. But it has come a long way from its reputation for just being an endless string of mindless backpacker bars. These days, the scene ranges from old homes to nonstop action clubs and the clientele is just as much Thai as it is foreign. If you want to party and dance to loud music then try either the ska oriented Brick Bar or the electronic music venue, The Club, both on Khao San itself. Bangkok's first Mexican rock and roll bar Day of the Dead is also found here, and parties until the wee hours of the morning. For something a bit more chilled, you can head over to Adhere the 13th, a hole in the wall live blues bar that is one of Bangkok's most written about nightspots. Not too far away is the northern Thai themed Madame Musur, which has a very relaxed vibe combining chilled tunes with great food and drink. Even better, why not just sit out on the street in one of the funky and colorful VW Bus Cocktail bars that line Soi Rambutri, offering cheap drinks, great people watching, and a fabulous atmosphere. The ultra cool Bombay Blues Bar is located here as well. Your only dilemma in Khao San Road will be which nightlife to choose, and we hope this list makes it easier for you.
Set in the basement of the Bayon Building in the middle of Khao San Road, The Lava Gold Club is decked out in scarlet light and resembles an underworld dungeon, which attracts plenty of Thai and foreign revelers into its loud and raucous dance sessions. Hosting club parties and regular DJ events, the Lava Club features spectacular lighting and laser shows along with a daily dose of all kinds of electronica piped through its crystal clear sound system. The tunes and the outfits make this one of Bangkok's most authentic hip hop clubs, and the parties here rage until the wee hours. (02 281 6565)
One of Bangkok's first and still one of its better bars for live music and a night out. Recently relocated across town from its old haunt on Sarasin Road, the new location in Phrasumen will bring along some of the Khao San.crowd to this bigger and better spot. Brown Sugar was touted by Newsweek as "one of the best bars in the world," and the club has updated from a jazz bar to a jazz boutique, as its new home has a spacious upstairs, and now features art exhibitions along with the music, as well as being a coffee house and restaurant during the day before the jazz gets going. (085 226 5880, 081 805 7759)
VW Cocktail Bar
There has been a resurgence of things retro in Bangkok in the last few years, and one of the most enjoyable, economical, and popular nightlife venues these days is that of the Volkswagen bus cocktail bars. They don't really have a fixed address, phone number, nor website, although you can count on them being in the same place most of the time, but they are a great place to people watch, grab an 80 baht cocktail or 50 baht beer, and really get down with the locals. The Soi Rambutri area, which is opposite Khao San Road on the north side of the temple is the prime location for most of these, 4-5 of them set up shop around dusk and the street is bathed in soft red light, making it very atmospheric. (none)
A real indie club run by the founders of Hosting International DJ's in Bangkok, Culture Club takes up four floors in an old warehouse-like building, featuring a martini bar, an open space, a large dance floor with a mezzanine, and a "Live" lounge. Everything and anything goes here, from salsa to 70's to funky soul and eclectic experimental. Plenty of live DJ's and energetic bands ensure that the college and expat crowd never tire of gyrating and celebrating a real indie player in the Bangkok dance club scene. A mix of Khao San'ers wandering over to check out the vibe along with an alternative indie Thai crowd made up the ecclectic mix here. (089 497 8422)
The Brick Bar is certainly one of Khao San's most happening places. The focus here is on live ska and reggae, and the huge joint can hold 1200 people, which it often does. Despite being in the heart of Khao San Road, the Brick Bar gets lots of young Thais who come to party and dance the night away. 3 bands play each night between 8 and 130, with Teddy Ska being the current favorite and top draw. It gets hot and sweaty in here, but everyone is having a good time and this remains one of the most lively clubs and nightspots in all the area if not in Bangkok. (02 629 4556, 02 629 4477)
Hidden away in a back alley near Khao San, this funky little spot not only serves some decent Indian food, but is a great chill out shisha bar that happens to spin Bollywood tunes and become quite trendy come weekends. Located in an old house tucked into the very back side of Soi Rambutri, visitors often get lost looking for Bombay Blues, but it is pretty recognisable by its bright red lit facade and red tent like tables across the way outside. From the outdoor divans to the comfy on the floor table settings inside, you can kick off your shoes and really settle in here. While plenty of folks come just for dinner, it's recommended to stay awhile or visit on the weekends when the house DJ's start spinning tunes, while guests suck down buckets and slick drink concoctions or else just sit out on the chilled rooftop area and puff a few shishas while staring at the sky. (02 629 359, 085-859-6515)
With a big DJ booth and huge sound system, The Club is one of the most pulsating spots along Khao San Road. Resembling an Ibiza style nightclub, this place packs in both locals and visiting tourists and blasts out electronic dance music until the wee hours. Lighting, smoke machines, and lasers enhance the showy atmosphere, and the music pumps out loud. Drinks are cheap and there is no dress code, which is a rarity at a Bangkok nightclub like this. The crowd is young, energetic, and nights here are pretty fun, with lots of drinking, dancing, and even the occasional crowd surfing going on! (02 629 1010)
Soi Rambutri runs parallel to Khao San Road and then continues alongside the temple off of Chakrapong Road, and is a slightly more chilled Khao San experience. Madame Musur is leading the charge here of hip new relax venues with good food and drink, and an excellent vibe that is making it one of the most popular nightspots in the area. The proprietress here ran the food and beverage departments for several five-star hotels for years, so she's got plenty of experience of taking good care of demanding customers, and this is her venture into something small, simple, and sweet. The bar has rattan chairs and sofas, wooden plank floors, and a northern Thai Lanna decor, filled with trinkets from the owner's travels. The menu features harder to find northern Thai cuisine like sai oua spicy pork sausages stuffed with sticky rice, and gaeng hang lay Burmese Shan curry, and there are lots of signature drinks that use ma jai dam northern spirits or mojito variations with local Sangsom rum. While weekends feature a bit louder tunes than the rest of the week, there are plenty of Thai pop and 60's classics on the stereo accompanying the good cheer, making Madame Musur a big hit with both locals and tourists. (02 281 4238)
Day of the Dead
Think Carlos Castaneda, tequila, Mexican graffiti and Grateful Dead psychedelics set to the loud riffs of heavy metal, thrash, punk, and alternative rock and you've got Khao San Road's latest and greatest new bar. This funky spot has colourful skull murals all over the interior, high grade tequila shots and tacos coming out of the kitchen, and everything from electronica to vintage Ramones blasting out of the speakers. It's fun, vibrant, and very happening, with a great mix of eclectic locals and travellers packing it in for the late hours. Well worth a stop if you are on Khao San late at night and want to partake of some great nightlife. There are also the occasional live performances on weekends, so make sure to check their Facebook page. (02 282 2457)
Adhere the 13th Blues Bar
This little hole in the wall has been going strong as long as Bangkok. Despite being as big as a shoe closet and a bit out of the way, locals pack the joint every night for Bangkok's best live jazz and blues, with the house band playing BB King, Louis Armstrong, and John Lee Hooker to the appreciative crowd. Describing Adhere as a honky tonk dive bar isn't too far off, and everyone who shows up has fun. If you bring along an instrument, you will inevitably be invited up to jam and the vibe here is an easy going one, where Thais and foreigners mix happily. (089 769 4613, 081 456 9513)
About Dave Stamboulis
Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in Berkeley, California, Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 40,000-kilometer bicycle trip; he moved there for good in 2005.
Dave's photos have appeared in publications around the world. He is the author of Odysseus’ Last Stand, which received the Silver Medal for Travel Book of the Year in 2006 from the Society of American Travel Writers. In addition to working for Fodor’s Guidebook to Thailand, his travel stories appear in publications throughout SE Asia. Dave is also Trip Advisor's Oyster.com's photographer for Thailand.
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