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Bangkok's Best Nightlife: Party, Dance, and Be Amazed



Bangkok used to be famous, or should we say infamous, for its raucous and bawdry nightlife, which featured plenty of go go bars with raunchy shows and X rated entertainment complexes that partied all night. While the girlie bars are still around, Bangkok has emerged as one of the most elegant and enjoyable spots on the planet when the sun goes down. These days, you can choose from some of the most unique themed bars in the world, such Maggie Choo's or Sing Sing Theater, both of which have stage shows, awesome interior design, live music, and great parties. For something far more intimate, check out the former Q Bar owner's tiny happening little nightspot Smalls. If it is clubbing you want, head either to Level's, in party crazy Sukhumvit Soi 11, or else to the ultra elegant Club at KOI. For live music, you can't beat Saxophone or Adhere the 13th Blues Bar, both of which have been going strong for decades and are packed with fans enjoying live blues every night. For rock fans, the legendary Rock Pub still lets its hair down each evening. For a unique evening of Cuban nightlife, head over to the happening Havana Social Club, and if you are in the mood for Thai, Tep Bar is a great place to experience Thai drinks, food, and music.


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Over 25 years in the running, offering up the best jazz and blues in Bangkok, Saxophone is a happening pub frequented as much by Thais as by expatriates. The music is sizzling, with 3-4 different live bands each evening plus occasional visits by international artists. The pub has a spacious and comfortable layout, and has been voted as the Best Music Venue in Bangkok by several publications again and again. There are pool tables upstairs, excellent Thai food, and a wide array of cocktails and beers on tap.




There aren't many places left in Bangkok these days playing live rock. Actually, there is only one! The Rock Pub just celebrated their 25th anniversary and still draw the crowds, with live heavy metal and hard rock acts each night. A wide array of genres is covered, from grunge to thrash, and the surroundings befit the black leather headbanging scene, as the place resembles a dungeon or cave. The best Thai guitarists still show up here; Olarn, Lam Morrison, and Pop the Sun, along with the occasional foreign outfit joining the rotating house bands, some of whom can cover classics note for note. If loud and heavy is your thing, don't miss a night here.




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.


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Havana Social is Sukhumvit's ode to Cuba. While the other bars on happening Soi 11 are open air or street-facing clubs, Havana Social is a hidden secret. It is down a side alley, has no sign, and there is no indication that there is even an establishment here. There is just an old retro telephone booth outside. Call the bar in advance to get the entry code, which you punch into the payphone, a door swings open, and voila, you enter a crumbling shophouse that resembles pre-revolution Havana, complete with cracked ceilings, hanging clotheslines, and retro furniture straight out of Fidel's younger days. In true it's origins, there are great mojitos and rum drinks on the menu, and even Cuban dancing and a live band on weekends. It's a great escape from the often seedy Soi 11 experience, and well themed, fairly authentic, and a great Bangkok party haunt.




While Bed Supperclub may have closed down, Sukhumvit's party central Soi 11 keeps on going strong in the nightlife department, with the slack taken up by new kid on the block Levels. This swank electronic nightclub with a view is located up on the 6th floor of the chic Aloft Hotel, and is now the place to be seen and party in lower Sukhumvit. There is plenty of house music being played here, but Levels excels in its DJ's, bringing in some of the top international acts from around the world to rock the house. There is a large dance room here with a giant LED chandelier overhead, and then there is a club zone that features a great sound system. There is also a terrace bar that looks out over all the Sukhumvit neon and gives you a chance to catch your breath. There are plenty of promotions and theme nights here, but you are guaranteed one heck of a party just about any night of the week.




If you are looking for a hip version of a traditional Thai bar, this happening joint in bohemian Soi Nana in Chinatown will ensure you hae a great evening. Set et inside of a traditional two-storey Chinese shophouse, with mood lighting and tatami cushioned floor tables to relax on upstairs, Tep features all the accoutrements of a northeastern lively Thai bar experience; there is homemade yaa dong (Thai white spirits), although here it's a smooth palatable tasting set, plus there are Thai sharing plates if you are hungry. Weekends brings a lively crowd in, and there is live traditional music with Thai cymbals, drums, and xylophones, and the place really gets thumping. The crowd is mostly Thai, but there are enough foreign faces that you won't feel like an outcast, and everyone is very welcoming. It's a great spot for experiencing an authentic Thai night out in a very comfortable environment.




The Club at KOI is Bangkok's latest dance club, and opened with much fanfare in one of the city's most dazzling locations. Set up on the upper floor of the Sathorn Square building overlooking the city, it replaces the former resident, the popular Ce La Vi club, which might be a hard act to follow, except that KOI has a stellar record, combining an elegant Japanese restaurant with a cutting edge dance club. KOI has opened branches in New York, Las Vegas, and Abu Dhabi, as well as its original location, Los Angeles, where the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, and Jennifer Lopez were some of the regular clientele. The huge space here offers world class clubbing and features international entertainers and touring DJs, and while the glitterati might not be the same as in LA, you'll find plenty of fashionistas and Bangkok's most well-heeled here strutting their stuff. Plenty of hip hop features in the play lists, and Saturday nights offer electronic and house music, with live DJs and special entertainers guaranteed on the thumping weekends. Make sure to come with deep pockets, as the fun does not come cheap here.




Set in a three story shophouse over on Suan Plu off of Sathorn Road, which seems to be Bangkok's most up and coming new drinking spot, Smalls is the brainchild of David Jacobson, the nightclub whiz who started the famed Q Bar in Bangkok several decades ago. His latest venue is a far cry from the large and noisy Soi 11 club. Smalls is as the name says, very cozy and intimate, although it does fan out over three levels, with an open rooftop plus several indoor spaces to choose from. The decor is decidedly Parisienne, and the mesmerizing signature cocktail list is enhanced by a large selection of absinthe drinks, with a traditional absinthe spigot sitting on top of the bar counter. It's a great little spot for escaping Bangkok, with its eclectic crowd and funky vibe, one feels more like Paris, Berlin, or New York here, and the bar has become the latest nightclub afficionados top hangout. There is some great live jazz here, featuring the picking prowess of Dan Phillips and his quartet, who play every week, and the bar also has plenty of special nights, like Vietnamese pho served on Sundays and buy one get one drinks for members of the hospitality industry on Mondays.




Easily Bangkok's most highbrow dance club, Sing Sing Theater is a fantasy replica of Shanghai in the 1930s, with hanging red lanterns, dancers in red robes with patterned fans, and metal cages spread across the room, making it appear as if a shady brothel of yesteryear. Seedy it isn't though, as the fine drinks, high prices, and top DJs from around the world ensure that the clientele are Bangkok's most well heeled and most ready to party. Never mind that the dance floor consists of almost nothing, just head out and join the wild throng. It's a combo of theater and nightclub, and truly is unique. If the whole fantasy getup strikes a familiar chord, it's because nightlife designer mogul Ashley Sutton (Iron Fairies and Fat Gutz, etc) was behind this one as well.




Yet another one of whimsical nightlife guru Ashley Sutton's creations, Maggie Choo's is set in what used to be the vault room for the East India Company Bank. To get here, you have to go through carved doors that disappear into a Cantonese noodle restaurant, which then emerges into the vault! It isn't just the 1930s Shanghai setting that is wild, but the stylish and sexy Chinese costumed dance shows on Thursdays and burlesque corset cabaret performances on Wednesdays. On weekends the club turns into the city's best live jazz spot, and there are also Big Band performances, live DJs, and international artists who come in for shows. It's sleek, suave, well choreographed, and totally unique, and well worth a visit.


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Meet Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in the U.S., Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 45,000-kilometer bicycle trip and...  More About Dave

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