A Brief Guide to Bangkok’s Phrom Phong District
Phrom Phong is a popular and sophisticated area in on the Sukhumvit Road that is frequented by a mix of upscale local citizens, Japanese expats, and other foreigners with families.
This stretch of Bangkok along the central Sukhumvit regions is just slightly further south on the BTS Green Line than Asok, which places it in between Asok and Thong Lor. The Phrom Phong’s BTS station puts you smack in the middle of the Phrom Phong area, with the main features of the district in full view.
The area has many highlights but it is probably most well-known for the EM District – an area made up of three world-class shopping malls, The Emporium, EM Quartier and EM Sphere, to be the new epic centre of Bangkok.
Then right next to this little shopping haven on the Emporium side is the Benjasiri Park, a prominent inner city park in that there simply aren’t too many of them. It also offers an ample amount of activities and serves as a welcome green stop-off point for many urban visitors.
This Bangkok district’s boundary can be loosely defined as somewhere in the region of Sukhumvit Soi 31 to 43 on one side of the road, and 22 to 28 on the other. The fact that at some point Asok and Phrom Phong kind of blur into each other at one end makes it a little difficult to define the exact boundaries, and the same could be said with the next stop along Thong Lor.
Either way, this particular section of Bangkok that runs in tandem with the BTS Green Line has become more and more established over the years. This means it is a popular choice for shopping, eating, and living in the Thai capital for those with the means to do so.
It is a fairly compact area compared to some of the others, but the fact that Phrom Phong is filled more than a few quality restaurants, boutique shops, condominiums, and hotels, its reputation as one of the most upscale and desirable neighbourhoods in Bangkok is constantly on the increase – as are rental prices.
The Streets of Phrom Phong
The Phrom Phong region is actually quite an eclectic combination of various services, shops and restaurants. It’s not actually too difficult to cover much of the area on foot, and many of the streets in Phrom Phong are all within reasonably short walking distance from each other.
Along the main road you may notice that the footpaths are some of the best that you are likely to find in the whole city, and with good reason. You will also find a few nice contrasts when you pass some of the cafes and boutique shops along with the odd second-hand bookstore, or shop selling classic furniture or art paintings.
Because of the mix of locals which includes various international expats this area of Sukhumvit isn’t short of a Tops Market, a Villa Market, or even Japanese supermarket like UFM Fuji Super in Sukhumvit Soi 33.
When it comes to dining, you will find quite an assortment of restaurants. There is a range of cuisine from different ethnicities in Asia, as well as offerings from Europe and the Middle East. Again the contrast is evident in streets like Sukhumvit Soi 26 and 39 as Bistros and bars line the side streets along with local Thai food stalls and grills.
Phrom Phong is not massive on nightclubs compared to Thong Lor or even Soi 11 going back in the other direction, but there is entertainment at some of the pubs like The Robin Hood and The Royal Oak that show live sports and entertainment. If you would rather find some wine or even sake then the area is not short on either the odd Italian restaurant or, more prominently, many Japanese establishments in and along the area.
There is a reasonable expat presence in Phrom Phrong that both accounts for and benefits from the conveniences and upscale feel of the area. Amongst the expats the Japanese are the most prominent, and they have built a reasonably-sized community that can be seen from their many business signs and language schools, as well as the Japanese writing in many of the other local stores.
And even though this stretch of central Sukhumvit is quite dense both culturally and commercially, the atmosphere is far from boisterous. The streets are well-maintained and the crowds don’t get too unruly, which is further evidence of the neighbourhood’s more high-end reputation, along with the fact that there are nearby international schools and hospitals like Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital.
The EM District Shopping Hub
Phrom Phong’s status has long been symbolised the first ‘high-end’ shopping complex to appear in the city in 1997 – the Emporium shopping mall. Although it is true that just as many Bangkok locals came to look as to buy, Emporium soon had hordes of shopping-loving Thais turning up to peruse the wealth of upmarket global brands that the mall stocked.
As well as that came an impressive department store selling pretty much everything. Emporium really set the tone for hi-so malls in Bangkok and also for the Phrom Phong area.
Its success led to its extension and development by the same company into what is today known as the EM District, which has now developed into is a trio of malls including the Emporium and the even more impressive EmQuartier as well as EM Sphere.
Emquartier is located directly opposite on the other side of the BTS Skytrain station, and both of the he shopping centres enjoy direct access on foot from the elevated BTS station as well as at street level.
These modern and glitzy shopping malls sell designer lifestyle ideas along with their designer brands at import prices which are out of range for all but the small proportion of affluent Thais who seem to have it all.
And as is the case with the majority of shopping malls in Thailand and particularly Bangkok, pretty much everything is included under one roof from restaurants to banks to cinemas, along with children’s play areas and even supermarkets selling produce not necessarily found in your average Tesco Lotus.
Besides exclusive brand names, you can also find a Kinokuniya Bookstore in Emquartier, which although is certainly on the expensive side, is perhaps the most complete international bookstore chain (actually Japanese) that you are likely to find in Thailand.
These malls also have mean food courts made up of carefully-selected choices of various international and local food items and dishes.
EmQuartier has an interesting mix of stores and an elegant, modern design and layout that has leanings towards a lush indoor tropical garden filled with greenery and a pond. It reportedly has the largest indoor waterfall in Southeast Asia, as well as a massive Virgin Active Fitness Club, an art venue, and is flanked by the Bhiraj Tower, a new business and office building.
You’ll also find regular pop-up events and small outdoor markets in this place, a well as fashion and music events. It will be packed during annual holidays and festivals like Chinese New Year and Christmas, when it serves as a hub for the community to come together and experience the lights and crowds.
EM Sphere is the last addition to the EM District, and the main focus here is on brands that tend to come into the ‘ultra-luxurious’ bracket of brands and services.
The Benjasiri Park
Benjasiri Park is a well-kept park right next to the Emporium. This is an 11-acre park, which not a large by comparison to some of the other main parks in and around Bangkok like Chatuchak, Suan Rot Fai, and Lumpini. It is ideal though, especially considering that it is located on the main road, and it can provide an often much-needed breather from the thrall of the city and maybe from shopping.
When entering the park, you may have a sense of being lost. One minute you are on a loud, busy, congested main road, and the next you are confronted with sculpted gardens, flowers, and a lake. Some people go jogging around Benjasiri’s circuit, and there is actually a public pool located towards the rear of the park that many people miss.
For more activities, park visitors will find a small skate park towards the far end, as well as various basketball courts and areas for Tai Chi and aerobics classes. There are also a couple of kids’ playgrounds which allows many a heated parent to let their kids off the lease for an hour or so while they gather themselves.
The huge lake in the middle also serves as a gathering point on various occasions related to water, like the Thai tradition of Loy Krathong. This is the place to be as dusk moves in, and pretty little offerings with candles are released onto the water by way of homage to the Water Goddess.
Either way, Benjasiri Park is a great way to take time out from the other densely-populated streets of Phrom Phong and the city central area in general.
Accommodation in Phrom Phong
There is no shortage of choice when it comes to places to stay in Phrom Phong. For starters there are the deluxe, 5-star hotels fairly typical of the area. More recently there have been a few more boutique-style residences appearing, and these days there seems to be more people renting out condominiums and apartments Air B&B-style.
Along with the huge malls and office buildings in Phrom Phong, condominiums (and to a lesser extent, apartments) contribute towards the built-up skyline of the area. Phrom Phong BTS station is a highly-desirable spot for hotel residents and locals purchasing the ever-expanding range of condo developments alike.
But of course with that you can bank on paying premium rates whether you are renting or buying. The condominium projects with fancy names that keep springing have not been slow in trying to redefine the meaning of super-luxury.
As far as the hotels go, plenty of the prestigious, big-name affairs dot the area like the Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sukhumvit and the Radisson Blu. A popular choice for vistors choosing to base themselves in the region of central Sukhumvit is The Emporium Suites by Chatrium. This high-end affair is just above the Emporium shopping complex, and offers stunning penthouses along with more standard hotel-style accommodation for rent.
As far as real estate in the area goes, property prices are always rising. The huge, main-road residences near the BTS line and especially near the stations are the ones everyone who is anyone is always trying to get their hands on. The Address on the Phrom Phong and Ekkamai border is one such example, as are the other regal-sounding affairs like The Marque on Sukhumvit Soi 39, as well as The Diplomat 39.
There are a few older, more established condominiums for rent such as Supalai, but if you are thinking of renting a condominium for any real length of time then it pays to be aware that for anywhere around this district you are paying more than anything for location.
There are residential districts in the Phrom Phong region where you’ll find something a little closer to a quiet suburban setting with houses and apartments. These streets are where many of the Japanese expat community are housed by companies who cover the complete package for them.
The Japanese connection stretches all the way up to the next main area along the Sukhumvit Road/BTS line – Thong Lor. This is why it is no real surprise to find so many Japanese restaurants, massage and spa shops (including the Hot Spring Yunomori Onsen in Sukhumvit 26), and some of the best Japanese supermarkets and malls in and between these two areas.
There is even a ‘Little Tokyo’ in the region, which includes a shopping mall and a few streets lined with various businesses catering distinctly to the Japanese by way of sushi bars, ramen vendors, and more than a fair few bars specialising in various things like whisky, sake or karaoke.