A Brief Guide to Bangkok’s Thonglor District
Many of Bangkok’s annual visitors will head at least somewhere in the region of the main stretch of the Sukhumvit Road running through the city.
This is aided by the fact that the main BTS Sukhumvit Line runs the stretch of the road and stops at all the main districts. The section commonly known as Central Sukhumvit (running from Sukhumvit Soi 21 to Soi 67) is one of Bangkok’s main areas for upmarket dining and entertainment with both locals and visitors who know where to head.
This part of the Thai capital is where you’ll find world-class restaurants, impressive shopping malls, and some of Bangkok’s best nightlife. It is also where you’ll find the Thonglor district.
Thonglor has long been one of Bangkok’s trendiest and interesting districts. It attracts the vast majority of affluent young Thais looking for cafes, restaurants, community malls, boutique shopping, and nightlife, among other things.
It’s not a massive area, but you could spend an afternoon or an evening exploring Soi Thonglor – actually Sukhumvit Soi 55 — and its various side streets. If you are interested in what might be termed the slightly higher-end of Bangkok life, as you are unlikely to find any cheap & cheerful, or dingy, seedy beer bars in this area.
Although it is mainly a local area and has been, for the most part, free of mass tourism, more tourists are heading towards this region as time goes on. This generally the case when people have visited a place more than once, or have decided to do their own investigating rather than following the standard tourist trail.
In terms of high-quality cuisine and its impressive nightlife, Thonglor has plenty to offer. The area is definitely worth visiting if you are in Bangkok, and like any trendy district it is constantly changing according to trends. It does have some fairly established cafes, restaurants, and bars though as well as new, more innovative venues popping up with some regularity.
And although it is generally regarded by locals as a fairly upscale area, like any typical section of Bangkok, you can still find a good variety of street stalls and vendors.
Once the evening draws in, many of the daytime vendors transform their shops or stalls into food trucks and street bars. The joy of areas like this in the city is that you can find any kind of dining you care to think of, from five-star cuisine to good old grass-roots street food.
So let’s take a closer look at this lively, trendy, and ever-evolving district of Bangkok.
Location and Getting There
Thonglor is easily-accessible by BTS and there is a station that stops on the main road of the area. The Sukhumvit Line of the sky train system covers all of the main stretch of one of Thailand’s most famous and longest roads.
The main areas of interest on the line, which runs pretty much adjacent to the main road in a straight line, run from Chit Lom up to Ekkamai and possibly Bang Na for the majority of visitors to the city as well as many locals.
To give you some idea of where Thonglor is situated in that you can check out the BTS map.
Head up from Chitlom towards Asok which for many is the ‘main’ stop on the Sukhumvit line as it is an interchange station with the city’s MRT subway system you are about 15 mins away from Thonglor.
Thonglor is the next stop along from the equally popular Phrom Pong district, with its 2 huge, hi-end malls and park, so you could easily combine a visit to both in a day. Once you get past Thonglor you have Ekkamai and Bang Na which takes you closer and closer in the direction of the main international airport, Suvarnabhumi.
By car Thonglor is about 10 or 15 mins up from the main Asok intersection, depending on traffic. But if you have any experience of Bangkok you’ll know it simply isn’t worth trying to travel anywhere even remotely close to this area by road at certain times of day.
Eateries and Cafes
Some of Bangkok’s best eateries of all description can be found in this area. Not just for the food, but also for the vibe and environment.
If you want to try some real upscale Thai food for instance, you’ll be spoiled for choice around here.
Some of the best Japanese cuisine has long been the rage in Thonglor as well. This is due to the proximity of the district to many Japanese expats and workers populations who stay somewhere between the Phrom Pong and Thonglor districts of the Sukhumvit Road and their surrounding areas. You’ll find everything from hole in the wall ramen shops to some of the freshest and most authentic sashimi eateries in town.
And if you fancy something with a more international flavour, you can take your pick from some of the best Italian, Mexican and French eateries that the Thai capital has to offer.
And if, for any reason, all of that sounds just a little bit too much on the sophisticated side, then there are always street food options, which is never in short supply in any of Bangkok’s well-populated regions.
In terms of cafes you have everything here from the high-street standard to the downright chic. The ‘middle-income’ and above Thais love their coffee shops and in areas like Thonglor you’ll find they have it down to a fine art.
Thonglor (Sukhumvit Soi 55) is one of Bangkok’s nightlife hotspots for a growing range of people. It has a steady combination of bars and nightclubs frequented by affluent young Thai not too concerned about the expense, which is reflected in many of the prices.
This area is quite a bit more expensive to drink and party than places like RCA or anywhere around Asok/Nana, which are all major nightlife areas in their own right. But Thonglor is all about choice and diversity, which doesn’t usually come cheap.
Thonglor Soi 10 is the area’s main nightlife hot and is where some of the most popular clubs are located. Many of these places will have several floors with different themes, and are usually packed with party-goers at weekends, as are the many bars with their various themes and flavours.
You’ve got cocktail bars, vintage hangouts and European-style pubs to choose from in this area, as well as a plethora of restaurant bars that offer various themes and styles.
It’s worth venturing around the other streets near to this one though, especially if you need a breather from the density of the crowds. Up on Thonglor Soi 16 you’ll find the ever-popular HOBs (House of Beers), a chain which has popped up in various choice locations around the city in recent years.
Of course the Japanese are catered to in terms of the various izikaya bars around the area, as are rowdy young Thais in the establishments with loud music. And there are a few quieter, more sophisticated bars that you might find the odd pocket of western expats frequenting.
Shopping and Malls
Thonglor is good for community malls, and has its fair share of varying sizes. These are the trendy-looking, outdoor-style shopping and eating centres that have been appearing over the last couple of decades in Bangkok, and apparently Thonglor was the first place that they came into being in the city.
One of the most prominent is J Avenue, and The Commons is quite an impressive affair with its lawns and relaxed, modern, open feel. Then there are various others like the Seenspace Thonglor, Eight Thonglor as well as a few Japanese-style malls that are basically full of different eateries.
These centers usually include various features such as boutique stores, trendy cafes and restaurants, a supermarket, some kind of fitness facility, banking services, and health and beauty stores.
Thonglor also has its share of local, boutique-type stores which come and go over the years according to the various trends. But the shopping in and around Thonglor has a distinctly local vibe to it.
In fact, most people from the area are far more likely to head off to one of the major malls like Emquartier, Emporium, or Terminal 21 (heading in the direction of Asok) or Mega Bang Na going in the other direction, none of which are that far away from the Thonglor district.
It’s not too difficult to find a place to stay if you fancy basing yourself in or around the Thonglor area during a visit to Bangkok.
It is, after all, on the main stretch of the busy Sukhumvit Road, even if it’s not necessarily what you might call the central region. But you won’t have to look too far to find anything accommodation-wise along the road that pretty much takes you out of the city centre towards the airport if you follow it.
Needless to say you can find 5-star affairs like the Marriott Hotel and the Marriott Executive Apartments which give you some great views over Thonglor, especially from the rooftop bar.
But there is also a huge variety of Airbnb, Boutique Hotel and even hostels now in this area of the Sukhumvit, which is actually a great spot to base yourself from if you want to explore Bangkok for a few days or so.