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Bangkok Sukhumvit District - A Short Guide

Updated on June 17, 2012
BTS Sky Train elevated tracks above Sukhumvit Road
BTS Sky Train elevated tracks above Sukhumvit Road

Sukhumvit district is a mixture of prime commercial real estate and expat residential properties in central Bangkok. With 2 red light districts it's also a playground for men behaving badly on a vacation in Thailand. Though most of the wealth and red light districts are centered in central Bangkok, beginning from Sukhumvit Road Soi 1 and a straight shot down to Sukhumvit Road Soi 26.

Bangkok's Sukhumvit District has lots of different meanings for many. It's an area where foreign expats choose to make their homes in cushy modern condominiums. For tourist it's an area where they can play it safe by staying at the best luxury and budget hotels in a cosmopolitan environment. And since Sukhumvit has 2 red light districts it is deemed as the Disneyland for men (and women too).

Sukhumvit district is also a popular place for tourists who want to stay in hotels near Bangkok's Sky Train stations. The Sky Train is simply the best way to get around central Bangkok quickly and a fare is inexpensive too. The downside is that it is often packed and the Sky Train system is currently not so extensive.

Personally, Bangkok reminds me a lot of New York, the city I was born and grew up in. For one thing New York is known as the melting pot - where a myriad of ethnic groups and cultures combine and coexist. On the north side of Sukhumvit Road from Soi 3 to Soi 7 has a hefty population of Arab and African nationals, though it is typically known as Little Arabia. Just over on Sukhumvit Soi 8 with so many Indian restaurants and tailors it looks like a Little India.

There is no coincidence that Bangkok is known as the Big Mango and New York is known as the Big Apple. Both share remarkable similarities in city lifestyle and culture. Plus it's worth mentioning that living in both cities is relatively expensive.

Both cities' are marked with a singular distinct road. New York has Broadway, cutting through Wall Street to Harlem Bangkok has Sukhumvit road which runs through expensive neighborhoods and slums and even all the way to Sin City Pattaya.

A video of the sidewalk on Sukhumvit road

Sukhumvit Bangkok - What is it?

Sukhumvit is the name of a district in central Bangkok. It's confusing to know where one district ends and starts and to add more difficulty some districts in Bangkok have multiple names.

As a tourist visiting Bangkok, to make things easier for yourself most of the activities (shopping, dining and nightlife) in Sukhumvit district are found along Sukhumvit road from Soi 1 to Soi 55 (see map below). The neighborhood after Soi 55 is very quiet. A Soi in Thai stands for side street or lane. Sukhumvit road stretches all the way down to Pattaya which is about a 2 hours drive.

The Heart of Bangkok

If the city of Bangkok had a heart, you would find it beating in the Sukhumvit District. Most tourists who choose to stay in Sukhumvit do so because they know that's where 2 of the raunchiest red light districts are called Soi Cowboy and Nana. And Bangkok's red light districts popularity has soared or peeked the curiosity of many men after they've watched the movie Hangover 2, which several key raunchy scenes were filmed in Bangkok.

Looking for a traditional Thai massage to loosen those knots after a day of sightseeing? There are plenty of massage parlors along Sukhumvit Road that charge around 300 Baht an hour. Though if you see a shop where the windows are tinted black or have dubious shop names like 'Teen Massage' or 'Love Teen' then it's a place you don't want to bring your girlfriend or wife to, let alone tell them you've been inside. Because all along Sukhumvit Road Soi 24 to Soi 26 are many naughty oily massage parlors that cater primarily to men.

Then there are those who prefer the New Yorkish and hip clubs found along Sukhumvit Soi 11 too. Though a part of the flesh trade does trickle into the seemingly innocent pubs and bars.

Then there is the commercial aspect to the distict too. Many businesses, foreign and international intermingle inside shiny office buildings. On the lobby is where you will find the likes of Starbuck and Dunkin Donuts catering to the yuppy crowd in need of a caffeine fix and the latest gossips.

Sukhumvit Road and Asoke Road Junction
Sukhumvit Road and Asoke Road Junction | Source
Sukhumvit Road Soi 1:
Sukhumvit Soi 1/1, Khlong Tan Nuea, Vadhana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

get directions

This is where Sukhumvit road begins.

Nana Red Light District:
Soi Nana Tai, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

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The main point of interest here is Nana Entertainment Plaza. It's a sort of sex mall chock full of go go bars and watering holes.

Sukhumvit Road Soi 11:
Sukhumvit 11, Khlong Tan Nuea, Vadhana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

get directions

I like to call this strip 'Club Row'. Many stylish bars such as Q Bar, Bed Supperclub and smaller bars and clubs can be found on Soi 11.

Soi Cowboy Red Light District:
Soi Cowboy, Khlong Tan Nuea, Vadhana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

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Soi Cowboy is a tiny lane near the junction of Sukhumvit Road and Asoke Road.

Emporium Department Store:
Sukhumvit, Khlong Toei Nuea, Vadhana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

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Not the newest mall in Bangkok but it was one of the first shopping center on Sukhumvit Road built for those with money and the eye for finer things.

Sukhumvit 55:
Sukhumvit Soi 55

get directions

This is where Thong Lo district starts. It's a up and coming area where middle classed Thai yuppies prefer to hang out.

Location, Location, Location

Sukhumvit is a strategic location for tourists who enjoy shopping and eating at the finest establishments. True the neighborhood of Sukhumvit is known as a pricey neighborhood where stores and shops charge more but it's not as expensive as New York City or Tokyo. Though a price of coffee at Starbucks in Bangkok is on par with its Western counterparts. In a nutshell Sukhumvit is an area where tourists can completely stay within their comfort zone near 5 star hotels and Western restaurants with familiar fast food chains.

Bangkok Sukhumvit Road is where most local businesses familiar to Westerners are set up. Turn a corner, you'll hit a Starbucks, round a left and there is a McDonald's. And most of the districts urban activities runs from Sukhumvit Soi 4 and down to Sukhumvit Road Soi 55 also known as the Thong Lo District. Thong Lo is fastly becoming a Thai yuppie hangout where new bars, clubs and shops tend to the city's locals with healthy bank accounts. Past Soi 55 and you're in a quiet neighborhood day and night.

Sukhumvit district also the ground zero for Bangkok's sex industry. Though the seedy side of the city's flesh trade does not completely spill out onto the streets, a family with children can visit the city without coming across any unsavory sights and characters. Though parts of Sukhumvit is probably not a recommended place for families. However there are many other kid friendly hotels in Bangkok to choose from close to places with family oriented activities.

Though there are plenty of hotels suitable for families within Sukhumvit you may want to consider staying away from Sukhumvit Soi 4 which is the starting point for Nana red light district where go go bars and Thai hookers abound. The other red light district is Soi Cowboy though whatever is found there is contained in one tiny lane. And there are many big name Western hotels just blocks and minutes away from the go go bars of Soi Cowboy.

It's an ideal location for those who wish to stay in hotels with familiar Western branded names such as Sheraton, Westin Grande and Marriott. These hotels are affordable compared to the similar properties in the United States and Europe.

For those first time visitors to Bangkok with less cash to spend you'd be glad to know you can easily snatch a 3 star hotel for around $50 USD a night. It's possible to get even cheaper room rates by booking a room through a local hotel reservation agency based in Thailand such as

Sheraton Grand - A 5 star hotel on Sukhumvit road
Sheraton Grand - A 5 star hotel on Sukhumvit road

Where to Stay on Sukhumvit Road

Most visitors searching for a hotel along Sukhumvit road either want to stay near the red light districts or want to find a moderately priced hotel of good quality in Bangkok. If you are traveling with children I would avoid staying between Nana and Soi Cowboy red light districts. Many will argue that those areas are perfectly fine for families. But I have a feeling those are the same people who love the company of bar girl hanging on their arms. To each their own and I'm not here to criticize.

Personally for me I would not stay in those areas with my children because there are many kid friendly hotels in Bangkok to pick.

For single male travelers Sukhumvit district is dream come true. The nightlife associated with the area is legendary with the companionship of Thai, African and Russian prostitutes can be hired easily and usually right in plain sight even though prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand. So the majority of sex tourists stay along hotels on Sukhumvit road and do bring prostitutes back to their hotel rooms.

There are many accommodation choices in Sukhumvit district and you can find a hotel as cheap as 800 Baht or as expensive as 5000 Baht and up. Good news is that you really don't have to spend a large sum of money to get a decent quality hotel room with a swimming pool to use. That's the best thing about having a vacation in Bangkok.

If you're looking for a nice quality budget hotel on Sukhumvit road close to the nightlife you can expect to spend about 1300 Baht to 1500 Baht. Personally I recommend 2 moderately priced hotels that I recommend to visiting friends. First is President Palace Hotel on Soi 11. The other is Dream Hotel on Soi 15. Both hotels are on a very busy and active section of Sukhumvit road with very good reviews.

Below is a list of popular hotels in the Sukhumvit districts that I've made video reviews of. Check the videos out to get a glimpse of the quality hotels in Bangkok with really affordable room rates!


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