Bangkok's Hippest District: A Brief Guide to ThongLor
Thong Lor (Thai ทองหล่อ) is a section of Bangkok in the northern Watthana district. Sometimes English-speakers also refer to this area as Thong Lo or Thonglor. More and more tourists are flocking to this region to take advantage of its high-quality cuisine and its hot nightlife. Some travel experts have dubbed Thong Lor the “hippest district” in all of Asia. That's a pretty big claim, but it's true that Thong Lor has been successful at attracting bohemians and artists from all around Thailand in recent years. If you are visiting Bangkok, this trendy district is definitely worth a visit. If you are into great food, people watching, art, or just partying hard, Thong Lor has something to offer you. In this article, we’ll detail a few of the top restaurants, clubs, and shops in Thong Lor.
The Best Japanese Cuisine
If you love Japanese cuisine, there is not better place to be than in Thong Lor. Thong Lor actually has the largest concentration of Japanese expats, so you know you're going to get the most authentic Japanese culinary experience outside of Japan here. There’s even a section of town called “Nihonumura” here, which literally means “Japantown.”
One of the most impressive Japanese restaurants in Thong Lor is called Uomasa. This restaurant, which is located at 87 Thonglor Soi 13, offers a wide variety of unique Japanese specialties, including whale and grilled beef tongue. If you love raw fish, this restaurant has a great selection. Many travel reviewers recommend the edamame beans, the salted firefly squid, and the Nanbanzuke soft-shell crab. You can expect to pay around $50 for a decent meal here.
Another popular Japanese restaurant is called Nirai Kanai. This Okinawa-inspired restaurant is actually a chain in Tokyo, and it has two locations in Bangkok. The Thong Lor location is located at Thonglor 11. Travelers really enjoy the braised pork belly made in the traditional Okinawa fashion. If you are into traditional Japanese music, you should stop by this restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night to hear a traditional performance on a shamisen.
Are you in the mood for some coffee? Well, why not stop by Tokyo Cream Café? Tokyo Cream Café is yet another Japanese inspired eatery located in Thonglor 13. Enjoy a coffee and an ice cream any time of the day at this fashionable café. This is a simply lovely place to relax and watch the busy life of Bangkok bustle on by before your very eyes.
Yes, there are plenty of other Japanese eateries in this area, but, hey, this is Thailand after all. I’m sure you’re wondering, aren’t there any great Thai restaurants in Thong Lor? The answer to that silly question is yes, yes, and yes again.
Perhaps the best-known restaurant/spa in the area is called Face Bangkok. Yes, you read that right, the Face Bangkok is both a spa and a restaurant. If you just want to eat, you’ll have a wide variety of northern Thai dishes to choose from. In case you didn’t know, northern Thai food tends to be a bit spicier. However, if you aren’t into spicy foods, don’t worry. There are plenty of dishes on the Face’s menu that are specifically listed as mild. One popular dish here is lemongrass and galangal-infused seafood curry in a coconut shell. If you so desire, you can order foot massages in between courses at this luxurious restaurant. You can find Face Bangkok at 29 Soi 38, Sukhimvit Road.
For those out there looking for a quick bite, why not take a stop at Food Stop. This hot dog eatery is located on J Avenue in Thong Lor 15. The hot dogs used here are Danish, but many of the toppings are inspired by the flavors of Thailand. One popular hot dog here is called a “zaab dog,” which features the Thai chili dipping sauce called "jaew." This is a truly multicultural experience, with Thai sauces, Danish hotdogs, and American potatoes.
The Marie Guimar restaurant in Thonglor Soi 15 has some of the best desserts in the region. The restaurant took its inspiration from the famous Japanese-Portuguese chef that basically created the Southeast Asian dessert repertoire in the days of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Besides the desserts, however, you can enjoy some local dishes here, such as rice flour strings in coconut cream (called pla grim kai tao) or rice flour balls in coconut milk with a poached egg (called bua loy sam see).
Get Your Party On
Ok, we’ve mentioned some of the best eateries in the area, but now where do you go to party in Thong Lor? Well, one of the coolest clubs right off of Sukhumvit is called the Ice Bar. And when we say “cool” we literally mean “cool.” You’ll feel like you just walked into the weirdest freezer in the world as you walk into this bar. There are large illuminated “ice cubes” all around, most of which are either blue, green or purple. Keeping with the ice theme, you can take a picture right by a real giant ice cube that’s in the front of this bar every day. Coolers are placed by every couch table to ensure your drinks are always as cold as they possibly could be. As you are drinking with friends, be sure to get up and dance to some Thai pop or hip hop music that’s constantly playing. The Ice Bar hosts local bands as well as a professional DJ.
Next, you should try out the Rabbit Hole. Although the Rabbit Hole is one of the best bars in Thong Lor, it is easy to miss this swanky dive. Why is that? Well, there’s no official sign in front of the Rabbit Hole’s entrance. You’ll find the official entrance at 125 Sukhumvit Soi 55. Like most of the other clubs in Thong Lor, the Rabbit Hole’s lighting is very minimal. Apparently all of these clubs go for that mysterious hipster vibe. Actually, you might feel like you’re entering an elegant ship when you enter this architectural gem. Although it’s not as “hopping” as other clubs, the Rabbit Hole has built up a loyal clientele due to its great drink selection, relaxed ambiance, and wonderful interior architecture.
If you want a rooftop view of Bangkok, you must visit the Octave at the Bangkok Marriot Hotel. You’ll find the entrance to this bar at 2 Sukhumvit Soi 57. The Octave club takes up the 45th to the 49th floors of the fabulous hotel. On the top of this hotel, you get 360-degree views of the city. The main specialty at the central bar is cocktails. There’s really no better way to take in Bangkok from Thong Lor than in at the Octave.
Since Thonglor is so hipster friendly, you can be sure to find many trendy fashion stores here. The most popular place to do shopping in Thong Lor is called Playground! This 7,000 square meter three-story mall, located at Soi Sukhumvit 55, has top-name brands like Nikes, Adidas, and Link Watches. The first store has the largest magazine store in all of Thailand, a rare music store, and a Starbucks. Fashion lovers generally head up to the second floor, which is where all the clothing, jewelry, and make-up stores are located. And, for those into gaming, household goods, and furniture, you should check out the third floor first. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the Playground! is a wonderful place to window shop.
One of the edgiest fashion stores in all of Thong Lor is called Anchavika. Located at Soi Thong Lor 25 Sukhumvit 55 Road, all of the pieces in this fashion boutique are sure to draw plenty of attention. The owner and designer of Anchavika, Anchalee Vikasidnakhakun, was actually a noodle-seller before he tried to make his passion for fashion a reality. You may not go for the “out of this world” clothing on sale here, but it is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Finally, for those with a more subdued taste, you can visit Khaki Bros. in Thong Lo 13. Khaki Bros. is known for its old-fashioned NYC style. Whether you’re looking for formal or casual attire, you’ll certainly find something to suit your situation at this classy store. As you could tell from the name, Khaki Bros. focuses on, well, khakis. If you are in need of a new pair of chinos, then you must check out Khaki Bros while here.