Sensory overload at Siam Square Soi 7
Siam Square (Thai: สยามสแควร์) is Bangkok's main shopping drag and its BTS Skytrain station is often considered as the centre of the city. This article expands the area to include Ratchaprasong, Phloen Chit Road, Hualamphong Train Station and Chulalongkorn University.
While Rattanakosin represents Thailand's history and culture, Siam Square represents Thailand as a newly industrializing economy. Siam Square's first buildings were only constructed in the 1970s, on land of Chulalongkorn University which tried to get some extra rental income for the university. It started with ordinary shops, but has since expanded to a shopping and entertainment mecca that has everything upper-class teenagers and college students could possibly want — luxury shopping malls and glitzy department stores filled with designer labels and hip fashion boutiques.
Despite the name, it is not a square in the traditional sense. It could better be described as a warren of small sois filled with hundreds of tiny boutiques, restaurants, cafés, record stores and bookshops, mostly catering to upper-class 20-something Thais, shopping-spree Malaysians, and working ex-pats. If you're not up for a trip to the Gap or a pink martini, it's still worth a visit just to see the Bangkok-of-the-future. The area north of Rama I Road does feature some kind of courtyard on the second floor, which functions as the entry point for the Siam Center, Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon shopping malls.
Going east on Rama I Road, the shopping experience continues at Ratchaprasong, an area that received worldwide fame when red shirt-wearing political protesters set up their camp here in May 2010. It is home to CentralWorld, the largest shopping mall in Thailand, which was set on fire during these protests, though it was restored within a few months. It gets more quiet as Rama I Road changes its name into Phloen Chit Road in the east. There are some shops and restaurants here, but the area is mostly home to foreign embassies and airline offices.
By public transit
Siam Square is the most central neighbourhood of Bangkok and can be reached by both the Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line of the BTS Skytrain system. The easiest entry point is Siam station, right on top of Siam Square and in the middle of the Siam area. It acts as the exchange station between both lines, so expect a lot of commuters during rush hour. The Sukhumvit Line continues east and passes Chit Lom station, which is close to Ratchaprasong, and Phloen Chit which serves the road of the same name. One stop west of Siam on the Silom Line is National Stadium, a handy stop that's close to MBK Center, Jim Thompson's House and the cheap guest houses at Soi Kasemsan 1.
The Sukhumvit Line and the Silom Line provide direct connections with the districts of the same name. There is also a direct connection with Phahonyothin and the Chatuchak Weekend Market if you take the Sukhimvit Line to the north. If you're coming from Rattanakosin or Khao San Road, you'll first need to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Sathorn pier. From there, continue your way along the Silom Line to Siam station. The whole ride takes around 40 minutes (but is easier than trying to find the right bus!)
The quickest way to get to Siam from Suvarnabhumi Airport is by Airport Rail Link. Take the Express Line to Phaya Thai station, a ride that takes 17 minutes. Then switch onto the BTS Sukhumvit Line and ride it to Siam station. As the systems are not integrated, you will have to buy a new ticket at Phaya Thai station.
If you're staying at Khao San Road, the Saen Saep Express Boat is your best bet to get to Siam Square. It is only a short walk to the Golden Mount in Rattanakosin, where you can get on the boat. The service operates every day from 05:30 to 20:30. The Golden Mount Line brings you to Sapan Hua Chang pier for Siam Square, and terminates at Pratunam pier (for Ratchaprasong intersection). You can switch to the NIDA Line at Pratunam pier, which brings you to Chitlom, Wireless and on to Sukhumvit and Ramkhamhaeng. A single trip from Panfa Leelard pier at the Golden Mount to Sapan Hua Chang takes about 25 minutes and costs around 9 baht.
Siam Square is among the most congested districts of Bangkok. Combine that with the complexity of the bus system, and it's obvious that you're better off using other ways of transport. However, if you're coming from or going to the Grand Palace area in Rattanakosin, the bus is the only way to get a direct connection. Bus 15 starts at Phra Athit Road and then drives over Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (for Khao San Road), Lan Luang Road, Chakkaphatdi Phong Road and Bamrung Muang Road before arriving at MBK Center, Siam Square and Ratchaprasong intersection. This bus then continues to Silom Road, so take it in the other direction if you're coming from there.
An alternative is bus 47, which starts at Rama IV Road in Khlong Toei and then heads to Silom and over Phaya Thai Road. Get off at MBK Center. You can also take this bus from Tha Chang in Rattanakosin (near the Grand Palace) from which it goes through Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (for Khao San Road), Lan Luang Road, Chakkaphatdi Phong Road and Bamrung Muang Road. Get out at MBK Center as this bus won't continue its way further along Siam Square.
Bus AE3 from Suvarnabhumi Airport does not run anymore as of June 2011. If you still want to come by bus, you can take bus 552, which goes to BTS station On Nut in Sukhumvit. From there, you can continue your way with the Skytrain. It's a long ride though, and depending on traffic it could take between 1 to 2 hours.
- Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (หอศิลปวัฒนธรรมแห่งกรุงเทพมหานคร), 939 Rama I Rd (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 214-6630(-8), . Tu-Su 10:00-22:00. Interactive museums are the new hype in the artistic community of Bangkok, thus we have another one. Visitors can interact with different kinds of arts, such as performance arts, music, painting and film, in various ways. On display are more than 300 works by Thai and international artists. Some of the temporary exhibitions can be good as well. The complex also has a cafe, restaurant, book shops and an art library. Free.
- Erawan Shrine (ศาลพระพรหม Saan Phra Phrom), 494 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 254-1234, . 06:00-00:00 daily. A Hindu shrine that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu creation god Brahma. Free.
- Jim Thompson's House (พิพิธภัณฑ์จิม ทอมป์สัน), 6 Soi Kasemsan 2 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 216-7368, . 09:00-17:00 daily. The infamous CIA operative Jim Thompson revived the Thai silk industry after World War II and had this house assembled from six traditional Thai-style houses. You must take the guided tour through the buildings, which are given in plenty of foreign languages. Get there early to beat the heat. 100 baht.
- Madame Tussaud's (พิพิธภัณฑ์หุ่นขี้ผึ้งมาดามทุสโซ), 6F, Siam Discovery, 989 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 658-0060, . 10:00-22:00 daily. Everyone knows Madame Tussaud's, the popular museum displaying waxworks of famous people. The Bangkok branch features life-sized statues of HRH Prince Mahitala Thibed Adulyadej Vikrom Phra Baroma Rajajanok (The Prince Father), HRH Princess Srinagarindra (The Princess Mother) and other important Thai individuals. But there are also plenty of Western figures, including Barack Obama in the oval office and the English football player Steven Gerrard. Foreigners have to comply with a hefty 900 baht price tag, while Thais chip in for 350 baht. 900 baht.
- Queen Savang Vadhana Museum, Sra Pathum Palace, 195 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Siam, next to Siam Kempinski Hotel), ☎ +66 2 252-1965(-7), . F-Sa 10:00-16:00. The Sra Pathum Palace is an oasis of silence right behind Siam Paragon. It has been the permanent residence of HM Queen Savang Vadhana from 1916 till 1955, and HRH Princess Sri Nagarindra has also lived here. When HRH Princess Sri Nagarindra passed away, it became the residence of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. She turned one building into a museum that honors the Queen Grandmother and shows her contributions to Thai society. The museum starts in the exhibition hall, that shows HM Queen Savang Vadhana's biography, and then moves to her residence, the Phra Tamnak Yai building. Make a reservation in advance and request an English-speaking guide (at no extra cost). 150 baht.
- Siam Ocean World (สยามโอเชี่ยนเวิลด์), 1-2F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 687-2000, . 09:00-22:00 daily. The largest aquarium in Southeast Asia, exhibiting over 30,000 marine animals from all over the world and featuring a wide range of rare and exotic species. The area of the aquarium spans over 10,000 sq m, as wide as two football fields. The aquarium also offers a "dive with the sharks" program where you can scuba dive in the oceanarium side by side with sharks and rays, plus a "Sanyo 4D Xventure" with specially rigged seats to add a kick to the typical 3D film experience. 900 baht.
- Wat Pathum Wanaram (วัดปทุมวนาราม), Rama I Rd (BTS Siam). 07:00-18:00 daily. Right between Siam Paragon and CentralWorld in the middle of consumerism, this temple is often overlooked. While it is not as remarkable as the temples found in Rattanakosin, it does remind us of the spiritual history of Thailand. Wat Pathum was founded in 1857 by King Mongkut (Rama IV) when the area was surrounded by canals and rice fields. It was built to function as a place of worship close to the Sra Pathum Palace. At the temple is the Phra Meru Mas, a reconstruction of the crematorium of the Princess Mother, whose remains were transferred here after her cremation at Sanam Luang. During the May 2010 red shirt protests, this temple functioned as a safe haven for protesting women and children. Free.
- APEX, Siam Square Soi 1 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 252-6498, . 10:00-23:00 daily. The theatres of APEX were built in the late 1960s and have changed little ever since; seeing a film here is a kind of retro experience not found in other cinemas. It is widely known for its more offbeat and art house films. It is spread over two theatres: Lido Theatre has three screens, usually with Japanese, Korean and other foreign films on show, while Scala Theatre only has one screen with first-run Hollywood films. Unfortunately, the late 1960s Siam Theatre has been destroyed in fires that resulted from the 2010 red shirt demonstrations. It is rumored to be replaced with a new shopping complex. 100 baht.
- Center Point Massage, 2F, 266/3 Siam Square Soi 3 (BTS Siam exit 2), ☎ +66 2 658-4597, . 10:00-00:00 daily. Worth seeking out as they do nice, reasonably priced Thai, herbal, oil and foot massages, as well as aromatherapy. They also have branches in Silom and Sukhumvit. 300-950 baht/hr.
- I.Sawan Residential Spa & Club, Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, 494 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Ratchadamri), ☎ +66 2 254-6310, . The luxury you'd expect at a five-star hotel, at five-star prices. Most of their treatments take at least 3 hours, but are famed as among the best of Thailand. 2200 baht/hr.
- Krungsri IMAX Theatre, 5F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 129-4631, . 10:00-00:00 daily. Going to see a film here is a great night out. You get a few hours in a plush theatre house, complete with air-con, assigned seats and the newest technology (including IMAX and 3D glasses). All the new Hollywood releases are featured nightly, but you can also pick most Thai films as they have English subtitles (but inquire at the desk first if this is the case). Don't forget the mandatory standing ovation to the King before the film starts. 160 baht.
- Paragon Cineplex, 5F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 129-4635, . 10:00-00:00 daily. With about 4,000 seats and 25 screens, this has got to be one of the largest cinemas in Asia. The complex includes three separately branded cinemas. The Siam Pavalai is a 1,200-seat theatre, the largest of the bunch and often even home to concerts. The six "Ultra Screen" cinemas are much more luxury with reclining seats. Last but not least, Enigma is a members-only cinema with lounge seats. 140 - 1400 baht.
- Royal Bangkok Sports Club (ราชกรีฑาสโมสร), 1 Henri Dunant Rd (BTS Ratchadamri), ☎ +66 2 255-4158, . Every two weeks on Sunday 12:30-18:00. This is a venue for horse races under royal patronage. Races are held every two weeks on Sunday. 50-100 baht.
It is a bit of a hassle, but if you want to save some bahts, you can claim back the VAT you paid for while buying large purchases. While buying a product, ask the sales assistant to fill in the VAT Refund Form (P.P10) and add the original tax invoice. The total value of the goods claimed for refund must exceed 5,000 baht with each individual product worth at least 2,000 baht. The goods must be taken out of Thailand by plane within 60 days. At the airport, and this is where most visitors go wrong, your goods must be checked at the Customs Office before check-in and passport control. You will get a receipt, which you have to show at the VAT Refund Office after passport control. If the refund amount is lower than 30,000 baht, you'll be paid in cash, otherwise you'll receive the money at your bank account or credit card. For more information, contact the Revenue Department (90 Phahonyothin Soi 7, Phahonyothin, ☎ +66 2 272-9384(-5), ).
Siam Square is the place to shop in Bangkok, especially if you're looking for big shopping malls and small designer boutiques. The obvious point of entry is Siam BTS station, which is surrounded by Siam Center, Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon. Technically not a part of the Siam area, but at walking distance, is MBK Center. With the exception of Siam Paragon, these malls are somewhat dated, but among the most popular as they are the most affordable. At least make a head for MBK, just to see where the local youth do their shopping.
- Bonanza Mall (โบนันซ่ามอลล์), Phaya Thai Rd (BTS National Stadium). 10:00-22:00 daily. Across the street from MBK Center and connected by walkway on the second floor is the perennially crowded Bonanza Mall. Its warren of stalls offers more of the same as MBK, thus it is popular among students and teenagers looking for hip clothes, accessories and cosmetics.
- MBK Center (มาบุญครอง), 444 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 620-9,000, . 10:00-22:00 daily. MBK is a vast and always packed mall full of tiny stalls (2,500 of them, to be exact) selling, well, everything. There's a heavy emphasis on clothing, especially the cheap and trendy teen type, but the fourth floor devoted to electronics is Bangkok's best place to buy a mobile phone, MP3 player, digital cameras, and much more. The fifth floor focuses on furniture in the rear, and electronics in the front, including a very large Canon store. Stuff on sale include gold, furniture, food, and a part of the sixth floor has been dedicated to handicrafts and souvenirs. Don't miss the dried fruits and Chinese-style snacks (like pork floss) at Champ on the fourth floor, near the central escalator. The top floor has film theatres and restaurants, and there's a large Tokyu department store bolted on the north side. It is possible to bargain for cheaper prices on some items at some independent shop stalls, especially if you are with a Thai friend or family member.
Plaza between Siam Center and Siam Paragon
- Siam Center (สยามเซ็นเตอร์), Siam Tower, Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 687-5000, . 09:00-21:00 daily. Constructed in 1976, this four-story mall is the first of the Siam area. It might feel a little dated compared to Siam Paragon, but it must be said that an extensive renovation in 1995 made the mall feel colourful, hip and modern. Most of the stores focus on fashion, shoes and handbags for trendy teenagers and students. There's also a good range of eating options, including a food court at the fourth floor. A bridge at the fourth floor connects the shopping complex with the Siam Discovery Mall.
- Siam Discovery (สยามดิสคัฟเวอรี่เซ็นเตอร์), Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 345-2345(-9), . 10:00-21:00 daily. Siam Discovery is a newer, more upmarket addition to Siam Center, catering to a slightly more mature audience. Just like its twin mall, most stores are for the fashion savvy, but prices are somewhat higher. This is the only mall in Thailand that offers the official Diesel designer store at the ground floor. Worth a browse is Loft on the third floor, a large and quirky Japanese home decoration store. They have, among many other things, an array of bizarre plush toys on offer. The sixth floor has an EGV Grand Cinema.
- Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน), 991 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 610-8000, . 10:00-22:00 daily. This is an incredibly massive shopping mall with no less than ten floors. You can almost spend a full day here, as it is not just a shopping complex, but also includes Siam Ocean World, Paragon Cineplex and a whole floor of dining facilities. Paragon is one of the most upmarket malls in Asia, so expect the usual designer brands (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc), but also BMW and Porsche showing off their newest models. The fourth floor has a very good (if pricey) selection of modern Thai arts and crafts, as well as the large Kinokuniya bookstore. There are some great eating options in the basement, including a gourmet supermarket, two food courts and a canal-lined strip of fancy restaurants.
- Tokyu (ทูคยู ดีพาร์ทเม้นท์ สโตร์), MBK Center, 444 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 620-1000, . 10:00-21:00 daily. Not a mall, but a massive department store that occupies four floors! Every thing you'd expect in a department store is available, including clothes, luggage, shoes, cosmetics, stationery, household appliances and even a supermarket. There's also a great selection of utensils for cooking Thai, Japanese, and Western food.
Heading east is Ratchaprasong, an intersection filled with luxurious malls that cater to a more upmarket audience. CentralWorld, while built in 2002, was expanded in 2006 topping its nearby rival Siam Paragon as the largest shopping complex in Thailand (and among the largest in the world). Surrounding CentralWorld are the Gaysorn, Isetan, Narai Phand, Peninsula Plaza, ZEN, and others, which together make the largest shopping promenade in Bangkok. Bring a well-filled wallet though.
- Amarin Plaza (อัมรินทร์พลาซ่า), 496-502 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 256-9111, . 09:00-21:00 daily. This impressive colonial-style mall has five floors of high-end stores, selling fashion, furniture, jewellery, electronics, books and handicrafts. The fourth floor has a good food court, and even a spa, health centre and yoga studio.
- Central Chidlom (เซ็นทรัล ดีพาร์ทเม้นท์ สโตร์ - ชิดลม), 1027 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 793-7777, . 10:00-22:00 daily. This is the flagship store of the Central chain of department stores, and thus it is much more luxury and prices are higher. Catering to affluent Thais and Western expats, it has good selections of pricey watches, cosmetics and clothes. There are also numerous eating options.
- CentralWorld (เซ็นทรัลเวิลด์), 999/9 Rama I Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 635-1111, . 10:00-22:00 daily. Formerly the World Trade Center, this enormous complex reopened in 2006 after a massive expansion and renovation, and is now the only mall in Bangkok that can give the Paragon a run for the money in both swank and size. It is the third largest mall in the world by leasable floor space, and the second largest building in the world if you include the skyscraper on top of it. It's marketed as a middle-class shopping mall with prices cheaper than Siam Paragon. Most Thais still can't afford it though, so you'll only see the occasional tourist wandering around. Lots of restaurants make this a good destination for lunch or dinner. The top floor has a supermarket and a multiplex. The large Isetan and ZEN department stores are also included in the complex, as well as two book stores and plenty of photo and electronic stores.
- Erawan Bangkok (เอราวัณกรุงเทพ), 494 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 250-7777, . 10:00-22:00 daily. Linked by skybridges with the Amarin Plaza and Gaysorn, this is another luxury boutique mall. Chic clothes stores are distributed at all four levels. The second level has an excellent tea room. Go to the lower lobby if you're hungry, or to the fourth floor for wellness and pampering.
- Gaysorn (เกษรพลาซ่า), 999 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 656-1149, . 10:00-20:00 daily. Gaysorn positions itself as Bangkok's premier luxury shopping mall: this is where you can get your fill of Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany. The top floors have a good selection of antiques and Thai handicrafts of high quality, but at fairly high prices too. Most Thais cannot afford these prices, so the visitors mostly consist of Japanese and Arab business men.
- Isetan (อิเซตัน ดีพาร์ทเม้นท์ สโตร์), CentralWorld, 4/1- 4/2 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 255-9898, . 10:00-21:00 daily. An institution in Japan, Isetan's Bangkok branch is just as upper class as those found in the motherland. While obviously catering to Japanese visitors, there is also a wide availability of international brands, such as Louis Vuitton. Kinokuniya is one of the better book stores, and don't forget to buy a bottle of sake down the supermarket. There's also a Lego section for kids.
- Narai Phand (นารายณ์ภัณฑ์), President Tower Arcade, 973 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 656-0398(-9), . 10:00-21:00 daily. A Thai handicraft centre partly run by the government offering a wide array of traditional crafts, such as bronze objects, ceramics, lacquerware, silk and woodcarvings. Prices are fairly high and not negotiable, but clearly marked, so this is a good place to see what's on offer and find out baseline prices before hitting the markets. Narai Phand used to be on Ratchadamri Road, but this flagship store was unceremoniously demolished in 2008. Now it has relocated to a smaller location next to the Intercontinental Hotel.
- Peninsula Plaza (เพนินซูล่าพลาซ่า), 153 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Ratchadamri), ☎ +66 2 539-6723. 10:00-21:00 daily. Yep, another exclusive shopping centre that caters for moneyed Thais, rich expats and business travellers. The whole exterior has a kind of European old-world feeling. On sale are gems, diamonds, silverware, fabrics, antiques and art. The fourth floor is home to the International Dance Academy.
- ZEN (เซ็น ดีพาร์ทเม้นท์ สโตร์), CentralWorld, 4 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 100-9999, . 10:00-22:00 daily. ZEN is the coolest, funkiest and hippest lifestyle department store of Bangkok. It is catering to affluent customers who care about design and don't mind to pay extra for it. The shop looks catchy, colourful and well-designed. Each of its six levels evolved around a different theme and product category, such as cosmetics, fashion and sports wear.
- All Seasons Place (ออสซีซั่น เพลส), 87 Witthayu Rd (Wireless Rd) (BTS Phloen Chit), ☎ +66 2 654-3888, . 09:00-18:00 daily. Another elegant and massive shopping centre that boasts four floors of the usual clothing boutiques, department stores, jewelleries and antique shops. While expensive, it is slightly off the map, thus at the end of the season prices tend to drop more than at the other shopping malls. Another cheap bet is the food court at the second floor.
- The Promenade (ศูนย์การค้านายเลิศ), 11F, Nai Lert Tower, 2/4 Witthayu Rd (BTS Phloen Chit), ☎ +66 2 267-8850(-7). 09:00-19:00 daily. The Promenade is one of many shopping areas in Bangkok where you can buy just about everything from clothing to handicrafts. It is a three-story shopping mall with a modern and luxury decor. The second floor has a walkway to Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
|| Under 100 baht
|| 100-500 baht
|| Over 500 baht
For Thai food with a twist, the hip district of Siam Square is the best place to go hunting. The shopping malls generally have a wide choice of chain stores where you can eat for mid-range prices. If you're on a budget, every mall that takes itself seriously at least has one food court. Soi Ton Son, a sidestreet of Phloen Chit Road, is known as Bangkok's Little Italy with plenty of nice Italian restaurants. The best are both very good and reasonably priced (at least by Western standards).
If you want cheap food and air-conditioning, head into the upper-floor food court of any mall or department store. Food courts come in many varieties, from basic snack places to eclectic cuisine. Most food courts use some variation of a coupon system; unused coupons are always refunded. Some of the better ones include:
- Big C Food Court, 5F, Big C, 97/11 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 250-4888, . 09:00-23:00 daily. New, bright, airy and very cheap with mostly Thai dishes as low as 20 baht. Payment with a stored-value card. Note: Big C is closed for the time being due to heavy protest fires in May 2010. 50 baht.
- Central Food Hall, 1F, Central Chidlom, 1027 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom, hidden behind the TOPS Supermarket in the same building as FoodLoft), ☎ +66 2 655-7648(-52), . 09:00-22:00 daily. It offers Thai fare (and English menus) at much cheaper prices than FoodLoft. 50 baht.
FoodLoft: calling this a food court is almost derogatory
- FoodLoft, 7F, Central Chidlom, 1027 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 793-7070, . 10:00-22:00 daily. This chic dining venue with a hip and trendy black, metallic and red colour theme is large and popular among Central's visitors. This is one of the most upmarket food courts, and could even be described as a culinary experience on its own: eight cooking islands represent quality restaurants that serve different cuisines, including Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Malay and Vietnamese (desert is also represented by one island). It is fairly expensive with most dishes close to 100 baht. Dinnertime at Fridays and Saturdays have live music. You receive a 1,000 baht voucher on entry and pay for what you've used on exiting. 150 baht.
- MBK Food Court, 5-6F, MBK Center, 444 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 620-9000, . 10:00-22:00 daily. You might not expect it, but this is a really good find! Food court "The Fifth", as you might expect, is at the fifth floor, and has recently been refurbished. It has a couple of "cuisine islands" each featuring an assortment of food from a different country, including Indian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Thai food. Western, Asian, halal and vegetarian dishes from 50 baht up. Paying goes by an electronic card system, and you pay as you leave. The food court at the sixth floor is very cheap with less than 50 baht per serving. It is popular, but noisy, and serves tasty Thai food including some you have probably never heard of before. Paying goes by coupon. 50 baht.
- Siam Paragon Food Court, 1F, Siam Paragon, 991/1 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 610-8000, . 10:00-22:00 daily. This food court covers a large part of Siam Paragon's ground floor. It is divided in three sections, a general food court (pay by coupon), a more upmarket food court (pay by electronic card) and a take away counter. The whole place is enormous with many different joints selling different kinds of food, such as Isaan, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and international. 50-100 baht.
- Hongkong Noodle, 430/3-4 Siam Square Soi 3 (BTS Siam, near the corner of Soi 2 and Soi 3), ☎ +66 2 254-8755 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 10:00-22:00 daily. Serves up cheap and tasty wonton noodles, a selection of dim sum and more Cantonese favourites in modern, if utilitarian, surroundings complete with air-conditioning and table service. 30-40 baht.
- Ka-nom, 266/8 Siam Square Soi 3 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 508-7366, . 10:00-21:00 daily. Everyone who has been to Macau knows how delicious they are: Portuguese-style egg tarts. They don't come very cheap, but are hand-baked right in front of you. They also have cakes, pies, breads and croissants. 40 baht each.
- Pisces, 36/6 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium). 08:00-13:00, 17:00-22:30 daily. This simple Thai (and vegetarian) restaurant is popular for breakfast among backpackers who stay at the nearby guest houses. Its interior looks good and is colourful, and the lady who runs it is really nice. Service can be a tad slow though. 60 baht.
- Greyhound Café, 4F, Central Chidlom, 1027 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 225-6964(-5), . 10:00-22:00 daily. An minimalistic restaurant of concrete and brushed steel. On the menu is fusion, with food ranging from authentic Thai to Italian pasta to Elvis burgers. Mains are usually around 300 baht, although the lunch sets are cheaper than that. There's also a branch at Siam Center. 300 baht.
- Kabuki, 1F, Siam Paragon, 99/1 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 129-4351(-6), . 11:00-22:00 daily. This Japanese restaurant chain, inspired by Japanese Kabuki theatre themes, was the first of its kind in Bangkok. It is more upmarket than its sister Uta-Andon, but still very affordable if compared with luxury Japanese restaurants. 450 baht.
- La Monita Taqueria, Mahatun Plaza, 888/26 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Phloen Chit), ☎ +66 2 650-9581, . M-Sa 11:30-22:00. This is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Bangkok, especially since Tacos and Salsa closed down. There salsas are delicious, as are the chips. Just one big advice: be very sure to make a reservation beforehand as the place is very small and the tables are often booked. Also the tables and seats are small, so expect it to feel cramped; though it does help the cozy atmosphere. 150 baht.
- No. 43 Italian Bistro, 43 Soi Lang Suan (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 658-7444. 06:00-00:00. A lovely Italian bistro that serves an a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. With quiet white wood floors, black and gold walls, and an illuminated open bar, the items are pleasantly affordable considering the restaurant's elegant ambiance. Quiet, reserved and gentle on the senses, this restaurant also offers great Thai food on request. 150-300 baht.
- Som Tam Nua (Som Tam Paradise or Papaya Salad Restaurant), 392/14 Siam Square Soi 5 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 251-4880. 11:00-21:00 daily. If Thai food isn't spicy enough or you have yet to sample som tam (raw papaya salad), check out this trendy yet very friendly and very Thai restaurant specializing in northeastern Isaan food. For the full-on Isaan experience, order raw mango salad (ตำมะม่วง tam ma-muang), spicy pork salad (ลาบหมู laap muu), grilled chicken (ไก่ย่าง kai yang) and sticky rice (ข้าวเหนียว khao niaw) - which will cost less than 200 baht/head. English menu, two floors of seating. Warning: This is real Isaan food and thus very spicy! 200 baht.
- Sunrise Tacos, 1F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 229-4851, . 24 hours. A Mexican grill restaurant with traditional favourites like nachos, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and salads. The meals are fresh and there is 24 hour delivery available. 200 baht.
- Uta-Andon, 6F, Isetan, 4/1-4/2 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 255-9800, . 11:00-21:00 daily. Same ownership as Kabuki, this Japanese restaurant chain has a branch in Isetan. Ambience and decoration are plain and straightforward.
- Wanara Eatery, 81 Ruam Ruedi Soi 2 (BTS Phloen Chit), ☎ +66 2 695-4242, . 06:00-23:00 daily. In Thai, 'wana' means forest, the source of the distinctive ingredients that make up traditional Thai cooking. Combined with western flavors, Wanara brings together the fusion cuisine.
- Gianni, 34/1 Soi Ton Son (BTS Chit Lom, off Phloen Chit), ☎ +66 2 252-1619, . 12:00-14:30, 18:00-22:30 daily. One of Bangkok's best and most authentic Italian places. Formal but romantic atmosphere with shared couches and such, you'll want to dress up a little. Try the lunch sets at 270/320 baht, as dinners are considerably more expensive. 1,000-1,200 baht.
Branches of Starbucks and the more local Black Canyon Coffee can be found in all the malls and even at the largest BTS stations.
- Kaldi, 4F, MBK Center, 444 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 626-0407 (email@example.com), . 10:00-22:00 daily. This popular Japanese coffee chain has a branch at MBK, and is an excellent way to refresh after all the shopping. They have the usual coffee, tea, smoothies, juices and soft drinks, as well as small snacks. The best part is that they have a Wi-Fi hotspot, so you can check your mail while sipping a hot cappuccino. 50 baht.
Siam Square is not that well-known for its nightlife, as shops tend to close about 22:00 and the area gets pretty silent afterwards. Most visitors head off to Sukhumvit or Silom, but Siam Square does have some relaxing bars on offer.
In the winter time (recursively defined in Thailand as "beer garden season"), popular beer gardens pop up in front of CentralWorld, serving up cold beer, hot food and loud Thai pop.
- Brown Sugar, 231/19-20 Sarasin Rd (BTS Ratchadamri), ☎ +66 2 250-1826. M-F 11:00-14:00, 17:00-01:00, Sa-Su 17:00-01:00. This place is known as one of Bangkok's better live jazz bars. The food and drinks are passable, but the people come here for the atmosphere, which is lively and relaxed. The interior is really chic, but expect to pay for it. Be careful to check the bill as the waiters are known to mess around with it.
- Hard Rock Cafe, 424/3-6 Siam Square Soi 11 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 251-0797, . M-Sa 09:00-19:00. Everyone knows the Hard Rock Cafe, and this is just like the other ones around the globe: rock 'n' roll music all night long, the typical Hard Rock Cafe merchandise and live bands every night. But this is the only one that has a beautiful tuktuk coming out of the exterior.
There are a couple of after hours clubs in Rong Muang Soi 1, in the backstreets of Siam Square (access via Rong Muang Soi 5, off Rama I Road):
- Concept CM2, Novotel Bangkok Bldg, 392/44 Siam Square Soi 6 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 209-8888, . 20:00-02:00 daily. One of the few nightclubs in the Siam Square area, CM2 caters to foreigners and Thais alike with live pop and dance performances. It has been around for fourteen years, and in the meantime has become a good addition to the live music scene. There is a large dance floor complemented with trendy lighting.
- Spicy, Rong Muang Soi 1 (at the intersection of Rong Muang Soi 1 and 5). 01:00-06:00 daily. A typical (sleazy and grim) "after-hour" club that gets busy after 02:00 and stays open till the early morning. There is a variety of music playing, depending on the DJ, including house and hiphop. Expect a mixed crowd including badly dressed older western men on the prowl, young (mostly male) tourists, prostitutes and katoey. Taxis get commissions, so most know about it and you might get a free ride. If you're still up for more partying after 06:00, continue the night at Swing next-door. 300 baht including one drink. (13.743846,100.521898)
- Swing, Rong Muang Soi 1 (at the intersection of Rong Muang Soi 1 and 5). 05:00-late daily. This day club has free entry. It opens at 05:00 and gets quite crowded. Enter through a restaurant, go out the back past the bathrooms and take the lift to the second floor. Along with a bar and dance floor playing loud house music, there's a quieter area with several pool tables. Similar crowd to Spicy. Free entry, drinks 200 baht. (13.743846,100.521898)
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
|| Under 1,000 baht
|| 1,000 baht to 2,500 baht
|| Over 2,500 baht
Accommodation in almost all price ranges can be found within this area. Hotels in the Hualamphong Train Station area are covered in Yaowarat and Phahurat.
Soi Kasemsan 1
Just at the foot of the National Stadium station, directly across from the stadium itself, is Soi Kasemsan 1, a convenient and quiet lane filled with budget hotels. Most of the guest houses are along the left side of the street as you walk in from Rama I Road. The soi is close to Siam Square, and Jim Thompson's House is only one block away.
Typical room offered at Soi Kasemsan 1
- A-One Inn, 25/13 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 215-3029, . A decent guest house that is quite popular among backpackers that can afford a little more. A-One has a luggage room and Wi-Fi access for anyone toting their laptop (24 hours of access costs 100 baht for guests and 150 baht for walk-ins). The rooms are functional, if less than inspiring. 600-700 baht.
- Muangphol Mansion, 931/9 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 219-4445, . This guest house faces onto Rama I Road, but you have to enter from Soi Kasemsan 1. The ground floor has Internet terminals and a restaurant that is open 24 hours. 800-1,100 baht.
- Reno Hotel, 40 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 215-0026-(7). A clean, remodeled hotel that has breakfast included. There is a nice pool in the nothing-fancy patio area. The rooms on the front are dark and a bit noisy. Rooms by the back or pool are very pleasant. The friendly staff provide laundry, checked luggage, and a travel desk. 780-1,100 baht.
- The Bed & Breakfast, 36/42-43 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 215-2493. As of April 2012, a sign on the door states this place is permanently closed. Probably one of the cleanest budget hotels in this area, though obviously don't expect much else from the rooms. It is run by a family that handles their customers friendly and professional. As the name suggests you get a daily breakfast, but don't be surprised when you get the same meal every morning. 800 baht.
- Wendy House, 36/2 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 214-1149, . This hotel is very popular and seems to fill up quickly. International phones, phone cards and Internet are available in the lobby. The PCs are configured for English, Swedish, and Japanese. Breakfast is included. 900-1,200 baht.
- White Lodge, 36/8 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 216-8867. Probably one of the cheapest guest houses in the soi, this one is truly for backpackers who just need a cheap room and no frills. It is clean though, and the rooms are fairly large in size. Also the staff is welcoming. 400 baht.
- Bangkok City Inn, 43/5 Phetchaburi Soi 30 (Pratunam Pier or BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 253-5373, . A decent two-star hotel with air-conditioning, 24 hour reception and cable TV, but it lacks any internet service. The rooms are a little small and kind of dusty with old furniture. Also, some rooms barely have any view as the rooms face to a large building wall beside it. But the best is its location near Ratchaprasong. Breakfast is included. 1,000-1,350 baht.
- Patumwan House, 22 Soi Kasemsan 1 (BTS National Stadium), ☎ +66 2 612-3580(-99), . This is mainly a residential apartment building with some studios or one-bedrooms for rent. There is a security card entry and elevator. It is definitely not a backpacker place. Beware as they will not let you test their Wi-Fi before you put a deposit down. 1,000-1,200 baht.
- Grand Hyatt Erawan, 494 Ratchadamri Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 254-1234, . A five-star hotel at five-star prices. If you are visiting the Erawan Shrine on the corner, you could take a look at the hotel. The lobby is very impressive. Spassos, a popular upscale lounge bar is located in the lower level. If there's more than one person per room, it is worth the extra 1,000 baht per night for the "club room" as you end up with a better concierge and free breakfast. 7,600-23,000 baht.
- Holiday Inn, 971 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 656-1555, . Opened in May 2005, this hotel in contemporary Thai style is amazingly swanky for a Holiday Inn and the location is very central. It has a small but sufficient gym and pool. 3,730-6,700 baht.
- InterContinental Hotel, 973 Phloen Chit Rd (BTS Chit Lom), ☎ +66 2 656-0444, . The lobby of this hotel is among the most extravagant in Bangkok. Very central location and all the facilities you'd expect at a hotel of this magnitude. 5,440-9,600 baht.
- Novotel, 392/44 Siam Square Soi 6 (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 209-8888, . Novotel is a five-star hotel with 423 rooms and suites in the centre of Bangkok, conveniently next to the Siam stop on the BTS allowing for quick access to many destinations. As a five star-hotel, you can expect high comfort and a wide range of services and facilities, including room service and a pool. Wi-Fi is available, which may come complimentary with the room or a separate fee applies. 3,500-12,000 baht.
- Tenface, 81 Ruam Ruedi Soi 2 (BTS Phloen Chit, then a hike through Ruam Ruedi Rd and take a left into Ruam Ruedi Soi 2), ☎ +66 2 695-4242, . A boutique hotel and serviced residence in Bangkok. The high-designed concept of Tenface is inspired by the 10-faced giant of the greatest epic Ramayana. 14,500 baht.
- True Urban Park, 3F, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 610-8888. 10:00-22:00 daily. Built by communication conglomerate TRUE at a cost of 30 million baht, this is not just an internet café, but a hip "lifestyle experience" that is also a flower shop and bookstore. It is complete with funky chairs, iPod listening stations, sonic bubbles hanging over your head and a live DJ playing. Try the iced café mocha. 50 baht/hr.
- UCC Cafe City 21, 1F, Siam Center, 989 Rama I Rd (BTS Siam), ☎ +66 2 658-1716, . 09:00-21:00 daily. Easily accessible at the ground floor of the Siam Center, this trendy and open café has free internet terminals available. On the menu are different varieties of coffee (including Japanese coffee) and deserts. Free.
- Pratunam is 600 metres north of Ratchaprasong intersection with plenty of shopping centres, malls and markets.
- The shopping spree also continues east, when Phloen Chit Road changes its name into Sukhumvit Road.
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