Oct 23 2012

Review: Shades of Retro, Bangkok

Published by at 6:20 am under Bars & nightlife


In Bangkok, furniture and tat stores seem to go hand in hand with cool drinking venues. The city is full of them, and Shades of Retro is one of the coolest.

Hard at work.

Hard at work.

While the location is always advertised as being on Thong Lo Soi 18, those in the know will know it’s actually a little further down past the police station — turn down the tiny soi Bottom’s Up bar sits on the corner of. As you wander down the dimly lit soi, you may wonder how anybody ever stumbled across this joint in the first place, but on DJ nights it becomes clear: the music pumps out incredibly loudly and the clientele are the cool kids of the city who like to spread the word about their favourite haunts.

The first thing you’ll notice about this bar is that every surface is piled high with vintage and quirky gubbins; sunglasses, maracas, fixed gear bikes, T-shirts, LPs, vespas, banjos, an organ and other assorted clutter. Apparently it’s all for sale, as the bar’s other business is to sell this odd collection of seemingly random crap.

The second thing you’ll notice is the high prices of a bar that may not appear to be high end. Cocktails are tasty but extremely heavy on the ice, and will set you back 220 baht. The passionfruit julep, watermelon mojito and sweet basil sour are some favourites. Thinking of making your cash go further by opting for a beer? Well, at 140 baht a bottle, your wallet will be hit hard if you opt for Chang, Singha, Asahi or Tiger, too.

The city’s most expensive ice.

But, it’s not all weird objet d’art and overpriced, over-iced drinks. Shades of Retro has some real appeal; especially with the turned-up jeans and coloured loafer hipster crowd. Its DJ nights pack out the bar as some of the city’s vinyl enthusiasts spin some unusual mixes, such as Punjabi versions of classic rock hits and some instantly catchy tracks you’d most likely never heard of until stepping foot inside Shades.

As another quirky detail, the bar offers popcorn snacks to all its patrons and sells jamon Serrano, too. Well, why not?

The venue also offers a large variety of seating and standing areas for such a small place. There’s an upstairs and downstairs terrace and plenty of seating and standing room inside, too. It’s a sociable bar, so don’t expect to grab the sofa and not be mobbed by other people perching their bottoms next to you, and starting up conversation about where you locked up your fixie (the street outside is often packed with the bicycles of the regulars) or where you buy your records from.

Looking for other hipster bars? Skytrain Jazz Club should be on your shortlist as well.

Shades of Retro
Soi Thara Rom 2, between Thong Lo soi 16 & 18, Bangkok

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