Sukhumvit Soi 11, just past Zanzibar on subsoi on the left
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It’s late. You’ve been pounding the streets of Bangkok all day and you need a drink or six. You turn out your pockets and find a measly 500 baht. Never fear; this is Bangkok. Cheap drinks can be had. If you’re looking for a little more atmosphere than chugging bottles of Chang outside 7-eleven will provide, head to Cheap Charlie’s, where beers come at rock bottom prices and the atmosphere buzzes all week long.
This outdoor bar, tucked along a sides treet off Sukhumvit Soi 11, is a perennial favourite with budget boozers, thanks to its 70 baht beers and 100 baht spirits. It’s tiny, the seating – and standing – is limited, and the decor leaves something to be desired, but there’s no denying a certain charm. Though that might be the beers talking.
Aside from the prices, the best known feature of Cheap Charlie's, if not the best loved feature, is its toilet,a small wooden unisex shack behind the bar with, in turns, some of the most inspiring and depressing toilet door wisdom in the city. A very large sign on the bar states that this delightful space is not to be used for such horrors as number twos. We’re not sure what the consequences of disobeying the rules are.
Another rule that must be strictly adhered to is staying within the bar’s perimeters. Though Cheap Charlie’s may look as though it’s a street bar where you can loiter around anywhere you please, this is incorrect. In fact, you must stand or sit within the area market by a chain which runs along the floor. It can get tricky on busy weekend evenings. But never fear, if you forget, you’ll soon be sharply reminded by a helpful member of staff.
But it’s not all rules and abrupt staff. Cheap Charlie’s is nothing if not full of character, which a bar area packed full of skulls, trains running along tracks, wasps’ nests, retro toys and peculiar signs makes evident. You could gaze behind the bar area for a whole evening and still not have the time to take in all the knick-knacks on display.
After a heavy evening’s drinking, soak up that alcohol with a hefty dose of carbs. You’ll likely still have enough change to sample some more of Nana’s budget delights, so take yourself a few streets up the road to Sukhumvit Soi 3 and 3/1, where Arabic food from Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon can be found in abundance. Pop inside for a cheap slap-up meal and a shisha or, if you’re really counting the baht, grab a greasy kebab from the vendor next door to Nefertiti Egyptian Restaurant, which gets the thumbs up from the Middle Eastern crowd in Bangkok. We can’t think of a better way to round off a budget bender.
After more dive bars in Bangkok? You could finish the night at Wong’s, another storied city bar.
By Gaby Doman
Last updated on 26th January, 2015.