Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
Updated on 12th August, 2013. First published 27th October, 2005
Number E5 on the Sukhumvit line, Phrom Phong is in the heart of an area known as 'Farang Alley' to some. Countless Western-oriented restaurants, pubs, shops and hotels are found here, and the area's large Japanese community is evidenced by dozens of hole-in-the-wall eateries serving sushi, ramen and katsu don. While it won't satisfy those seeking a 'local' Thai-style Bangkok neighbourhood, this is a lively area area notable for great English-language book shops, English- and Irish-style pubs and a very eclectic mix of outstanding food.
Directly under Phrom Phong station runs Sukhumvit Road, which has several small sois running off of both sides along its length. While some of the sois around Phrom Phong have a definite seedy element, the massage parlours and 'gentleman's clubs' often rub shoulders with classy restaurants and upscale shops.
From inside the station, exit 2 shoots directly into Emporium, an enormous mall that leans towards high-end designer wears -- think Louis Vuitton and Prada. On the 4th floor, Books Kinokuniya is one of the better bookshops in Bangkok. While not as big as the main Kinokuniya store in Siam Paragon, this branch offers a solid selection of new books. On the third floor lies the original Greyhound Cafe and the Emporium Department Store, which has everything from expensive perfume to the latest kids toys. The entire fifth floor is a mass of restaurants, delis, coffee shops, fast food outlets and even a supermarket. The next and highest floor boasts one of Bangkok's better cinema complexes.
If you skip Emporium and stroll along the elevated walkway to exit 6, you'll emerge at the gates of Benchasiri Park, a pleasant little oasis amid Sukhumvit's notorious traffic. The best time to come is late afternoon and early evening when you can join in on the group aerobics, tai-chi, basketball or lazy lounging on grassy lawns. Make sure to check out the teams playing the incredibly acrobatic game of takraw, a kind of cross between volleyball and football.
Continue west past Benchasiri to reach Soi 22, marked by a bus stop, a gang of orange-vested motorbike taxi drivers and a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Cafe at the corner. Although it's not for everyone, this is a lively soi with Indian, Japanese, French and Thai restaurants to go with massage parlours and several watering holes catering to Western expats. A standout place to eat is Govinda for its specialty Italian vegetarian dishes. With a cluster of open-air bars that sport names like Crazy Girl and Monkey, the Queen's Park Plaza is an especially raucous nightlife spot where long-term tourists, mainly middle-age and older men, come to tie one on in the evenings. If this area is your cup of tea, Citrus Sukhumvit 22 offers quality rooms with good value online rates.
Soi 20 is a lower key street with several high-end serviced apartment buildings, hotels and an international school. Notable food options here include Mexican cuisine at hole-in-the-wall Senor Pico, a solid wine selection at local chain Wine Connection, outstanding vegetarian Indian cuisine at Saras, "innovative Japanese with Californian influence" on the leafy terrace at Koi Restaurant, and Otto, an authentic German deli and restaurant. As ever in Bangkok, a handful of cheap Thai-Chinese restaurants are peppered into the mix.
Back in Phrom Phong station, exit 4 leads down to a footpath where a small group of street carts offer the usual goodies -- grilled Isaan sausage, pork-on-a-stick, fresh coffee, fruit and roti. A hole-in-the-wall curry-and-rice shop is a good choice for a spicy and cheap Thai lunch. On either side of that is 24 Inn, a midrange serviced apartment-style hotel, and Tea Etc, a modern air-con cafe that churns out milky Thai-style iced tea. Directly next to the station, Soi 24 stretches south and is home to the perennial Thai food favourite, Lemongrass, as well as Book, a great little used book store where it can feel like rummaging through an avid reader's attic.
Head east on Sukhumvit from exit 3 and you'll reach quiet Soi 26, which touts the exceptionally tasty Indian cuisine of Indus, and Bo.lan, a renowned (and expensive) Thai restaurant focusing on traditional recipes prepared from the finest ingredients from around the kingdom. Skip past Soi 26 to find Dasa Book Cafe, probably Bangkok's best Englis- language used book shop. Beyond that is Soi 30, worth mentioning specifically for the great value rooms at Hotel California.
On the other side of Sukhumvit Road, head east out of exit 3 and check out Soi 39 to choose from a series of international restaurants. If it weren't for Chacrit Muay Thai School, you'd forget you're in Thailand; Gold Curry Japanese-style curry house, Wil's Hawaii Cafe, Sustaina Vegetarian Cafe, Romana Italian-Spanish Restaurant, and Vanilla Cafe are among the food offerings here. Soi 39 is also home to Bodytune, a reputable Bangkok spa group with a few branches focusing on massage with a holistic aim.
Head north into Soi 39 for house-made pasta at one of Bangkok's original Italian restaurants: L'Opera. Sois 41, 43 and 45 are mainly upscale residential areas catering to the Japanese and Korean communities, but Swiss Choice Cheese Shop on Soi 43 is worth mentioning if you've a cheese craving that needs quenching. Tiny Soi 45 is home to Quince, an outstanding Mediterranean restaurant and cocktail bar known for thoughtful presentations and quality local ingredients. Just past that is the very classy Cabochan Hotel. The main draws on quiet Soi 49 are Demi Taiwanese Vegetarian Restaurant and upscale Thai on Laithai Restaurant's garden patio.
Heading back west on Sukhumvit Road out of exits 3 and 5 from Phrom Phong station, things get livelier still. Just past a massive construction project that, at time of writing, is piecing together a massive hotel, a handful of fresh flower and prepared food vendors set up near Cha by the Park, a cute little tea room with views across to Benchasiri. Next comes Soi 33/1, home to several Japanese restaurants, including Tan Tan Men, and three popular pubs: the Irish-run Dubliner, the Robin Hood and the Royal Oak (formerly the Bull's Head). This immediate vicinity is also home to the Londoner Brewpub, the only place in Bangkok that offers house-brewed English-style ales.
A bit further west on Sukhumvit lies Villa Market, a well-stocked supermarket chain that specialises in pricey Western imported goodies, including one of Bangkok's best selections of wine. Beyond that is Soi 33, a lively little street with several bars that tend to draw Bangkok's more upscale expats. Of these, the most noteworthy is The Office for its extensive selection of sports on big screen TVs, and the new Black Jazz Club. Some bars on Soi 33 are of the naughty variety; though the overall scene is not raunchy like Soi Cowboy, families might want to steer clear.
Back on Sukhumvit, you might be drawn into Chocolaterie, a swish Belgian chocolate shop and cafe. A bit further lies Soi 31, a much tamer street than Soi 33, boasting some of the Phrom Phong area's finest international restaurants. If you've a pizza or pasta craving, Bella Napoli serves some of the best Italian in Bangkok. If French-style seafood sounds good, go for the Fat Fish Bistro. Feel more like Indian? Himali Cha Cha is a 30-plus year-old restaurant with a similarly great reputation. Across from that, Cafe des Arts offers a funky French-influenced atmosphere that's perfect for chilling with a coffee or cocktail. If you're looking to stay close to all this great international food, The Eugenia and Seven are fine hotel choices.
Related readingBangkok by skytrain: Ari
Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
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