Bangkok by skytrain: Asok

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First published 31st May, 2014

Number E4 on the Sukhumvit Line, Asok station is the centrepiece of a vibrant area where Sukhumvit, Ratchadiphisek and Asok Montri roads converge. The city's coolest mall -- Terminal 21 -- opened in 2011 right next to Asok station and is a great place to watch a movie at the FX Cinema, grab a bite at any of dozens of Thai and international restaurants, or pick up funky clothes and jewellery crafted by local designers. Apart from Terminal, the Asok area is probably best known -- and notoriously so -- for the go-go bars and "massage" parlours of Soi Cowboy. This is also one of three BTS stations where you can transfer to the MRT subway.


If you need to catch the subway, head east out of Asok towards exit 3 and you can't miss the stairwell that leads directly to Sukhumvit MRT station. Walk down the stairs and turn to the left and you'll be in front of Pala Pizza Romana, a Rome-style eatery that churns out some of the best pizza and pasta in Bangkok. Walk to the right (east) to reach Asok Mantri Road, home to several large midrange and upscale hotels like the Hilton Grand Millenium. A short walk up the west side of Asok Mantri brings you to an unexpected cultural site in the Kamthieng House Museum. The Bangkok Boutique House and Rabbits 3 Karaoke are found further up this busy thoroughfare.

Across Asok Mantri Road are the seedy bars and neon lights of Soi Cowboy -- it's a narrow alley that's easily avoided if you want to steer clear. Just east of that is Sukhumvit Soi 23, which sees a rather annoying continuation of "massage" parlours and bars but is also home to two fantastic fine dining Thai restaurants, The Local and Baan Khanitha, as well as the elegant Le Dalat Vientamese restaurant. The Indian Embassy is also found on Soi 23.

Returning to the station, Terminal 21 is accessed directly through exits 1 and 3. Due west of this hip mall set to the theme of an airport is Sukhumvit Soi 19, marked by the imposing El Gaucho Argentinian Steak House at the eastern corner. Beyond that, Soi 19 features a handful of street vendors, midrange hotels, Japanese restaurants, dentist offices, a large Baptist church and the lively Sukhumvit Soi 19 Beer Garden. Back on Sukhumvit, the Westin Grand Hotel looms to the west of Soi 19, with a Robinson department store and Tops supermarket just beyond that.

On the south side of Sukhumvit, the exit at the end of the skywalk past exit 4 drops you at the east side of Ratchadaphisek Road. Head down this wide and often traffic-clogged avenue to reach Sukhumvit Soi 16, an upscale area that features several good dining options, including Kuppa and Avenue Grill. For something cheaper but still delicious, a street food restaurant serves outstanding northeastern Thai (Isaan) food on weekdays just south of these. Around 500 metres further down Ratchadaphisek brings you to the lovely Benjakiti Park and Queen Sirikit Convention Centre.

Back in the station, exit 4 drops you at the doorstep of one of Bangkok's best English pubs -- The Black Swan. If you've been spending too much time at the pub and are in need of a workout or (normal) massage, a couple of large fitness centres -- Aspire Club and Crossfit BK -- are right next to Urban Retreat Spa. Heading west from here on Sukhumvit, in the shadow of the BTS station, you'll find a string of long-running tailor shops and shoe makers clustered around Thong Kee, an old-style Chinese restaurant that's been serving roast duck, dim sum and chicken rice since 1872 and is a definite odd ball (in a good way) amid the otherwise shiny modern neighbourhood. A quick mosey further west brings you to Hundred Children, the perfect spot for a bubble tea break.

Continue west along Sukhumvit, or the skywalk past exit 2, and you'll reach the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit. Beyond that is Times Square, a small and rather depressing shopping mall that's noteworthy only because it's home to two of Bangkok's most popular Thai language schools -- Pro Language and Whalen. A cluster of late night eateries are found just west of Times Square, including the original 24-hour taco slingers at Sunrise, accessible and inexpensive Thai street food at Pantaree, and the kitsch but fun 1950s American style V8 Diner, where another 24-hour grill keeps a huge open-air seating area satisfied all night long. Behind the diner sits Insanity Nightclub, which explains some of that late night liveliness.


About the author:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.


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