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Bright lights and flashy style define Sukhumvit, one of Thailand’s best-known roads. Extending from this major thoroughfare like the legs of a centipede, a multitude of sois (side streets) host budget hostels, five-star hotels, cramped street markets, lavish malls, seedy pubs, exclusive nightclubs, expat enclaves and a list of restaurants so eclectic that you might forget which country you’re in. Love it or hate it, Sukhumvit has loads to offer.
Sukhumvit Road begins just east of Siam Square and pierces the southeast side of Bangkok before continuing all the way down to Pattaya and beyond. The gnarly traffic can be bypassed by way of the Sukhumvit line of the BTS Skytrain, which cruises directly above Sukhumvit Road for some 15 kilometres -- or from Soi 1 to Soi 105, to use Sukhumvit lingo. A rural area until the mid 20th century, today Sukhumvit has countless old shophouses slumping in the shadows of modern high-rises.
Excellent accommodation can be found in both the old and new buildings, including a huge selection of midrange to upscale hotels. Many terrific hostels also dot the area, though budget travellers will have trouble finding a decent private room for less than 1,000 baht a night.
Drawing torrents of tourists and home to thousands of expats, Sukhumvit attracts its share of pickpockets, con artists, crooked cops and scamming taxi drivers. Keep your guard up, especially in the late-night hours. Along with a relatively close proximity to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Sukhumvit's public transport connections make it a convenient area to stay in; just keep in mind that Khao San Road and the Ko Rattanakosin historic district will be a solid hour's trip away, no matter how you choose to go.
Sukhumvit is also home to the red lights of Nana Plaza (on Soi 4 near Nana BTS) and Soi Cowboy (off Asoke-Montri Road near Asok BTS), both of which are enchanting to some and repulsive to others. Beyond these notorious strips of “beer bars” where men "relax" with mostly female Thai "friends," many “massage parlours” dot Sukhumvit’s other sois all the way from Nana to Thong Lor. Families will want to avoid some of these streets, though staying at a hotel with easy access to the Skytrain would be fine.
Beginning amid Phloen Chit’s glossy malls and embassies, Lower Sukhumvit takes on a Middle Eastern persona at Soi 3, also known as Soi Arab. A short walk east from here takes you to a mix of Indian restaurants, streetside bars, makeshift markets, trendy nightclubs and a good mix of accommodation around Soi 11, which can be a lot of fun after dark.
Next comes the ultra-modern Asoke area anchored by Terminal 21, our favourite of Bangkok’s many malls. You’ll also find stream-lined hostels, luxury hotels, countless dining options and an interchange between the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway. Walk north up Asoke-Montri Road to catch the San Saeb canal boats for a ride east to Bang Kapi or west to Pratunam.
Home to large communities of Japanese expats and hi-so Thais, the Phrom Phong and Thong Lor neighbourhoods offer more eating, shopping and clubbing options. Things get less touristy and more "typically Bangkok," if there is such a thing, as you head further east into Ekkamai, Phra Khanong and On Nut, which have experienced an artistic surge in recent years.
By David Luekens. Last updated on 5th March, 2016.