Bursts with energy
The Victory Monument area bursts with street food, youthful locals and infectious energy. While it’s not the place for those wanting to stick close to the big tourist attractions and travel offices, the vicinity of the monument and related North Bangkok neighbourhoods are absolutely worth a visit to check out the city’s working-class side.
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Within striking distance of a couple of universities and hosting several hospitals and office buildings, the area is a great place to sit back and watch regular Bangkokians go about their lives. Street markets and mini shopping centres stretch in multiple directions and are stacked with cheap clothes and tasty bites. Venture down Rangnam Road and other side streets to find funky pubs where Thai hipsters, expats and the odd traveller unwind after a steamy day.
The name Victory Monument, or Anusawaree Chaisamoraphum in Thai, is used for a specific monument as well as the surrounding traffic circle, BTS skytrain station and neighbourhood in general. A tenuous symbol of Thai national unity and pride, the actual obelisk-shaped monument was built in the 1940s to honour 646 Thais who died in the 1940-41 Franco-Thai War. Statues representing the Thai armed forces, police and civil society surround the monument.
While the monument towers straight up into the air, its creators leaned heavily towards a Thai nationalist and militaristic mindset. In recent years it has become a flashpoint for political demonstrations: In 2014, demonstrators camped out here for months until the military ousted the Yingluck Shinawatra government in yet another coup. Pro-democracy activists responded in the aftermath by briefly occupying the roads that encircle the monument to protest the military takeover.
Our Victory Monument coverage delves into several other North Bangkok neighbourhoods that can also be a lot of fun to explore, especially if you’re a food enthusiast. Two stops north up the skytrain line takes you to Ari, a more upscale area defined by sleek cafes and bars. Further north stretches the grittier Saphan Khwai hood, which is one stop south of the famous Chatuchak weekend market and Or Tor Kor gourmet food market.
Head east into Huai Khwang to find a vibrant slice of working-class Bangkok that very few travellers ever see. Take the MRT subway south for a couple of stops from here and you’ll come to RCA, one of Bangkok’s more happening nightlife strips. Travellers who are looking to practice their Thai while being immersed in ordinary yet fascinating Thai neighbourhoods could easily spend weeks -- or lifetimes -- exploring North and Northeast Bangkok.
The Victory Monument traffic circle remains a hub of city buses, but in 2016 the minibuses to other provinces that used to clog up the area were all relocated to Bangkok’s three main bus terminals. Fleets of regular taxis, motorbike taxis and tuk tuks are still at your fingertips. With Siam Square located just three skytrain stops to the south and the Khao San Road area reachable after a three-kilometre bus ride to the west, Victory Monument makes a stellar base for exploring the city.