Photo: Great northeastern eating near Victory Monument.

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Introduction

Much more than just a transport hub, the Victory Monument area bursts with bountiful 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, Victory Monument and related Northern Bangkok neighbourhoods are absolutely worth a visit if you’re keen 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, “yellow shirt” demonstrators camped out here for months until the military appeased them by ousting an elected 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 Northern 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 hipster bars. Further north stretches the grittier Saphan Khwai neighbourhood, 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 Northern Bangkok.

The Victory Monument traffic circle is also a major transport hub servicing the Sukhumvit Line of the BTS skytrain along with hundreds of city buses and regional minibuses that run to places like Ayutthaya, Hua Hin and Amphawa. Fleets of regular taxis, motorbike taxis and tuk tuks are also at your fingertips here. 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.


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