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Along with upwards of 1,500 shops and restaurants, Asiatique night bazaar boasts Thailand’s longest riverfront boardwalk, which stretches 300 metres and makes for some glitzy photo-ops among the evening sparkle of the river. Opened in 2012, the trendy night market filled a big hole left by the closure of Suan Lum night bazaar in 2011 while far surpassing it in both quality and scope. It even boasts Thailand's tallest ferris wheel.
Asiatique occupies the area of the city’s first international trading port, initially opened in the early 1900s by King Rama V with help from the Danish, and thematically the bazaar tips its hat to Bangkok’s early 20th century industrial period. It may sound painfully trendy at first, but the name “Asiatique” is a rather clever play on words honouring the old Danish “Asiatic” freight company, which helped construct the port in the old days.
Some of Asiatique’s shops are situated in renovated old sawmills and there are, for example, some fake antique train cars, anchors, and push carts lying around. Even so, the overall design and feel of the bazaar is both flash and contemporary; it’s far more of a modern boutique mall than historical museum.
Well-dressed cosmopolitan types meander the bazaar’s four shopping and dining zones as cool modern jazz sets the mood. Later in the evenings, and especially on weekends, hip live bands and DJs liven things up, and the bazaar holds small music festivals on holidays, complete with elaborate fireworks over the river.
Also on the entertainment side of things, the famed Joe Louis Shadow Puppet Theatre and Calypso Cabaret both now perform at a theatre on the Asiatique grounds. These two extremely popular and long-running shows secure a place for Asiatique on many a Bangkok tourist’s itinerary.
The bazaar hosts a diverse range of shops and stalls offering everything from expensive (and real) name-brand sunglasses to cheap fake ones, chic designer clothing boutiques to simple racks of 100 baht wears, and hand-made traditional Thai mask galleries to standard T-shirt and souvenir shops. With its upmarket first impression, we found the fact that Asiatique caters to all budgets both in shopping and dining a pleasant surprise.
Suan Lum had mainly been aimed at the tourist, and while Asiatique is equally accessible to tourists and has most of the same products, it also caters heavily to the style-conscious local. Most shops are locally owned small businesses, but a few big names have jumped on board as well — for example, an iStudio Apple shop is found smack in the middle of the bazaar.
Asiatique’s food scene is similarly diverse. A handful of flash air-con restaurants and wine bars close to the boardwalk cater to the upmarket folk while a central food court hosts moderately priced sit-down Asian restaurants, along with coffee and dessert shops in a lively open-air setting towards the centre of the bazaar.
Further back the usual corporate suspects — MK, KFC, Pizza Company — run large air-con establishments, and near Charoen Krung Road there’s a smattering of good old-fashioned street stalls offering finger foods like northeast Thai sausages and hoy tort fried oysters for 30 baht.
We had our doubts about Asiatique before visiting, but we must admit it far and away surpasses the old Suan Lum bazaar while still coming in a highly accessible, tourist-friendly package. While not exactly offbeat, it makes for a fun evening of shopping, dining, entertainment and enjoying the river lights along the boardwalk. Asiatique has swiftly become Bangkok’s premier night bazaar for tourists, as well as a go-to hang out spot for trendy locals. Overall, it’s a bazaar well done.
How to get there
Asiatique is located a couple of kilometres south of Saphan Taksin BTS station in the vicinity of Charoen Krung Soi 74. The easiest way to reach it on quieter nights is by a free boat shuttle that leaves every 20 minutes from Sathorn pier, next to Saphan Taksin BTS station, which can also bring you back free of charge. However the queue for the free shuttle is often extremely long, in which case a taxi can get you there from Saphan Taksin BTS for just around 60 baht.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 16th May, 2014.