Sukhumvit (Thai: สุขุมวิท) is an exclusive district in Bangkok. It is home to fancy apartments, villas, restaurants, bars and clubs. Popular among foreign visitors and expats, it becomes more and more a Thai residential neighborhood as you follow the road southeast. Khlong Toey is also dealt with here, which, ironically enough, is one of the poorest neighborhoods of Bangkok.
Sukhumvit Road is not only one of the longest roads in Thailand, but one of the longest roads in the world. Towards the west end it changes name to Phloen Chit Road and Rama I Road as it enters the Siam Square area, but to the east it runs most of the way to the Cambodian border. The sois are numbered from west to east, with odd numbers north and even numbers south of Sukhumvit Road. The sois on the north and south sides of Sukhumvit don't line up; for example, Soi 33 is opposite Soi 24. Confusing is that these sois also have names of their own (for example, Soi 55 is better known as Soi Thong Lo) and these sois can also have sois of their own (such as Thong Lo Soi 1).
Looking at the high-rise apartment buildings, the Skytrain and the perennial traffic jam on Sukhumvit Road, it is hard to believe that this area used to consist of rice fields until World War II. After the war, this area became developed with large contemporary villas catering to the upper class. As property values kept rising, developers have been buying more and more land and cashed them in by constructing big apartment high-rises. The construction of the BTS Skytrain in 1999, covering most of Sukhumvit Road, has increased the popularity of this district even more.
The lowered-numbered sois (roughly between Soi 1 and 63) are a popular residential area for western expatriates and affluent Thais. It is densely packed with shopping centres, restaurants and hotels. The fleshpots of Nana Entertainment Plaza (in Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (between Soi 21 and 23) are also in this area, as are plenty of more (and less) salubrious bars. Also, the pavements of Sukhumvit itself has become a huge market carrying everything from luggage to fake Rolex watches, and after midnight they turn into pavement cafes and bars. Sukhumvit offers the best dining in Bangkok, from five-star dining to street stands, the variety of choices and tastes are almost overwhelming. Japanese nationals can be found in the area Soi 21 and upwards, but most tend to congregate around Soi 55. Indians have settled around Soi 12, while Arabs are grouped at Soi 3/1, which informally is known as Soi Arab. After Soi 63, Thais take over again, though this might change when the Skytrain extension is completed in late 2011.
South of Sukhumvit's sois lies Khlong Toey, which, if recognized at all, foreigners only know for the Khlong Toey Market. Khlong Toey is a borough, a market and a port, all named after the canal that flows through the area. It means "canal of pandan" as that plant used to grow along the southern bank of the canal. A large part of it was filled up to make way for Rama IV Road in 1947. South (and under) the Chalerm Maha Nakhon Expressway are the infamous Khlong Toey slums, generally unexplored by even the most adventurous travelers. At the banks of the Chao Phraya river is the Khlong Toey Port, which has a history dating back to the ninth century, when it connected Bangkok with the cities upstream the river. Since 1981, it has lost most of its economic relevance when the larger Laem Chabang Port near Pattaya took over business.
The BTS Sukhumvit Line runs, as the name suggests, entirely over Sukhumvit Road from west to east. Sukhumvit can directly be reached by Skytrain if you're coming from Siam Square or Phahonyothin. A ride from Mo Chit takes about 25 minutes to reach Asok station, while a ride from Siam station takes about 10 minutes. If you're coming from Silom, you'll need to take the Silom Line north and change onto the Sukhumvit Line at Siam station. It takes about 20 minutes for a ride from Saphan Taksin station to reach Asok station, including the transfer at Siam. Trains leave every five to ten minutes for a fare of about 15 to 40 baht.
The following BTS stations are currently present in Sukhumvit (from west to east): Nana, Asok, Phrom Phong, Thong Lo, Ekkamai, Phra Khanong and On Nut. Each station serves the neighborhood of the same name. Asok is the most convenient station as it is in the center of Sukhumvit and has a direct transfer with Bangkok's MRT metro system. In the following years, the Sukhumvit Line will extend even further south connecting other residential areas in the south of the city.
If you're coming from Silom or Ratchadaphisek, you can directly reach Sukhumvit by Bangkok's MRT metro system. The most convenient station is Sukhumvit, which is right in the middle of the district and with a possible transfer onto the BTS Sukhumvit Line. The other stations in the district are Khlong Toei and QSNCC. The metro ride from Silom takes about ten minutes, while the ride from Ratchadaphisek takes about 15 minutes. Trains leave every five to ten minutes for a fare of about 15 to 40 baht.
The Saen Saep Express Boat service is a rough, but entertaining way of getting in and around Sukhumvit. The Saen Saeb canal forms the northern boundary of Sukhumvit's sois and is a cheap alternative means of escaping the traffic jams if you're coming fromKhao San Road, the eastern side of Rattanakosin or Ramkhamhaeng.
There are two lines: The Golden Mount Line runs from Panfa Leelard near the Golden Mount in Rattanakosin east to Pratunamnear Ratchaprasong intersection. The NIDA Line runs from Pratunam all the way northeast along Ramkhamhaeng Road to Wat Sriboonreung. A single trip from Panfa Leelard to Nana Nua takes about 35 minutes and costs 13 baht. You must switch boats at Pratunam. Other stops along Sukhumvit's northern sois (from west to east) are Nana Chard, Asoke-Petchaburi, Prasanmit, Italthai, Wat Mai Chonglom, Baan Don Mosque, Soi Thonglor, Charn Issara andVijit School.
If you're coming from the Grand Palace area in Rattanakosin, there are two ways to get into Sukhumvit. The fastest way is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Sathorn (Taksin) pier in Silom. From there, continue your way north using the BTS Skytrain Silom Line. You'll need to switch trains at Siam BTS station and continue your way east onto the Sukhumvit Line. The whole ride from Rattanakosin takes about 40 minutes. You can also choose to take the 30-minutes walk (or a five minutes taxi ride) to Panfa Leelard pier and continue your journey using the Saen Saep Express Boat.
This first tip on bus travel is one to remember: do not do it! Sukhumvit Road is probably the most congested road of Bangkok and traffic jams exist the whole day till late in the evening. Also, it is really hard to find out which bus goes where or where to get out. Better take the Skytrain, metro or express boat, even if it costs a little more.
If you insist, there are a gazillion bus lines going through the Sukhumvit area. The most important one is ordinary and air-conditioned bus 25, which starts far southeast of Sukhumvit Road. From there, it goes all the way northwest along Sukhumvit Road and then rides over Ratchadamri Road and Rama IV Road to Silom. It then continues its way to Hualamphong Train Station, through either Charoen Krung Road or Yaowarat Road (depending on direction) and finally on to Tha Chang in Rattanakosin (for the Grand Palace).
From the new Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can take bus AE3 for 150 baht to Sukhumvit. It runs up the Bang Na-Trat Expressway and along Sukhumvit all the way up to Siam Square. It then loops back around to Nana and then back out to the airport. Another option is bus 552, which heads on to On Nut, where you can continue your way with the Skytrain. There are many stops and depending on traffic the ride can take from 1 to 2 hours.