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Khao San Road’s top 11 drinking holes

Khao San Road's top 11 drinking holes

Long gone are the days when Khao San Road was just for hippie tourists in search of cheap ****tails. The founder of KhanSanRoad.com lists his favorite nightlife picks

Back in the late 1970s, Khao San Road emerged as Bangkok's top backpacker hangout, catering specifically to tourists in search of cheap places to stay close to the city’s big attractions.

Today, it’s a destination in its own right -- and not just for travelers. It's become a particular favorite among Bangkok’s partying youth.

The area’s diverse range of pubs and clubs not only rival those in places like Sukhumvit and Silom, Bangkok’s more recognized entertainment areas, but offer a vibe unmatched anywhere else. In no particular order, here are 11 of the top party places in the Khao San Road area.

11. The Club

An “Ibizan style” testimony to the power of club music and youth culture, The Club wouldn’t be out of place in either London or New York. With one big dance floor, tables in peripheral areas and an upstairs chill zone, The Club boasts an excellent JBL sound system and features homegrown DJ talent, DJs from around Asia and guest appearances from big name international DJs.

Unless there’s a big name playing (when an entrance fee of around 200-400 Baht is charged) The Club is usually free at the door. Beers cost 80-100 baht a glass and jugs of beer around 220 baht, with bottles of vodka in the 2,000 baht range.   

123 Khaosan Road. 
Tel: +66 (0)2 629 1010

 

10. Adhere the 13th

Ask people where Adhere the 13th is located and they will likely reply, “Do you mean the Blues Bar?” As the name suggests, this tiny little shop house on Samsen Road (about a 10-minute walk from Khao San Road) is where Bangkok's blues fans go.

Blues is not the only order of the day though, with other laid back styles of music on the menu. What’s striking about this place is just how important the music is. Visit the Blues Bar and you become part of an audience rather than just a customer.

Idle chitchat is kept to a minimum and people speak at a respectful volume so as not to disturb the musicians. Likewise, when warranted, the audience responds in kind to the power of the music on offer by getting up and dancing.

Even if you are not into the music, this place is well worth a visit just to experience its intimacy. A good range of drinks is available (beers in the 80-100 baht a bottle range) and the Thai food is pretty good. It is run by Ning and Pong, the latter a renowned guitarist in Thailand. 

13 Samsen Road, Banglumpoo. Tel: +66 (0)2 89 769 4613

9. Cafe Democ



If you regard yourself as a club aficionado, a visit to Cafe Democ is just as much an act of homage as a night out. Owned by Khun Tui, one of the pioneers of the Bangkok club scene, Cafe Democ is very much the spiritual home of Bangkok's clubbers. 

Opened in 1999, it is located right next to Democracy Monument (from which it gets its name) and is only a 10-minute walk from Khao San Road. It was here that many of Thailand’s big names cut their teeth as DJs.

Although Western DJs appear here more often than they used to, today the tradition lives on with Thailand’s rising stars hitting the turntables in much the same way they did when Cafe Democ first opened.

A predominantly Thai in-the-know crowd (mainly students from the local Thammasat University) laps up electro, mash-up, and drum 'n' bass on a nightly basis. A bit away from the action on Khao San Road, weekday numbers can be a bit thin, so if you are interested in going, best hit their website first to see when they are organizing a party. 

Food is served early evening before the music starts and drink prices are moderate for a club.

78 Ratchadamnoen, Banglamphu. Tel: +66 (0)2 622 2571


8. Mulligan’s Irish Bar

Officially part of Buddy Lodge Hotel, Mulligan’s is open 24/7, which allows them to offer promotional drinks from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. and happy hours that offer two-for-one deals between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Exquisitely furnished with big leather chairs and a wooden interior, life at Mulligan’s revolves around a big central bar that pumps out the usual Guinness and Kilkenny found at other Irish bars, as well as a range of beers such as Leffe that, in Thailand at least, border on the exotic.

A great menu has Western dishes alongside genuinely good Thai cuisine. This is the ultimate chill out zone -- a great place to spend time with friends and relax. 

The bar has daily U.K. newspapers and there are a couple of pool tables to seal the deal. Live bands kick off around 9:30 p.m. in the evening, and although mainly play covers, they usually play them well. 

Beers at promotional prices include Guinness and Kilkenny at 195 baht a pint and Tiger beer at 99 baht a pint. This is a great place to watch sporting fixtures from around the world that start at odd hours. No huge TVs, but lots of smaller ones dotted around the bar. 

265 Khao San Road. Tel: 
+66(2) 629 4477 


7. Brick Bar

An underground venue located behind the Buddy Lodge Hotel (but in the same complex), Brick Bar is the focal point for ska and reggae in Thailand. Bands like Teddy Ska regularly put on shows here, playing to a frantic 20-something crowd that’s 97 percent Thai and 150 percent committed to a good night out.

The bands are brilliant -- guitars and horns and really polished sounds. The kids in the audience dance in the aisles, on the stairs, on the tables -- it’s madness and it’s fantastic. In the time it took me to take a couple of photos, I was twice dragged into a circle of Thai boys and girls and invited to dance.

It really is the wildest scene on Khao San and it’s incredibly good natured. As it is part of the Buddy Lodge Group, the drinks and food menu is similar to that of Mulligan’s (above). You won’t understand the lyrics, but you will understand the passion of a crowd of people completely intent of enjoying themselves.

Like elsewhere on Khao San, usually there’s no entrance fee but when the big names are playing it can cost 200 baht plus to get in.

265 Khaosan Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 629 4556 


6. Club Culture

Formerly located in central Bangkok, Club Culture moved nearer to Khao San Road earlier this year. Run by Khun Tui, owner of Café Democ (above), this is one of Bangkok’s original clubs and has a full on commitment to offering the best local and international DJs.

Big names that have previously played at Club Culture (before it moved) include Sister Bliss/Faithless, John Orbital, Dubfire/Deepdish and Scratch Perverts. Club Culture is now housed in shop houses that have been converted to provide a pretty curious venue -- from outside it just looks like a regular house, but inside there are two floors offering cutting-edge house, techno, electro, disco, dub-techno ... and anything else they feel like throwing into the mix.

Not difficult to find, but not easy -- it’s just a step back from Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. If you are headed there for a night out best check their website for a map beforehand, or drop in at Cafe Democ and ask for directions.

A bottle of Singha beer will set you back 130 baht, ****tails 180 baht each (or 500 baht for a bucket), and bottles of spirits range from Ballentine’s at 1,000 baht a bottle to Johnnie Walker Black Label at 2,000 baht a bottle.

Again, as it’s off Khao San, weekday numbers can be low so stick to when they are running parties. Details of upcoming events are on their website.

Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. Tel: +66(0)89 497 8422

 
Khao San Road’s top 11 drinking holes

Long gone are the days when Khao San Road was just for hippie tourists in search of cheap ****tails. The founder of KhanSanRoad.com lists his favorite nightlife picks

5. Hippie De Bar


If you were thinking you might be able to crash out on a bean bag and listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd at Hippie De Bar, think again. There’s not that much ‘hippie’ about the place beyond the name.

Enter from Khao San Road and you come to a courtyard with a lot of plants and trees that give the place a cool, fresh feel. There are plenty of little tables where you can eat some good Thai food, but as the evening approaches, the mood turns more towards music. 

Usually there’s a DJ on hand, but sometimes they use the stage for fully fledged concerts by local bands that play a mixture of their own material, covers of Thai songs, and some curious and refreshing international music cover choices (Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," for one).

Again, we are talking about a predominately Thai audience here, but being directly on Khao San it brings in a good mix of people. Lively and entertaining, Hippie De Bar is a bit different to the usual faire offered on Khao San. As with other places in the area, usually entrance is free, but when there’s a band on there’s a 150 baht entrance fee with a free bucket of beer (which costs 150 baht anyway).

46 Khao San Road. 
+66 (0)2 820 3762

4. Gazebo Club Khao San Road and AB Bar

Gazebo is a large rooftop bar (open air but with shelter in case it rains) with a Middle Eastern theme located at the police station end of Khao San Road (turn left at Gulliver’s and look for someone wearing a Fez at the door).

A spacious place with cushioned benches and sofa-style seating, Gazebo comfortably holds a decent-sized crowd. It is in fact a bar, restaurant and club all in one. The rooftop area has a very laid back atmosphere. Here you can enjoy an excellent range of Thai and international cuisine and a good range of beers and spirits, as well as listen to one of three bands that play every evening.

For those inclined, Shisha pipes are available on every table adding both to the spirit of the theme and the laid back vibe. If things get too laid back, simply leave your table and step into Zed Nightclub -- a full on club featuring some of Bangkok's best DJs.

Throw in some pool tables and TV screens where you can watch sports, and you have the full package. Open every night until late, Gazebo usually picks up steam later in the evening and, depending on the day and what’s happening, there can be an entrance charge. Its sister venue AB Bar is located directly below Gazebo and offers live pop and rock music.

44 Roof Top, Jakrapong Road. Tel: +66 (0)2 629 0705

3. Gulliver's Traveler's Tavern

Gulliver’s is one of the originals, a place frequent visitors to Khao San Road may feel they were brought up. Located at the police station end of the street, Gulliver’s has a tuktuk floating above the entrance, offering visitors an immediate and enduring symbol of Khao San Road.

Originally designed to be an American-style bar, Gulliver's doesn’t look quite as dazzling as it used to but it still packs a punch and plays an important role in the Khao San Road experience.

A big air-conditioned bar offers a great range of food while a well stocked bar offers local and imported beers, ****tails and spirits. The jukebox offers Western music while DJs play the latest sounds until around 2 a.m.

A strong emphasis on sport here -- all the big football games are shown on big screens as well as the key features from a range of other sports. They also have pool tables.

Gulliver’s has built on its Khao San Road success and now has branches on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok and Pattaya. As a result, they have a standardized menu which offers a very wide range of Thai and international cuisine. Spaghetti comes in at around 170 baht and a plate of “Belgian Fries” costs around 90 baht. Stiff ****tails are 150-200 baht.

2/2 Khao San Road. +66(2) 629 5388


2. Streetside

Find a bank (or anywhere else for that matter), throw up a bar with flashing lights, put on some sounds, put out some plastic chairs, mix some very strong ****tails and there you have it -- Khao San Road's roadside bars.

What seem to be a permanent fixture on Khao San these days, these open-air drinking spots are a throwback to yesteryear, when the original Khao San Road travelers would just sit around and trade tales of places they came upon while enjoying a drink.

Excellent value of course -- very few overheads means savings are passed on to customers -- but be warned. If you venture into a restaurant or bar to use their toilets, you might incur the wrath of the staff.

That inconvenience aside, I defy anyone not to have a good night just sitting, chatting and people-watching till the wee hours. 

1. Rambuttri Road

Running parallel with Khao San Road, Rambuttri Road is a great destination for a bar crawl. It offers a number of pubs and eating places, but its big appeal is half a dozen places that have set up tables and chairs outside. 

Just sit yourself down, order something to eat and drink, and listen to some music. Usually a guitarist, usually nothing fancy (often the regular cover versions you always hear), but on a pleasant night there’s really nothing quite like it.

Places of note with outside facilities include Molly Malone, Suksabai and Green House, but there really are a lot of places available, big and small, so best take a wander and take a few in.

 



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