Bangkok might be known as a capital that never sleeps – where a million and one different things are always happening in various corners of the city – but increasingly tight enforcement by authorities over recent years can make it seem like Bangkokians are going to bed earlier and earlier.
There’s still plenty to see and do in the Thai capital in the wee hours, though, even away from the city’s notorious bars and clubs. Whether you’re fighting jet lag on arrival or you’re simply nocturnal by nature, here are some ideas for keeping yourself occupied when everyone else seems to be snoozing.
Who said creatures of the night had to be fuelled only by booze? Bangkok has its fair share of all-night coffee shops where you can give yourself the extra buzz you need to stay awake and alert.
Just opposite Chamchuri Square shopping centre and Sam Yan MRT subway station, Too Fast To Sleep is hugely popular during daytime hours with students from nearby Chulalongkorn University – but it’s open 24/7, and its library-style layout makes it the perfect place to either cram last-minute work or study (there’s free Wi-Fi), or simply relax with a coffee and a book from their extensive selection.
In Silom, Silom Society (formerly Coffee Society) is a popular multi-storey spot for the post-clubbing crowd from the nearby gay venues to enjoy some non-alcoholic down time after a night of dancing. Day or night, it’s also a great vantage point for people-watching, and the laptop-friendly setup and free Wi-Fi make it convenient for catching up on work or simply planning the next step of your travels.
Alternatively, for somewhere you can go for a late-night coffee – or something stronger – and then simply fall into bed if you’ve run out of energy to make the journey home, Glur might be the answer. Located walking distance from Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain station and the adjoining Sathorn river boat pier, Glur is one of our picks among Bangkok’s trendiest hostels. It also packs in a tiny café-bar on the ground floor, plus a few seats on cute astroturf in the quiet street outside. Best of all, it’s another spot where you can grab a caffeine fix and spend some time, either alone or with friends, 24 hours a day.
Bangkok has a well-earned reputation for its plethora of night markets, and plenty of them stay open until the wee hours. Though some stalls will begin to close up earlier, the most hardcore retailers at popular night markets like Talat Rot Fai are open until at least 1am – and when you’re done with your shopping, pull up a pew at one of the market’s many bars, and you can be here even later.
Aside from Talat Rot Fai’s two biggest locations on Srinakarin Road and in the Ratchada area, Siam Gypsy Junction is another option worth checking out. It takes more effort to reach (though it’s now easier than ever thanks to the launch of the MRT subway purple line, which goes right to Bang Son station beside the market), but it’s home to a plethora of genuinely vintage and one-of-a-kind items. At weekends, it also boasts a lively, local-feeling drinking scene that gets going late and keeps on until the wee hours.
You’re in Bangkok, so eating should be the first thing you think of doing! Plenty of capitals claim to be cities that never sleep – while the same might well be true of Bangkok, what’s certain is that the Thai capital is a city that never stops eating. Morning, noon or late night – step outside and you’ll be sure to find any number of vendors touting Thai street food staples like stir-fries, soups, curries, salads and skewered meats.
While the long-loved and late-closing Sukhumvit Soi 38 street food sanctuary has now shut up shop for the last time (though note that some of the original vendors are still in the area, albeit in different spots), there remain alternatives for those looking to satisfy midnight cravings. In Bangkok’s old town, Jay Fai is a legendary street kitchen run by a matriarch who wields her wok with pride, insists on top-quality ingredients – and accordingly charges prices that are eye-watering to those used to cheap street eats. The pad kee mao drunken noodles are the most renowned dish here, but the likes of the omelette stuffed with heaps of fresh crab meat also have their legions of fans.
Elsewhere, the Malai Coffee House inside Sathorn’s long-standing Malaysia Hotel serves a wide-ranging, around-the-clock menu of Thai, Chinese and international dishes to revellers rolling in from nearby Wong’s dive bar and elsewhere. And Thonglor’s 55 Pochana is a legendary rice soup joint that accommodates the post-clubbing crowd with a range of well-executed Thai-Chinese dishes – even if you’ve not been out on the town, it’s a great spot to tuck into an after-midnight feast that will keep you going until breakfast and beyond.
Too Fast To Sleep; open 24 hours; 762 Rama 4 Road (MRT Sam Yan); www.facebook.com/toofasttosleep
Silom Society; open 24 hours; 12/3 Silom Road (BTS Sala Daeng/MRT Silom)
Glur; open 24 hours; 45 Charoenkrung Soi 50 (BTS Saphan Taksin/Sathorn river boat pier) www.glurbangkok.com
Talat Rot Fai; Thursday-Sunday, 5pm-1am (all three locations); Srinakarin Road Soi 51 (BTS Udomsuk); Ratchadaphisek Road, behind Esplanade Cineplex (MRT Thailand Cultural Centre); Kaset-Nawamin Road; www.facebook.com/taradrodfi
Siam Gypsy Junction; Wednesday-Sunday, 6pm-1am; Krungthep-Nonthaburi Road (MRT Bang Son)
Jay Fai; Monday to Saturday, 3pm-2am; 327 Mahachai Road
Malai Coffee House, Malaysia Hotel; open 24 hours; 54 Soi Ngamduplee (MRT Lumphini); www.malaysiahotelbkk.com
55 Pochana; daily, 6.30pm-4am; 1089 Sukhumvit Road Soi 55 (BTS Thonglor)
What are your tips for whiling away the small hours in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by Nik Cyclist; Glur Hostel & Coffee Bar; Chris Wotton; Krista