Bangkok's trendy Thong Lo
In the north of Thailand's capital city is
a collection of cool bars, boutiques and restaurants, plus a unique style of
minimalist design malls that attracts all the hipsters to Thong Lo, increasingly
becoming famed as one of Asia's hippest districts.
By Ron Gluckman / Bangkok, Thailand
THONG LO, along
a busy boulevard of the same name in northern Bangkok, used to be famed for car
dealerships and cheesy wedding showrooms.
Then boutiques, bistros and small
shopping plazas redressed the area in new Thai vogue. The embodiment is found in
minimalist malls like Playground! and H1, both
sporting expansive plazas that have become popular for cappuccinos, conversation and people watching.
The entire district, also called
Thonglor, is filled with fascinating shops that dot the tree-lined alleys, or
smaller Sois, in practically every direction, and new clubs continue to open
practically weekly here or in nearby Ekamai District.
Some of Bangkok’s flashiest restaurants are
congregated along leafy Thong Lo Soi 9, which dubbed “Gourmet Mile,” by Bangkok
101's Mason Florence.
Here's a short guide to some of the
Best of Thong Lo:
Red – 124 Sukhumvit Soi 53 (Thonglo
Soi 9) Tel: (66-2) 259-7590. Dinner for two: $70
Super Chef Gagan Anand’s eclectic Indian fusion dishes like flambéed
lobster masala and his aptly-named “Heaven on Earth” - daab chingri, salmon
and prawns in a rich coconut curry – have wowed the likes of Bill
Try scruptious and unique Italian-Indian innovations like fettuccine with
lamb kebob or a Risotto with slivers of morels simmering in aromatic Indian
Harveys – 129 Sukhumvit 55 (Thong Lo
Soi 9); Tel: 712-9933. Dinner for two: $120
Dark and elegant as a Men’s
Club, this two-story modernistic diner is among the Thai capital’s priciest,
and most popular. Wine runs to $12,000 a bottle; the expansive cellar is
cleverly displayed in a glass vault visible to diners. Specialties include ample
foie gras (since it’s Thailand, try the mango-sauce version) and Canadian
The Face – 29 Soi 38, Sukhimvit Road;
Tel: (66-2) 713-6048. Dinner for two: $60
Thong Lo lacked fine Thai
dining, until The Face debuted with two restaurants, bar and spa, all in tucked
into a set of traditional wooden pavilions. Specializing in spicy northern Thai cuisine, Lan
Na Thai offers starters like tender Pandan chicken wrapped juice-sealing leaves;
the sampler adds satay, spring rolls and sensational prawn cakes.
tourist-friendly menu denotes mild dishes like lemongrass and galangal-infused
seafood curry, in coconut shell. The Face complex includes Hazara, serving
Indian, a bar with opium-bed seating, and Visage spa, offering full treatments
or foot rubs between courses.
Uomasa – 87
Thonglor Soi 13; Tel (66-2)
392-6575. Dinner for two: $100
Clustered in a courtyard of
Japanese restaurants along Thong Lo’s Soi 13, Uomasa has
authentic décor, basic mat or table seating, and Bangkok’s deepest
Japanese menu. Everything from abalone to whale, with platters of shashimi and
lots of sake in between. Start with salted firefly squid, or the Nanbanzuke
To Die For – H1 Place, 998
Thong Lo; Tel (66-2) 381-4714
Stars swarmed To Die For when
fashion mogul Bhanu Inkawat and film director Nida Sudasna opened their upscale
diner, turning the outdoor courtyard behind into one of Bangkok’s best places
to chill, yet still savor the scene. Sundowners are exquisite from hand-crafted
beds on the wooden platform, sipping a Strawberry and Basil Martini.
Club Nove - 131 Sukhimvit Soi 53 (Thong
Lo, Soi 9); Tel: (66-2) 712-9991
Looking like something Andy
Warhol might have designed, this ice-blue bar behind Italian restaurant La Villa
sports translucent furniture and a display of constellations overhead, complete
with shooting stars. Great for a gelato or mojito, and boisterous
proprietor Roberto Ferrin eagerly offers suggestions on wine or nibbles.
Ice Bar – 58/21 Thong Lo; Tel: (66-2) 381-6844
For the party crowd, the
late-night thrill is to chill in this icy bar. Massive coolers send the mercury
diving, but live bands keep the energy high. Regular vodka promotions are held
in an even colder party room, sparkling with chandeliers and crystal shot
Sunny Rose – 916/2 Thong Lo;
Tel (662) 714-7990
Oprah Winfrey has an
ostrich feather-trimmed leather purse from Nigerian-born model and designer
Maureen Okogwu. Her Bangkok showroom displays dazzling collections of jewelry,
shoes and handbags, adorned with leather stitching, shells and precious stones.
Custom designs can be completed on site, usually within a week.
Geo – 998 Room 6, H1, Thong
Lo; Tel (662) 381-4324
An uber-hip version of the
classic haberdashery, Geo stocks everything from old garden tools and ceramic
jars to tin angels, wooden dogs and antique puppets. Be sure and see the
collection of framed bugs upstairs.
Playground! - 818 Thong Lo; (66-2)
This quirky three-story mall
offers trendy house ware, gadgets and local designer gear from Sunshine
Headquarter and Rabbit Habit. Plus one-of-a-kind Adidas and Nikes, Link Watches
(think Asian Swatch) and the best magazine racks in Southeast Asia.
of Retro – 522/3 Soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit 53, tel: (66-2) 714- 9657
This antique store with
beatnik coffee house and bar (live music jams on occasion), is also an
audiophile’s dream. Owner Anan Tatutlo reconditions classic Bang and Olufsen
gear, like rare 1960s portable reel-to-reel tape machine, or stereo amplifier
with tubes ($1,000 each). He scours Denmark for stereo equipment and vintage
Copenhagen furniture, perfect for retro hipsters.
Arts and Culture:
Pridi Banomyong Institute –
Thong Lo, by Soi 1; Tel: (66-2) 381-3860; www.pridiinstitute.com
Named for Thailand’s
famed democracy advocate of the 1930s, this cultural charity hosts art exhibits
twice monthly, plus screenings of classic films like the original “Mutiny on
the Bounty” and “Wizard of Oz” on the first weekend of every month; free.
There are also performances from touring chamber groups and dancing troupes at a
280-seat auditorium. Schedules are only in Thai on the web site, but check local
newspapers or the board outside for listings.
Ron Gluckman is an American reporter,
who has lived in and covered Asia since 1991, and based in
Bangkok since 2005. This piece ran in the Four Seasons Magazine in the Fall of 2007.
Playground, despite its design innovation, failed to find a
sufficient market and closed in 2008.
All pictures by Ron Gluckman
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