Jan 21, 2017 | By Sarah Housley
It takes time to understand the truth and essence of Bangkok cool. On day 1 of the trip you are mesmerised by the grandeur of the Grand Palace, the towering golden temples and jade-covered Buddhists. On day 2 you can be equally impressed by the many cool-toned, minimalist cafes – the exact opposite of the Thai opulence – that’s currently favoured in the Japanese-influenced Thonglor or Ekkamai neighourhoods.
The second trip to Bangkok, I decided to revisit the China Town area to learn more about the indie art and music scene there, and also out of a personal interest to see what China Towns are all like outside China. Centred around Soi Na Na, shophouses, bars and cafes have now taken over what was used to be a drug store-filled alleyway. A new nightlife destination has emerged that is frequented by hip tourists, stylish locals and travelling artists taking their time to absorb and create. It’s not yet the SoHo of Bangkok as other areas such as Sathorn, Sukumvit or Silom, but somehow it’s the exact underground, shabby chic, hidden-gem vibe that Soi Na Na has to offer for sassy drinkers and art lovers. Here are our picks of the alleyway cool hunting.
17 Soi Na Na, Pom Prap Sattru Phai
Behind the time-tested wooden doors is the collaborative, cross-disciplinary project space. It’s also a key Soi Na Na Craft + Jumble Trail participant showcasing local arts and crafts.
92 Soi Na Na, Charoen Krung Road
The vibe inside is as inviting as it’s outside. The Chinese lanterns and mantra paintings cast a mysterious spell at the dive bar. One floor up is the gallery space for local artists.
69 – 71 Soi Na Na, Mitrijit Road
Nestled behind the rustic façade of old residential houses, Tep Bar features Thai musicians playing traditional instruments against a backdrop of bare concrete and low ceiling. Equally refreshing are its home-infused ya dong (Thai herbal whiskey) or cocktails mixed with Thai fruits, herbs and spices.
215 Soi Na Na, Pom Prap Sattru Phai
Towards the end of Soi Na Na stands a warm and charming womenswear boutique that feels out of the place. The shop stocks 1950s or 1960s vintage dresses, and mix match them with on-trend Thai designs veered towards bright prints and colours.
221 Soi Na Na, Pom Prap Sattru Phai
The place to sit, chill and smash some Spanish staples over live music in the charming, retro tapas bar. It also hosts art exhibition occasionally.
Justin Mills Studio
Right behind the 23 Bar & Gallery
A resident of Soi Na Na, British artist Justin Mills has been calling Bangkok home since 1996. Having lived harmoniously with villagers and witnessed the transformation of the neighbourhood, his painting capture the perpetual change, heat and mystery that define the city.
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