BANGKOK is a sprawling metropolis known for its ornate shrines and vibrant street life.
Situated in the Chao Phraya River delta region of central Thailand, the capital city has population of around 14 million and exerts a significant impact among the country’s politics, economy, education, media and modern society.
Bangkok is also among the world’s top tourist destinations, having been named World’s Best City for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure magazine.
The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds the Thai capital city’s network of canals, which flows past the Rattanakosin royal district — home to the Grand Palace and revered Emerald Buddha temple. Nearby is the Wat Pho temple with its enormous reclining Buddha and on the opposite shore lies Wat Arun with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire. These landmarks are somewhat in contrast with other attractions, such as the nightlife districts if Khaosan Rd, Patpong, and of course, Silom — the city’s gay-centric neighbourhood.
Nonetheless, Silom Soi 4, “the gay Soi”, is a must do for your first nocturnal gay adventure.
This small and somewhat infamous Bangkok lane has developed greatly over the years, from one or two gay bars to becoming one of the best gay night spots in the city. Filled with locals, tourists and expats, Silom Soi 4 now has a host of friendly bars and dance clubs, a variety of places to eat, karaoke bars and even a bear’s bar (Bearbie, the first bear and chubby lounge bar in Bangkok).
Most of the drinking and eating action is done at tables outside each of the small bars, where the south-east Asian heat, loud music, gaudy lighting, chatter of international voices, odd spontaneous drag shows and smiling Thai waiters ensure you will have a fabulous time. Don’t worry about being alone, you won’t be for long. This is not a place to come looking for peace and quiet or solitude. The boys outside the bars will become your long lost friends in a matter of minutes and will perform a type of ritual mock-battle to get you to choose their bar and not the one next door or opposite.
The two most famous bars sit snuggly opposite each other, about half way down Silom Soi 4. The older, more famous Telephone Pub and restaurant is an iconic gay watering hole. The telephones at the bar and tables have sadly disappeared in a world of iPhones and texting but the atmosphere is fun, with mostly international and mature men. Although most people sit outside, there is an air conditioned bar inside and a very good, inexpensive, casual restaurant upstairs serving a wide selection of Thai and international food.
The Balcony Bar is almost a mirror image of the Telephone Pub with a slightly younger clientele and is always busy. The bar boys, with their brightly coloured shirts are keen to make you very welcome. Both bars have a happy hour and encourage flirtations across the lane.
The Sphinx restaurant, a little further up the lane, is another gay landmark where they serve an extensive selection of delicious Thai and western food. We have eaten there many times and the food and service is always good and at a reasonable price.
For an upbeat European eating experience in this street, try Spanish On 4 right next to Balcony Bar. This bright, airy and spotlessly clean cafe has the best Spanish tapas and can provide a welcome change from the spicy Pad Thai noodles and chicken satays.
After dinner there are always plenty of people staying around for a few drinks and indulging in a favourite pastime: people watching. There are so many bars to try and when you are ready to move on from Soi 4 you might want to make your way out of the lane, turn left, walk past all the street stalls until you get to Silom Soi 2. Here, you will find the famous dance club DJ Station and a number of other gay venues. If you’re still looking for some dance and man action at about 2am then the place to go is GOD (Guys On Display), just one lane back (Soi 2/1).
Be prepared to get hot and sweaty here as the bars are usually very crowded, especially on the weekend and on Thai holidays like Songkran (Thai New Year). Don’t worry about taking your shirt off, most guys do and you can dance to some of the best music in Bangkok.
If you’re looking for something more up-market, why not venture to one of the city’s rooftop bars. Bangkok is renowned the world over for it, with as many as 20 scattered around the city and most of which are funky and sophisticated. All of the rooftop bars offer a chance to either sit back and chill out or dance the night away. In the Silom district alone, there’s Scarlett Wine Bar and Restaurant, Cloud 47, and the popular Skybar (of Hangover II fame) — all of which offer incredible views of Bangkok while you enjoy a drink or cocktail from their extensive beverage options.
Most clubs in Bangkok close around three in the morning and it is always good to have a card from your hotel to show the taxi or tuk tuk driver when trying to get home after having a bit too much fun.
This article was adapted from a piece first published on gaymenonholiday.com
BANGKOK: HOTEL INFORMATION
Hotel: Furama Silom, Bangkok (Silom is the gay district)
Inclusions: Four nights accommodation at the four-star Furama Silom in a Superior Room. Return shared airport transfers. Free Wi-Fi.
Price: $215 per person
Flight Centre has many options to make your perfect Thailand holiday a reality. Pop in to one of their stores, visit flightcentre.com.au/LGBT