Tell a friend you’re meeting them for drinks on Soi Nana, and you’re likely to receive a curious eyebrow raise in response. Tell a cool friend and said eyebrow will unfurl into a smile and a tug at the Grab App and a “lets go”. Soi Nana Chinatown is so hot right now. It has been for a while, and if you’re still wondering whether we’re referring to some red-light offshoot of Sukhumvit’s Soi 4, you need to read on.
There are two Soi Nanas in Bangkok. And where one lies close to the city centre as a bit of a less-sophisticated watering hole (amongst other things), Soi Nana Chinatown has risen as the Bohemian epicentre of really cool bars. Conde Nast Traveller listed the area as one of the world’s five hippest neighbourhoods of the year, and indeed, there’s plenty to live and love.
Soi Nana Chinatown: where the bars are small but the vibes are huge, and the tiny historic alley that connects Maitrichit Road to Rama IV feels like a speakeasy in the shape of an entire soi. From wild honey and patonko bar snacks to gins infused with Chrysanthemum, scroll ahead for our favourite bars in the area, and prepare to succumb to the spell. After all, Soi Nana Chinatown isn’t just a place. It’s also a feeling. You’ll see.
Featured image credit: Asia Today
Teens of Thailand
Hidden behind an old shophouse entryway decked out in skateboard stickers and a delicately carved wooden door, Teens of Thailand is arguably the godfather that dubbed Soi Nana as the new cavern for cool. The first truly specialist gin bar in Thailand, ToT is a favourite of any trendy bar hopper and ranks high on the lists of those who really know their drinks. Focusing on gin cocktails with local ingredients and influences, ToT gets a lot of its inspiration from the the infamous soi just outside. Between wafts of Chinese herb and spice, and a clientele that doesn’t stop coming back for more, expect to sip anything from a Chrysanthemum Gin & Tonic to a Passion Fruit Gin Cocktail. Niks Anuman-Rajadhon is the mastermind behind it all (and if you know him, you’ll know ‘mastermind’ barely cuts it), and if you’re lucky you’ll be granted one of his infamous ToT stickers that have been slowly popping up all over Bangkok. From all the bars in Soi Nana, Teens of Thailand probably encapsulates the spirit of the alley best. Really, really good drinks that do justice to their not-so-Chinatown price tags. An unpretentious easy-going vibe between local artists and cool cats. Great music. Old movie posters. And a namesake that is a tribute to the youth of its neighbourhood.
Teens of Thailand, 76 Soi Nana, Pom Prab, Bangkok, +66 81 443 3784, Open Sun-Thurs 7pm-12am; Fri-Sat 7pm-1am
It’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Asia Today. Despite a name that sounds more like a daily newspaper than a bar, Asia Today follows Teens of Thailand as Niks’ second haunt in Soi Nana. They’re similar (and if you’re already flaunting one of their AT stickers, you’re one of the chosen ones), but also really different. The bar is small and simple, and casts a pink neon glow onto all its visitors, with light signs (including one that cheekily reads ‘This Bar is Better than Teens of Thailand’), a floating shark dummy, patonko bar snacks, and erotic vintage photographs. The drinks focus on exotic Thai ingredients, with a series of innovative menus launching every few months. We loved the ‘Wild Honey is the New Gold’ edition, which incorporated local Northern Thai honey; as well as the recent cocoa-inspired menu, inclusive of a shooter named ‘Cocoa, Do You Love Me?’ that we still can’t quite get over. Ideal for all those people who aren’t hardcore gin or loud-music people, but still want to sip and swoon in the glory of Niks’ and barman Kiattikoon ‘Toon’ Auengkum’s creations. You’ll have great conversations here, and you’ll also say things like, “wow, I didn’t know you could get a bee to do that?!”
Asia Today, 35 Soi Rammaitree, Pom Prap, Bangkok, +66 97 134 4704, Open Sun-Thurs 7pm-12am; Fri-Sat 7pm-1am
There is no place like Tep Bar. You need to go to Tep Bar. And you will change after you have visited Tep Bar. There’s nothing quite like it. And yet, it’s peculiar, then, seeing that its concept is to be a Thai bar, that it still manages to stand out from the crowd unlike any other. Authentic Thai food, interesting local liquors and cocktails (no really, we’re talking ya dong and the works), a simple no-fuss set up of bar chairs and tables, and a Thai live band. It sounds like a recipe that we’ve lulled and looked over many times before – especially in Bangkok – and yet Tep Bar manages to pull on all the right strings, quite literally, to rocket fire it straight to the top of must-visit bars in the city. It’s difficult to get a table on most nights, and guests are seated intimately close to the band, enjoying a musical performance that balances classic culture and cool points all in one. If Teens started the wave of trendsetters coming to Soi Nana Chinatown, Tep Bar really sustained it. It’s just really, really Thai – carried out immaculately.
Tep Bar, 69-71 Soi Nana, Maitrichit Rd., Pom Prap, Bangkok, +66 98 467 2944, Open Sun-Thurs 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-1am
Between the Thai-inspired Tep Bar and Asia Today, it was only time that Soi Nana finally also got a Chinese-themed bar. Spread over four floors of a home-style oriental shophouse, Ba Hao (which means as much as lucky ‘number eight’) sits unmissable as the gleaming cornerstone of the alley with a glowing red neon logo. And indeed, it’s a delightful experience to sit on any of the moody broody floors at Ba Hao, immersed into what feels a bit like an undercover Shanghai speakeasy combined with a classic tea house. It’s a lot more spacious than the other three bars, and even includes a hotel on the top two floors for those looking for a unique stay (or a place to crash after a unique night). Drinks consist of a combination of classic and Chinese, with the Oriental Negroni definitely ranking high as a must try, featuring an incorporation of ginseng and a Chinese energy drink. It may sound odd, but you won’t be able to get your mind off of it. Also, a Chinese scallion pancake loaded with braised pork belly as the accompanying bar snack? Groundbreaking.
Ba Hao, 8 Soi Nana, Pom Prap, Bangkok, +66 64 635 1989, Open Tues-Fri 6pm-12am, Sat-Sun 6pm-1am
There’s an El Chiringuito on the beach in Ibiza, and whilst this bar is likely in no way affiliated with it, it brings all the same relaxed Spanish island vibes to the beating Bohemian heart of the city. It’s a fascinating combination; to think you’re sitting in a Chinese neighbourhood in the Thai capital, nibbling on salmorejo or patatas bravas with a Spanish sangria or Xoriguer gin drink to suit. Boasting that signature retro charm that seems to pull Bangkokians to cafes and bars like moths to a flame, El Chiringuito is that laid-back spot you hit up with friends on a casual night out to catch up over some beers in the middle of the soi. It’s where you eat a Spanish potato tortilla or a classic bocadillo sandwich on small wooden stools after ordering from the chalkboard menu. Spain is so far away, but El Chiringuito brings it close to home – with a charming and casual Bangkok twist.
El Chiringuito, 221 Soi Nana, Pom Prab, Bangkok, +66 98 996 5479, Open Thurs-Sun 6pm to 12am
You may have thought you knew what romance was, but a visit to Wallflowers Upstairs will send new butterflies to tug on your heart strings. The bar is located on top of an actual flower shop, blooming from all corners with sweet Instagrammable spots. It may be a little confusing to get to at first, what with a coffeeshop downstairs and the boutique florist right next to it, but the curious climb up the three floors to the rooftop bar is a worthy one. Rustic and dreamy, the set-up includes all the staples of a textbook hipster haven: fairy lights, exposed brick, hanging plants, and botanical Garden of Eden cocktails. These come served up in big glasses with colourful fruit for serious presentation points, and amongst a chill crowd and the occasional Chinese medicinal herb breeze, bring to the soi a perfect balance of city-break and magical beauty. It’s the secret garden you didn’t know you needed, in a location you least expected it. There’s Soi Nana Chinatown in a nutshell.
Wallflowers Upstairs, 37-41 Soi Nana, Pom Prap, Bangkok, +66 96 727 6789, Open Tues-Sun 6pm-1am