While several up market hotels, restaurants and shopping malls have attempted to change the common perception of Sukhumvit being the centre of sleaze in Bangkok over the past few years, there are those who want to renew the Sukhumvit brand in its basic format of girls, beer and nightlife. Those traditionalists will give a little cheer that Hooters has finally opened in Thailand. And where else than in Sukhumvit.
Hooters opened its first branch in September 2015 on soi 15. The bar/restaurant is in the Four Points by Sheraton and immediately opposite the famous Manhattan Hotel. The location is ideal for all three businesses.
Being a big brand they had a big razzmatazz opening party with DJs and freebies and of course plenty of young girls all with two things in common. Most of the girls are Thai but some look to be of mixed heritage. Men might ponder if they could find enough large cup sizes to make the hooters thing work in Bangkok. Well, as we know, every desire is copiously catered for in Bangkok and especially in Sukhumvit. And yes they’ve found a decent selection of hooters.
For those not familiar with the Hooters recipe for success, they serve typical American style bar food – burgers, Philly cheese steak, nachos, BBQ, fish and chips, buffalo shrimp. I don’t think there is one Thai dish on the menu.
You might be able to find Thai beer at the bar, but more popular are mixed drinks, branded spirits and imported lagers.
It is a large open plan space with atrium effect where diners can look down on the action below. There is plenty of tables and plenty of room for dancing. Nearly every wall has a flat screen TV ready for the big sports events. Being Americana, American football, baseball and basketball are shown; but, being Thailand where proper football rules the roost, expect to be able to see English Premier League.
There are plenty of offers and promotions which perhaps only appeal to the gluttonous like all you can eat sliders (small burgers) for 799 Thai Baht per person. They do a 2 course meal deal for lunch at 399 Thai Baht. Strangely enough their Facebook page doesn’t display any drinks deals or Happy Hours. Indeed the Facebook page seems to be more about staff recruitment. You need to be between 19 and 30, have a ‘fit body’ and be prepared to flaunt it for 35,000 Thai Baht a month plus tips. I can’t wait for that inevitable amusing blunder of the management hiring a ladyboy by mistake. Watch this space it will happen.
Hooters is open every day from 10am to 2pm
Telephone: 02 006 6001
Some areas in capital cities develop their own unique character and begin to be viewed as separate to the surrounding areas. Sometimes this can be a ghetto or an area dominated by one ethnic group like for example China Town. In the case of Sukhumvit in Bangkok and Soho in London it is not socio-economics or ethnicity that makes these urban areas stand out but rather culture.
Jeffrey Bernard spent most his life in Soho. He moved there when he was 16 and remained there until his death at the age of 65 from diabetes. There is a story that his friend Ronnie Scott bought a car and invited Bernard to have a spin around London. Bernard hopped in. However, they soon encountered heavy traffic and headed straight back to Soho where they proceeded to get drunk.
Bernard was from the middle class. He started out doing kitchen and labouring jobs until he managed to get writing work reporting on the louche and bohemian aspects of the famous mile square. He knew writers, artists and poets including Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon. He also knew many of the prostitutes, drug dealers and other ‘low lifes’ of the area. When one of his benders overlapped with a deadline the Spectator filled the empty column space with the heading ‘Jeffrey Bernard is unwell’.
Like Soho Sukhumvit has a notorious image as a place of prostitutes, brothels, sex shops, massage parlours and strip joints. Soho might have been gentrified since the turn of the century but the reputation persists.
I suspect there are plenty of people who live and work in Sukhumvit who like Jeffrey Bernard feel uncomfortable leaving the area. It is a place where you can find all the bars you would ever need. Many of the bars are run by ex-pats and become focal points for small communities of Sukhumvit denizens.
Most of these heavy drinkers, whore mongers (see Stickman) and business owners of Sukhumvit do not have any pretensions to being a poet, writer or artist. Neither do they espouse any bohemian ideals. That does not mean Sukhumvit is devoid of creativity. There is the Sombat Permboon Gallery on Soi 1. Moreover, some of the soi areas are popular with Thai students looking to let off steam and possibly talk politics and art. The arts scene in Thailand is not supported by mass media exposure or public funds. The talent might be there but the financial rewards are not.
Soho was also notorious as a place to find street dealers. These have mostly gone as much of the trade has moved online or at least off the street. There are sois in Sukhumvit (I am not going to say where) where plenty of street peddlers are open for business.
Soho and Sukhumvit are places where the illicit, illegal and immoral are available. The allure of this culture for Bernard Jeffreys made him and the area famous. I wonder when Sukhumvit will find an anti-hero to champion its cause. There is a good chance such a person would be a lady who once was a man.
The first time you visit the Sukhumvit area you can be disappointed with this famous part of Bangkok. The disadvantages of the area are almost instantly apparent, while it takes a bit of time to appreciate the advantages of the place. Sukhumvit is patronised by people from all over the world, who come for a variety of reasons. So what is it about Sukhumvit that keeps people coming back time again?
For the first time visitor to Bangkok who is keen to stay near the major tourist attractions Khao San is more convenient. For those looking for a decent hotel Silom has plenty of options. For those looking for a hotel with a special location there are boutique hotels along the river front.
In contrast, the Sukhumvit main thoroughfare is terribly congested both on the road and on the pavements. The present interim government are fighting a losing battle to stop the street vendors taking up half the pavement.
The annoyances of Sukhumvit don’t stop there. Recently municipal authorities have been hiding doorways in Sukhumvit to catch foreigners littering in order to demand ID and the payment of a disproportionate fine.
The pavements on the sois adjoining Sukhumvit are often broken up. Many of the narrow roads don’t have space for pedestrians. It is not an easy area for a young child to walk around.
Those drinking in Sukhumvit at night will notice the seedy side of the area quickly. There are numerous middle-aged (and older) white men being escorted by young Thai women. Soi Nana is only a short street but packed full of strip bars where flesh is for sale. In short, those with strong moral convictions might be upset by visiting Sukhumvit.
I will not attempt to defend Sukhumvit from any of the above allegations. The place is guilty as charged; however, there are some important redeeming features to Sukhumvit.
The first is modern conveniences. Khao San can be a pain to get to either using a slow ferry, a frightening tuk tuk or one of the avaricious taxi drivers that hang around the entry points to Khao San. In contrast Sukhumvit has sky trains (BTS), underground trains (MRT) as well as buses, taxis, motorbike taxis and tuk tuks. There is even a ferry stop (Sathorn Pier) in Sukhumvit that is a handy short walk from Saphan Taksin BTS. Also importantly, the airport train links to the BTS north-south line. You cannot get better connected than Sukhumvit.
Within a small area you have numerous small shops, fashion boutiques, food places, restaurants, spas, street vendors, street bars, pubs, clubs as well as large shopping malls. There is Terminal 21 and Rainhill Shopping Centre – two big shopping malls featuring exclusive boutiques and brand labels.
Sukhumvit is a culturally diverse place. Whereas you see mostly backpackers and Thais in Khao San, in Sukhumvit you spot backpackers, families as well as areas heavily populated with Koreans, Japanese and Arabians. You never have to walk far to find food from all over the world. There are enclaves in Sukhumvit where you could forget for a moment that you were in Thailand. It is this multi-cultural mix that is at the heart of what is enticing about Sukhumvit. It feels more like a modern capital city than other parts of Bangkok.
And don’t forget this is the part of Bangkok where you can sip a cocktail at 820 feet in the air at the Skybar at Lebua. This is the area you can find Michelin star quality food. Sukhumvit is where you can stay at memorable boutique hotels such as the Eugenia Hotel, Davis Hotel, MaDuZi, Praya Palazzo, Imm Fusion and Seven Hotel. It is the place of the best nightclubs, the most underground clubs and exclusive clubs. There are art galleries, designer shops, car shops, wine shops and of course loads of coffee shops.
Sukhumvit is in many ways the centre for sophistication and modern urban culture in Bangkok. It is where high society Thais go to play and spend money. It is also the destination of choice in Bangkok for many a well-heeled expat who can see where the money’s at.
And of course from the tourist’s point of view many of these activities and places of interest are not totally out of the budget. Food, drink and accommodation are very reasonably priced compared to London or Paris for example. Here is a good place to sample how the other half live.