Stepping into a ‘Thai-style’ nightclub for the first time can be a bit of a daunting experience. Thai pubs, Thai discos, local bars – whatever you want to call them – do things a little differently, and it’s these little idiosyncrasies that can either make or break your night out in Bangkok.
If you want party in Bangkok like a true local, there are some things it’s best to know first. We’ve given you the rundown of all the dos and don’ts so you’ll fit right in and make the most of your night out. We’ve also pointed you in the direction of all the best ‘Thai-style’ pubs and clubs to check out in Bangkok.
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The first clue that you’re in a local nightclub (other than the fact that you’re surrounded by Thais) is that there is no real dance floor. Instead, these kinds of clubs are usually packed full of tall tables where drinks are perched and groups of friends dance around in miniature circles. There simply isn’t the space for a designated dance floor. However, that doesn’t stop the locals from throwing a few shapes, which become more and more energetic as the drinks flow, and often groups merge into one another as the place gets packed.
Thailand is hot all year round, so tourists who come with a suitcase full of only shorts, flip flops and a few T-shirts are hardly to blame. Although this kind of attire is perfect for all the beach bars in the south of Thailand or Khao San Road, turning up at a local nightclub in your flip flops and shorts is a bit of a no-no. Some places won’t let you in at all, whilst those that do, you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. Most clubs in Bangkok have air-conditioned rooms - so you can look the part and dance the night away without sweating like a total maniac. We hope.
The thought of buying a whole bottle of whiskey or vodka in a nightclub in some countries might seem like something only a high-rolling city worker would do. However, in Thai nightclubs this is the norm – and actually a pretty economical option. On entry, find yourself a table, order a bottle of spirits, some mixers, a bucket of ice, and you’re set for the night. No need to keep going back and forth to the bar.
Cheap brands like ‘100 Pipers’ will leave you change from a 1000 baht note (as well as throbbing headache in the morning), whilst more popular choices like Jonnie Walker and Smirnoff start from around 1,500 baht (750ml). If you can’t finish your bottle, you can always take it with you or even leave it behind at the end of the night and carry on drinking it the next time you come back!
Although Bangkok does have a few Thai-style clubs that are dedicated purely to dance music, such as Onyx, most rely heavily on live bands. For some, listening to sing-along pop hits in a foreign language is only bearable for so long. However, most of the clubs in Bangkok do switch to house/techno music when the bands aren’t playing. Besides, Thai pop can be fun, lively and they’ll often throw in an English-language cover too.
If you are to learn only one phrase before embarking on your local-style night out, then this should be it. Literally meaning ‘cheers’ in Thai, this is an instant ice-breaker if you’re wanting to spark up a (broken) conversation with the friendly locals. ‘Chon’ is the Thai word for two things hitting each other, whilst ‘keaw’ means glass. For extra laughs, try ‘mod keaw’ meaning ‘finish your glass’. Only the bravest (or drunkest) will accept this challenge.
The table you get in the club is probably where you’re going to be spending the best part of the night. This is where all you’re drinks are going to be kept, and unless specifically invited, walking across the whole club to join a stranger’s table might be met with some odd looks. This mean you’ve got to choose your table wisely. Your best bet is to arrive early to find a good spot, or if you come late, give a sneaky tip to the waiter for improved chances of not being hoarded to the back. A more central spot equals more tables around you, which in turn means more fun and an altogether better atmosphere.
Just like many tourist attractions in Thailand, the price structure for Thais and foreigners differs. Some nightclubs in Bangkok offer free entrance for locals, whilst the foreigners often are ushered towards the ‘please pay here’ queue. Clubs around RCA are famous for this and usually charge between 200 and 400 baht to get in – but do not fear! You’ll normally receive drinks tokens which you can put towards your bill or buy one or two individual drinks – so the price of entry is redeemed in the end.
It’s always advisable to show up with ID; no matter how old you are, just in case they want to know your name and date of birth. As for your belongings, many revellers choose to store their bags underneath the tables (there’s often a small ledge built in for this purpose), although it’s advisable to keep all your most valuable possessions on you at all times – just like at any other club in the world.
Just like trying Thai food, visiting the country’s temples or exploring local markets, hitting a Thai night club can be a real cultural eye-opener, offering a great insight as to how the locals partake in something so close to their hearts – having fun. Sure, you might feel out of your comfort zone at first, particularly in some of the more out-of-town venues listed below, but why travel thousands of miles just to experience all the same old clubs you can find at home?
When we’re talking about ‘Thai clubs’ we’re talking about the ones that draw in a 90%+ Thai crowd and generally follow the rules above. Some can be found in central Bangkok, others are outside. Here are the best if you want to be adventurous and try something new on your next night out in Bangkok:
- Onyx: expect a very dressed up Thai crowd and an incredible sound system doing wonders for the bass-heavy playlist.
- Slim & Fix: swanky three-room club, mostly locals with a good helping of expats – so you won’t feel too out of place.
- Route 66: most popular club on RCA, although with more and more foreigners discovering this place every month, it’s not really a Thai-style club anymore.
Rachada Soi 4
This small alleyway is dedicated to Thai-style pubs and discos and in some you won’t find any other foreigners about at all. The most famous is ‘Snop’ club as well as ‘Zaleng’ and ‘Dance Fever’. Free entrance for everybody, unless there’s a special event.
- Funky Villa: Thai bands, pretty Bangkokians packed around tables and lots of whiskey. Head to Demo next door for a more cutting-edge, western style club. (Thonglor Soi 10)
- Nang Len: big on the Thai bands, but the house DJ punctuates the live sets with some hip-hop and techno. (Thonglor Soi 10)
- WIP: Late night club that keeps on pumping house and trance long after all other places have closed. (Liberty Plaza Building, Soi Thonglor)
- Brick Bar (Khao San Road) Head here if you’re not feeling adventurous enough to leave the backpacking quarter, but still want a glimpse of how young Thais like to party.
- 3 Days 2 Nights (Sam Wan Song Kuen) – out of town but worth the effort. Famous amongst locals and very fun. Oh, and they have an Alpaca farm next door. (Lat Phrao Wang Hin 71)
- Parking Toys: always packed, great live music and they actually have lots of comfortable places to sit, unlike most entries above. (17/22 Soi Mai Laap, Ram Intra 14)
- Fakeclub: All of the above apply just expect a gay crowd. Off Kamphaeng Road near JJ Market.