Using Bangkok’s light rail trains these days takes a bit of planning. Not just in knowing which station is where, or which line you need to use to get to your destination – there are only two so it’s not that confusing – but considering rush hour on the BTS makes the traffic during rush hour on Bangkok’s streets look sparse, a few simple strategies can help greatly. First, if you have to switch lines at Siam, don’t. Seriously. Go have dinner or do some shopping at one of the malls instead. Second, if you plan on getting on at a station locals do not tend to use much – at least those with legitimate jobs – you’d do better to board at a busier station. With no one getting off you’ll have to wait for a few trains before one pulls in that still has room for you to squeeze into otherwise. Nana is a good example. Forget it. Walk, taxi, tuk tuk, or take a motorcycle taxi down to Asoke instead. Asoke is a popular station and is also a transfer station for the MRT. Enough people get off there you can alwaays get on. It’s also the first station I’ll be covering in my series of posts about the BTS.
Asoke Station (also spelled Asok) is located on Sukhmuvit at soi 19. It’s connected by elevated walkway to the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a good spot for a pricey but lavish Sunday brunch, as well as a shopping mall. For touri, at least the straight variety, its next best claim to fame is being the station closest to Soi Cowboy, probably the city’s premier girly bar redlight district these days. That might not do much for you, but your boy du jour would undoubtedly enjoy making a visit to the neon lights of Cowboy one night. You’ll probably be more interested in Asoke as a destination station for a different type of thrill: shopping.
The newest mall in Bangkok is Terminal 21, a cutting-edge shopping plaza designed to look like an airport terminal. It’s quickly becoming The mall for locals and touri alike, siphoning off a lot of the traffic that used to head to MBK. Everything you could possibly need is for sale there, and all in air-conditioned comfort. The mall also features a multi-screen cineplex to catch up on the latest Hollywood blockbusters if you didn’t pick up a bootleg copy of the movie you’ve been dieing to see on DVD yet. Night market aficionados can stroll west along Sukhumvit and browse through stall after stall of pirated goods and tacky souvenirs for as long as your feet can stand it. There is a Robinson Department store just to the west of the station, and within another block a branch of Asia Books. Throw in a good dozen 7/11s and Family Marts and just about any shopping needs, short of the latest offerings from Gucci, can be satisfied within walking distance of Asoke BTS. But then if you are willing to settle for Guci instead, you are completely covered.
Even those who have already shopped ‘til they dropped still make the pilgrimage to Bangkok’s Weekend Market where everything and anything is for sale at deep discounts. The Asoke area is a good base for making that trip; you have both the BTS and MRT to choose from, though the later is the better choice as its station drops you off inside of the market while the BTS’ closest station, Mo Chit, is still a bit of a walk away.
The only thing you won’t find in the immediate area are gay gogo bars. Yet. Many gay touri prefer staying close to the action in Patpong. Which is understandable. But unless you pick one of the four-star hotels what you will end up staying in will be a bit worn and tired. Hotels around the Asoke BTS station offer a better deal price wise and rooms are usually more spacious and in better condition. Staying in Patpong does mean you’ll be within four to five blocks of the bars, but that means walking four or five blocks in Bangkok’s notorious hot and humid weather. Stay Asoke instead and a quick ride on the BTS (30 baht) or by taxi (85 baht) delivers you to your favorite establishment fresh and relaxed. Shopping, dining, and sight-seeing are all more convenient from the Asoke area too.
The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit and Westin Grande Sukhumvit are both upscale and pricey hotels. And are both connected to Asoke station. At the foot of the station’s escalators is Citi Lodge Soi 19 – I’ve been tempted by the price and the hotel being recently refurbished but have never stayed there. Just a bit further down soi 19, The Key is a small boutique hotel offering nicely appointed rooms at a reasonable price, though breakfast is limited, must be preordered, and is delivered to your room within a half hour time period you select at check in or the night before.
Sasha’s Hotel Uno is a block further down soi 19, still within a comfortable waking distance, and also offers nicely furnished rooms at decent prices. Breakfast is buffet style, though somewhat limited in choice. And one wall of the shower looks into the room (or vice versa for your boy viewing pleasure) if you open the wooden slat blinds.
There is a popular Italian restaurant, La Gritta, at the ground floor of Citi Lodge, and if you need a quick dose of America, a McDonald’s across the street and attached to Robinson department store. Food courts and small eateries are located inside of Terminal 21, and across the street in the Times Square complex there are several (overpriced) Korean barbecue places.
A bit further away, but still comfortably within walking distance is the original branch of Cabbages and Condoms on soi 12. The restaurant offers an extensive menu of Thai dishes but it’s true claim to fame is its decor with everything from the lamp shades to wall art made from condoms. Everyone, from fellow touri to bar boys, that I’ve taken there has thoroughly enjoyed themselves. And the garlic shrimp appetizer are to die for.
Whether you are staying in the area or stopping off at Asoke station, there is something to please everyone within just a few blocks. And with fares on the Skytrain soon to be lowered, it’s an even cheaper way to explore Bangkok.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy: