Asiatique: A Night Out Along the River
Asiatique The Riverfront often gets overlooked by locals for a variety of reasons. Yeah, fighting the massive queues of Chinese tourists for a place on the free shuttle boats is not pleasant, nor are the higher than average prices for the restaurants and bars that are, face it, miles away from the average Bangkokian’s Thonglor-Ekamai-Phrom Phong comfort zone. And yes, if you live on the east or north side of town, it is a darn long haul to get there. Finally, those of us who remember the Suan Lum Night Bazaar with fondness have probably never given up our allegiance to the removal of a Bangkok institution. However, it’s worth putting a few of these prejudices aside and joining the tourist throngs for a night out at Asiatique. It’s guaranteed to be good fun, and the market keeps evolving and has some real positives.
Asiatique is probably Bangkok’s best planned night market. None of the sweaty narrow aisles without room to move like you’ll find at Ratchada or up at Talad Rot Fai in Srinakarin. There are 50,000 square meters of space here, and if you drive, there are parking spots available for over 2,000 vehicles. The market combines modern times with a bit of history, as it’s housed in old port hangars that were used by the East Asiatic Company at the turn of the 1900s for their plans to link Denmark with the Far East. There’s even an old sawmill and WWII bomb shelter on-site here, and the shops are set in atmospheric old warehouses, which are all well marked and mapped, making it hard to get lost here, something that most certainly cannot be said for other night markets around town.
The riverfront, with its breezes, views, and lights at night is a big draw here, and some of the best restaurants and bars get front billing. Baan Kanitha, noted for its longstanding traditional Thai food set in elegant surroundings has a branch here, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The menu is extensive, and while tastes have most certainly been toned down for the foreign crowd, there’s still plenty to choose from.
Nearby you’ll find newcomer Osha Cafe, a more casual version of the San Francisco – Thai molecular restaurant Osha, famed for its visionary cooking techniques, where you can combine creative cocktails with fusion presentations, and even take part in their Cooking Chronicle Studio, where master chefs will help you create your own Thai treats.
Another new spot here is Lugang Cafe, a popular Cantonese chain from Shanghai, where you can get juicy xiaolongbao dumplings and enjoy dim sum. Out by the riverfront, Checkmate Bar & Bistro has been around since the opening of Asiatique and succeeds both visually (with a human-sized chessboard and pieces outside), as well as with its vibe. The neon-lit bar is well stocked. There are a variety of excellent beers and well mixed cocktails, and the menu features salmon sashimi salad with wasabi dressing along with other well-crafted nibbles, plus the different live bands that play throughout the week make this place one of Asiatique’s most lively spots.
In addition to the eating, drinking, and plenty of shopping, Asiatique is a great place for finding locally designed contemporary and vintage fashions at fair prices in a comfortable environment. There are also lots of entertainments here.
The Muay Thai Live show features a well-choreographed live performance all about Thai boxing’s history, traditions, and skills, and uses professional boxers and actors, plus there is even a mellowish set of short live bouts after the show.
Nearby, the Calypso Cabaret show is a hoot, with Elvis, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga-like performances that leave the audiences in hysterics, not to mention in awe, of the onstage talent.
If you want to stay close to all the action, you’ve got a selection of great riverside spots. The Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort sits just downriver from Asiatique on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya river, and features 396 well-appointed rooms and suites. It has a gorgeous riverside location, especially when you sit in the aptly named Longtail Bar, which gives uninterrupted river views with the Bangkok skyline in the back. Kick back to a “Bangkok Bridge“ (gin and lychee cocktail) and watch the teak shuttle boats make their way across the river. There’s also a huge swimming pool and collection of nine restaurants and bars to choose from here if you don’t feel like leaving, not to mention an elegant dinner cruise on a converted traditional rice barge.
Just north of Asiatique, you’ll find the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok, which often slips under the radar of the top Chao Phraya hotels, precisely because it’s further south of all the main luxury properties. The balcony views from the high floor rooms here are to die for, and the hotel has its own shuttle boat to ferry you around. If you really want a bird’s eye view, check out their Chinese restaurant Silver Waves, located up on the 36th floor and definitely offering the most panoramic Chinese meal in town.
Tel. 02 108 4910-11
Tel. 02 046 9441
Tel. 02 254 8379
Checkmate Bar & Bistro
Tel. 02 108 4704
Muay Thai Live
Tel. 02 108 5999
Tel. 02 688 1415
Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort
Tel. 02 476 0022
Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok
Tel. 02 307 8888