There are a lot of reasons to visit the LGBT-friendly destination of Bangkok, including its rich culture, yearlong warm weather, delicious food, and a quickly modernizing, cosmopolitan landscape. When the luxurious, 238-room SO Sofitel Bangkok (2 North Sathorn Rd. Tel: +66-2624-0000. www.so-sofitelbangkok.com) opened its doors in 2013 across from lush Lumphini Park, it became part of that new landscape, offering a design, fashion, and tech-forward haven. Staff uniforms and a 25thfloor lounge are designed by Christian Lacroix, and five different room styles, themed after the elements, are the work of, respectively, five Thai designers.
The tenth floor boasts a 32-meter infinity pool that overlooks the park, as does the stunning 29th floor’s rooftop Terrace and HI-SO bar. The property also boasts an excellent spa, restaurants, and SO Fit gym. Of course, the hotel’s services are top notch, which includes expert guidance and assist from openly gay Just Say SO Manager Paul Boonrungreung. Boasting a sassy fashion sense and style for days, he spent many years living in England and managing a London lifestyle and fashion boutique. He sees plenty of parallels between his work at the boutique and at the SO Sofitel Bangkok.
“You get to meet cool and funky clients every day,” he shares. “One affluent guest from England privatized our penthouse SO VIP Suite and requested I be his 24-hour personal assistant. I was on a mission to tag along with him to amazing clubs and invite clubbers to come and have complimentary Champagne in his suite; almost every night we invited up to 400, with complimentary drink and food! The largest free party that I have even seen in my life!”
Here, Paul shares his Bangkok musts with Passport.
Where are the coolest places in Bangkok to go for cocktails today?
Get ready for a lot of drinking! At night, sip a cocktail with breathtaking views of Bangkok at our Park Society Restaurant and Terrace. I recommended the Designer Needle, with lychee juice, Ketel One vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and syrup. Maggie Choo’s (320 Silom Rd. Tel: +66-91-772-2144. www.facebook.com/maggiechoos) bar and restaurant, where its renowned, Shanghai speakeasy-themed decoration truly transports you back to 1930’s China. Sundays are gay night. The Vogue Lounge (6th Floor MahaNakhon CUBE building, 96 Narathiwas Ratchanakharin Rd. Tel: +66-2-001-0697. www.voguelounge.com) also has kicking vibes, yet offers a very personal touch in service. Also in the Vogue’s Cube building, Morimoto (4th Fl. Tel: +66-2-060-9099. www.morimotobangkok.com) opened in early 2017. The interior design is absolutely incredible, and the innovative, unique cocktail menu is by world renowned Japanese mixologist, Shingo Gokan, of New York’s Angel’s Share fame. The Papurika is like a smoky spin on the margarita with yellow bell pepper juice, and the Yashinomi combines a tasty mix of Thai ingredients, spice, and coconut sashimi. You can also venture into the city’s well-aged, yet increasingly hipster Charoenkrung area to check out Teens of Thailand (76 Soi Nana, Charoen Krung Rd. Tel: +66-81-443-3784. www.facebook.com/teensofthailand), tucked behind an old Indian-style door that makes you think it must be the wrong place or closed! Inside is a cozy, concrete walled space with local artwork, a great and hip soundtrack playing, and gin-based mixologist cocktails featuring craft and infused gins from all over the world. Delicious!
What are some of the best restaurants in town today?
One young Thai chef who is getting much attention today is Thitid Tassanakajohn, who goes by chef Ton. He gained experience working at New York’s Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park, and has two restaurants in Bangkok. Other great choices include Le Du (399/3 Silom Soi 7. Tel: +66-092-919-9969. www.ledubkk.com), which was named one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 for presenting organic Thai ingredients in modern and European style. The free ranch pork belly with winged bean salad and Chamung sauce is a staple. Sala Rattanakosin (39 Maharat Rd., Rattanakosin Island, Bangkok. +66-26221388. www.salaresorts.com/rattanakosin) is a boutique hotel on the Chao Phraya river with an absolutely authentic Thai restaurant featuring the gorgeous decoration of a Royal Thai Palace. For a dazzling candlelight dinner, head to Issaya Siamese Club (4 Soi Sri Aksom. Tel: +66-2-672-9040. www.issaya.com), named one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants every year since 2014 thanks to celebrity chef Ian Kittichai’s creative Thai food and a wonderful, historical villa location, surrounded by greenery. Asiatique, the renowned and lively night market located along Chao Phraya, has a fabulous Osha Café (Warehouse no.10, Asiatique, 2194 Charoen Krung. www.facebook.com/oshacafeatasiatique), where they do a very modern and glam Thai food like at the main Osha location on Wireless Road, but in a more casual setting. Be sure to walk around and take in the sights of the waterfront and eclectic things for sale at hundreds of stalls.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch?
Our culinary showcase at CLUB Signaturein The Signature Lounge designed by Monsieur Christain Lacrouix is just ridiculously fabulous. Can’t beat the views. Also, the variety of selections at our Red Oven restaurant located on the seventh floor has made it one of the best breakfast and brunches in Bangkok. In the trendy Thonglor neighborhood, I also recommend Crepes & Co (9:53 Community Mall, Thonglor Soi 9. Tel: +66-2-726-9398. www.facebook.com/crepesncothonglor) for Western specialties.
Bangkok has some amazing, shopping centers with awesome food to boot. Which are the most unique for visitors?
Of course, one must see the renowned Siam Center (www.siamcenter.co.th) and Siam Paragon (www.siamparagon.co.th/tourist), which have something for everyone including a movie theater with 4DX, that turns ordinary movies into crazy thrill rides, plus international and Thai brands, and food, food, food, from food court stalls to upscale restaurants. Both host great events, too, including fashion shows by Thai designers! Just next to Siam Center is Siam Discovery (www.siamdiscovery.co.th), which was completely renovated in 2016 and is so cool to explore. Of course, the mazelike outdoor Chatujak Weekend Market (www.chatuchak.org), called JJ for short, is a must for visitors and locals alike.
What are a few must-go LGBT events and parties to attend during the year?
The massive G-Circuit (www.gcircuit.com) parties during Sonkgran festival in April is absolutely wild and sexy. It’s a whole three days’ worth. Maggie Choo’s on Sunday nights is gay and hosted by Thailand’s RuPaul, Pangina Heals. She is so funny and fierce, and speaks English so you’ll get all her nasty jokes, plus she can really dance!
What museums are a must-see for visitors?
Bangkok Art Cultural Centre, aka BACC (939 Rama I Rd. Tel: +66 2 214 6630. www.bacc.or.th) is located by Siam Discovery. There are different contemporary art exhibitions here, including photos by the Princess, and the facility is designed like a spiral in the Guggenheim vein. Also, it has some really unique shops for Thai goods, and a craft coffee shop on the ground level.
Where are the best views of the city?
Definitely spend an enchanting evening on a Chao Phraya River cruise and take a selfie with Wat Arun in the background. The gay-owned restaurant, Supanniga Eating Room, now offers a super lovely, upscale Supanniga Cocktail Cruise (www.supannigacruise.com) with drinks and bites, and a full dinner cruise every night. I highly recommend both.
If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
The Oasis Spa (64 Soi Sawasdee, Sukhumvit 31. Tel: +66-2-262-2122. www.oasisspa.net/destination/bangkok) with a “secret garden ambiance” is only step away from Bangkok skyscrapers. It has a garden pathway leading to tranquil lotus ponds and soothing waterfalls. At our SO Sofitel Spa, worldwide ancient traditions meet the natural refinement and skill of the latest French cosmetology. An exhilarating and rejuvenating experience with treatments inspired by gastronomy, So Spa has just been honored with the Green Spa Award and Thailand Tourism Award. Divana Spa (103 Thonglor 17 Sukhumvit 55. Tel: +66-2-712-8986. www.divanaspa.com) is a luxury beauty and day spa in Bangkok, supreme and innovative with local, ancient Thai ingredients and skillful treatments.
What are the best gay/lesbian bars in the city? Silom, of course, is legendary!
Telephone Bar (114/11-13 Silom Soi 4. Tel: +662-234-3279. www.telephonepub.com) on Silom Soi 4 has been around for 25 years. It has a patio and people love to go and order cocktails and see and be seen, while inside there is nice pub-style seating, an upstairs karaoke lounge, and a food menu too. Its gimmick used to be phones with which you could call guys at other tables, but now everyone has apps like Grindr. White Rabbit Lounge Bar (12/3 Silom. Tel: +62635-1868. www.facebook.com/White-RabbitLounge-Bar-1575592036046005) is multi-level with a ground floor that opens to the street and has a fun, mixed crowd and funky decoration that is like European bar meets Santa Monica Boulevard gay club.
What are the most popular gay dance clubs if we want to work up a sweat?
Definitely DJ Station (Soi 2. Tel: +66-2-2664029. www.dj-station.com) on Soi 2, which is essentially a giant interconnected complex of venues that includes Disco Disco, The JJ Park, and The Patio. Don’t miss the nightly drag shows, too!
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Street food! Even though the government is trying to clean up the city a bit by removing street food stalls from some neighborhoods, I love chicken and rice street food at the Pratunam Area.
What are the most underrated places in, or things about, Bangkok?
Chinatown, actually, is underrated today. Along the Golden Chinatown Road there’s a Ming Dynasty design boutique hotel called Shanghai Mansion (479-481 Yaowaraj Rd. Tel: +66-2-221-2121. www.shanghaimansion.com), with a bar located along the pavement. It’s fabulous, bringing a mix of international travelers and Chinese-Bangkokians. It’s a marvelous blend of the cultures.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Bangkok without…
Visiting the Grand Palace, enjoying some street food, clubbing at the all-time famous DJ Station, and shopping at the largest weekend market, Chatuchak.