Book Your Hotel in Sukhumvit Today
Sukhumvit (Thai: สุขุมวิท) is an exclusive district in Bangkok. It is home to fancy apartments, villas, restaurants, bars and clubs. Popular among foreign visitors and expats, it becomes more and more a Thai residential neighbourhood as you follow the road southeast. Khlong Toei is also dealt with here, which, by contrast, is one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Bangkok.
Sukhumvit Road is not only one of the longest boulevards in Thailand, but one of the longest boulevards in the world. Towards the west end it changes name to Phloen Chit Road and Rama I Road as it enters the Siam Square area, but to the east it runs most of the way to the Cambodian border. The sois are numbered from west to east, with odd numbers north and even numbers south of Sukhumvit Road. The sois on the north and south sides of Sukhumvit don’t line up; for example, Soi 33 is opposite Soi 24. Confusing is that these sois also have names of their own (for example, Soi 55 is better known as Soi Thong Lo) and these sois can also have sois of their own (such as Thong Lo Soi 1).
Looking at the high-rise apartment buildings, the Skytrain and the perennial traffic jam on Sukhumvit Road, it is hard to believe that this area used to consist of rice fields until World War II. After the war, this area became developed with large contemporary villas catering to the upper class. As property values kept rising, developers have been buying more and more land and cashed them in by constructing big apartment high-rises. The construction of the BTS Skytrain in 1999, covering most of Sukhumvit Road, has increased the popularity of this district even more.
The lowered-numbered sois (roughly between Soi 1 and 63) are a popular residential area for western expatriates and affluent Thais. It is densely packed with shopping centres, restaurants and hotels. The fleshpots of Nana Entertainment Plaza (in Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (between Soi 21 and 23) are also in this area, as are plenty of more (and less) salubrious bars. Also, the pavement of Sukhumvit itself has become a huge market carrying everything from luggage to fake Rolex watches, and after midnight they turn into roadside bars and pubs. Sukhumvit offers the best dining in Bangkok, from five-star dining to street stands, the variety of choices and tastes are almost overwhelming. Japanese nationals can be found in the area Soi 21 and upwards, but most tend to congregate around Soi 55. Indians have settled around Soi 12, while Arabs are grouped at Soi 3/1, which informally is known as Soi Arab. After Soi 63, Thais take over again, though this might change when the Skytrain extension is completed in late 2011.
South of Sukhumvit’s sois lies Khlong Toei, which, if recognised at all, foreigners only know for the Khlong Toei Market. Khlong Toei is a borough, a market and a port, all named after the canal that flows through the area. It means “canal of pandan” as that plant used to grow along the southern bank of the canal. A large part of it was filled up to make way for Rama IV Road in 1947. South (and under) the Chalerm Maha Nakhon Expressway are the infamous Khlong Toei slums, generally unexplored by even the most adventurous travellers. At the banks of the Chao Phraya river is the Khlong Toei Port, which has a history dating back to the ninth century, when it connected Bangkok with the cities upstream the river. Since 1981, it has lost most of its economic relevance when the larger Laem Chabang Port near Pattaya took over business.