Sukhumvit Road

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

Almost all of Bangkok’s major thoroughfares are known for a specialty. Silom Road is often called “Bangkok’s Wall Street” for its many financial institutions. Ratchadamnoen Road is known for its many government buildings and royal palace related activities. Yaowarat Road is the symbolic name for Chinatown. Although Sukhumvit Road (Thai: Thanon Sukhumvit) has never been known for its historical attractions, monuments, temples, or touristy sites, it definitely offers the best dining options in the whole of Bangkok. It has been accurately called a ‘night lovers paradise’.

It is almost unimaginable to think that for many decades Sukhumvit Road simply traversed nothing but rice fields to the far horizon. When the Siam Society headquarters building was constructed in 1932, the photograph of the new structure confirms the idyllic rural nature of the whole area in the background scene. This situation continued up to the end of World War II, when Bangkok restarted its expansion Eastwards after 1945. Then the whole area around Sukhumvit became a place for real estate investment. Soon after family homes started to be built, then small businesses began up operation. Since then, the dynamic expansion of the whole area has never stopped.

Sukhumvit Road is named after the fifth chief of the Department of Highways, Phra Bisal Sukhumvit. Simply referred to as Sukhumvit by many, it is the longest thoroughfare in Thailand and one of the longest roads in the world. It stretches a little over 400kms. Originally called the Bangkok-Trat Road, Sukhumvit Road starts in Bangkok as a continuation of Rama I and Ploenchit Roads. It then goes through Pathum Wan District. Sukhumvit Road also begins from where the district boundaries of Khlong Toey, Pathum Wan and Watthana all converge. The roadway runs the entire length of the boundary between Khlong Toey and Watthana Districts, then passes through Phra Khanong and Bang Na districts.

Angling Southeastward through Bangkok, Sukhumvit Road then crosses the border between Bangkok and Samut Prakarn province. Subsequently the roadway continues East through Chachoengsao province, then turns South through Chonburi province passing the Khao Khiao Massif, past the cities of Sri Racha, Chon Buri, Pattaya and Sattahip, before turning Southeast through Rayong and Chanthaburi provinces. It finally ends at Ban Hat Lek village in Trat province near the Cambodian border. It is also designated as National Highway 3.

In Bangkok, Sukhumvit Road serves as one of the main commercial streets of the city. It is constantly congested, especially in the evening or early morning hours. The sois are numbered from West to East, with odd numbers branching off to the Northeast of Sukhumvit, and even numbers branching off to the South West.

There are plenty of things to keep even the most hyperactive local or tourists happy. Both the Nana Entertainment Plaza (Soi 4) and Soi Cowboy (between Soi 21 Asoke and Soi 23) are jammed full of go-go bars, watering holes and beer bars. Soi 12 also has a Koreatown with several Korean restaurants, novelty shops and grocery stores. Koreatown is also directly across the road from the Korean Cultural Centre. Ratchadaphisek Road runs South from Sukhumvit at the Asoke intersection while Asoke Road runs North. The whole Sukhumvit area of Bangkok is easily accessible on the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line. This starts from Wat Phra Sri Mahathat through the Silom Line interchange at Siam Square over to Kheha. The MRT’s Sukhumvit station interchanges with the BTS Skytrain at Asoke.

Major hotels including famous names such as The Westin, J.W. Marriott, Grand Sheraton, Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt, Sofitel, Holiday Inn, Rosewood, Carlton plus the Four Points by Sheraton. Several shopping malls are found, like Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Terminal 21, EmQuartier, The Emporium. Bangkok’s Eastern bus station is at Soi 63 Ekkamai.

Arguably, Sukhumvit offers the best dining options in the whole of Bangkok. There are various levels of restaurants and eateries, from the most luxurious signature restaurants to simple street food carts. In fact, the whole area all alongside Sukhumvit Road offers a dramatic change in contrast. You can see both, condos, high rises, office towers, and the street stalls running all along the roadway. Sukhumvit Road is famous for being fun loving, sophisticated, and social at the same time. It is a favourite haunt amongst local expats and tourists who come here to have a taste of the rich nightlife. Sukhumvit Road is very cosmopolitan due to its appeal and the many variety of activities it offers.

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