A trail through Bangkok’s Old Town with Uracha Chaiyapinunt

Like like a local: Uracha Chaiyapinunt takes us deep inside Bangkok Old Town | Soho House

The lifestyle writer and Soho House Bangkok Committee member takes us on a tour of her favourite restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries in the Thai capital

Wednesday 1 February 2023   By Soho House

Bangkok is a city of juxtaposition. While rich in heritage and tradition, it thrives with contemporary art, entertainment and an exciting culinary scene. Modern skyscrapers tower over centuries-old temples and palaces; Michelin-starred restaurants stand beside local street-food stalls, and giant shopping malls are as busy as the beloved Chatuchak Weekend Market. 

A city full of culture, the Thai capital is home to a talented community of creatives, and with the opening of Soho House Bangkok around the corner – the first Southeast Asian House – it’s set to grow even further, inviting both local and international members to connect. 

In anticipation of this, Soho House Bangkok Committee member and local, Uracha Chaiyapinunt, shares the highlights of her city, with a carefully curated guide to top hangout spots in Bangkok’s Old Town neighbourhoods. 

Like like a local: Uracha Chaiyapinunt takes us deep inside Bangkok Old Town | Soho House

Why Old Town?

It’s the old and new that draws me back to Bangkok’s Old Town, particularly the various neighbourhoods along the right bank of the Chao Phraya River. Historically, it has always been a cultural melting pot. 

The Charoenkrung Road, for instance, was the first road in Thailand to be built using modern construction methods, revolutionising Bangkok’s urban development and shifting the main mode of transportation from water to land. Yaowarat (or Chinatown), on the other hand, has always been a thriving commercial scene – its prime riverside location has long secured its position as a trade hub. 

Today, traces of the neighbourhoods’ glory days can still be sensed in the architecture, shophouses and local businesses. The deep respect for the past endures, but the new establishments popping up have also infused the area with an exciting energy. 

Like like a local: Uracha Chaiyapinunt takes us deep inside Bangkok Old Town | Soho House


On Lok Yun
There’s nothing fancy about this 80 year-old local breakfast spot, but on any given day you can expect to find a line of people wrapped along the block, waiting to satisfy their craving for On Lok Yun’s famous fluffy steamed bread and kaya dish, or their version of French toast. Open from 6am to 2.30pm daily, it’s a go-to spot for locals and tourists alike for its simple, no-fuss, affordable breakfast menu. 

A modern izakaya restaurant with a standout kushiyaki menu, superb cocktails and a hip-hop playlist. What’s not to love about Jua? From the outside, it remains unassuming, blending seamlessly with the other shophouses in the dark alley, but once you step foot inside, the effortlessly cool interior by designer Sean Dix tells a different story. While I’m typically not a fan of bar seating, the expansive terrazzo countertop at Jua is the place to be. Order the Tsukune (chicken meatballs), the Katsu Sando (both the chicken and beef options are great), the Pork Belly Skewer and the Scallop Dynamite, and chase it down with a glass of saké.

Tonkin Annam 
A beloved restaurant with a huge following, Tonkin Annam is a humble, family-run spot in the Tha Thien neighbourhood that’s known for serving up a central and northern Vietnamese menu in a two-storey space. It serves stellar renditions of your favourite Vietnamese dishes, such as Pho Bo (beef pho) and Chao Tom (grilled prawns served on sugarcane sticks), as well as some lesser-known plates like the Nem Nuong (housemade grilled minced pork served with herbs and rice paper) and Banh Bot Loc (Hue-style pork and prawn dumplings) – all following generational recipes passed down by the owner’s grandparents. 

Sang Thatien
Just down the street from Tonkin Annam is Sang, a small, five-table restaurant cooking family-style Thai food that warms the soul. 

Serving Thai food from all parts of the country (lots of southern dishes), as well as hints of Chinese, the best dishes include deep-fried pork belly in fish sauce, the steamed egg that comes with a minced prawn base, and the stir-fried prawn soaked in garlic butter – and make sure you leave room for dessert. The waitlist for reservations is long here, so make sure you book weeks in advance. 

Like like a local: Uracha Chaiyapinunt takes us deep inside Bangkok Old Town | Soho House


FV (short for fruits and vegetables) was founded by Bangkok-based creative Opas Chantkam to highlight the delicious taste and unique qualities of Thai produce that often get overshadowed by imported goods. The menu here is seasonal, so expect a delightful surprise each visit. 

Hong Sieng Kong 
If you meander through the narrow alleys of Talad Noi towards the Chao Phraya River, you’ll find the beautifully restored Hong Sieng Kong – a coffee shop owned by a family of antique traders with generational ties to the neighbourhood. What was once a compound for rice trading 150 years ago now serves incredible Talad Noi Orange Coffee and has a gallery space filled with rare finds from the family’s personal collection. 

A floral shop by day and wine bar by night, Mala has grown to become one of my most frequented bars for its simplicity. It’s a quieter bar, making it equally suitable for catching up with friends and for a quick nightcap alone. When ordering a drink, you walk to the back to select a bottle from the shelves (no drinks menu here). Light snacks like potato rosti (the okonomiyaki topping is a guilty pleasure), cold cuts and cheese are also available. Get some fun snaps at the black and white photo booth behind the restaurant for a souvenir to take home.

The bars in Soi Nana
I always tell friends visiting Thailand to head to Soi Nana for a fun night of bar hopping. This short alley in Old Town has a high concentration of cool, award-winning drinking spots. Start at Tep Bar, where you’ll find home-infused ya-dong (Thai herbal whisky) and live traditional Thai music in a modern grungy setting. Just steps away are Teens of Thailand, Ba Hao, Wallflower Upstairs and Asia Today. Meanwhile, Tax bar is also nearby, and has a series of vinegar-based cocktails made from leftover alcohol – a tongue-in-cheek nod to the government’s lack of support for bars during the pandemic (alcohol can be taxed here, but not vinegar). 

Like like a local: Uracha Chaiyapinunt takes us deep inside Bangkok Old Town | Soho House

Art scene
Aside from its up-and-coming food and drinks scene, Charoenkrung is also beloved by Bangkok’s design world. In Soi Charoenkrung 30, gallery spaces ATT 19 and Warehouse 30 sit opposite each other, and both are only a short walk from Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC), the government-funded resource centre for art and design. These three creative community spaces have breathed new life into Charoenkrung, playing a significant role in Bangkok’s burgeoning art scene today. 

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