Here are 7 hotspots that makes this ‘shabby chic’ soi on the fringes of Chinatown a great alternative to the Thonglor and Ekkamai scene.
Story and Photos by Dave Stamboulis.
Tell someone in Bangkok that you are heading over to Nana, and they’ll most likely look at you in horror, with a sly smile, or perhaps with wink out of the corner of their eye. Nana, while also being the name of a street and skytrain station, is far more readily known for its go-go bars and some of the city’s more naughty nightlife. However, there is a newer and far more different Nana that is making headlines these days, that of Soi Nana, a decaying block of crumbling shophouses just on the fringes of Chinatown just off Charoenkrung Road, which is now home to a resurgent avant garde bar scene, besides some of the city’s best kept secrets. It’s a great alternative to the usual scene found along Thonglor or Ekkamai.
One could define this quiet little neighborhood as shabby chic. Most of the bars and galleries in this area are just funky hole-in-the-wall spots, but the drinks, atmosphere, and even the prices as well will match anything being offered on Thonglor these days.
1. Teens of Thailand
Leading the charge is Teens of Thailand (76 Soi Nana, Tel. 081 443 3784), a gin lovers’ paradise where master mixologist bartender Niks Anuman-Rajadhon serves up creative gin mixes and infusions. Think Thai ice tea gin and tonics, chrysanthemum G & Ts, and lots of upscale pours using Hendricks, Hanami, or Ashley Sutton’s handcrafted Iron Balls gin. Teens is like a speakeasy, hidden behind a set of thick wooden doors right out of a movie set, and the interior features old Thai cinema posters and feels more like an industrial loft in Manhattan. There aren’t a lot of seats here, so patrons linger outside, or stand talking to one another clustered around the bar or wooden stairs of the old shophouse.
2. Tep Bar
A hundred meters down the road, a more Thai old school atmosphere prevails at Tep Bar (69-71 Soi Nana, Tel. 098 467 2944),a two-storey shophouse tucked down a lane full of dilapidated tenements. The interior is far more hip, with mood lighting, wooden tables downstairs, and tatami-style cushions to recline on upstairs. The emphasis here is on traditional Thai, with housemade yadong being the signature beverage. “Yadong,” or white spirits with mixed herbs, is usually found on street corners in Bangkok, both illegal and tasting like gasoline, but at Tep it is smooth, stylish, and comes in a tasting platter with three different shots, as well as being used for creative yadong cocktails. Additionally, a band plays traditional Thai instruments nightly to add to the ambience.
3. El Chiringuito
A few steps farther down the road lies El Chiringuito (221 Soi Nana, Tel. 085 126 0046), a Spanish tapas bar right out of Barcelona. It’s no surprise that the Thai owner here lived in Spain for six years, and is married to a Spaniard. Pincho tortillas, bocadillos, croquetas, and xoriguer gin rule the roost here, with daily specials being displayed on the photogenic slate blackboard. In addition to the food and drink, there is live music at times, and the owners even operate an Air BnB should you get the urge to stay.
4. 23 Bar & Gallery
While not nearly as fancy as any of the above spots, 23 Bar & Gallery (92 Soi Nana, Tel. 080 264 4471), enlivens Soi Nana just as much. The former owner of Bar 23, a cult-like status dive bar on Asok, has relocated and flipped the name around here, but still goes for cheap drinks, rock n roll, and lots of local art, led by the owner’s paintings and drawings, which cover the walls. If you dig the art, this area is becoming a hot spot for the bar/gallery crowd
5. Soy Sauce Factory
It’s worth checking out the nearby Soy Sauce Factory (Charoenkrung Soi 24, Tel. 092 115 8696), a 10-minute walk from here, where there are daily photo and art exhibitions, parties, and other events. The eclectic industrial venue gets its name from the fact that the building used to in fact be an old soy sauce producing warehouse.
6. Cho Why
Also of merit is Cho Why (41 Soi Nana), a cool art and project space bar in a beautiful old building right across the street from Teens of Thailand, although it is only open sporadically for events.
7. Nahim Cafe X Handicraft
Finally, for those who want to enjoy the atmosphere but don’t like to party, stop in at Nahim Cafe X Handicraft (78 Soi Nana, Tel. 02 623 3449), a place that began as an Instagram handicraft shop, and has since expanded to become a very creative and artsy cafe, complete with veggie cushions and lots of colorful patterns and bright lights. You can enjoy a range of tasty treats here, from salsa and chips to Nutella and strawberry waffles, pumpkin soup, and even veggie lattes or cold brew signature teas. It’s the perfect spot to relieve hangovers from all the other places along the soi!
This Soi Nana is a great vision of Bangkok new and old, where trendy and cutting edge bars have not replaced the former rather dilapidated old neighborhood but instead just enhanced it without needing to tear anything down or build anything new.