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Thailand Nightlife

Bar Su
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok
250 Sukhumvit Road
Thailand 10110
Tel: 66 2 649 8888

Tourists keep this orange-and-red-neon–lit, geodesic-inspired nightclub jumping, but just enough fashionable locals drop by to give the circular bar an exotic buzz. Regulars know to snag one of the cushioned alcoves where gilded curtains confer added privacy and the funky hanging lamps resemble ice cubes. The lack of a DJ means often incoherent musical choices but as the evening progresses and the fruity cocktails flow, no one seems to mind. Conveniently located on Sukhumvit Road with direct access to the Skytrain, Bar Su is optimally situated for night revelers staying in one of the many nearby business hotels as well as slightly seedier options for which Bangkok is well known. Still, the dress code is enforced here so leave backpacks, flip-flops, and bikini tops where they belong.

Open daily 6 pm to 2 am.

Beach Republic
Lamai Beach
Lamai Beach , Koh Samui
Tel: 66 77 458 100

After falling behind rival Chaweng for some time, Lamai Beach has regained its coolness factor with Beach Republic, located directly on the sand. Dive into the seaside infinity pool or stretch out on padded sun loungers after dancing to groovy tunes from visiting DJs who spin until 2 am. The on-site spa enhances the chill vibe here.

Open daily 11 am to 2 am.

Hotel Photo
Full Moon Party
Haad Rin Nok Beach , Koh Phangan

The most serious ragers use Koh Samui merely as their jumping-off point to the nearby island of Koh Phangan, home of the legendary Full Moon Party. Tens of thousands of bikini- and tie-dye–clad revelers drenched from sweat and seawater keep Asia's most outrageous party hopping after dusk. Expect to cheer the sunrise as boats pull up to take exhausted revelers back to their resorts. If you can't make it on the actual day of the monthly Full Moon Party, you're likely to catch similar levels of debauchery on the two days leading up to and after the actual event. Be forewarned that recreational drugs are common, despite their being illegal in Thailand; use at your own risk. The Samui Phangan Express leaves Samui every hour on the hour between 8 am and 5 pm for the 12-minute ride to the rave (Tel: 66-81-372-701; U.S. $15 one way). People arrive well before sundown and stay until the boats start leaving again in the morning.

Moonmuang Road
Chiang Mai
Tel: 66 53 277 447

Just inside the old-city limits, this hangar-sized space south of Thapae Gate is your entr¿e into kitsch-tastic Thai nightlife. Bring a sense of humor to this contemporary warehouse space with its towering ceilings, limited seating, and a sound system with amplifiers that go to 11. Forget about striking up a conversation; the thunderous volume of the live music swallows everything but text messages. The house band cranks out an endless stream of cheesy covers while the rotating Thai vocalists try their hand at everything from Shakira to hip hop to power ballads. Be forewarned, foreigners must pay inflated cover charges, usually nearly triple what locals are charged. Take care in the restrooms, where overzealous attendants descend to massage your back and calves—and to flush your urinal. Awkward.

Met Bar
The Metropolitan
27 South Sathorn Road
Thailand 10120
Tel: 66 2 625 3333

Originally a London import, this low-lit lounge is known for distinctly indigenous delights like the tom yumtini (an alcoholic take on the popular Thai soup with lemongrass, chile, and Kaffir lime vodka) as well as a generous menu of quickly addictive Thai tapas. The official door policy of members only rarely gets enforced, especially on Fridays, a.k.a Eighties Night, when locals and expatriates of a certain age dust off their vintage frocks and get down to the likes of Duran Duran. Other evenings are less raging, and the vibe markedly more fashion forward.

Open daily 4 pm to 2 am.

33/33 Sukhumvit Road
Soi 11
Klong Toey Nua, Wattana
Thailand 10110
Tel: 66 2 255 0638

Perched atop an otherwise unmemorable boutique hotel, Bangkoks newest evening indulgence makes a lasting impression from late morning to well past the sexy sunsets. Palm trees surround the swank outdoor lounge and guests are encouraged to sink bare feet into the freshly cut grass. Mist sprays will keep midday visitors from overheating nine stories closer to the equatorial sun. Behind the bar, drinks and tapas selections get projected onto one of two soaring white sails that add to the weekend-chic look while offering reliable protection during Bangkoks notorious monsoons. Plenty of cushioned pods, daybeds, and even hammocks create a playground vibe for the sophisticated clientele.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 4 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 4 pm to 3 am.

28 Phra Baramee Soi 7
Kalim Beach , Phuket
Thailand 83150
Tel: 66 76 344 834

This old Muslim house hidden in the hills overlooking Patong Beach has a second life as Phuket's insider after-dark address. Frangipani trees soar above the sea-facing veranda lined with cozy daybeds, and upstairs in the private party room an ornate Chinese imperial altar table, birdcages, and an opium bed add just a dash of kitsch alongside dramatic oil paintings by local talent Kob Alongkorn. Chill jazz tunes accompany signature sips like the Chili Moon martini, which mixes vodka and Cointreau with muddled Kaffir lime leaves and fresh chili, or the Frozen Passion, with vodka, tequila, and cranberry juice, plus passion fruit and mango sorbet.—Cynthia Rosenfeld


Though synonymous with seedy red-light activities, Patpong in recent years has attracted a small number of upscale, comparatively wholesome establishments. While they don't entirely offset the thriving sex industry that spills into the pedestrian-filled side streets off Silom Road, each is an unexpected haven worth seeking out. Well-dressed Thais, most of whom seem to know each other, toast and talk inside the low-lit chill-out rooms stacked atop one another at Tapas Room. Jazz (both Western and Thai-style) is the draw for most visitors, while others snag a comfy cane seat outside for prime people-watching (open Thursday through Saturday from midnight to the 2 am curfew). Around the corner, Funky Dojo manages to stay open until 3 am, offering a street-front scene that's entirely sleaze-free, instead attracting international DJs and a sophisticated mix of international and Thai clientele.

Phuket Simon Cabaret
8 Sirirach Road
Patong Beach , Phuket
Tel: 66 76 342 011
Fax: 66 76 340 427

Girls, girls, girls? At the Simon Cabaret, gender is an illusion reinforced by good lighting, expensive costumes, and Hollywood musical-style sets. The performers, the infamous "lady boys" of Patong Beach, have charisma to spare: A few are transsexuals, others are cross-dressers, all are lip-syncing divas. You'll overhear greenhorns saying they can't believe these aren't women, but unless you've never seen a drag show before, it's obvious—and that's part of the fun. Expect camp classics such as "Big Spender" and even a little Céline Dion—wholesome drag for the whole family.

Q Bar
147/57 Moo 2
Bophut , Koh Samui
Tel: 66 77 741 3297

Q Bar reigns over the palm fronds on the hills above Bophut Beach. It has the distinction of being Koh Samui's only air-conditioned dance club, which is important, since the dance floor packs in more than 500 revelers. Check out the upstairs lounge, where white leather couches confer panoramic island views, and the menu delivers old-school cocktails (gimlets) as well as local flavors (fresh lychee martinis).

Open daily 5 pm to 2 am.

Q Bar
34 Sukhumvit Road
Soi 11
Thailand 10110
Tel: 66 2 252 3274

The venerable institution on the Bangkok scene and sister to the Saigon original boasts a somewhat notorious reputation—"working ladies" have, on occasion, gone to work here—but somehow manages to lure an eye-catching crowd of international night owls. Resident and visiting celebrity DJs spin house, hip-hop, and chill-out lounge until the 2 am curfew while the crowd sips Q-tinis and an extensive selection of Long Island iced tea variations, including the Thai twist, with a generous jolt of Red Bull. Keeping the vibe alive, the second-floor lounge's expansive outdoor deck has recently been recast as a semiprivate supersexy lounge with deep, invitingly plush couches and ornate chandeliers.

Open daily 8 pm to 2 am.

9.11 Charoenrat Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50000
Tel: 66 53 243 239

The east bank of the Ping River running north of the Narawat Bridge claims one of the best sunset views in town, so it's no surprise the shore is lined with restaurants and bars. The Riverside is its anchor tenant, with well over 100 tables in a rambling, refurbished wooden house. Riverside's menu lists an enormous number of homogenized Asian and Western dishes, but the house specialty is really live music. Jazz and piano serenade diners, but as night descends, the restaurant morphs into a popular honky-tonk. Thai cover bands play until 1 a.m. on stages at both ends of the building; the mixed crowd and the music are more raucous at the north-side platform. Next door, the shed-like Good View serves up better Thai food and live music in a sit-down atmosphere (13 Charoenrat Rd.; 66 53 241 866;

Open daily 10 pm to 1 am.

Rock City
188/1 Thaweewong Road
Patong Beach , Phuket
Tel: 66 78 855 101

The dark, split-level confines of Rock City on Patong Beach Road include a King Kong-sized sound system designed to blast your hair horizontally. The place will rock you, from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.—during the day you can quaff beers at the outside bar—but don't believe the placards that say Metallica's playing (note the words tribute band in microscopic print underneath). To add to the bizarre mix: Most of the bands are imported from Sweden—whence the owner, a former rocker himself, hails. Even if metal tribute bands ain't your thing, this is the rare nightspot that draws both tourists and Thais. They promise to bring you "one step closer to hell," so keep an open mind.

Sky Bar
63–64th Floor
State Tower
1055 Silom Road
Thailand 10500
Tel: 66 2 624 9555

Perched atop Bangkok's second highest tower, the open-air, neon-lit Sky Bar juts out 64 floors above this urban sprawl, making it the ideal watering hole for those who like to live on the edge. Vertiginous vacationers should keep to street level but even those who ascend to the top of the State Tower building located along the Chao Phraya River may be shocked by the low, transparent railing. Designers play off this element of surprise, so that the talented jazz singer seems perched barely a breath away from an untimely finale when in fact that sheer drop behind the stage hides a sexy glass staircase. The wind has been known to blow over the signature Blue Sky cocktails, made with quadruple-distilled New Zealand vodka, so hold onto purses and perhaps even loved ones. The gusts may make things awkward, but the view makes it a definite have-to-see-once place.

Open daily 6 pm to 1 am.

Starz Club Samui
Khun Chaweng Shopping Center
Chaweng Beach , Koh Samui
Tel: 66 8 4744 9074

Even the most jaded globe-trotters get into the campy spirit as the silver lamé curtain rises on the cabaret at Starz Club Samui in the heart of Chaweng. Out strut the kathoeys, or "ladyboys." The term refers to any cross-dressing man in Thailand, where transgender experimentation is the exception to the country's otherwise conservative social mores. A Mariah Carey impersonator hosts the Starz Club show, which is free with the purchase of drinks like the Lusty Lady, with Thai brandy, honey, and Champagne. Only the occasionally protruding Adam's apple reminds the festive crowd that these ornately attired belly dancers, feathered Vegas showgirls, and Madonna wannabes are not exactly as ladylike as they appear.

Shows nightly at 9 and 10:15 pm.

Hotel Photo
Terrace Bar
The Chedi, Chiang Mai
123 Charoenprathet Road
Chiang Mai
Thailand 50100
Tel: 66 53 253 333

The tall rooms and broad verandas of the former British Consulate, a splendid slice of colonial design on the grounds of the Chedi hotel, now hold an atmospheric restaurant and bar that are ideal for sundowners. Take your gin and tonic on a second-floor daybed (hookah-puffing is optional), or chill on the breezy deck beneath sacred, centuries-old bodhi trees overlooking the Ping River. For no-brainer nibbles, there are Asian-themed tapas with wine pairings: A generous pour of '04 Terra Mater, a silky Maipo Valley shiraz, and a dozen spicy murgh pakora chicken croquettes with mint-yogurt chutney costs about $12. Mosquito repellent, in a stylish Chedi spritzer, is complimentary.

Open daily 5 pm to 1 am.

Warm Up Café
40 Nimmarnhaemin Road
Chiang Mai
Tel: 66 53 400 676

This popular dance bar fills up before 9 p.m., stays loud, and skews young, owing to its location near Chiang Mai University. There's live music on weekends, and in true Thai nightclub style, booze is sold by the bottle. The gay-friendly Glass Onion, a quieter wine bar with a piano, scarlet shag carpets, and chandeliers, is just opposite (61 Nimmanheamin Rd; 66 53 218 479).

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.