Bangkok’s Foreign Districts: Japanese, Chinese, Western…
Bangkok is a metropole with a large cultural and ethnical diversity. Although the vast majority of the population is Thai, there are several districts that culturally and ethnically differ from the rest of the city. Generally speaking, it seems like Bankok's tourist and entertainment districts have been slightly segregated by the ethnicity of the cliente. Thus, depending on everbody's personal interest and taste, it might be helpful to have an idea and overview of these districts.
Soi 3: The Arab Street of Bangkok
The area around Sukhumvit Soi 3 (between Phloen chit and Nana Bts stations) is dominated by Arab tourists. Middle-eastern shisha bars, pubs, restaurants, salons and shops characterize the cityscape in this area. Even the girls at the massage shops seem to have adapted to the cliente: Girls with thick make up and chubby (curvy) body, speaking a few words in arabic - as this is favored by many middle-eastern customers. There, visitors might have the impression to be in the middle of Beirut, while actually being in Bangkok, for example.
Sukhumvit Soi 4 & 11: Western expats and tourists
A little further, across the road (sukhumvit soi 4) is what Nana district is famous for: Lots of Gogo-Bars, pubs, clubs, massage shops (with sexual service) and prostitutes on the street and inside the venues. There, guests are mostly (middle aged) western tourists and expats, followed by Arabs and Indians. Locals who don't have a business there usually avoid this area. In contrast, at Sukhumvit Soi 11, the average age is lower - thanks to popular clubs and pubs like Levels Club, Sugar Club, Climax and Oskar Bar. Besides western, indian and arab guests, this street is getting more and more popular among young Thais.
Image: Vibrant nightlife on Nana district's streets
Phrom Phong & Silom: The Japanese Quarters
Parts of Silom and also the greater Phrom Phong area from Sukhumvit Soi 23 - Soi 55 (especially Soi 29, 31, 33) have a large percentage of Japanese expats. Plenty Japanese restaurants, shops, karaoke bars and pubs are located there and it is recommended to try one of the original sushi restaurants. There is a Japanese grossery market near Phrom Phong Bts station. Furthermore, some massage shops have specialized in Japanese customers.
Another Bangkok district that is dominated by a distinct ethnicity is Chinatown. As, the name suggests, this area is inhabited mostly by Chinese and Chinese-Thai people and is also a popular tourist attraction (as it is with other Chinatowns around the world like in San francisco and New York). This vibrant and colorful district is actually called 'Yaowarat' and is located in the so called 'Old Town' area along Yaowarat road which marks the heart of Chinatown. Many gold shops, traditional Chinese restaurants and food shops are lined along this mainroad, whereas on narrow sidestreets, that might seem intimidating to some, small fruit markets and cheap shops for all kind of products such as herbs can be found.
Huay Khwang: Chinese Tourist Groups
Huay Khwang, which is located around 2-3 km north of the Asok intersection is another district that is popular among Chinese tourists. The hotels in that area are specialized in large chinese tourist groups and thus, offer them relatively cheap group prices. One of the popular landmarks is the Phra Ganesha (Elephant God/Pikanet) Shrine / Temple at the Huay Khwang intersection right next to the Mrt station. Moreover, this area is famous for its numerous and huge Soapy Massage parlours such as Emanuelle, La Belle, Amsterdam, Poseidon Ceasar's Massage and several more.
Pratunam: Chinese & Indian
Well known as a wholesale shopping paradise for clothing, jewelry, bags and accessoirs, Pratunam district attracts locals as well as tourists and traders mainly from the east- and southeast asia region such as India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines. People go shopping in Pratunam mainly due to relatively cheap wholesale prices and second, because of the large variety of products . This district spans over the area between Petchaburi Road and Ratchaprarop Airport Rail Link station and harbours several small Chinese or Indian dominated sidestreets.
Indra Square deparment store for example, which is located near the tall Bayoke Tower, is almost entirely Indian. The shops, the staff and customers are Indian.
Pratunam is a very vibrant and dynamic district that is often associated with Hong Kong.
Khaosan District: Western Stronghold
Khaosan district has long been the primary destination of Western backpackers for lodging and partying. At night, the streets are packed with Western people drinking, eating and dancing. Here, Thai people are outnumbered by Western tourists and expats. Accomodation is humble but cheap. Mostly, people come to Khaosan for a short stayover of a few days only and continue their journey to other places in Thailand. You can run into all kinds of people: Hippies, emos, beggars, affluent people, students and even ex-militaries. However, this vibrant backpacker 'Ghetto' gets more and more popular for young Thais such that you can see many venues where foreigners are outnumbered by locals.
Phahurat Road: Little India
Next to Chinatown, along Phahurat Road , there is a neighborhood that many people know as 'Little India'. Home to the Sikh community, this area harbours numerous indian restaurants, taylors, clothing and utensil shops. You can find traditional indian dresses, aswell as western fashion. Here you can get the cheapest Indian food in Bangkok. For more shopping, you can visit India Emporium Mall and Old Siam Square that are in the same area.
Phahurat road is a colorful area that can give visitors a short Mumbay feeling. The most popular atraction here is the infamous Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha Temple. Built in 1932, it's the second largest Sikh Temple outside of India.