You’d be forgiven for thinking the only Soi Nana in town was the one lined with seedy bars, aging farang, and outdated pulsating dance tunes, but, thanks to a spate of new openings and the launch of the semi-regular Soi Nana Craft & Jumble Fair, the city’s booze and art enthusiasts have discovered this eminently cooler street, next door to Hua Lamphong and a stone’s throw from River City. Just be warned—taxi drivers will try to take you to the former without firm direction otherwise.
The Yaowarat Soi Nana has become a playground for Bangkok’s creative entrepreneurs on a budget who want to offer something a bit more inspired than the usual Gatsby-themed bars or Williamsburg-influenced cafés. And we couldn’t be happier for it.
The location is an unexpected one for a new hangout destination. It’s a bit of a pain to get to, and, when you do, it’s lined with aging shophouses that make you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn into a sleepy Chinatown residential neighbourhood. But that’s the charm. There are no celebs in fedoras taking photos of piles of waffles they won’t eat, no Korean snack franchises, and no mile-long queues for the latest food craze.
A little off the beaten track, this narrow soi is a destination in itself. Tep Bar is, perhaps, its best-known offering, thanks to its fresh approach to a few Thai traditions. A live band, Samniang Tep, plays traditional Thai instruments, including the xylophone-like ranat thum and a taphon drum, every night from 7.30pm. The venue is also known for its ya dong (Thai moonshine) infusions, which are said to have health-giving properties. Tep Bar’s versions include a honeycomb brew among several others given presumably non-traditional names, like “lion king” and “pussy whipped.”
The latest bar to heat up the area is Teens of Thailand. A deliberately provocative name, this shabby but oh-so-cool venue was set up by a team comprising a mixologist, a rock star, a photographer, and a nightlife event organiser. The cool credentials are all in place. Adding to the venue’s off-the-charts hipness are mismatched vintage furniture, raunchy photos, and a drink list that changes each day.
Also worth checking out is 23 Bar & Gallery. The venue picked up its sticks from Soi 16 and moved over to Soi Nana. Those who remember the old dive bar will be glad to know the soundtrack is more or less unchanged from its Britpop roots and the drinks are similarly simple. However, the big change is that there’s now regular art exhibitions held upstairs. The area’s best art gallery, however, remains the three-story Cho Why, which also happens to be one of the city’s most relaxed.
If it all starts to get a bit too much like your student days, and you need a little hit of Instagram-friendly white walls and cute cuisine, Nahim Café is a handicraft store with a big focus on adorable food and drink; think latte art, cold-brewed teas—flavours include caramel popcorn—in cartoon bottles, and, yes, food served on wooden boards and drinks in mason jars. This is Bangkok, after all—there was bound to be a little serving of sugary cuteness.
There aren’t many full-on restaurants on the soi, although Tep serves great Thai food and the very charming El Chiringuito dishes up Spanish tapas in a small shophouse. No reason to complain here.