A transport hub, residentail pocket, and much more
Located in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district, Victory Monument is known for being one of the busiest transportation hubs in the metropolis. Around 40 municipal bus lines stop around the monument’s traffic circle, a major intersection where the three main roads Phahonyothin Rd, Phaya Thai Rd and Ratchawithi Rd meet. The eponymous obelisk in the centre of the four-lane roundabout was erected in 1941 to commemorate the victory of a brief war against the French colonial authorities in Indochina, resulting in Thailand annexing parts of Cambodia and Laos (which it had to give back a few years later). The area is also easily accessible by skytrain thanks to its BTS station of the same name, and is also one of the main departure places to catch minivans heading in all directions out of the city. Add this to the usual melee of cars, taxis and motorcycles and it quickly becomes transparent why the intersection is a constant traffic jam with thousands of people passing through each day.
However, despite all the chaos the neighbourhoods surrounding the monument have a lot to offer, once you manage to look behind the scenes. In the general area to the southeast of the Victory Monument traffic circle there is a surprisingly large choice of interesting restaurants, bars and chill out spots. To start your day at a relaxed pace, head to Chibi Chibi Café & Atelier (Soi Si Ayutthaya 2) for some coffee and delicious breakfast. Hidden on one of the calmer side streets just off Soi Rang Nam, this quaint and homey eatery serves great brunches, lunches, and also makes the perfect spot for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Walking down Soi Rang Nam, you will definitely notice the igloo-shaped, glass compound known as the King Power Complex, a duty free shopping centre and one of the best known buildings in the area. If you have a flight booked, show your passport and flight number at the entrance and benefit from the promotions on offer. However you won’t get your goods right away, as they can only be picked up at the airport gate.
For those who’d rather take their purchases home immediately, there are two more shopping malls close by. Centre One (Soi Ratchawithi 9) is a typical Thai shopping mall offering everything from cheap clothes and shoes, to phone covers. The ground floor resembles Siam Square and is a small labyrinth of little shops, even spilling onto the surrounding streets. Bargain shoppers can also visit the Century Movie Plaza (on the corner of Soi Rang Nam and Phaya Thai Rd) for a similar selection of stores, as well as a 7-screen cinema.
In case you’re getting a bit hungry, the area is teeming with dining and snacking options. While both malls house a couple of (fast food) chain restaurants, the surrounding soisare home to a number of distinctive eateries. Great places for lunch are the traditional ‘Boat Noodle’ restaurants along the klong Sam Sen just north of the monument including Rua Thong Noodle. Traditionally, merchants on boats sold small bowls of noodles in broth with either beef or pork, and pickled curd. Nowadays these restaurants are usually found on land, overlooking the rivers, but the size of the bowls has remained the same. To reach Rua Thong Noodle, either cross the tiny bridge off Soi Ratchawithi 10, or follow the BTS elevated Skywalk until you reach the stairs leading down to Phahonyothin Rd. For B12 per bowl, get ready to dig into some delicious noodle soup and don’t worry, it’s normal to have more than one. Just look around and you’ll see bowls stacked high on every table.
Probably one of the most surprising places in this area is Santiphap Park, located just a few hundred metres from the BTS station. Literally meaning “Peace Park” in Thai, the 3.2 hectare grounds are perfect for residents and visitors alike to escape the hustle and bustle and get some peace and quiet. Amid the concrete jungle, this well-maintained and very clean park is like a green oasis. It features three small ponds and a playground, as well as some fitness equipment, and offers plenty of benches to relax on, a bookshelf for some reading (the books are only in Thai though), and a small plant exhibition at the far end.
However, we are all aware how untrustworthy rainy season can be. In case an unpredicted shower comes down, head for the adjacent Soi Ratchawithi 3 and take refuge in Let’s Say Café. The small café is impossible to miss as it’s literally the only coffee shop on an otherwise residential street. Grab a cup and climb two stories up to Turn the Tables, a board game café where you can sit out the rain while spending the afternoon playing everything from The Settlers of Catan to Camel Cup. It’s B50/person for the first hour, and you can even buy your favourite game there to take home.
For evening meals there are plenty of options including Pathé Restaurant (507 Ratchawithi Rd). This quirky and brightly coloured restaurant serves delicious Thai and international cuisine at reasonable prices. Its interior is made up of mainly vintage furniture, with 60s posters decorating the wall above the open kitchen and a jukebox playing old vinyl in the background. Other places worth trying are Everest Kitchen Bangkok (48/8 Ratchaprarop Rd) for Nepali, Indian and Halal dishes, Kuang Seafood (107/13 Soi Rang Nam), a popular place for Asian seafood, and Pla Thong Mookata (Phaya Thai Rd), a Thai BBQ buffet offering a variety of meat and vegetables to grill directly at your table—for just B169 per person! Alternatively, you can grab a quick bite at many locations along Soi Rang Nam, which is lined with numerous food stalls and restaurants.
Although the area around Victory Monument might not be too big on the clubbing scene, it is home to a couple of cool bars, the most popular among them being Saxophone, a live-music jazz bar on Soi Ratchawithi 11. A great alternative, however, is Skytrain Jazz Bar (the hidden entrance is right next to Eat Am Are, a popular steakhouse on the corner of Soi Rang Nam and Phaya Thai Rd). After you’ve managed to climb the 5 stories—no lift, sorry—all the way to the top floor of the building, you will be rewarded with a great view over Bangkok and (who would have guessed?) the BTS Skytrain. This place is pretty chilled. There are about a dozen tables, a lot of greenery, and reasonably priced drinks (large Chang for B125). It’s a great spot to enjoy the sunset, and a live open mike jam takes place every Monday night. More live music can be found at Raintree Pub & Restaurant (116/63-64 Soi Rang Nam), a rustic country-styled bar with a dark wood interior. The bar serves great Thai food, and from around 9pm onwards, a live Thai folk music band entertains customers. Finally, before you end your excursion, hit the karaoke places on Ratchaprarop Rd, or maybe stop for one last drink at Baan Bar (large Chang for B95) and enjoy a homey and retro styled atmosphere.
By Julia Offenberger