Bangkok knows only bliss or burden. Weather patterns are binary—rainy or clear, humid or dry, hot or hotter. Where autumn leaves mark changing seasons in other parts of the world, here the shift is intuitive, something sensed in the soul rather than seen in the shrubs. So when the rainfall has petered out and the torrid temperatures have settled, signalling the start of an all-too-brief winter, couples in the city emerge from their shelters and gambol outside as if by reflex.
After a seemingly endless string of months having to tote umbrellas in case of sudden storms, the great outdoors has become a playground once again, and romance has filled the air. Dates on the town benefit from a little more variety in November and December. Here are some of the top ways to enjoy an alfresco couple’s night out in a suddenly re-vitalized Bangkok.
While Bangkok lacks the classic American drive-in theatre, and its outdoor screenings don’t have the same diversity of experience as they do in London, where couples can catch movies on rooftops or floating barges—even in hot tubs—a few local groups set the mood for love both on- and off-screen.
The Bangkok Open-Air Cinema Club organizes monthly film screenings at the rooftop garden at The Hive on Sukhumvit 49. While the films are not always tailor-made for snuggling—in the past, they’ve included “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on one hand, and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Pretty Woman” on the other—the atmosphere is cosy and intimate. So couples can tune out the noise below and get lost in the drama unfolding on screen.
At the end of the year, the Goethe Institut typicallyoffers open-air cinema in its leafy garden off Sathorn Soi 1. With the films being German, they tend to transport viewers to a world beyond Bangkok. The Jam Factory has got in on the action in recent years, too, although its schedule of events is ever-changing, so it’s no guarantee there will be a film festival this winter. Still, it’s worth swinging by the gallery for a look at the latest art and a stroll through the sweet-smelling garden.
What do we picture when we conjure up a date over drinks? Cocktails? Wine? Champagne flutes clinking from a glass tower hanging above the city? Probably not beer—but that would be a mistake.
Bangkok has embraced Western craft beer culture with open arms, including its relaxed garden-patio settings and freedom of choice. Mikkeller Bangkok occupies a sedate patch of land in an even more sedate back alley in Ekamai. As a result, it can feel as off-the-grid as any place in the city. Yet it draws a steady stream of casual (and serious) drinkers to its tasting room, which is tastefully decorated in light wood, giving it a feel not unlike a bar in Scandinavia. Ignore the buzz inside, however, and head straight for the garden for a laid-back night of romance in quasi-solitude.
In the centre of town, Craft on Sukhumvit 23 has balanced the soi’s notorious reputation with its unflappable, sophisticated vibe. No, it isn’t always quiet here. And, yes, the outdoor beer bar is but a hundred metres from the seedier entertainment of Soi Cowboy. Nevertheless, on a cool winter night, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy a pint of flavourful craft beer—over 40 on tap—over intimate conversation at a high-top table for two. At Craft, lovers can actually lock in on one another’s eyes and drum up privacy on their own terms. Freedom, after all, is the essence of modern romance.
Flowing water has a captivating effect. While by day the Chao Phraya is hardly the most beautiful body of water on the planet, by dusk its ripples become velveteen, its roar a sweet whisper, and city lights bounce off its surface like flickering fireflies. Few places in Bangkok stoke passion like the river.
In the Old Town, low-rise rooftop bar Jham-Jun offers the sounds, sights, and faint smells of the water within a quiet faux garden near Phra Sumen Fort. The experience embodies present-day Bangkok to the core: the food is Thai, the live music is Popsanova Thai, and the crowd is largely local Thai. What’s more, the relaxed and subtle background noise provide that peculiar sensation of feeling far removed from the madness while only being a few floors above it. The same goes for nearby Babble & Rum at Riva Surya, another outdoor venue on top of a stunning boutique hotel.
The beauty of the riverside is that romance can take many forms—Italian, Thai, Chinese, French. At Mango Tree by the River at the ersatz heritage structure Yod Phi Man, or Sala Rim Naam Terrace at the stately Mandarin Oriental, fine Thai food lends a local lilt to romantic dinners. The same goes for Supatra River House, where diners can sit inside a former aristocrat’s home or on its outdoor patio. The Deck at Arun Residence offers menu samples from far-off destinations, not to mention breath-taking views of Wat Arun. Slightly further afield, the long-standing Sirocco at Lebua stirs the spirit of the Mediterranean into two-person dinners of the cloth-napkined and dress-coded breed.
In the city centre, buildings rise like redwoods, a colossal canopy of bricks and mortar. Fortunately, romance isn’t relegated to industrial structures. Fresh air and greenery give life to numerous restaurants and bars. Gardens grow on roofs, behind buildings, and, on occasion, inside venues.
At Hemingway’s in Asoke, plants and trees adorn the interior and exterior of a heritage house built from golden teakwood, a location once hidden from plain sight, mere steps from the BTS. Grab a table on the terrace, enjoy some wine and tapas, and relive the glory days of 20th-century literature. In Ekamai, The Gardens of Dinsor Palace teem with tropical plants and wildlife (a family of tame geese resides in the garden). Also occupying an old mansion, the restaurant adds a pinch of elegance to already intimate dinners. From there, it’s an easy walk to Octave, a sky bar on top of the Bangkok Marriott Hotel, where natural wood and blue lights meet fresh blowing breeze and expansive views.
Fake grass may not match the real thing, but sometimes it’s good enough. At Kukkuuk Yakiniku above DND in Thong Lo, the outdoor balcony, complete with a forest green carpet, makes for an easy-going place to kick off an electric night (downstairs DND is a premier EDM club, and it’s nearby the neighbourhood’s other élite nightlife venues). If a wild night sounds off-putting, shuffle over to The Garret, a gastropub serving American food with an outdoor patio, as well as a cosy indoor dining room with rows of windows looking out over Ekamai. For a finishing touch, visit The Speakeasy at Hotel Muse, where stiff drinks, citywide views, and the open air send couple’s nights out in style.