Welcome to Bangkok, Southeast Asia’s greatest capital city, where one can find nearly anything. Somewhere between the dazzling temples, winding canals, vibrant nightlife, hectic markets, Muay Thai matches, and whizzing tuk-tuks and motorcycles, there is a small but growing live music scene. From ritzy hotel lounges to grungy rooftop bars, everybody can find their niche in Bangkok.
Don’t come to Bangkok expecting anything, let alone a music scene equivalent to that of New York City, because you will undoubtedly be contradicted. What’s great about Thailand’s largest city music scene is not necessarily the quality or reputation of the artists, but that you can have fun any night of the week and pay next to nothing.
The size and scale of Bangkok can overwhelm one with options. Here are my personal favorites for a few good evenings out – suggested as much for the ambiance and people watching as the music:
Adhere the 13th Blues Bar (13 Samsen Road)
A hole-in-the-wall just a few blocks from the well-known Khao San Road, I have spent many evenings here sitting an arm’s length away from an eclectic mix of Bangkok’s best blues musicians. Regulars come here because the community is pleasant, the beer is cold, and the music is superb.
Sky Train Jazz Club (Soi Rangnam and Phayathai)
The cheapest rooftop bar you’ll visit in Bangkok, Sky Train Jazz Club doesn’t even have live music every week but you’ll at least feel cool drinking Singha while the BTS whizzes by. Climb the graffiti-lined staircase until you reach what appears to be a struggling college student’s apartment rooftop.
Saxophone Pub (3/8 Phayathai)
Want something a bit more established but not pretentious? Saxophone Pub has some premier jazz and blues music in Bangkok, as well as reggae, ska, rock, and other non-exclusive types of music. The delectable Thai food and chance to improve your billiards game here only adds to the experience.
Brick Bar (265 Khao San)
As most tourists inevitably find themselves at Khao San Road at some point, I felt it appropriate to include at least one Khao San option with live music to escape to when the bright lights and persistent vendors become too much. The jam-packed Brick Bar hosts a nightly band, often Ska.
When in doubt, hotel bars are safe and predictable. The Diplomat Bar at the Conrad Hotel, Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, Glaz Bar at Plaza Athenee Hotel, and Le Bar de l’Hotel at Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit are all suitable options for those who prefer the megamall and air conditioning side of the city to the hot, gritty, and politically unstable parts, all aspects that combine to make Bangkok the truly entrancing city it is.
Melissa Reichwage is currently living in Colombia and has traveled extensively in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia. With a Master’s in Public Health, focusing on Global Health and Development, she will continue exploring and learning about solutions available to overcome the pressing issues of our time. She wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, providers of tours to Thailand and all over Southeast Asia.