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Drinking from dawn till dusk around Bangkok’s Chinatown


When it comes to Bangkok’s world-famous Chinatown, the first thing that probably springs to mind is the delicious food. What’s less likely to feature in the guidebooks is the burgeoning drinking scene to be found in this bustling cultural melting pot. Just like food, drinking is an excellent way to learn more about the local culture. But before you assumed we’re just talking happy-hour gatherings and nightcaps, let us show you how everyone’s favourite activity plays a pivotal role throughout the day in Thai-Chinese culture.

Eiah Sae

Bangkok now boasts its fair share of trendy, Instagrammable cafes, but Eiah Sae 益生 is where coffee culture in Bangkok really began. This family-run coffee shop has been around since 1927 and you’ll feel a welcome dose of nostalgia upon stepping into the retro shop-house. Back in the day, Eiah Sae 益生 served as a gathering spot for working-class Chinese immigrants and local shop-owners. It was something like a town hall, where members of the community met to exchange news and services. 

Save your espresso-based coffee for later and go for Eiah Sae 益生’s traditional coffee, known as ‘kafe boran’, which boasts a rich, dark colour and smoky aroma, and is served with condensed milk. Other drinks to try include ‘nor koa yoaw’, a mix between hot coffee and tea. Nor should you miss their hearty breakfast options, from old-school egg custard with butter and condensed milk on toast, to soft-boiled eggs. The coffee shop is easy to spot as it’s frequented by many Thai and Chinese regulars of all ages, who lap up the homey atmosphere and value-for-money coffee kicks. 

Opening hours: Daily 4 am – 8 pm 
1-103 Yaowarat-Padsai Rd, Yaowarat, Bangkok 
Tel: +662-221-0549

Mother Roaster

Coffee is a drink for all ages, as Mama Pin demonstrates. Mother Roaster is a cosy coffee shop in Talad Noi where Pin, a 70-year-old ‘Mother’ is the main barista. She has always been a big coffee fan, and she’s been learning more about industry trends from her son, who is also a caffeine addict. They decided to open this shop so both of them can do what they love while being able to stay close to home. 

Pin takes a hands-on approach to crafting your cup of coffee, from roasting and grinding your beans to hand-brewing your drink with love. You can choose from espresso or drip coffee made with over 30 varieties of coffee beans sourced from home and abroad. Be sure to ask Pin for her recommendations or simply chat to her about her life growing up in Bangkok’s Old Town. 

We suggest trying a special offering like Single Snow White, a shaken coffee that perfectly blends milk and an espresso shot. If you’re looking for something a little bit stronger, Shakerato is the answer. For something perfect on a hot day, grab a Calamansi, which sees drip coffee complemented by citrus and honey. The setting of this house-turned-coffee shop is a celebration of simplicity and adds to the authentic experience. More good news is they are big on sustainability, meaning there are no plastic takeaway cups.

Opening hours: Daily 10 am – 6 pm 
1172, 8 Trok San Chao Rong Kueak, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 
Tel: +666-1216-2277

Double Dogs Tea Room

 

Tea has deep roots in China and all over Asia. Where better to learn about tea culture than right here in the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown? Double Dogs Tea Room is the passion project of Jongrak Kittiworakarn, a university professor-turned-tea lover. The warmly lit room is a haven for tea connoisseurs and offers a serene escape from the bustle outside. 

What makes tasting tea at Double Dogs Tea Room so enjoyable is the level of detail and passion the owner puts into every cup. Drawing on more than 10 years of experience, Jongrak meticulously selects the types of tea he sells. His passion for achieving the perfect flavour extends to matching each tea with the ideal utensils, with some pieces even made specially to order. Don’t miss a chance to try Tie Guan Yin, a variety of oolong tea that has a distinct dry flower aroma; Da Hong Pao, a smokey rock tea; or the various types of matcha tea and seasonal specials. To take your experience to the next level, ask about their tea pairings with Chinese and Japanese desserts.

Opening hours: Tue - Thu 1 pm – 9 pm, Fri - Sun 1 pm – 10 pm, Close on Monday
406 Yaowarat Rd, Chakkrawat, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 
Tel: +668-6329-3075

F.V. Cafe

There’s a saying that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and F.V. Cafe owner Opas Chankam doesn’t want that to be the case for Thailand’s seasonal fruit and vegetables. Hard-to-find local produce is at the heart of this cafe, whose name refers simply to fruit and vegetables and whose menu highlights ‘unwanted’ things. Opas works closely with local farmers to conserve various forms of plant life that many take for granted. At first glance, F.V. Cafe looks more like a gallery or a showroom than a cafe, decorated with art pieces along with a mix of kitschy yet aesthetically pleasing objects—you’ll even spot a replica of a traditional wooden Thai house. 

Fitting the cafe’s ‘unwanted’ concept, the oddly shaped glassware here is all recycled and in some cases remade from beer bottles. Unusual herbs and even household weeds feature in their cold-press juices—think Maiyarab (sensitive plant) weed, lesser-known Thai fruits like Langsad and even milk from pigeon peas and lotus seeds. The snacks stick to the theme with a heavy focus on unique local ingredients. Try the pomelo salad or homemade rice crackers and jams.

Opening hours: Daily 10 am – 7 pm 
827 Songwat Rd. Bangkok 
Tel: +668-1866-0533

Nam Dao Huu 

Even though soy milk has been popular globally for a long time, we promise that this drinking experience is nothing like what you might find at an ordinary supermarket. Nam Dao Huu takes this nostalgic Thai-Chinese drink and turns it into a yummy dessert experience. This newly opened cafe near MRT Wat Mangkon station retains all the old-school charm of its renovated shop-house, yet the interior is a fun mix old and new design. You can’t miss the cafe’s signature red door and a giant mural depicting a retro ‘Nam Dao Huu’ street stand.

The shop’s unique recipe for soy milk results in a drink that’s creamier and thicker than you find elsewhere. Their regular soy milk is so popular that they usually sell about 20 kilograms of it per day. They also make the toppings for the soy milk in house, and there are always new options to try. We highly recommend the soy milk with three mixed toppings (red bean, taro and black sesame). They also sell traditional Chinese desserts like douhua (sweet soft tofu) and dou tang (mixed Chinese sweets), bua loy in soy milk (mixed sweet rice balls with red bean, taro and black sesame) and even pa tong go (Chinese fried dough) with sangkaya (egg custard).

Opening hours: Daily 11 am – 10 pm
33 Plaeng Nam Rd, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 
Tel: +662-221-6944
Craft beer is big in the drinking scene these days, and Thai varieties tend to add a local twist. Píjiǔ Bar is a great spot to rest after a day of exploring Bangkok. The name of the bar means “beer” in Mandarin Chinese, and the owner wants to pay homage to the history of Chinatown through a shophouse decked out in a retro yet minimal style. Find yourself at ease in the dimly lit den filled with dark teak furniture and antique photos hanging on the wall.

Grab a seat and feast your eyes on more than 60 craft beers offered by the bottle. They also have six rotating taps where you can ask for a tasting before committing to a full pint. If you’re feeling like snacking on something, Píjiǔ Bar also offer Chinatown-inspired snacks, like the Chinatown Cold Cuts Platter, perfect for sharing. We tried two different kinds of beer: the Raven IPA is a Thai-born craft beer that won a homebrewing competition and was produced at Anderson Valley Brewing Company in the United States. If you’re a fan of IPA, this one is a must-try thanks to its refreshing citrus aroma and its balance of hoppy bitterness with the slight fruitiness from melon. Another local brew to try is Happy New Beer Pilsner, a fizzy beer that is light in body and has just the right sweetness thanks to honey and flowers. 

Opening hours: Tue - Sun 6 pm – 12 am, close on Monday
16 Soi Nana Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 
Tel: +668-1839-2832

Tep Bar

Bangkok’s bar scene is one of the most lively in Southeast Asia, and you don’t have to venture far from ASAI Chinatown to find a uniquely Thai drinking experience. If you’re looking to take a break from the Chinese-inspired spots in the neighbourhood, Tep Bar is the perfect spot for a nightcap. Located just off super-hip Soi Nana near MRT Hua Lampong, this hidden-away bar gives a sense of escape from the touristy bustle. The idea behind Tep Bar is simple. Having spent many years living in Singapore and missing Thailand, the owner wanted to create a destination where the true nature of Thailand was on display. Occupying a renovated shop-house, it has a cool yet laid-back vibe thanks to distinctly Thai decorations such as triangle pillows and wooden stalls.

Cocktails are the highlight of the drinks menu and they mainly feature local ingredients, homemade ‘Ya Dong’ (Thai herbal whiskey) and syrups. For a cocktail that shouts Thailand, try the ‘Songkran,’ a unique blend of herbal liquor, lime, passion fruit juice and grapefruit syrup, decorated with mint leaves and served in a Thai-style silver water dipper. For a less fruity concoction, order the ‘Suda Baitoey’ in which all manner of herbs and refreshing pandan meet Phraya rum. They have a full food menu here, too, ranging from snacks like kao kraeb wow (Thai-style giant crackers) served with sweet and spicy paste or koh gai krabok (deep-fried chicken cartilage marinated in spicy sauce) along with classic Thai dishes such as pad Thai. There are live bands every Friday to Sunday from 8:00PM onwards so you can happily spend your whole night here.

Opening hours: Daily 6 pm – 1 am
69, 71 Soi Yi Sip Song Karakadakhom 4, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 
Tel: +669-8467-2944

 

When you find yourself in a foodie heaven like Bangkok’s Chinatown, don’t miss a chance to pair your tasty treats and cultural, culinary discoveries with the diverse drinking options on offer as well. This is an area at the intersection of old and new, which means a drinking experience you won’t find anywhere else. Best of all, every single one of these drinking spots are just a short walk away from ASAI Chinatown. We’ll drink to that.

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