In the heart of the city center, bordering with Ratchathewi, is the Pathum Wan district. This neighborhood covers the entire area that goes from the BTS stop called National Stadium, up until Ploen Chit, going down south to also include Si Lom and the metro stations from Lumphini as far as Hua Lamphong.
The name “Pathum Wan”, instituted in 1914 by the monarch of the time, is derived both from the Buddhist temple Wat Pathum Wataram (which in Thai means temple of the lotus flower), as well as the lotus pond building, Sa Pathum.
The neighborhood has a smaller population than Ratchathewi. In fact there’s no more than 50 thousand inhabitants, spread across a total of a little more than 8 square kilometers.
Bangkok is divided into 50 districts called “khet”, which in turn are subdivided into subdivisions called “khwaeng”. The area of Pathum Wan is no exception; starting from the westernmost part, you can separate them into four sub-neighborhoods:
- Rong Muang: here there’s the city’s main train station, built in a Neo-Renaissance style by Italian architect Mario Tamagno. It’s worth visiting to see its elegant design, with decorated wooden roofs, stained glass and even a half cupola;
- Wang Mai: in this area you can find the biggest shopping mall dedicated to counterfeit merchandise, called Ma Boo Khrong in Thai, and abbreviated as MBK in English. In addition there’s also the house (today transformed into a museum) of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson, and lastly the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is found here;
- Pathum Wan: this area is considered a shopping paradise. In fact here is where you’ll find all the largest and most luxurious shopping malls such as the Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and Siam Square. You can also find the temple Wat Pathum Wataram, which is located just a little before one of the largest shopping malls in all of Thailand, Central World. On the opposite side of this shopping mall is another temple, Erawan Shrine, which was struck by a terrorist attack in the summer of 2015. Open every day from 6 to midnight, this little sanctuary represents a place of worship for the Hindu god Brahma;
- Lumphini: this area is the green lung of the city; Lumphini Park. Besides the various sports activities you can do in Lumphini, which includes swimming in the pool, I recommend that you go before 5 in the afternoon so as to see the atmosphere that is created when the national anthem is played and everyone stops what they’re doing and freezes. Other than the park you can also find the stadium where they hold Muay Thai matches and the Suan Lung night bazaar.
Pathum Wan and its merits
The positive things that the neighborhood offers will satisfy every type of tourist:
- it is easily reachable by public transportation from both airports;
- you can travel to almost any part of the city and the rest of Thailand thanks to the fact that you have both BTS lines here, the blue subway line, and even train stations;
- it’s close to Sukhumvit, a very lively area full of restaurants and pubs that serve foreign food;
- if you want to go shopping you’ll have a wealth of choices;
- shopping malls such as Siam Paragon, MBK, and Central World offer lots of attractions inside, such as movie theaters, an aquarium and a few museums, along with excellent restaurants where you can eat local dishes and international ones;
- in this area there are several embassies, such as the Swiss, American, English and Japanese. If you need to get a visa for one of these countries you can easily get to the embassy with the SkyTrain;
- being able to relax in a chaotic city like Bangkok is free! Thanks to Lumphini Park you can immerse yourself in the green, play sports and even admire the sunset with the skyscrapers creating a magnificent show;
- here there are several rooftop bars, where you can have a cocktail while admiring Bangkok from above;
- besides being of high quality, the hotels in this area also offer services for those traveling for business. Some examples are conference spaces or private areas in restaurants where you can hold work meetings;
- if you live in Pathum Wan you’ll have various options for going shopping. Besides the shopping malls you can also take advantage of cheaper chains like the Big C.
How to get to Pathum Wan and its main attractions
Pathum Wan is connected to almost every zone of the city. If you land at Suvarnabhumi Airport just take the BTS that connects the airport to the Ratchathewi district, and get off at the last stop (Phaya Thai) and then take the connection going to Siam or Ratchaprarop and walk for 15 minutes to arrive in front of Central World.
Siam Station is considered to be the best BTS hub in Bangkok. In fact at this point two of the city lines meet. Even though there are taxis and tuk-tuks that wait in front of the Siam Paragon, I don’t recommend that you take them because besides the fact that you’ll be trapped in traffic for a long time, they never turn on their meters and the price they’ll ask for will start from 300-500 THB.
Many buses also pass through this part of the city. For an idea of the bus lines and their destinations, I recommend that you download the app called Bangkok MRT.
If you arrive by train from another city within the country, getting off at Hualamphong Station you can take the metro and easily reach the north of the city or get off at the intersection with the SkyTrain at Asoke and take the green line for Sukhumvit.
Where to stay in Pathum Wan
The Rong Muang area doesn’t have a lot to offer tourists. Nevertheless, if you’re only intending to stay in the city for a few days and then explore the rest of the country by train, staying in this area could be very convenient.
Another advantage of booking a hotel in Rong Muang is being able to reach the Chinese neighborhood on foot. The entrance to Chinatown, symbolized by what is called the “Chinatown Gate”, is only 10 minutes on foot from Hualamphong Station.
If you’re looking for a comfortable hostel that’s just 300 meters from the train station, the Chic Hostel Bangkok is just for you. A place in a mixed bedroom costs a little less than 900 THB a person during the high season (from November to March). The Fun Café Hostel is slightly cheaper and offers double rooms with shared bathrooms.
With even cheaper prices (250 THB a night) there’s the Loftel Station hostel, which is close to Hualamphong Station.
A higher category hotel is the Hotel Metro. Prices for a room start at a minimum of 3,000 THB a night for single room up to a maximum of 5,000 THB for a “King Room” with balcony.
Among luxury hotel options there’s the Twin Tower Hotel, located around the main road, New Rama Road 6th. Besides a pool and wellness center, this building has a good 6 restaurants inside. The family suite with breakfast and included buffet costs a little more than 7,000 THB (less than 2,000 THB a person!) a night.
In the same style of the Twin Tower Hotel is the SK Boutique Mahanakhon hotel. This building can also be considered a mid-high end hotel with 3 stars. It offers a Thai restaurant and excursion desk among other things. Prices start at 1,600 THB a night with breakfast included.
Next to Rong Muang is the Wang Mai neighborhood. There are 4 reasons why I suggest you book a room in this area:
- you’ll be just a dozen minutes or so away by foot from the MBK shopping mall, where besides shopping you can also eat in the food court at a cheap price;
- you’ll be able to visit the house-museum of Jim Thompson and exhibitions at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. At the latter I recommend that you take a look at the little shops inside which sell works of art as well as artisan jewels that are very cute;
- you can reach the lively area of Victory Monument, either by walking or by BTS, simply and quickly. The street called Soi Rangnam, close to Victory Monument, is particularly recommended for its Thai restaurants, its night market and food stalls that will show up from 18 onward;
- you can visit one of the oldest public universities in Thailand and its natural park: Chulalongkorn University. In pure American style, this institution has its own actual village inside, which other than a garden full of plants and tropical flowers, includes a hospital, several libraries and even a stadium.
One of the best-value hotels is Ibis. All its rooms are doubles and cost around 2,000 THB a night. Ibis Bangkok Siam Hotel’s location is strategic since it is just 3 minutes on foot from the Jim Thompson House. For those who are lazier, the hotel also offers a free shuttle to reach the museum.
In the 5 star category there’s the Pathumwan Princess Hotel. Rooms have a spectacular view over the city and some even have a balcony with a small private garden. Along with a wellness center there are also tennis courts and various conference rooms. Prices start from 4,000 THB for a basic room, going up to 23,000 THB for a suite with a hot tub and private garden.
For those with a lower budget there are two valid alternatives: the 168 Hostel and Cubic Bangkok. The former offers what are defined as capsule rooms; a very small space with only a bed and a place to put your baggage. You can also stay in the dormitory for 800 THB a night. The latter has both spaces in a dorm room for 450 THB and private rooms with shared bathroom starting at 1,200 THB.
Another interesting zone to stay in is the area covering the SkyTrain stations of Siam and Chidlom, in the northern part of Pathum Wan to the metro station of Sam Yan in the south.
Called Pathum Wan just like the district, this neighborhood is considered the actual center of the city. Here’s where you’ll find the biggest and must luxurious shopping malls in the country; as well as the most famous and fanciest hotels.
If you’re looking for a 5 star hotel you’ll have a ton of choices:
- The Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok: located just behind the Siam Paragon mall, offers rooms from 9,000 to 28,000 THB;
- The Centara Grand at Centralworld: as the name suggests this hotel is located inside the mall of the same name. Prices are high here too: from a minimum of 6,000 to a maximum of 24,000 THB for the suite;
- Next to the Erawan Temple is the luxurious Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. Prices don’t vary much from those of the other two hotels: the base price is 7,000 THB, 28,000 THB for the Cottage King Spa; a private cottage of 100 square meters set inside a green oasis where guests can also use the spa.
The list of luxury hotels also extends to the buildings in the Lumphini area. A few examples are the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, the Grand Centre Point Hotel Ratchadamri Bangkok, the Hansar Bangkok, the Anantara Baan Rajprasong Bangkok Serviced Suites, the The St. Regis Bangkok, and the Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan.
A hotel that in my opinion is worth mentioning is the SO Sofitel. This 5 star building, located just a few hundred meters from the Lumphini Park metro exit, offers a magnificent view of both Lumphini Park, and the entire area surrounding Sukhumvit and its skyscrapers.
I recommend that you go there one evening to have a cocktail on the twenty-eighth floor. The hotel rooms are also amazing. Depending on the type that you choose, the room contains the 4 elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Prices start at a little more than 6,000 THB for double accommodations, going up to a little more than 18,000 THB for the King Suite with a view over the park.
Both the area around the Siam malls as well as around Lumphini Park are considered luxury. For this reason finding a mid-range to low cost accommodation is rather difficult, but not impossible! For example, there’s LiveltUp Central, a hostel that offers private rooms starting from 850 THB.
Where to eat in Pathum Wan
Other than the shopping malls, where you can try both local and international food in the food courts, the center of Bangkok also offers restaurants located in the small, hidden lanes called “soi”.
Keeping in mind that the Pathum Wan neighborhood is populated by lots of students, since 35,000 attend Chulalongkorn University, in recent years various low-cost restaurants have sprung up.
Hong Kong Noodle for example, is a club situated close to the National Stadium BTS stop, specializing in noodle-based dishes in pure Chinese style. The price for a noodle soup with chicken is 119 THB. They also offer daily specials for just 29 THB.
If you like spicy food, eating at Som Tam Nua will allow you to taste typical dishes from the region called Isaan in the northeast of Thailand. The two most famous and popular dishes are the papaya salad and fried chicken thighs. This restaurant is located on soi 5, near the Siam Square mall.
If the first two restaurants can be considered a quick meal, the Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin Restaurant, located inside the Hotel Kempinski, is the kind of place where you can eat dinner in an elegant and refined atmosphere. The menu is made up of the main local dishes revisited in a modern style. Prices are rather high; a complete lunch with appetizer, main course and dessert costs more than 1,500 THB.
For fans of international food there are several options:
- The Monita Taqueria: a colorful Mexican restaurant located near the Ploenchit BTS stop, where you can eat fantastic burritos;
- A meter away from the Monita Taqueria is the restaurant El Osito. This Spanish tavern serves tapas, hamburgers, and exquisite sandwiches;
- Still at Chitlom, you can find Bawarchi; a restaurant that serves Indian food often accompanied by live music;
- Hyde and Seek Gastro Bar serves American and European food. It’s located on the first floor of the Athenee Residence. Prices are mid-range for foreign food restaurants in Bangkok; for example, a hamburger costs 600 THB. Remember too that at the majority of international restaurants they will add another 10% for service to the final bill;
- If you’d like to spend the day a bit differently and try Thai, Italian, French and Japanese specialties, the Red Oven located on the seventh floor of the SO Sofitel offers buffet dinners for 1,300 THB a person (1,500 during the weekend);
- A few hundred meters from Lumphini Park is the restaurant Baan. Here you can taste various dishes of curry as well as meat dishes and desserts like mango sticky rice and typical Thai jellos.
Besides “traditional” restaurants, I recommend that you also try street food. Whether it’s a fruit snack, coconut water, Pad Thai, or insects, if you visit Thailand you absolutely cannot miss the experience of eating like the locals do. Many stalls are already open for lunch, though the majority appear once the sun goes down.
What to do in Pathum Wan
In the Pathum Wan neighborhood you’ll truly have no shortage of options. As was noted before, the majority of tourist attractions are the shopping malls: MBK, Siam Centre and Discovery, Siam Paragon, Siam Square, and Central World.
Other than the shopping, inside these malls you can:
- go to the movies: the Siam Paragon has an IMAX theater;
- visit Madame Tussauds Museum, set inside Siam Centre and Discovery;
- spend an afternoon at the aquarium inside the Siam Paragon;
- go bowling at the MBK;
- skate on the ice rink inside the Isetan tower in Central World.
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (abbreviated as BACC) is a modern building located close to the National Stadium SkyTrain stop. Entrance is free and within its 9 floors you can admire works of modern art, photo exhibits and even a theme bar.
In the same area you’ll also find Scala, a very famous movie theater in the city, which shows retro films from 1969. Besides being the oldest movie theater in the country, the Scala Theater is widely appreciated for the very low cost of its tickets (100 THB).
The museum of the human body is located near the Siam stop, inside one of the buildings of Chulalongkorn University. I recommend that you only visit it if you don’t have a weak stomach; more than 100 laminated human bodies are on display where you can even touch and weigh the organs! It’s open between 10 and 16 and entrance is free.
The Jim Thompson house is a place worth visiting, especially if you are a fan of history and want to see a typical Thai house. Born in 1906, American Jim Thompson became a key figure in the Asian silk industry, especially in Thailand.
Few know that Thompson was also an architect, and designed the renovation of old Thai buildings, which later became his home, where he displayed his silk creations and objects he gathered during his travels through Southeast Asia.
Entrance to the museum costs 200 THB a person and can be visited every day from 9 to 18. The interior of the main house can only be visited with one of the local guides. Guides speak Thai, English, and French. Upon entering the house they’ll explain the history of Jim Thompson, his works of art and even a few amusing anecdotes.
In this part of Bangkok you can also visit two temples: Wat Pathum Wanaram and the Erawan Shrine. The first is a Buddhist house of worship considered to be royal since it is dedicated to the Queen Thepsirintra. Inside one of the two buildings lies the main Buddha statue, originally from Laos, called Phra Sai.
The Erewam Shrine, despite being one of the smallest temples in the whole city, attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally this place started as home of the spirits of the owners of the then Hotel Erewan, then later several workers who died while building the structure. In fact the legend says that the spirit of the temple is so happy about how he’s been treated over the years, that he decided to reward his faithful with actual miracles.
Today the Erewan Shrine is considered a temple associated with the luck of a merciful god, under whose golden statue with four faces donations of all sorts are made to the “Phi” spirits. Besides the terrorist attack in August 2015, the temple was the victim of vandalism in 2006, which almost totally destroyed the statue of Brahma.
Considered the green lungs of the city, Lumphini is a park beloved by the local population as well as tourists from all over the world. There you can do lots of activities like yoga, running, thai chi, kung fu, and much more.
The park, which spreads across 58 hectares, offers nearly 3 kilometers of trails, two artificial lakes where you can take a ride on a paddleboat in the shape of a swan or rowboat, a forest, and two gardens (one of palms and one of bamboo). During the months of December and January, every Sunday there are free open-air concerts.
And when it comes to food, Lumphini Park satisfies all palates. Other than the mobile vendors located outside the park, inside there is an area dedicated to food where you can try some amazing fruit juices made on the spot.
Up until 1925 Lumphini Park was a private park belonging to the Thai monarch. Due to the economic recession of those years, King Rama VI decided to institute a fair in the area that now belongs to Chulalongkorn University, where they were to sell local products and attract buyers from all parts of Thailand and beyond.
Sadly this fair never took place because the king died before it happened. However, with the ascension of King Rama VII to the throne, an amusement park was built and with the proceeds from that, what today is called Lumphini Park was constructed.
If you’re a fan of Muay Thai, you can’t miss seeing Lumpinee Stadium. Today it is run by the Thai army, which organizes 3 matches a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Ticket prices vary from 500 to 2,000 THB a person. For foreigners the prices are always higher than for the locals.
For a drink in the center or a night of music, I recommend two places:
- Famous worldwide is the Hard Rock Café, which is a place where you can listen to live music while sampling a local beer, munching on nachos or tasting typical American hamburgers.
- A rooftop bar that is worth visiting is Red Sky, which is located inside the west tower of the Central World mall. From the bar on the 55th floor you have a marvelous 360 degree view over Bangkok. The dress code is formal and prices are quite a bit higher, but it’s worth it!
Where to live in Pathum Wan
As with hotels, rent prices are rather elevated here.
The Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard is a luxury skyscraper located in front of the Ratchadamri BTS stop. Inside there are 316 apartments of various sizes; from those with just a single bedroom to those with a good 5. Rent for a two bedroom apartment (90 square meters) is 90,000 THB a month.
Another condominium complex in Ratchadamri is The Ratchadamri. For a 119 square meter duplex with two bedrooms they’re asking 82,000 THB a month. As with the Magnolias, The Ratchadamri has 24 hour reception, a fitness area, pool, and a gorgeous view of the city.
One of the most expensive complexes in the area is located close to the Ratchadamri stop: the Hansar Residence. A space with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for a total of 110 square meters costs 110,000 THB a month.
A much less expensive option is The Reserve Kasemsan, in Wang Mai. For 25,000 THB a month you can rent an apartment with 1 bedroom, a living room, bathroom and kitchen for a grand total of 35 square meters. As with almost all condominiums in the capital, this too offers a pool, gym and security personnel.
Another condominium near the SkyTrain National Stadium is The Seed Memories Siam. A 44 square meter 1 bedroom apartment rents for 24,500 THB a month.
Cheaper still is the Condo One Siam, a small multi-story building located just a few hundred meters from the National Stadium stop. A 1 bedroom apartment with a total of 50 square meters costs 21,000 THB.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, rent prices vary depending on the area and proximity to the SkyTrain. The area that includes Pathumwan and Lumphini Park is definitely the most expensive.
If you’re looking for lower-cost lodging, I recommend that you look in the area around the National Stadium. Prices here are lower thanks to the fact that it’s very close to Chulalongkorn University – an area very popular with students from around the world.
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/can185-way/]