Thailand has all the necessary ingredients for a fabulous drinking culture: beaches, cheap alcohol, and backpackers aplenty. If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a cold Chang, Thai bars seem to fall into three distinct categories:
- “My mom would not be proud if I “checked in” here on Facebook”
These are the type of bars that make you wonder, “is this a brothel, a rave, a retirement home, or maybe just a place serving great chicken wings?” Answer: All of the above. They usually go overboard with neon lights, black walls, and security guards.
- “You’re going to dance, and you’re going to like it.”
You can hear these places blasting Top 40 hits, 90s throwbacks, and deep house tracks from kilometers away. They heavily advertise their cocktail bucket specials, which I can attest are very, very strong. These places are always on pub-crawls’ itineraries, and therefore are always poppin’ – get ready to sweat, and potentially buy five rum buckets so you can get a free singlet (and then sweat through that shirt too). These places are great for meeting people, and often even better for scoring western drunchies like nachos and fries. The dance floor might light up, there might be a disco ball, and there might even be elevated surfaces to dance on. The best bars for raging are ones that have outside access, so you can cool down and recharge. This may be a rooftop for socializing and lounging. Or, since we’re in Southern Thailand, it will hopefully be a beach! If it’s on a beach, the dance party will inevitably spill out onto the sand and into the water. This makes for a magical atmosphere, especially if you happen to be in waters where bioluminescent plankton live. This makes for an incredible light show inside and outside the club.
- “Bob Marley is our hero”
Traveling through Thailand, I thought there were bar “chains”- nope, they all just picked from the same pool of 10 names. If you want to chill out, look for: Spirit Bar, Freedom Bar, Sunset Bar, Rasta Bar, Why Not Bar, Irie Bar, Reggae Bar, No Cry Bar, Sunshine Bar, or Why Not Bar. You may smell these places’ herbs before you hear their reggaelicious beats. You’ll know you’ve struck gold if the waiter asks, “Do you want to go to the moon tonight?” before asking about your drink order. Reggae bars are my absolute favorite type of bar- there’s good vibes, comfortable seating, and typically views of the ocean come free of charge. They also always have great decorations- tapestries of Bob Marley and Jimmy Henrix will look over you as you make friends. If there’s a lull in conversation, entertain yourself by looking at the hodgepodge of items attached to the wall, or the trippy outer space mural they have. Reggae bars are a delight for all the senses, and you’re guaranteed to leave happier than you entered.
Decisions, decisions… which bar to pick? The good news is that there’s no wrong answer- you’re drinking in Thailand! Cheers!