Hiding in the shadows of the central business district’s high-rises, leafy Soi Yen Akat (meaning “cool weather”) is fast becoming more than the residential neighborhood it used to be. New cafés, bars, restaurants, galleries and spas have attracted the city’s artists, foodies and fashionistas to this backstreet sanctuary, tucked between Lumphini Park and Sathorn. Bar owner, beauty blogger, digital marketer and Yen Akat resident Iryn Vongvachjira shows us how to spend a perfect 24 hours in and around this up-and-coming district in Bangkok.
11AM: Unwind with a massage at Zense Spa
Thai massage is a must and this newly opened spa — it’s so new the wood panels are still bursting with the scent of fresh cedar — is a sure bet for affordable treatments. The latest branch of Zense Spa, set within a tranquil Chinese garden, specializes in Thai massages (from THB350, or about P575) and Chinese reflexology treatments. Splurge on the VIP Zense room (another THB200, or P330, per person) to amplify the sense of tranquility. zensemassage.com
1PM: Lunch at Eats Payao
Originally a street food stall, Eats Payao has upgraded to a four-storey townhouse with a full menu. They serve all the classics, from khao soy (egg noodles in a creamy curry) to spicy, herbal sausages paired with tangy dips like nam phrik noom (green chili paste). The resto — run by Thai-Singaporean couple Khae and Gavin, who moonlight as painters — scores style points for its vibrant paint job, Lanna-style parasols hanging from the ceiling (inspired by the culture of the 13th- to 18th-century Lanna Kingdom) and modern art on the walls. fb.com/eatspayao
2.30PM: Check out contemporary Thai art at Bangkok City Gallery
The purpose-built Bangkok City Gallery sits within a massive white cube on Sathorn Soi 1, looking almost like one of the dozens of embassies found in the area. The spacious, free-to-enter gallery focuses on contemporary art — featured in the form of installations and collaborative performances — that often brings out an eclectic younger crowd. “It’s a great place to chill, especially when you’ve been walking about outside for a while,” says Iryn. “I always leave feeling inspired.” bangkokcitycity.com
4PM: Catch an indie film at the Bangkok Screening Room
Although megaplexes have run most of Bangkok’s independent cinemas out of business, the Bangkok Screening Room has stood resolute with aims to reverse the trend. The 50-seat cinema, inside a repurposed commercial building near Lumphini Park, screens new and old films from across the world. It’s the best place in the city to see independent Thai films, including flicks from Cannes Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Get some fancy snacks from the bar — think truffle popcorn and craft beer — and settle in for the afternoon screening. bkksr.com
7.30PM: Light bites at Cagette Canteen & Deli
One of the latest “it” places in Bangkok happens to be in Yen Akat. Part bistro, part deli, part wine and cocktail bar, Cagette offers an atmosphere that’s quite unlike anywhere else. It’s sleek and oozing with Parisian cool; plus, it overlooks a jungle-y garden next door. The second floor makes an ideal dinner venue — enjoy escargot, pâté, rotisserie chicken and more — while its third-floor deli is great for picking up cold cuts, imported French cheeses and wine. fb.com/cagettebkk
8.45PM: Get in the Japanese spirit at PrumPlum Umeshu Bar
This side of Sathorn lacked a quality, low-key nightlife scene until PrumPlum opened. The bar introduced an izakaya-style drinking culture. Now, it’s become a magnet for Thais with a taste for sake, umeshu and Japanese pub grub. “The bar has over 80 kinds of umeshu, plus a vibe that welcomes hours of R&R,” says Iryn. Try the yuzushu, a unique, sweet and sour yuzu-based spirit. fb.com/prumplum.umeshu
12AM: Late-night eats at the Malaysia Hotel
Midnight at the Malaysia Hotel means intimate or group gatherings over steaming-hot khao tom (congee). Built over 50 years ago, the former ’60s GI haunt on Soi Ngam Duphli has become an institution — especially with its 24-hour Malai Restaurant. Night owls flock there to sober up over Thai-Chinese food — like stir-fried minced pork with Chinese olives — or to fuel up for the night ahead. malaysiahotelbkk.com
6.30AM: Early morning at Lumphini Park
Shake off the cobwebs with a morning stroll or jog around Lumphini Park, the city’s central green lung. “It’s best to get out while the weather is still cool,” says Iryn. “Watching the sunrise over the lake is pretty special.” Even if you miss the sunrise, morning in the park provides a delightful snapshot of Bangkok’s diversity — from grandmas and grandpas doing tai chi and hardcore runners racing around the paths to weightlifters pumping iron at open-air gyms and office workers waking up to group Zumba.
9.30AM: Brunch and beans at Coffee Craftsman x Yarden
Yen Akat is home to one of the coolest cafés in town. Coffee Craftsman specializes in local beans (mostly from Northern Thailand and Laos) brewed however you like it: poured over, Aeropress, or cold-brewed. The staff are all java connoisseurs and can help you out if you’re overwhelmed by the available choices. Fuel up with a flat white, or mix it up with an all-natural, sugar-free fruit smoothie. “I love the setting,” says Iryn. “It’s a 70-year-old wooden house and the light green paint is the perfect backdrop for food shots.” fb.com/coffeecraftsmanxyarden
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Yen Akat is about a 10-minute walk from the Lumphini MRT station (take Exit 1), on the Blue Line that runs from Hua Lamphong to Tao Poon stations. Purchase a day pass — which allows unlimited rides — for THB120 (about P195) or get single-use tokens from machines and ticket booths at any station. Rides cost between THB16 and THB42 (about P25 and P70, respectively), depending on trip distance.
This article first appeared in the July 2018 issue of Smile magazine.