Bangkok's reputation for rowdy nightlife tends to precede it; however, it's not all raunchy sex shows and public debauchery. There are plenty of nighttime cultural events, such as music, theater, puppetry performances, and orchestral maneuvers. For the hippest nightlife updates, check out BK Magazine (free and available at bookstores and restaurants). Featuring weekly listings of events as well as up-to-date info about the club scene, it is the best entertainment source in Bangkok. Both the Bangkok Post and The Nation also offer daily listings of cultural events and performance schedules.
The Performing Arts
Most travelers experience the Thai performing arts at a commercially staged dance show in a hotel, sometimes accompanied by a Thai banquet. Bangkok, however, does provide much more appetizing slices of theater, whether it is the avant-garde choreography seen at the Patravadi Theater, traditional puppet shows by Joe Louis, or international music recitals as part of annual festivals.
The National Theater, 1 Na Phra That Rd. (tel. 02224-1342), presents demonstrations of Thai classical dancing and music, by performers from the School of Music and Dance in Bangkok, which are generally superior to those at the tourist restaurants and hotels. There are also performances by visiting ballet and theatrical companies. Call the TAT or check with your hotel for the current schedule.
The Thailand Cultural Center, Thiem Ruammit Road, off Ratchadaphisek Road, Huai Khwang (tel. 02247-0028), is the largest performance center in town, offering a wide variety of programs. The Bangkok Symphony performs here during its short summer season. Other local and visiting companies also present theater and dance at the center. Take the MRT subway to the Thailand Cultural Center stop.
Bangkok's unique contemporary dance theater, Patravadi Theater, at Soi Wat Rakheng, off Anamarin Road (tel. 02412-7287; www.patravaditheatre.com), occupies a laid-back arty corner of the Thonburi district, and can be relied upon to challenge cultural conformity by putting on inspiring performances that combine all manner of Thai and international dance forms, including dazzling likay (similar to the style of Broadway musicals). Overseen since its founding by Patravadi Mejudhon, a former Thai classical dancer now in her late 50s, the theater is well worth the trip for those fascinated by Thailand's performing arts.
The Joe Louis Theater holds entrancing puppet theater performances of stories from the Ramakien (the Thai national epic) at Asiatique, S13 2194 Chareon Krung Rd.. Complex puppets are manipulated by up to three masters, and their movements are chillingly lifelike. Shows are twice nightly at 8pm and 9:15pm. Visit www.joelouistheatre.com for full details. Tickets for foreigners are 900B.
Bangkok cinemas are almost always located in malls and show a small selection of Hollywood films—with most leaning toward action films, though occasionally you may catch an art-house movie(see below). Here's the scoop on some of the top movie theaters in town:
Century Movie Plaza---Near Victory Monument, this plaza has eight screens featuring the latest movies, plus restaurants, a shopping arcade, and a karao-ke zone.
15 Phayathai Rd. [tel] 02 247 9940. www.centurythemovieplaza.com. Tickets 120–260 baht. BTS SkyTrain: Victory Monument.
SF World Cinema---A modern cinema complex with 10 screens that feature all the latest blockbusters and plenty of animated movies. There are a dozen other branches around the city but this is the biggest.
7th floor, 999/9, CentralWorld, Ratchadamri Rd, Pathumwan. [tel] 02 268 8888. www.sfcinemacity.com. Tickets from 120 baht. BTS SkyTrain: Chid Lom.
House RCA----The city's first boutique cinema in town is a refuge for lovers of arthouse/indie films. It also has Thai movies with subtitles and at least three movie festivals a year.
31/8 Royal City Ave, New Petchaburi Rd, Bangkapi. [tel] 02 641 5177 8. www.houserama.com. Tickets 100 baht. MRT subway: Petchaburi.
Paragon Cineplex---This luxurious cinema in Siam Paragon shop-ping mall shows all the new releases from Hollywood.
5th and 6th floors, Siam Paragon, Rama I Rd, Pathumwan. [tel] 02 129 4635. www.majorcineplex.com. Tickets 140 baht. BTS SkyTrain: Siam.
Quartier Cine-Art at Emquartier----Four high-end cinemas here include one with bedlike seating with a blanket and a pre-movie meal from Dean & Deluca.
4/F, Emquartier, Sukhumvit Rd. [tel] 02 261 0199. www.majorcineplex.com. Tickets 1,000 baht. BTS SkyTrain: Phrom Phong.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.