Pratunam (Thai: ประตูน้ำ) is a shopping district in Bangkok. It is a major market area with thousands of fashion stores that sell wholesale with cheap prices guaranteed, especially if you buy in bulk. Pratunam is used in a broad sense here, and it also includes the areas of Victory Monument, Ratchathewi and Makkasan.
The southern boundary of Pratunam is marked by the Saen Saep Canal. This canal was dug during the reign of King Rama III in the mid-nineteenth century to connect the Chao Phraya River with the Bang Pakong River to the east. When Saen Saep was connected with Maha Nak Canal and Krung Kasem Canal, a gate was required to control the water level between them. Pratunam literally means "water gate". It was not developed until the 1960s when rice fields dominated the landscape as far as the eye could see. Around that time, a fresh produce market was set up near the Indra Hotel at Ratchaprarop Road. Since then more markets have set up here, and the whole area has become known as a local marketplace.
Now Pratunam is often referred to as "northern downtown", a title it rightly deserves after the construction of Baiyoke Tower II. Just taking the lift up the tower is an experience not to be missed. More than 300 metres high and counting 88 storeys, it was Thailand's tallest building from 1997 until being surpassed by an even higher one in the Silom area in 2016. It is a distinctive feature of Bangkok's skyline and represents the rising economy of both Pratunam and Thailand as a whole. Surrounding it are plenty of other residential towers and hotels trying to make a buck out of the central location.
But the street markets have never disappeared. Fresh produce has made way for fashion wear, textiles and accessories, but they are still sold at strictly local prices. Endless small alleyways are packed with literally thousands of fashion stores, and they are so cheap because most of them actually sell at wholesale rates. In the north of the district lies Victory Monument, a large military monument that now functions as a major traffic hub. The area became a popular residential neighbourhood for locals and expats working in the city centre. It is particularly lively after dusk, when there is a busy night market and an active jazz scene.
By public transitEdit
Centrally located, Pratunam is well-covered by the Sukhumvit Line of the BTS Skytrain. From Ratchathewi BTS station (N1) in the west of Pratunam, it is a 15-minute walk using exit 4 along Phetchaburi rd to the centre of the action (the intersection of Phetchaburi Road and Ratchaprarop Road). Phaya Thai covers the western area of the district, while Victory Monument (N3) is located in the north. Some shoppers also access Pratunam from Chitlom BTS station (E1) to the south using pedestrian links. At Phaya Thai BTS station (N2), you can interchange with the ARL, but as the systems are not integrated, you will have to buy a new ticket.
Airport Rail LinkEdit
You want to reach Ratchaprarop station from Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can take the Airport Rail Link from the basement level of the terminal. The ride takes about 25 minutes and costs 40 baht.
Ratchaprarop is the closest station to Pratunam Market and the Baiyoke Tower II. As you exit, make sure you cross the ground level railway line (which is on the same side as you come in from the airport) and keep walking in that direction. There is a sign saying "Baiyoke Hotels" nearby. Pratunam is some 500 metres south on the right hand side. You walk under an overhead walkway as you come close to the area.
If you're staying around Khao San Road area, the Saen Saep Express Boat is your best bet to get to Pratunam. It is a short walk to Panfa Leelard pier, near the Golden Mount in Rattanakosin, where you can get on the boat which depart regularly. Just step on the next boat and wait for it to have enough passengers on board. Stay put, as this will be a rough ride! Pratunam pier is actually the interchange pier of the network. It is easy to know when you have arrived, as Pratunam pier last stop of the Golden Mount Line, so everyone has to disembark. You can also get off one stop earlier, at Sapan Hua Chang, for Ratchathewi intersection and the BTS station of the same name. A single trip takes about 25 minutes and costs 11 or 13 baht.
Pratunam is one of the best-connected districts and a hub for many bus routes to the north along Ratchaprarop rd, east and west along Phetchaburi rd. From the Grand Palace area in Rattanakosin, bus 60 leaves from the eastern side of Sanam Luang (Ratchadamnoen Nai Road), passes Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (for Khao San Road) and then heads off to Lan Luang Road and Phetchaburi Road. You can get off anywhere you want along Phetchaburi Road, as it covers most of the district. After Phetchaburi Road, it goes northeast along Ramkhamhaeng Road. Bus 511 also runs Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (for Khao San Road) from this area along Phetchaburi Road to Pratunam before turning past Central World and running along Sukhumvit rd.
Pratunam is easily reachable on foot. It is a 500-m walk north from Ratchaprasong intersection which is considered the heart of Bangkok (800m east of Siam Square). You will walk along many luxurious malls and hotels, knowing the goods you will buy in Pratunam will be much more competitively priced. A covered footbridge running above Ratchadamri Rd and crossing the Saen Saep canal To Platinum Fashion Mall allows you to escape the worst traffic fumes and the harshest sunshine or rain.
There is not particularly much to see in Pratunam, unless you happen to be interested in generic-looking concrete buildings. The Phaya Thai Palace does make a nice visit if you happen to be free on a Saturday, and going atop Baiyoke Tower II gives breathtaking views of the city's skyline.
- 1 Baiyoke Tower II Observatory and Revolving Roofdeck (ตึกใบหยก 2), 77-84F, Baiyoke Tower II, 222 Ratchaprarop Rd (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ . M-F 10:30-01:00, Sa Su 09:30-01:00. Standing 304 metres tall, the mainly residential-purposed Baiyoke Tower II was the tallest building in Thailand from its completion in 1997 until it was surpassed by the MahaNakhon near Silom Road in 2016. There's an observatory behind a huge window at the 77th floor and a revolving roofdeck outside at the 84th floor. The revolving roofdeck is practical for viewing different parts of the city, but not so handy if you're trying to make some quality pictures of the city's skyline. It is best to visit just before dusk and watch the sun go down from the tower. Afterwards, you can visit the Rooftop Bar at the 83rd floor, which has a very romantic atmosphere and can best be recommended for couples or those in love. You can sit beside a huge window that gives a good view over the city, and professional bands perform nightly. Be early as the seats fill up quickly after dark. 200 baht, includes one (alcoholic) drink and popcorn.
- 2 Bangkok Dolls Museum (บ้านบางกอกดอลส์และตุ๊กตานานาชาติ), 85 Soi Ratchataphan (Soi Mo Leng) (Walkable from ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-17:00. This museum was established by Khunying Tongkorn Chandavimol in 1956 after completing a course on doll making at the Osawa Doll School in Tokyo. Her intention with this project was to establish a workshop where hand-made dolls could be created using local materials, and to establish a museum that would promote the Thai doll industry. A part of the workshop is devoted to a private collection of about 400 dolls from around the world. These can be grouped in several categories, including Khon dolls, hill tribe dolls, Thai rural dolls and Khon mask miniatures. Dolls are sold at reasonable prices. Visiting takes you to a very local community slumbering between elevated expressways. Free.
- 3 Phaya Thai Palace (วังพญาไท), 315 Ratchawithi Rd (BTS Victory Monument), ☏ . Sa 09:30 and 13:30, M-F by appointment only. The Phaya Thai Palace has been built by King Rama VI, who lived here from 1919 during the last years of his reign. After his death, the palace was turned into one of the most luxurious hotels in Southeast Asia, a radio station and a military hospital. The palace is worth seeing, as there is a lot to take in. The most important building, the Phiman Chakri Hall, is made in a beautiful Art Nouveau style with silk wallpapers and ornate murals. Every Saturday, volunteers give two free guided tours through the palace that take about two hours. It is also possible to visit on weekdays, but you must call ahead to make an appointment and pay 500 baht. Free.
- 4 Suan Pakkad Palace (วังสวนผักกาด), 352-354 Si Ayutthaya Rd (BTS Phaya Thai), ☏ . 09:00-16:00 daily. This complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand's leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It houses an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilization, and an impressive collection of sea-shells. The Khon Museum, about the traditional Thai masked dance, and the Traditional Thai Music Museum have also been established here. Sometimes known as the "Lettuce Farm Palace" in English after a too-literal translation of the name. 100 baht.
- 5 Thai Labour Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์แรงงานไทย), Nikhom Makkasan Rd (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ . W-Su hols 10:00-16:30. This museum is located at the former office of the labour union of the State Railway of Thailand. On display are items showing the 300-year history of the Thai labour movement. There is also a library with books and research reports on labour. You must call in advance if you plan on visiting with a group. Free.
- 6 Victory Monument (อนุสาวรีย์ชัยสมรภูมิ) (BTS Victory Monument). This monument was constructed in 1941 by military dictator Plaek Pibulsongkhram to commemorate the 59 Thais who lost their lives in the short and inconclusive Franco-Thai War. It resulted in Thailand annexing some territories in western Cambodia and northern and southern Laos. However, Pibulsongkhram was kicked out in 1944 and the patch of land gained by Thailand was handed back to Laos and Cambodia in 1945, making the "victory" a little hollow. These days this spiky Bangkok landmark is better known as Bangkok's largest local bus hub. If travelling north by Skytrain, you'll be treated to a 180-degree curving panorama of the monument, and this is the best view you can get as actually reaching the base of the monument would require passing through a triple-laned traffic circle maelstrom of buses. The public toilets at the major bus stop directly across from the monument costs 2 baht per entry. Free.
- 1 Century the Movie Plaza (เซ็นจูรี่ เดอะมูฟวี่ พลาซ่า), 15 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Victory Monument), ☏ . Daily 10:00-22:00. This cineplex and shopping mall opened in 2005, and is the best cinema of the Victory Monument area. You can find the box office on the third floor, while the movie theatres are on the fifth floor. They offer all the major Hollywood releases and some lesser known Thai movies (subtitled in English). While waiting for your movie to start, you might want to browse around the rest of the shopping mall or have something to eat. The basement has a wide array of small garment shops.
Most visitors know about the Chatuchak Weekend Market for cheap deals on clothing, shoes and accessories, but they miss out on Pratunam's daily sales. Pratunam is an excellent shopping area that can easily be reached on foot from Ratchaprasong. Most of the products available are on wholesale, so this is the place to go for some cheap bargains. Haggling is more important here than in other shopping malls, and things get considerably cheaper if you buy in bulk. Just don't forget about your baggage limit! Chatuchak has been serving a more diverse audience over the years, but Pratunam has kept a strict no frills approach. Everything looks cheap and is cheap, even cheaper than at Chatuchak.
The place to head out for is the Pratunam Market, a jam-packed maze of alleys where tiny stalls are offering t-shirts, jackets, dresses, jeans, shorts, shoes and accessories, including many fakes. You also cannot miss the City Complex, a fashionable shopping mall marketed towards female teenagers and students, and Indra Square that has a more diverse audience. Shopping in Pratunam is not for the faint-hearted, as it is an unappealing area with massive crowds, pushy pedestrians and no air-conditioning. You can take a breather at the cooled Platinum Fashion Mall, that also has an excellent food court.
There is lots of commercial activity going on around Victory Monument as well, although the malls are not as inspiring. Every evening, a night market is set up along Ratchawithi Road that is mostly frequented by working-class locals and students.
- 1 City Complex (ซิตี้คอมเพล็กซ์), 831 Phetchaburi Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . M-F 11:00-21:00, Sa Su 10:00-21:00. While walking along Phetchaburi Road, you definitely cannot miss the enormous six-storey City Complex. It is one of the most popular malls in Pratunam that is specifically marketed towards teenage girls and 20-somethings. Most of the shops are selling fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories, but there are also a few of them dedicated to cosmetics, jewellery and crafts. The fifth floor has a modest food court.
- 2 Indra Square (อินทรา สแควร์), 120/126 Ratchaprarop Rd (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ . Daily 08:00-20:00. Indra Square is an indoor shopping mall with more than 300 retail and wholesale outlets. The first floor is mostly about fashion, silk and accessories, and has some fast-food outlets. The clothes here are remarkably cheaper than elsewhere in the city, and unlike City Complex, there is a decent supply for men and children as well. The second floor has a more diverse set of products, including arts, crafts, toys and mobile phones. If you're getting hungry, there's a food centre on the second floor. There are some clothing shops at the ground level of the nearby Baiyoke Tower II as well.
- 3 Krungthong Plaza (กรุงทองพลาซ่า), 813/8 Phetchaburi Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . Daily 09:00-18:00. Krungthong Plaza is another big shopping mall with apparel sold at wholesale prices. The mall has more than 600 shops inside, almost all of them about clothing, shoes, bags, cosmetics and accessories. There is an excellent food court on the fourth floor.
- 4 Metro Fashion Mall (เมโทร แฟชั่น), 599 Phetchaburi Rd (BTS Ratchathewi, then a 15-minute walk east along Phetchaburi Road), ☏ . This brand new wholesale shopping mall opened its doors in 2009. Its seven floors accommodate 370 wholesale vendors selling fashion apparel, bags, footwear, cosmetics and accessories. There is a food centre on the third floor and a branch of McDonald's on the ground floor outside.
- 5 The Palladium World Shopping (เดอะพาลาเดียม เวิลด์ ช้อปปิ้ง, formerly Pratunam Center), 555 Ratchaprarop Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . Daily 09:00-20:00. Long alleyways of stalls with products like jewellery, fashion and souvenirs. Like elsewhere in Pratunam, prices are relatively low and good brands a rarity. It feels less cramped and crowded than other malls in the area, which is a plus, and it has some food outlets as well.
- 6 Pantip Plaza (พันธุ์ทิพย์พลาซ่า), 604/3 Phetchaburi Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . Daily 10:00-20:00. A six-floor shopping mall devoted to computer gear, famous for its pirated media. The bootleg trade is much more low-key than it used to be, but software and DVDs are still widely available. It is also a good place for smartphones, gadgets, cameras, tablets, USB drives, printers, MP3-players, etc. Test out whatever you are buying as there are lots of flaky goods here. If you want to be safe, buy at the official brand stores, though prices are similar as in Western countries (or even higher!). And keep in mind that the warranty is only valid within Thailand.
- 7 Platinum Fashion Mall (แพลทินัม แฟชั่นมอล์), 222 Phetchaburi Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . Daily 10:00-20:00. A great place for fashion shopping, especially as it is air-conditioned. Many of the 1,300 shops here are also at the Chatuchak Market on weekends. It is particularly interesting for women as the shops mostly sell clothing, handbags, shoes, accessories, gifts and make-up. A lot of shops (but not all) are geared towards export and wholesale. There's a huge and very good food court at the sixth floor of the mall. It can get very busy, especially around noon and dinnertime.
- 8 Pratunam Market (ตลาดประตูน้ำ), Phetchaburi Soi 21 (Pratunam pier). Daily 09:00-18:00. The Pratunam Market is an immense open-air garment market, and although it is geared towards exporters, anyone can shop here. Most of the items for sale are t-shirts, dresses, shorts, jeans, shoes and accessories. You could easily spend half a day here if you wish, as the area has a stunning amount of more than 4,000 shops. While the market is officially open till 18:00, many shops already close around 16:00. The market spread out on the streets around Baiyoke Tower I, and the ground floor of that tower also has a few clothing shops. In the beginning of the evening, a night market is set-up in the streets along Baiyoke Tower I that stays open until after 02:00.
Most of the eateries around Pratunam are cheap and simple, unless you step into one of its five-star hotels. The food courts of Platinum Fashion Mall and Pantip Plaza are good if you are travelling on budget. Victory Monument has the usual collection of Western and Thai fast-food favourites, and plenty of inexpensive roadside restaurants along sleepy Rang Nam Road.
- 1 Go-Ang Pratunam Chicken Rice (ไก่ตอนประตูน้ำ), 960-962 Phetchaburi Soi 30 (Pratunam pier; in the alley opposite Palladium), ☏ . Daily 05:30-15:00, 18:00-03:00. Formerly Kai Ton Pratunam, it initially seems like a simple street food vendor—but it is always crowded as the guests rave about the food. It is touted as having Bangkok's best chicken rice (ข้าวมันไก่ khao man kai), which is quite similar to Hainanese chicken rice. The staff does not speak English and there is no English sign up, but the employees are easy to recognise as they wear pink clothing, a white cap and a chicken logo on the back. 30 baht.
- 2 Bamii Zap 2 (แสบX2), 4/32-33 Soi Phetchaburi 19 (Pratunam pier; in the alley beside Shibuya 19), ☏ . Daily 09:30-17:30. Popular for wonton noodles and wonton soup. The whole place is air-conditioned, which is a relief after long shopping days in the Pratunam Market. Try the braised pork trotters. 60 baht.
Pratunam quickly becomes deserted after dark, unless you're visiting the Rooftop Bar (as described in the See section). But there's an active jazz scene around Victory Monument that caters to artsy students living in the area. Expect a laid-back vibe and don't overdress.
- 1 Café de Norasingh, 315 Ratchawithi Rd (BTS Victory Monument), ☏ . M-F 08:30-19:00, Sa Su 10:30-19:00. Café de Norasingh is a luxurious cafe housed in the royal reception room of the Phaya Thai Palace. It is completely decorated in Viennese style, a setting very popular during the reign of King Rama V in the early twentieth century. This has to be one of the most elegant ways to have a cup of coffee in the city. They also serve small snacks.
- 2 Co-Co Walk (โค-โค วอล์ค), 87/70 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Ratchathewi exit 2), ☏ . Daily 18:00-01:00. This is basically an outdoor covered compound with a dozen bars, pubs and live music performances. Some of the better bars include Sawaree Terrace, Co-Co Beach, 69, The Tube and Chilling House Cafe. It is mostly popular among Thai university students. In the middle of it all is a large Korean-style BBQ that offers "all-you-can-eat" for 99 baht.
- 3 Saxophone Pub (แซ็กโซโฟน ผับ), 3/8 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Victory Monument), ☏ . Daily 18:00-02:00. One of the best pubs to catch live playing jazz and blues bands. The interior is beautifully decorated with old guitars and cymbals. Even while its crowded, the atmosphere is cosy. It is very much focused on experiencing the music, as the public sits and stands in a semicircle around the band. Don't come here for the food, as it is not great and overpriced. Beers and cocktails (the latter served in a saxophone glass) are also more expensive than elsewhere in Bangkok.
- 4 The Rock Pub (เดอะร๊อคผับ), Hollywood Street Bldg, 93/26-28 Phaya Thai Rd (BTS Ratchathewi), ☏ . Daily 19:00-02:00. This is the home of rock and metal in Bangkok. The owner is a rock musician and is dedicated to make this the place to be for rock and metal aficionados. Two bands play every night. The first one starts playing at 21:30 and the second one at 23:45. Expect a lot of Metallica and Nirvana covers.
While the shopping is one of the cheapest in Bangkok, accommodation tends to be in the splurge category. This is not surprising as real estate prices skyrocketed in the 2000s (it is no coincidence that the tallest building in Bangkok can be found here).
- 1 Home Hug Hostel, 11/118 Ratchaprorop Soi 8, ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Air-con 8-bed dorm. Free lockers, free Wi-Fi. Free breakfast. dorm bed 180 baht.
- 2 PJ Watergate Hotel (โรงแรมพีเจ วอเตอร์เกต), 467 Soi Watthana Sin (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ . A decent hotel in the Ratchaprarop area. Rooms have air-conditioning and TV, and there's an internet café, restaurant and bar in the main area. Most staff speak at least some English, and the manager is fluent. Online booking will give you a room as cheap as 1,000 baht, which is far better than the walk-in price (and breakfast is included). 1,000-2,000 baht.
- 3 Amari Watergate (โรงแรมอมารีวอเตอร์เกท), 847 Petchburi Rd (Pratunam pier), ☏ . Modern four-star hotel with all the facilities you'd expect, including a few restaurants good enough to attract non-guests. It's a stone's throw from Pratunam, across the Saen Saep Canal if you're walking from Ratchaprasong. 3,000-8,000 baht.
- 4 Baiyoke Sky Hotel (โรงแรม ใบหยกสกาย กรุงเทพ), 76-78F, Baiyoke Tower II, 222 Ratchaprarop Rd (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The tallest hotel of Southeast Asia. 673 guest rooms, all with a phenomenal view over the city. It has an extensive breakfast with more than 100 dishes to choose from. Rooms are spacious but many are in need of redecoration. The staff are very helpful. The only downer is the long waiting time to get into the lift. 2,000-3,400 baht.
- 5 Century Park Hotel (โรงแรม เซ็นจูรี่ พาร์ค), 9 Ratchaprarop Rd (a five to ten minutes walk from BTS Victory Monument), ☏ , email@example.com. Good quality four-star hotel with spacious rooms. The fitness and pool areas are nice, and there's a good view of the city if you're sleeping at the higher floors. Breakfasts are particularly nice with a large selection of Western and Asian cuisine. 2,500-8,000 baht.
- 6 Citin Pratunam (โรงแรม ซิทอิน ประตูนาม), 117 Soi Sangkarn (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Smack in the heart of Pratunam, close to the Baiyoke Tower II. The rooms are small, but cosy and modern, and feature 32 inch LCD TVs and free Wi-Fi. They also have a great spa and a cafe serving vegetarian-only dishes. There's a free tuk-tuk shuttle service to nearby shops and BTS stations. 1,500-3,200 baht.
- 7 Indra Regent Hotel (โรงแรมอินทรา รีเจนท์), 120/126 Ratchaprarop Rd (ARL Ratchaprarop), ☏ , email@example.com. Decent four-star hotel with spacious rooms and a nice view. The staff are friendly, but you don't get a lot for breakfast. Wi-Fi is available for an additional charge. Most people stay here for its close location to the garment markets. 2,000-5,900 baht.
- 8 Pullman Bangkok King Power (โรงแรมพูลแมน บางกอก คิง พาวเวอร์), 8/2 Rang Nam Rd (BTS Victory Monument), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Opened in 2007, this modern luxury hotel may be better value than other similarly priced hotels, though the buffet breakfast is wanting compared to other luxurious hotels. An impressive lobby and the more-than-ample smiling staff will greet you on arrival. The rooms reflect the five-star status of the hotel, with the executive levels offering many extras including drinks and canapés in the evening. Next door is the King Power Duty Free complex, which has a first floor boutique beer garden, plus the usual large range of duty free goods. In the evening you could visit the chic wine bar that is also open to non-guests. 3,000-5,600 baht.
- 9 The Sukosol (เดอะ สุโกศล), 477 Si Ayuthaya Rd (Walk 500 m from ARL Phaya Thai), ☏ , email@example.com. A locally owned five-star hotel with Thai decor near ARL and Skytrain stations. Free Wi-Fi. Price includes breakfast. 3600-5000 baht.
Jessie's Minimart, inside the Miami Villa complex at Phetchaburi Soi 43/1, is an internet café that is open 24 hours and has a Wi-Fi hotspot available. It is close to the Phetchaburi MRT station. There's a free Wi-Fi signal at the lobby of the Amari Watergate Hotel, so you might want to have a drink at one of their cafés while surfing the net.
Another neighbourhood for cheap deals, and a 15-minute BTS ride north, is the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Phahonyothin. As the name implies, it is only open at weekends. Many of the shops there actually operate in Pratunam during weekdays. An alternative is the Bobae Market in Rattanakosin, a wholesale garment market very similar to Pratunam. It is four stops away on the Saen Saep Express Boat.
|Routes through Pratunam|
|Phahonyothin ←||N S||→ Siam Square → Sukhumvit|
|END ←||W E||→ Ramkhamhaeng → Suvarnabhumi Airport|