17/18 Moo 1, Koh Tao Suratthani, 84360 Thailand         Info @ Big Blue Diving        +66 (0) 77 456 050

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Touching down in Bangkok, dragging your weary bones through passport control and having the heat and smells of the city immediately hitting you like a slap to the face as you step out of the airport is an introduction to Thailand that so many of us have experienced, and it never seems to get any more normal.

To escape the madness and noises of the city that never sleeps there are small refuges, little oases high above street level, free of the hubbub and madness of this incredible city – the world famous Rooftop bars of Bangkok, and in this blog I’ll talk about a few of what I consider to be the best the city has to offer.

 

 

SKYBAR LEBUA

Sky Bar, Lebua Hotel

Made even more popular since 'The Hangover 2' was unleashed on unsuspecting idiots with money to waste, Sky Bar at Lebua Hotel (Silom area) is the one featured in the movie and is certainly not one for those on a budget - expect to pay about 400 baht for a beer! The dress code is pretty strict too, as is often the case in these types of bars - no t-shirts, flip-flops, backpacks or shorts - but you'd really look out of place wearing that sort of clobber there; everyone else usually dresses very smartly indeed!

Thank God we bought all those frigging suits on the Khao San Road eh?

It gets really busy at Lebua Sky Bar, so it’s a nice place to watch the wealthier Thai business types at play, but unfortunately the staff can be a bit dickish herding you around into certain areas to take photos. The view is spectacular of course, and makes it worth the visit as long as you leave a few baht for your diving!

http://www.lebua.com/sky-bar

 

 

 

above eleven

Above 11, Sukhumvit Soi 11

A little cheaper, but with views almost as spectacular is Above Eleven, on the massive snaking street that straddles the city called ‘Sukhumvit’, Soi 11. With cocktails starting at around 300 baht and a small beer about 160 baht it's usually possible to have a great time without blowing a week’s salary, but if you want to eat or get the best seats right on the edge you need to make a reservation - a bribe didn't work for me, though I do look like a homeless crack-addict so the waitress probably thought I was begging for change. The atmosphere is a hell of a lot more chilled than Sky Bar, and to watch the sunset over the huge shopping malls on Siam is really breathtaking – remember that it doesn't open till 6pm however so don't get there too late if you want to get the day and night shots of the city.

A shout out to the staff as well who are surprisingly attentive for Thailand, just don't let them talk you into that weird Peruvian beer special with the ice, salt and pepper - I can still taste it years later, and in comparison makes even a Chang beer seem delicious.

Dress-code is smart casual, shorts are okay but absolutely no open shoes or sandals – they can provide men with simple black trainers for a 160 baht rental fee.

https://aboveeleven.com/

 

 

 

360 rooftop bar bangkok

360 Bar, Millenium Hilton, 123 Charoen Nakhon Rd.

360 bar at Millennium Hilton could well be the best of all the rooftop bars in Bangkok but is often missed out on lists like these, possible due to it being a mere 31 floors high - compared to a lot of the other rooftop bars in Bankgkok this isn't exactly the tallest, but the views are a LOT better than the competition in my opinion. The bar consists of two distinct areas: One is a large rectangular open air space covering the entire middle part of this tall riverside building, and the other part, as the name suggests, is an amazing 360 degrees cupola balanced one floor above. It looks like a gigantic flying saucer has landed on the edge of the Millennium Hilton tower and the views from this indoor panoramic bar are fantastic and well worth a visit!

360 Bar is laid back, the jazz played is always to a very high standard, and the easiest way to enjoy the early evening is to first sit at one of the sofas on the open rooftop and contemplate the views on each side of the tower. Unfortunately the sunset is obscured by the building, but the light show in the sky all around you easily makes up for it.

If price appears high, don’t worry, the servings are generous, meaning you’ll only need one or two plates to enjoy an evening here!

Dress-code is smart casual, no sandals or sportswear allowed.

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/thailand/millennium-hilton-bangkok-BKKHITW/dining/threesixty.html

 

 

 

char rooftop bar pink sky

Char Rooftop Bar, Indigo Hotel, 81 Wireless Road

On the 25th and 26th floor of the Indigo Hotel in Ploenchit is a relatively new addition to the Bangkok Rooftop bar phenomenon, and it’s showing itself to be quite the star! It’s smaller than a lot of the more famous competitors, and they’ve used the space wonderfully with cute little alcoves giving you a bit of privacy as you wash down the reasonably priced cocktails and beers on offer – expect to pay around 350 baht for a cocktail and 180 baht for a small Singha beer. The bar snacks are very good at Char, and not too expensive if you’re on a budget.

The loungers are some of the most comfortable your dear writer had ever sat in, and it makes a great place to fire off a few emails and snaps to loved ones back home without all the crowds usually found at the larger sky bars.

Dress-code is pretty strict, with no sandals, t-shirts or ‘torn clothing’ allowed.

http://www.charbangkok.com/

 

Whichever sky bar you choose, to really get the most out of the experience (and also to really take advantage of the amount of incredible cityscape photos that can be had) there’s no better time to arrive than late afternoon, just before the sun drops to reveal a stunning show of colour that’s worth the higher prices these bars always charge.

Mine’s a large one thanks!

 

Decided to come visit our little piece of paradise? Here we’ll talk a little about the 3 different ways you can get to Koh Tao from Bangkok!

 


The Fastest/Most Expensive Way – Fly and Ferry

By far the shortest and easiest way to get here if your budget allows it is to take a flight and ferry combo. From Bangkok you can catch a flight to Koh Samui - there are two airlines offering services, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways. Bangkok Air have more flights from Bangkok-Koh Samui making it very convenient for connecting to your ferry. Flights depart every half an hour from 6am to 10pm, and take about an hour to reach Samui - just be sure to check the boat timetables to Koh Tao before you book your flight to be sure of the connections!

Usually a slightly cheaper flight is to go from Bangkok to one of the nearby towns on the mainland, Chumphon or Suratthani. There are currently three budget airlines offering the combined tickets of flight, coach and boat - Nok Air, Thai Lion and Air Asia. Nok Air connects with our favourite ferry (it’s faster and a lot more reliable than the others) the Lomprayah at Chumphon or Suratthani, while Air Asia and Thai Lion connect with the slower, less comfortable Seatran ferry at Suratthani.

                                                                                                

 

 

The Cheapest/Most Uncomfortable Way – Bus and Ferry

 

By far the most popular and social way to get to Koh Tao (especially with all our Thailand backpackers) is to take the bus from Bangkok, and then connect to a ferry from the mainland town of Chumphon.
There are two companies who offer this service; Lomprayah and Songserm. Their (so-called) VIP air-conditioned buses depart Bangkok at around 8pm from Khao San Road, and arrive at the relevant pier at Chumphon around 7 hours later, depending on traffic and the enthusiasm of the driver! The bus will usually stop once around half way for about 20 minutes only, and give you a chance to grab something to eat and a quick toilet stop – the toilets on the buses are tiny and usually absolutely stinking!
The boat journey to Koh Tao is between 2 hours (Lomprayah) and 3 hours (Songserm) depending on the company you choose to go through.
We always recommend using the slightly more expensive Lomprayah over the Songserm if you are going to take the bus down to Chumphon, quite simply because it’s quicker, the buses are usually more comfortable and every so often we hear stories of people’s bags having things stolen from them on the Songserm bus – something that we’ve never heard from our Lomprayah travellers!

 

                                                                                                           

 

The Coolest Way - Sleeper Train and Ferry

Travelling on the sleeper train is, to be perfectly honest, absolutely great! It’s always a lot more comfortable than the bus as you can walk around to stretch your legs, have a cheeky cigarette, there’s a restaurant car to fill up on cheap Thai food and the staff on there can often provide a sneaky beer or two for you if you’re willing to pay a little over the odds for them! First Class (AC) and Second class (fan) sleeper come with a real (surprisingly comfortable) bed so you can sleep during the journey, plus there’s also the option of paying a bit extra for a ‘private’ 2 person cabin if your budget allows it!

Third class however does not come recommended by yours truly, as it’s just a seat rather than a bed and they’re not the most comfortable seats you’ll ever sit on.If you do decide to go for the AC carriage be aware like most air-conditioned places in Thailand it can get rather cold, so pack a pair of jeans and a jacket near the top of your backpack just in case!

From Bangkok, you’ll leave from Hua Lamphong Station at around 7pm, and the train gets to Chumphon station usually around 5am. The boat companies provide free transfers between their pier and the train station, and the first boats depart to Koh Tao at 7am – as always we recommend the Lomprayah over the other ferries if it’s available.

 

As with all trains, delays are possible so you may have to get an afternoon ferry to Koh Tao if you don’t make it in time for the early boat – in this case there’s a great travel agent just 5 minutes from the station called ‘Fame Tours’ where you can leave your belongings, have a wash and a bite to eat and book your tickets for the ferry of your choice. 

Be aware that buying your train tickets online will usually cost a few hundred baht more than buying them in person, and as a general guide for the Bangkok to Chumphon route you can normally buy 2nd and 3rd Class Fan Seats on the day of travel but not 1st and 2nd Class Sleeper seats and 2nd Class AC Seats, so it needs a little forward planning.

Finally at busy times of the year (including the week before and after Koh Phangan’s monthly Full Moon Party) sleeper beds are usually fully booked up to a week in advance.

 

 

                                                                                               

Whichever way you decide to come and visit us here on Koh Tao, be sure to keep a close eye on your belongings, and also keep an open mind on the possible delays and waiting around time that Thailand is famous for…

Bon voyage!

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