Asiatique in Bangkok is fairly new...by a couple of years...and takes over from Lumpini Night Bazaar which used to be just off Rama IV
Asiatique is set next to the Chaopraya river allowing for easy access by river ferry / boat.
The negative aspect of Asiatique is that it is on the Charoenkrung road which is a major source of bad traffic and you can get hugely stuck and majorly frustrated.
Asiatique is an interesting place to go if you are stuck for other things to do. It offers some interesting shops and stalls and you can have a great meal and drinks but you could up spending a lot of money because some of the eateries are very expensive, over priced and aimed squarely at tourists and the gullible.
However, there are some places where you can eat more cheaply and drink for a reasonable price so it's not all bad news.
The stalls and shops are selling the same things as you can get in places like MBK, Chatuchak Weekend Market and other places - all of which probably cheaper too.
I'm fairly negative to places like this because visiting Bangkok and Thailand should really be about Thailand and Bangkok and I'm keen to get visitors away from the new, expensive, tourist traps and get them to get out and about and experience something better.
Why Visit Asiatique ?
We think visiting Asiatique in Bangkok, Thailand is for those who can't get to Chatuchak market as there are plenty of stalls and shops selling Thai souvenirs, silk, bags, artifacts and much more but if you've been to Chatuchak, you won't find much more of interest.
However, it is an easier shopping experience to Chatuchak and for those not wishing to battle with Chatuchak, Asiatique makes for a fine alternative.
The dining options at Asiatique are very good. You can choose from restaurant chains such as Yayoi, Yum Saap, Pizza Company, Kimju (Korean food), KFC, and to some extent Swensens (ice-cream). But for those looking for something a little more up-market and not a chain, there are offerings from Baan Kanith, Brasserie 9, Checkmate, Flann O'Brien's, Kacha + Kacha, Fire & Dine as well as Akiyoshi and a good number of others.
Going to these no chain places is not going to be cheap and we've seen small, 330 ml, beers being sold for 260 Baht each but the decor is of a high standard and the ambience conducive to a good night out with live music on offer in a number of places.
One restraurant with a "twist" is Joe Louis Puppet Theatre restaurant. The name is actually "Joe Louis: The Art Of Thai Cuisine" which is a very plush looking place and where you can enjoy quality Thai food whilst watching a Thai Puppet show. After the show, the puppeteers wander around with the puppets and get close to the guests. This is a very pleasant evening out for perhaps, the older generation ?
You don't have to eat there, you can grab a pitcher of beer and enjoy the puppet show but you'll be paying a hefty price for that pitcher of beer.
What's To Like About Asiatique ?
We like Asiatique because there's a good mish-mash of things to do. We can wander the shops and stalls and then sit down for a meal, coffee or ice-cream and if we got bored of that, we could ride the Ferris wheel or watch the ladyboy cabaret show called Calypso.
There was some controversy about Asiatique and many tourists and expats were furious over the double pricing blatantly apparent on the ferris wheel ride but this seems to have stopped although Trip Advisor has reports of this still being attempted.
However, This is Thailand and if they feel they can get more money out of you because you are a tourist, then they will.
At some places, such as the elephant and crocodile farm, there is a huge price difference and being able to speak Thai and going with your Thai wife makes no difference at all.
If you are white or non-Thai, you are going to be forced to pay the huge price difference or not go, so Asiatique doesn't seem so bad in this regard.
Obviously shopping is going to require some good bargaining skills but you're not forced to buy anything, it's all down to what you are prepared to pay.
That aside, did we mention that Asiatique gets very busy ?
We have been there during the week and at the weekend and the weekend was almost unbearably busy.
Thais love to go out in the evenings and so at the weekend, huge numbers of Thais roam aimlessly around Asiatique until the next urge to eat grabs them and then they fill up the restaurants.
These huge numbers make Asiatique a fairly unpleasant experience. Some people might not mind and accept it as being part of Asia but on the other side of the coin there will be those who really hate the crowds and the shuffling pace.
What's To Dislike About Asiatique ?
The crowds will be the main thing that will annoy most people. Avoid the weekends if possible and go during the week.
When it's busy it's not easy to get a table at a restaurant and the constant jostling of people can be extremely annoying and there are high prices at some establishments.
There have been a number of reports of high prices and poor quality of food. Some establishments rely on quality decor to justify the prices rather than providing good food.
Double pricing for Calypso cabaret show. Locals pay 600 Baht and tourists 1,200 baht. This scam, rip-off culture has to stop and the worst thing about it is they are asking you to pay double the amount to watch a bunch of rough looking guys dressed as girls mime to poor sound tracks. Avoid.
Thai souvenirs such as masks, carvings, Buddha statues etc will all be found in your local Asian Artifacts or holistic type shop along with joss sticks, buddhist chanting / whale songs CDs and a poster of Bob Marley.
Where To Eat In Asiatique
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of places to eat at Asiatique but you can divide it out by price. and Zone.
Asiatique is divided into Warehouses and each warehouse will house a different type of restaurant.
Warehouses 1 - 4 cater to more common, chains of restaurants such as MK Suki, Kimju, KFC, Pizza Company, Au Bon Pain, Yum Saap and others.
Warehouse 6 is home to the Food Circus with offering from places such as Sweet Lips, Siam India, iPho, Steak by TN Steak House and a number of others.
Warehouse 10 is the Hip Zone and Pubs & Restaurants but it's also where the prices go up a lot.
The pubs and restaurants in the Hip Zone look very appealing and all have expensive decor and interiors. Prices will reflect this and it's in this area that a small beer can cost 260 Baht for 330 ml
Dining here should be the reserve of those without much worry about money or for those looking for a "special" night out. It's certainly not somewhere you'd want to make a habit of dining.
If you want more reasonable prices, head to the road side of asiatique and even the central "Food Circus" area where prices are lower and choices still good.