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Belinda Jackson discovers the best hang-outs for party people who like to mix attitude with altitude.
We know it as Bangkok but Thais know it as Krung Thep, the shortened name for their capital that loosely translates as City of Angels. So, this being the ever-obliging Bangkok, you can even eat and drink with the angels high above the streets. This cheerful nation has a serious daredevil streak – and we're not just talking about motorbike taxis in peak hour. If you want to find the latest dining or drinking hot spot here, look up. The city's rooftops are thriving places housing bars, restaurants, lounges and dance floors. These are our favourites.
BEST FOR: Bond-level chic
The Long Table
We love the hip-to-the-hilt Long Table for its namesake, a long, low 70-seater communal table that stretches across the restaurant, and the bar that juts out over the building's 25th floor. The more intimate booths are chic affairs of sleek white leather and low glass tables so you can tuck your feet up and curl yourself around an icy mojito. There seem to be freestanding wine rooms at every turn, which can make quiet conversations a bit tough inside, so book ahead for tables on the deck, which are hot property. When visiting this latest venture by the Bed Supperclub crew, if you take the lounge option you'll have to kick off your shoes, so get a pedicure beforehand or at least check that your socks match.
48 Column Tower, Sukhumvit Soi 16, +66 2 3022 5579, longtablebangkok.com.
BEST FOR: Cocktails at sunset
Sky Bar and Breeze
You couldn't do a story on Bangkok high life without including the mix of restaurants and bars at Dome at Lebua, on Silom Road (aka the old State Tower). Best known is Sirocco, said to be the world's highest open-air restaurant, perched on the 63rd floor. Sky Bar is also on this floor, overlooking Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River, and is open until 1am. The crowds love it and there are no reservations, so we suggest sneaking around to Breeze, an Asian seafood restaurant and bar whose outdoor section is reached by a floodlit catwalk that passes over the bar. Short-skirt wearers, beware. Also note that the tower has a strict dress policy – men must wear closed shoes, no sandals or slides, no matter how chic or Italian. The style police hang out at the base of the lifts and offenders will be relegated to the boring lobby bar.
1055 Silom Road, +66 2 624 9999, lebua.com.
BEST FOR: River views on a budget
Bar-B-Q Corner, River City Mall
For a river view without blowing the budget, head to the rooftop beer garden at the River City Mall to flip chunks of meat on your tabletop grill and watch the traffic on the brown, fast-flowing Chao Phraya below. There's a food court inside but just keep heading upwards after you've cruised the antiques in the mall below. Open 5.30pm-11.30pm daily.
Level 5, River City Complex, 23 Trok Rongnamkhaeng, Silom, +66 2 236 4535, rivercity.co.th.
BEST FOR: Star-gazing
Moon Bar, Banyan Tree Bangkok
The lift in the hotel lobby shoots you up 60-odd floors to one of Bangkok's best-known bars, the Moon Bar. You can nip up for a drink and a squiz at the sky (or into your hotel room) through the bar's telescope or sit in the appropriately named Vertigo Grill restaurant. Book a table beforehand, though. Open from 5pm-1am, the Moon Bar is one of the most romantic spots in town. The Banyan Tree also says no to shorts and sandals for men and we have seen women wearing singlets given cloaks by staff to cover shoulders. If it's too manic, try the Latitude Lounge & Bar on the 51st floor, also open from 5pm-1am.
21/100 South Sathon Road, +66 2 679 1200 or 1800 050 019 (free call), banyantree.com.
BEST FOR: Meat lovers and martini freaks
Red Sky, Centara Grand at CentralWorld
This is the new place for a martini. The signature passionfruit martini is truly a work of art. Red Sky is an indoor-outdoor restaurant 55 floors up, complete with jazz pianist and overlooked by Centara's enormous, rainbow-coloured lotus motif. Canadian chef Aaron Foster wins the award for most enthusiastic chef of the year, playing with a Eurocentric menu that at a pinch might include Australian wild boar ravioli, tuna tartare or tamarind pork belly while employing "sous-vide" ultra-slow-cooking techniques. CentralWorld is linked to Central Chidlom by overhead walkways through the Chidlom BTS station. Red Sky's outdoor martini bar is open 5pm-1am.
999/99 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, phone +66 2 100 1234, www.centarahotelsresorts.com.
BEST FOR: Mid-shop refuelling
Food Loft @ Central
To call Food Loft a food court is to elevate the standard of food courts around the world. It's a chic, loft-style eatery on the seventh floor of Central Chidlom, with great city views and brilliant food. On arrival, take a card, then have it charged as you move between the shops – from Japanese to Indian, halal, vegetarian, juice stands and desserts. Pay on your way out. For budget travellers, it's OK on the hip pocket, though high by local standards. Open 10am-10pm, although no alcohol is served until 5pm, when the bands kick in.
Level 7, Central Chidlom, 1027 Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, +66 2 793 7070, central.co.th.
BEST FOR: Watching beautiful people
There was a whirl of starlets and princesses at Zense's opening night a few months ago. The rooftop bar is on the 17th floor of the Zen Department Store. Its lounging/tapas menu comes from four separate kitchens – Japanese, Italian, Indian and Thai. The look is lots of white lounges and beautiful people. Bangkok's celebrities are making this place their second home, so get your glitter on if you're planning to visit. Try the Big Juicy Collagen Lipz signature drink – fresh passionfruit, tequila, vanilla and ripe limes. With panoramic 360-degree views, Zense is awesome at sundown. Take the glass lifts inside the Zen Department Store (until 10pm) or go in through the Zen World Lobby on Rama I Road (until midnight). The closest BTS station is Chidlom or Siam. Open daily from 5.30pm-midnight.
Level 17, 4/5 Rama I Road, Pathumwan, +66 2 100 9898 , zensebangkok.com.
We could drink and party on, including at Nest, the rooftop bar at Le Fenix hotel in Sukhumvit (+66 2 305 4000, lefenix-sukhumvit.com); the imaginatively named Roof Top Bar on the 83rd floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel (+66 2656 3000, baiyokehotel.com); and the indoor Three Sixty Lounge at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok (think Sydney's Zeta bar), on the river's edge (+66 2 442 2000, www1.hilton.com). Bangkok's passion for heights is nowhere near abating and we love the city all the more for it.
Photos: Bangkok's coolest sky-high bars
The writer was a guest of Zense, Red Sky and the Metropolitan.
Thai Airways flies from Sydney to Bangkok, priced from $769. Phone 1300 651 960, see www.thaiair.com.
The Metropolitan is a sleek, hush-hush hotel on South Sathorn Road. Rooms start from $US260 ($284) a night; penthouse suites from $US800 a night; Como suites (which look out to the pool or skyline) start from $US2000 a night. See www.metropolitan.como.bz.
The BTS SkyTrain is fast, clean and efficient. Otherwise, taxis are a comfortable, although slower, option, followed by tuk-tuks. Motorbike taxis are fast and fun.