Bar/fly: Bangkok's best

By Chris Pritchard

Rooftop refinement is at its best in Bangkok, writes Chris Pritchard.

Graphic / Rod Emmerson
Graphic / Rod Emmerson

Blame it on Hollywood.

Bangkok's latest after-dark fad is outdoor bars on hotel rooftops. It's a vogue sparked by inclusion of one such bar in the 2011 hit movie The Hangover: Part II, set in Thailand's frenetic capital. The storyline has key characters enjoying their legal high at Skybar, on the 63rd floor of Lebua at State Tower, one of Bangkok's leading hotels.

The hotel calls this super-hot watering-hole the world's highest alfresco bar and restaurant (the Sirocco, showcasing pan-Mediterranean fare with live jazz drifting across the bar).

On one of the hotel's opulent Tower Club levels there's even a Hangover Suite decorated with stills from the film and so-named because cast members used it.

Critics panned this youth-oriented comedy - but the film was a winner where it mattered: at the box-office. Moviegoers loved its goofiness.

The Hangover: Part II did particularly well in Southeast Asia - nowhere more so than in Thailand. And, as a spin-off, the Lebua was landed with a hot property.

Skybar already attracted a stylish following but its appeal skyrocketed because of the film. It achieved as much for the Bangkok hotel as Lost In Translation, starring Bill Murray, did for Tokyo's Park Hyatt.

On most nights, a line forms outside the lifts in advance of Skybar's 6pm opening.

A tip: go early, just before dark, to soak up superb views from one of the city's highest structures towards the famed Chao Phraya River.

Later, city lights twinkle as I look down on tall buildings.

Besides pouring a good selection of beer and wine, the bartenders are superb mixologists.

The crowd, as at other rooftop bars, is mainly young and hip, an easygoing mix of Thais and tourists.

Similarly fashionable is the Roof Champagne and Wine Bar on the 25th floor of the Siam@Siam Hotel, a property where post-industrial decor enhances edginess - think bare concrete walls and exposed wiring in guest rooms' five-star environs.

High stools and comfy couches perch on a balcony overlooking the lights of Bangkok's east and also the Rattanakosin district - including the Rd budget accommodation precinct - where attractions include the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

Overlooking Lumphini Park's "green lung" and also with splendid vistas of city lights is Hi So in the new 30-storey Sofitel So Bangkok. It adjoins oh-so-chic Park Society restaurant. Service is highly attentive and, once again, the crowd is upwardly mobile Thais and mostly young farangs (foreigners).

Another Sofitel, also just opened, is in the heart of Sukhumvit Rd's tourist strip. Called Sofitel Bangkok on Sukhumvit, its food-and-beverage pinnacle is L'Appart - designed to resemble ritzy Parisian penthouse apartments.

It features an open-kitchen French eatery, a library bar where a DJ spins mellow lounge sounds and an immensely popular outdoor terrace area with a strong pre-club following. French wines by the glass are in demand.

Bangkok's rooftop bar vogue continues growing, with some of 20 outlets better than others. It's sound advice to explore: find a high-rise hotel, ride the lift to the top - and perhaps be pleasingly surprised.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Thai Airways flies direct from Auckland to Bangkok four days a week.

Further information: See bangkoktourist.com.

On top of Asia - more great bars at altitude

SkyBar, Kuala Lumpur
Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, 50088

The indoor SkyBar seats 268 and offers one of the best views of the Petronas Twin Towers. The venue is also home to the hotel swimming pool

Wooloomooloo, Hong Kong
Wooloomooloo, The Hennessy, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

With stunning views across Happy Valley, Wan Chai and of course, the Victoria Harbour, the indoor-outdoor bar at Wooloomooloo is a great place for a steak and a beer. Afterwards, there's The Hennessy bar on the 31st floor of the same building. Convenience and vertigo - how thoughtful.

Best views

1-Altitude, Singapore
OUB Building, No 1 Raffles Place

Altitude is the highest al-fresco bar in the world. A definite must for the travelling bon vivant to tick off. It's got an excellent reputation for food, too. While you're in Singapore, have a tipple at Ku De Ta at Marina Bay Sands

New York Bar, Tokyo
Nishi Shinjuku, Park Hyatt Tokyo 52F, Shinjuku

A bar made famous as the setting for scenes in Lost in Translation, the New York Bar features a sleek design, stylish decor and a very long bar.

- NZ Herald

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