BANGKOK — Traveling to Bangkok, I was full of anticipation to check out the Sky Bar at the grandiose Lebua at State Tower hotel. The bar appears on most top-rooftop-bars-in-Bangkok lists, and is tops on TripAdvisor (rated #3 for nightlife in Bangkok at the time of this writing), and would be the first place most would think of when thinking of a rooftop bar in Bangkok. You might’ve seen the hotel as part of the setting in The Hangover Part 2, an otherwise mediocre film. Perhaps the hotel was the star of the movie, which is why the hotel still markets this relationship to this day. There was a poster celebrating The Hangover 2 in the lobby on the way to the Sky Bar, as if any one of the hundreds of tourists going up there each day weren’t already aware of it. Seeing the poster cheapened the experience from the get-go.
The journey to the top was a long one, punctuated by hotel employees greeting us and pushing us this way and that. We got lost on our way to the Sky Bar but knew we were in the right place when stepping outside and offered unduly expensive champagne to start the night. Um, no. Then, we saw the bar, which was utter disappointment – a small corner of the rooftop that was absolutely jammed with people. You had to fight for a place to stand, and waiting 10-15 minutes let us find a spot with a so-so view. Worse, I didn’t see a single local up there. 100% tourists, and I heard every language on the planet spoken but Thai. A multinational crowd like this which might be the place to hang out for some, but not if you’re looking for a slice of the real Bangkok.
The views have the opportunity to be sensational, certainly. We did see it at night, and the lights twinkled all over the city, but I was disappointed. I believe it could be better during the day, with the neighboring Chao Phraya River in full view. A sunset view at the right time could be majestic.
Unfortunately, battling the crowd makes it tough to take photos. Walking down the famous steps down to the bar is almost impossible as you’re rushed, forced to keep walking without stopping to enjoy the view. Definitely not a place for photography.
The Sky Bar is worth a visit, if you have time, and have a lot of dollars to spend. Perhaps visiting the higher-up (but indoors) Distil Bar or eating at Sirocco would offer a more relaxed, timeless experience with a fuller view (rather than tidbits jammed amongst a crowd shoved in a corner of the rooftop), but we’re not all millionaires.
My grand idea was to order a beer (I had read online that cheaper local beer like Chang was available, at a higher price than locally, but still reasonable, and would allow one to afford a visit). However, I was told they only had a special Italian brew made specifically for the hotel. (The beer was enjoyable.) The money wouldn’t be an issue if the experience was a good one, but it wasn’t really memorable, and we had wished we had tried another rooftop spot.
My suggestion? If so desired, go up there, buy an extravagantly priced beer (about $18 CAD at the time of this article) and one beer only (there’s only one type available!), or better yet, spend a few minutes up there to enjoy the view and then come back down while rejecting the many offers of a drink that come your way. You’ll be a cheapskate, yes, but you’ll have money to relax more comfortably at a better rooftop bar in the city. Instead of the Sky Bar, try one of the numerous rooftop bars in the city that offer more space and comfort, better prices, and perhaps a more interesting atmosphere and view.
Try one of these or perhaps these. From personal experience we found the Amara Bangkok’s AkaAza 26th-floor rooftop bar relaxing and inviting (and lets you lounge by the pool with a great, quieter vibe). We found Cloud 47 an interesting, lower priced option near our hotel, The Amara Bangkok (but didn’t have time to visit). Anyway, look past the Sky Bar and Lebua hotel and you’ll find something better, we promise.