Down-to-earth district: Exploring Sukhumvit’s Punnawithi neighborhood

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As the skytrain snakes its way down Sukhumvit Road, the scene changes from busy office areas and tourist zones to local neighborhoods filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. One such neighborhood is Punnawithi, which encompasses the labyrinth of Sukhumvit Soi 101 and surrounds.

Punnawithi feels like an escape from the city, with its cute cafes and bakeries, local dining scene and unassuming crowd of expats and low-key Bangkokians. Stroll around with your friends in Converse – sneakers are best for long walks along the tree-lined sois anyway. Add some vintage jeans and a T-shirt from talad rot fai, and you’ll fit right in.

But instead of being isolated, Punnawithi is well connected to downtown Bangkok and beyond. With its own BTS stop and fast connections via Sukhumvit Road and the tollway, getting to and from Punnawithi is a breeze.

Dining hotspots

We urge you to get to know this laid back neighborhood by following your heart and your stomach. There are no see-and-be-seen places (yet) and the taste of a restaurant’s food is still more important than their Instagram feed.

For a chill café check out Mu-I Bakery & Dimsum (3039 Sukhumvit Soi 101) Located right at Punnawithi BTS, the cozy shop boasts a wide selection of baked goods, plus steamed morsels of deliciousness, aka dimsum. A glorious combination! Try fresh steamed prawn dumplings and pork buns and then move on to the rich cheesecake with tart, gooey blueberry sauce.

Photo: Mu-I Facebook

Moo Café (Sukhumvit Soi 101 Soi Punnawithi 23) is a stylish coffee shop decorated in mid-century modern decor, complete with hanging ferns and open-air seating. The vibe is hipster-friendly, but not overrun.

Devilish Eats (29-29/1 Sukhumvit Soi 101/1) has quickly made a name for itself as the premier Western food destination in Punnawithi. Think juicy burgers and succulent ribs, all topped off with a menu of decadent desserts. Try the Devilish Aussie with The Lot, an Australian inspired monstrosity of a burger, followed by the hot, melted Chocolate Peanut Butter Skillet Cookie. Only problem is you’ll have to wait for your next cheat day.

Photo: Devilish Facebook

Nightlife

It’s worth exploring Punnawithi’s burgeoning nightlife scene as more pub and bar owners are realizing the benefits of a Punnawithi address. The area isn’t overrun with partyers, instead laid back spots fill up on weekends with regulars who appreciate good quality. We, for one, think that’s a good thing. We would much prefer to sip craft beer concoctions at Udomsuk Brewing (Sukhumvit Soi 101/1 between Soi 53 and 55) than navigate a jam-packed “it” bar. Come to this local Bangkok brewery for eclectic brews like Saison IPA and White Stout.

Photo: Udomsuk Brewing Facebook

The night market Talad Rot Fai (Srinakarin Soi 51), is a vintage lover’s dream and just a short cab ride from Punnawithi – this ‘burb’s BTS station is the closest skytrain stop. From there it’s a straight shot down Sukhumvit 101/1 to Srinakarin where you can browse vintage (and new) clothes and furniture, eat giant bowls of bamee, huge trays of som tum and rock out to live music at one of the many bars.

Photo: Watsamon Tri-yasakda

The Fattory by Park2Bar (Sukhumvit Soi 66) is a dinner-and-drinks spot with an industrial warehouse vibe. Expect playful menu items that mix Thai comfort food with Western staples. Please disregard the name because this is not a factory that’s guaranteed to put the pounds on. (Although fans of their creamy carbonara might disagree.)

Shopping

Punnawithi’s easy connections via BTS and tollway mean getting to shopping hubs like Phrong Phong, Siam and Bangna is easy-peasy. Just a few BTS stops in either direction and you’ll be at EmQuartier or BITEC Bangna, depending on what concert, event or sale you’re into. Central Bangna is also just an easy drive from Punnawithi and it will be a lot easier to find your size or favorite cosmetic product there than at the bustling counters of Paragon. Plus, there’s always Bangkok’s massive shopping mecca, Mega Bangna, to explore.

Day trips

Not only is Punnawithi chock-full of cozy cafes, restaurants and things to do, it’s perfectly positioned for easy weekend getaways to places like Pattaya, Rayong and Koh Samet. You won’t have to battle city traffic from Punniwithi to Suvarnabhumi either, so no more racing to the gate for fear of missing your flight.

Bangkok Tree House (Soi Bua Phueng Pattana, Bang Namphueng) is another easy day trip from the district. Take a staycation at the boutique hotel and ride bikes around Bangkok’s “Green Lung”. The paths and waterways through the trees are a refreshing escape from the concrete jungle.

The Erawan Museum (99/9 Moo 1, Tambon Bang Muang Mai) is a short drive south from Punnawithi. This museum celebrates the art of gigantic sculptures, like the two headed elephant that guards the entrance. The ornate halls of traditional statues and Buddhist artwork surrounded by the lush Himmapan Gardens will have you feeling like you’ve left the busy city behind.

Photo: Erawan Museum Facebook

Live and learn

Punnawithi is home to many schools and educational institutions that lend an academic vibe to the area, the most well known of which is Chanapatana International Design Institute (Sukhumvit Soi 101). With lecturers hailing from Asia, the US and Europe, this school has produced exciting Thai designers like Monosodium, a women’s clothing store that sells in Thailand and Singapore. Short courses and longer diplomas are available. Studio Aromdee (232/35 Sukhumvit 101 Soi Punnawithi 8) is Punnawithi’s hands-on art studio. The studio offers 1 or 2-day courses in metal work and ceramics for children and adults.

Photo: Studio Aromdee Facebook

If fashion’s not really your thing, there’s always iBAF Culinary School (Exit 4, BTS Punnawithi). Learn how to bake with the masters from Imperial Bakery or improve your cooking skills with a course on savory cuisine.

Photo: iBAF Culinary School Facebook

Even as more dining and drinking options add to the diverse lifestyle of Punnawithi, the ambiance remains decidedly chill, and that’s part of its charm.

Could you see yourself living here, with all that Punnawithi has to offer right on your doorstep? Click here to learn about the newest condo by Sansiri, THE LINE Sukhumvit 101, and start calling this relaxed neighborhood home.

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