Orientation

Any city as large and unplanned as Bangkok can be tough to get around. Street names often seem unpronounceable, compounded by the inconsistency of romanised Thai spellings. For example, the street sometimes spelt as ‘Rajdamri’ is actually pronounced ‘Ratchadamri’ (with the appropriate tones, of course), or in abbreviated form as Rat damri. The ‘v’ in Sukhumvit should be pronounced like a ‘w’… One of the most popular locations for foreign embassies is known both as Wireless Rd and Th Witthayu (wí·tá·yú is Thai for ‘radio’).

Many street addresses show a string of numbers divided by slashes and hyphens, for example, 48/3-5 Soi 1, Th Sukhumvit. The reason is that undeveloped property in Bangkok was originally bought and sold in lots. The number before the slash refers to the original lot number. The numbers following the slash indicate buildings (or entrances to buildings) constructed within that lot. The preslash numbers appear in the order in which they were added to city plans, while the postslash numbers are arbitrarily assigned by developers. As a result numbers along a given street don’t always run consecutively.

The Thai word tà·nŏn (usually spelt ‘thanon’) means road, street or avenue. Hence Ratchadamnoen Rd (sometimes referred to as Ratchadamnoen Ave) is always called Thanon (Th) Ratchadamnoen in Thai.

A soi is a small street or lane that runs off a larger street. In our example, the address referred to as 48/3-5 Soi 1, Th Sukhumvit will be located off Th Sukhumvit on Soi 1. Alternative ways of writing the same address include 48/3-5 Th Sukhumvit Soi 1, or even just 48/3-5 Sukhumvit 1. Some Bangkok soi have become so large that they can be referred to both as tà·nŏn and soi, eg Soi Sarasin/Th Sarasin and Soi Asoke/Th Asoke. Smaller than a soi is a tròrk (usually spelt ‘trok’) or alley. Well-known alleys in Bangkok include Chinatown’s Trok Itsaranuphap and Banglamphu’s Trok Rong Mai.