This is an updated and extended version of the Feminist City Guide to Bangkok I wrote for Unearth Women earlier this year.
This guide highlights female-led businesses, communities and initiatives in the city. Read on to find out how to spend your time and money to support women in Thailand.
What to Do
Bangkok Rising is a volunteer-led advocacy group raising awareness and funds to combat gender issues. They host events to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence and put on annual performances of The Vagina Monologues, as well as hosting other gatherings throughout the year. This year, they hosted a calendar events and activities for the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This guide was written for the final day!
Empower Sex Work Museum
Learn all about the history and reality of sex work in Thailand at the Empower Sex Work Museum. The Empower Foundation supports sex workers by campaigning for labor laws and providing education and protection. Their museum, founded by Chantawipa Apisuk, was built to challenge Thai society’s preconceptions about sex work, which has been illegal in the country since 1960.
Note: The museum is set to move to Chiang Mai, so check the Empower site before you visit.
Wonder Women of Bangkok
This is a social group for women in Bangkok, founded by British expat Hannah Meltzer (who’s also a commitee member of Bangkok Rising, alongside myself). It schedules frequent meetups for activities like rooftop bar drinks, roller discos, taco Tuesdays, and more. Sign up to join the meet-up page, and you’ll be added to the Facebook group, which is off-limits to men.
The Hidden Closet
Sex toys are illegal in Thailand and in the country’s conservative society, sex is very much a taboo subject. Oranan Tangpanitano is looking to change that with The Hidden Closet, a luxury erotic boutique store. Here, she sells toys, lingerie, BDSM gear and sexual wellness products. She’s also opened The Hidden Closet Studio, which functions as a luxury erotic art space. At this branch, you can rent luxury outfits and accessories, have erotic photoshoots, and even take classes in the Japanese bondage art of Shibari.
The All-in-One Open Mic
Created by American expat and comedian Christy Inhulsen, the All-in-One Open Mic gives all kinds of artists, performers and entertainers a chance to showcase their skills. It strives for inclusivity and to build a quirky community that’s welcoming for all. Top acts from the show are invited to perform in their quarterly ‘Feel Good’ event, which is a fundraiser for refugees in Bangkok.
This year, Maggie Choo’s launched a burlesque night on Wednesdays. On Sunday’s there’s also Gay Night, on which Thai drag superstar Pangina Heals hosts the best drag shows in Bangkok.
UN Women has a regional office in Bangkok, which organizes regular events highlighting women’s issues. Previous events include a night of talks from Thai women about domestic and sexual violence, and Thailand’s very first Human Library. Check the UN Women Asia and the Pacific Facebook page to see what’s next.
Bangkok Roller Derby
Roller derby has been called ‘the ultimate feminist sport‘. If you want to try it while you’re in Thailand, check out the first and only team in the country, Bangkok Roller Derby. They practice at the Emporium Roller Dome every Wednesday at 7pm. If you just want to watch, check out their Facebook page for upcoming matches.
Where to Eat
To get a taste of Thai-style fine dining from one of the best chefs in Bangkok, look no further than Paste. This Michelin-star restaurant is led by Chef Bee Satongun, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2018.
Tacos and Salsa
To support a female-led business and try the best Mexican food in Bangkok at the same time, head to Tacos and Salsa. Run by a Mexican expat and her Thai partner, this place serves up authentic Mexican comfort food, along with a good range of tequila and Mezcal. It’s frequented by the Wonder Women of Bangkok, who love to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat Taco Tuesdays deal.
Raan Jay Fai
Raan Jay Fai was famous in Thailand long before being featured in the Street Food series on Netflix. Now, it’s known worldwide. This street-side restaurant is run by Chef Jay Fai, a 72-year-old woman who dons her signature pair of goggles to cook up the best crab omelettes in the city. Her impeccable cooking skills have won her a string of culinary awards, as well as a Michelin star.
Oh La La Café
If you’re looking for a great brunch spot, visit Oh La La Café. Run by a woman named Oh and her small team of mostly-female staff, this cute little cafe serves waffles, sandwiches, cakes, and lots of other homemade delights.
Cabbages and Condoms
Bangkok’s birth-control-themed restaurant runs a unique campaign for reproductive rights. Cabbages and Condoms began as a humble vegetable stand at the office for Thailand’s Population & Community Development Association, which also sold condoms and oral contraceptives. Now, it’s a huge restaurant, which donates all of its profits to programs for health, education and HIV/AIDS programs throughout Thailand, as well as the on-site family planning clinic. As you walk to your table, you’ll pass amusing works of art that encourage safe sex, including life-sized statues adorned with thousands of decorative condoms. At the end of your meal, you’ll even receive a condom instead of a mint. If you’re not hungry, it’s worth a visit for the gift shop alone.
Bad Burger BKK
Chef Poupée left a career in fine dining to start a tiny burger stand at a street market. She quickly drew a cult following and went on to set up her own restaurant, Bad Burger BKK. During LGBT Pride Month, she flies the flag by serving them in rainbow buns.
Where to Shop
Krung Thong Plaza
Beauty standards in Thailand are notoriously narrow, and it can be difficult for both Thai and foreign women to find clothes with inclusive size ranges. Krung Thong Plaza provides a much-needed selection. It doesn’t advertise as strictly a plus-size fashion mall, but has a reputation as such. It stocks a range of larger sizes for men’s and women’s clothes found nowhere else in Bangkok.
Bangkok Soap Opera
Bangkok Soap Opera provides natural soaps and cosmetics made from herbs and other ingredients sourced from local farms. Led by Ukranian Maria Kalita, it also provides workshops to empower customers to make their own natural soaps, scrubs, lotions, candles and perfumes at home. Their products are completely free from chemicals, and all ingredients are so natural that they’re edible.
Anything I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments!