One of the few things I look for when I travel, for work or leisure, is always a good rooftop bar. Or at least a bar with a view. Why? Well, why not: a perfect spot to watch the world go by, enjoying the urbane, if not the sights of the city you are currently in, from a nice height. I did not list this by ranking.
Helipad at Heli Lounge, Kuala Lumpur
Located on the, well, helipad of Menara KH, on the 34, this spot is not for the faint of heart. While the Skybar at the Traders Hotel gets the best unobstructed view of the Petronas Twin Towers in KLCC, how often can you say ‘oh, yeah, I drank on a helipad, waiting for the helicopter that never came.’
It brands itself as KL’s Best Kept Secret, but I doubt that is the case now with all the adverts on it. However, it is still a nice place, with fantastic views of Kuala Lumpur, with perfect views of the Twin Towers, KL Tower and suburbs beyond. When the other towers of KL start sprouting up, this spot will definitely be the spot.
View: 360 views of Kuala Lumpur, since, well, this is literally a rooftop.
Drinks: decent selection of drinks, reasonably priced, and not a ridiculous premium involved.
Price Point: re above. Reasonable. MYR 30++/drink
Feel: come by before 9pm and you can enjoy the view in shorts. However, the live band can be distracting after 10pm.
Address: 34th Foor, Menara KH, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2110 5034
Nearest Station: Raja Chulan Monorail Station
Spago at Marina Bay Skypark, Singapore
aThis particular spot is in the middle of the Skypark on top of Marina Bay Sands. With reasonably priced food and carefully hidden behind bushes to shield guests at the Marina Bay Sand skypool from patrons (or maybe the other way around?), this spot is a perfect place to chill while looking out towards the Singapore Skyline.
While a bit of a chore to get to (Use the lifts at Tower 2, and change lifts at the spa), it feels like a suspended beach bar in the middle of a city. In fact, the design and foliage makes it a nice urban oasis, with hints of the Singapore CBD towers reflected against the pool. Surreal.
View: Depending where you are seated, you can get fantastic views of Singapore or the Harbour.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and a few interesting options to choose from.
Price Point: This is Singapore, so expect to pay a premium. However, prices here are comparable to bars closer to ground. SGD 30++/drink.
Feel: As it isn’t as popular (or hyped) as the other 2 rooftop bars on the Skydeck (I am looking at you, former Ku De Ta), it has a very pleasant, relaxed vibe. Again, think beach.
Address: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Level 57, Sands Skypark Tower 2, Singapore
Tel: +65 6688 9955
Nearest Station: Bayfront MRT Station
The Bar at Altitude, Jakarta
Jakarta is moving up in the Asia Pacific as a hip destination. Every time I visit Jakarta, I see something that reminds me to ignore all the occasional bad press that appears. This rooftop bar, located adjacent to Plaza Indonesia, can be a bit of a maze to get to. Just ask for The Plaza tower at Plaza Indonesia.
Once there, be greeted by an unobstructed view south of the giant metropolis, fondly known as the Big Durian. While not the highest bar, such as the one at Skyle Lounge, or with a fantastic terrace just 3 floors up in the same tower at Cloud Lounge, your view is at the very edge, facing the plate glass windows. Plus, it feels less like a fancy bar and more like a member’s only lounge.
View: Unobstructed views of downtown Jakarta, at this, the highest rooftop bar in the city. Even better if the weather and smog is cooperating.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and the usual beers.
Price Point: Reasonable by Urban Asia-Pacific standards. IDR 100k++/drink.
Feel: Very dressed down and casual in the daytime. Relaxed atmosphere with chilled music just makes you want to do absolutely nothing but relax.
Address: The Plaza, 46th Floor, Jl MH Thamrin Kav 28 – 30, Jakarta
Tel: +62 21 2992 2448
Red Sky, Bangkok
Bangkok is the city for rooftop bars in my opinion. The options are endless, but this is arguably my favourite. Why? The drinks are stiff and good, and you have the option for a 360 view of Bangkok on the highest rooftop bar, in one of the tallest buildings in the city.
The entire place is a 2-storey collection of restaurants and bars, and the terrace itself is 2 storeys high, with the lower terrace a dining terrace. The best time to come by is around 5pm, as the sun sets in the City of Angels. Did I also mention there is a champagne lounge? Definitely one of my favourite rooftop bars.
View: 360 view of Bangkok, as far as the eye can see. Everything from the MahaNakhon to the Baiyoke, the Banyan Tree onwards to the Okura Prestige. The Grand Palace may be obstructed, sadly.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection, and look out for the happy hour from 4pm to 9pm (best to double check the happy hour timing).
Price Point: Not as cheap as your usual Bangkok bar, but one of the more reasonable when compared to its rooftop bar peers. The Happy Hour will make you happy. THB 3,000++/drink.
Feel: Somewhat more relaxed than Sirocco at Lebua and does not induce a fear of heights as much as Vertigo. Will make you feel high.
Address: 56th Floor, Centara Grand at CentralWorld, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2 100 6255
Nearest Station: Chidlom BTS Station
Le Moon Rooftop Bar, Phnom Penh
You were not expecting Phnom Penh in this list, were you? While it may not have as many high rises compared to her other Asia-Pacific peers, this medium-rise rooftop bar has a stunning view of the Mekong River and temples in this, the capital of Cambodia.
The staff are friendly, the drinks good and the terrace comfortable, as you enjoy the sunset views over the Mekong and temples of the city. While a high-rise may block the reflection of the sunset against the golden spires of the Grand Palace, the views during the Golden Hour from the terrace will make sunset in this slice of Paris-in-the-East have a very Hemmingway feel.
View: Fantastic view of the Mekong River and old Phnom Penh, overlooking temple spires and the golden roof of the Grand Palace.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection. Beer and wine could be better, but hey.
Price Point: Expensive by Cambodian standards, but cheaper than her ASEAN peers. USD6/drink
Feel: Relaxed and chilled, though it may make you feel a little too colonial.
Address: 154 Dekcho Damdin St, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +885 23 214 747
Hi-SO Rooftop Bar, SO Sofitel, Bangkok
Bangkok gets 2 mentions in this list. This particular spot has her unique charm. While not as high as the others in Bangkok, or in this list, the view is to die for. Located at the edge of Lumphini Park, the Sofitel SO’s rooftop bar has unobstructed views over the Sukhumvit and Witthayu skyline, giving a very green angle towards what is usually seen as a concrete jungle in Bangkok.
The drinks are good, the staff attentive, and the setting intimate, with a few terraces for you to hide in. The occasional architectural beam may get in the way, but once you are seated with views overlooking the park on a clear sunny afternoon, all is forgiven.
View: Lumphini Park, Sukhumvit, Witthayu (a.k.a. Wireless Rd) and Siam. Tree-filled foreground, accented by glass and steel.
Drinks: Good cocktail selection. Honestly, I only paid attention to the cocktails.
Price Point: Pretty decent by any standards. THB 3000++/drink.
Feel: Outdoor lounge of a fancy luxury hotel, yet does not feel pretentious.
Address: Park Society Terrace & Hi-SO Rooftop Bar, 30th Floor, SO Sofitel, 2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2 624 0000
Nearest Station: Lumphini MRT Station
Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar, Ho Chi Minh City
While there are higher rooftop bars in Ho Chi Minh City, this one has a particular charm. Readers may have noticed I have a romantic traveller hidden in me, and anything that makes me think of the golden age of exploration, be it Victorian or 1930s will make me go ‘ooooh.’ This is one of them.
Located in the historic core of Ho Chi Minch City, basically in the French Quarter, this terrace will make you imagine a time when the French ruled all of IndoChina. The well restored City Hall, Arcades and Opera House will make you imagine a time when this was (one of the 2, or was it 3?) Paris of the East, with the evening lending the place a very European flair.
View: The City Hall Square mostly, but it does look stunning with the restored French-era buildings. The terrace foliage may get in the way.
Drinks: Good drinks selection.
Price Point: Pretty average for this list, around USD 10++/drink.
Feel: Relaxed, but can get claustrophobic.
Address: 141 Nguyen Hue Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 83 829 2185
While these bars did not quite make my list, they are fantastic in their own right just for their settings:
Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Phnom Penh
Fantastic terrace both at the 2nd floor and the 3rd floor roof terrace, overlooking the Mekong and the French colonial buildings.
Address: 363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel: +855 23 210 142
More sky-high brewery than a bar, this spot has decent happy hours and great views overlooking Raffles Place, Marina Bay and the Marina Bay Sands.
Address: 8 Marina Boulevard 33-01, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, Singapore
Tel: +65 6834 3133
Nearest Station: Marina Bay MRT Station
Cloud Lounge & Dining, Jakarta
Just 3 floors above The Bar at Altitude, this terrace has fantastic views at sunset and good drinks, though the view is slightly obscured by the building’s structure. However, it still has a fantastic view despite the architectural set-back.
Address: The Plaza, 49th Floor, Jl MH Thamrin Kav 28 – 30, Jakarta
Tel: +62 21 2992 2450
What is my criteria?
-View: do I get a unique insight to the city? And is the view majorly obstructed?
-Drinks Selection: Beer? Wine? Cocktails? Variety helps with the view.
-Price Point: Rooftop bars are known to charge a premium, but is it reasonable?
Feel: Now this is hard to quantify, but a fantastic view can be spoiled by that intangible thing called ‘feelings’
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.