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Made in Thailand

A dash of Holland and a big helping of Thai sanook make the Amsterdam Café a hot spot for the hostel crowd in Asia’s first recreational cannabis tourist destination.

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The Amsterdam Café, Bangkok, TH

OPENED: 2022; WEBSITE: angkok-weed.myshopify.com; HOURS: Mon-Sun 8am-4am; DESIGNER: Bruce Giovanni, Supoj “Tong” Siripornlertkul; EMPLOYEES: 14; AREA: 2,200 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Cookies, Mary Jane’s, RAW, Trip; TOP STRAINS: Blue Dream, CBN Critical, Jungle Cake, Pineapple Express, Thai Stick ONLINE PRESENCE:


Land of Smiles

Cannabis-friendly experiences have become integral to Thailand’s famous hostel scene. Millions of young adventuristas book shoestring-budget-friendly stays in the Southeast Asian nation each year to enjoy beaches, bonding and buds.

A couple decades ago, a $10-a-night shared room in a Bangkok hostel invoked images of a sweating Leonard DiCaprio in The Beach. Today, many modern hostels feature top-flight amenities and comforts, including access to decriminalized recreational cannabis.

Among the best places for herb lovers to lay down their backpacks is Bangkok’s RedDoorz Episode 11 Hostel—a converted, historic Chinese shophouse on Sukhumvit Soi 11 in the heart of the city. The hostel, which opened its doors in early 2022, has quickly become popular with cannabis tourists. That’s because Episode 11 is home to the Amsterdam Café.

Remodeled in rich woods with clean lines of Scandinavian influence, the five-story, state-of-the-art hostel is connected via a gleaming glass elevator. Located on two levels, the Amsterdam is a dispensary and cannabis-friendly space. The café is operated by restaurateur, café and nightclub impresario Bruce Giovani, who recently inked a deal to purchase the entire Episode 11 building and plans to turn it into “the world’s first cannabis hotel.”

NICE DREAMS:
Amsterdam co-owner Bruce Giovani wants to turn the Episode 11 hostel into ‘the world’s first cannabis hotel.’

Scratching a Kitsch

Giovani, in a très beau accent developed over years of world travel, is always happy to detail his 20+ years of experience creating interior design concepts and staffing and bringing to life hospitality ventures ranging from spas to one of Bangkok’s most famous nightclubs, Eden Club.
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For the Amsterdam, he chose a playful mid-century modern look, heavily infused with kitschy accents. His partner and co-designer in the project is Supoj “Tong” Siripornlertkul, owner of Papaya, a massive antique store of vintage treasures located in Bangkok.

“Amsterdam is an old city, famous for coffee shops and dispensaries,” Giovani says, explaining that it was several months after opening the café and dispensary before he andTong named it. Customers regularly described the atmosphere as “just like Amsterdam,” so the partners ran with it.

“For me, it’s more than just a dispensary. It’s a place where you can eat, play and relax.”

From its stunning, smoking-friendly 2,200-sq.-ft. rooftop terrace and fifth-floor lounge to its main dispensary adjoining a downstairs bakery dishing up infused baked goods, the Amsterdam Café has earned a rep as a cannabis social hub. Near to nightspots favored by Bangkok’s young high-society elite like the hip-hop club Sugar and smoky cigar bar Havana Social, the Amsterdam sits squarely in ground-zero of one of the planet’s top party cities.

The top floor lounge sports a second cannabis dispensary offering more psyche-warming strains. The lounge’s charming bar dishes up eats at hostel prices and is ringed by rows of mason jar dispensers of local Thai fruits bathed in rum or infused with your choice of cannabis extracts. Piping hot, blue-tinted cannabis tea is served in delightfully ornate and delicate infusers.

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GET BAKED:
A variety of cannabis-infused baked goods and drinks are available at the Amsterdam Café and Bakery.

Budtending As You Go

The two dispensary outlets are tended by an easy-going group of young cannabis enthusiasts who have spent a year developing professional budtending skills. Most were personally tutored in the trade by Giovani, a veteran of the cannabis industry in the Amsterdam’ Café’s namesake city in the Netherlands.

To serve the needs of an international clientele, budtender Tae Sitthichai, 26, says it’s best to stick to the basics. “I recommend sativa for energy or high-dose CBD for people who say they want to sleep after traveling. Lots of people just say, ‘A brownie! I want my brownie!’” After making a harrowing escape from war-torn Myanmar last year (see sidebar), Lem, 22, found sanctuary in Thailand and a new beginning as a budtender at the Amsterdam.

“I only knew a little bit about cannabis before I came here. In my country, sometimes we would grow it, but I didn’t know much about it. Now I know how to help people pick what’s right for them,” Lem says.

The Amsterdam offers a peaceful, easygoing contrast to customers used to U.S. dispensaries with pharmacy- like vibes and visible security presences. The friendliness of Thai culture is always on display. Customers can freely handle and sniff top strains available in the downstairs dispensary. Each joint is lovingly hand-made in front of you while you wait.

Outside the Amsterdam, street vendors sell Indian chais infused with CBD or kratom—a plant-derived stimulant also recently legalized in Thailand.

Home Grown Sanook

When Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize recreational cannabis, local farmers saw a new opportunity to employ their traditional skills. In the first few months of decriminalization, dispensaries like the Amsterdam mainly carried imported strains. But as time goes on, top-quality, locally grown Thai marijuana is becoming more available.

More than 1 million Thais had applied to grow cannabis as of May 2023, according to a Nikkei Asia report. The Thai government had issued 1.1 million licenses to grow or sell the plant at the time of the report.

“It was about imports at the beginning of the market here. But now locally farmed crops have reached the quality of California cannabis,” says Giovani, who owns part of a local cannabis farm.
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“American growers came to Thailand to consult with Thai farmers. Now, we are cultivating locally with the assistance of expert growers from places like California and Amsterdam,” he says.

Well-known Cali strains like Blue Dream, OG Kush, Sour Diesel and Skywalker are now grown in the hills of northern Thailand.

“I’ve invested in a farm here working with local farmers, with outside growers to guide them with organic cultivation. I selected three talented cultivators—from France, Kazakhstan and Japan. With these growing conditions, in three months we should see excellent results.”

STICK THE LANDING:
Local farmers are producing more of the flower that is sold in dispensaries like the Amsterdam, including the famous Thai Stick landrace strain.

Five Cool Things About The Amsterdam Café & Bakery

1. ROADS WELL-TRAVELED. Bangkok is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, a place to meet cool people from all over the globe.

2. SAFE SMOKING. Public cannabis consumption is still punishable by fines and jail time in Thailand. But the café’s sprawling rooftop lounge is safe and legal.

3. EAT ME, DRINK ME. Limits on THC in edibles mean most Thai dispensaries only have flower. The Amsterdam has it all, including cannabis-infused food and beverages.

4. LOCATION. You can’t get any closer to the epicenter of Bangkok bacchanalian revelry and sky train service is just a few feet away.

5. LATE NIGHT FUN. The Amsterdam Café is only closed between the hours of 4 and 8am (and sometimes not even that long).

PHOTO GALLERY (14 IMAGES)

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