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Exploring extremes is a good way to get to know a new environment; I explored the bottom boundaries of the hotels in Bangkok, especially in the Khaosan Road area.
Merry V has a superb location in the Khaosan Road area and a nice coffee-shop, but its rooms remind the matchboxes seen in "The Beach." The bed was covered with a very old sheet; it was so thin due to age and use that the holes in it looked as a fancy part of its original design. Since my room was at a corner, it had windows on two walls, one facing the bed and the other above the door; but other rooms had just one. The metallic mosquito net successfully blocked any chance the refreshing night breeze had to do its work.
Baan Sabai: Its name may be translated as "Pleasantville;" however, it has very little beyond the name. It is located in the road surrounding the temple at the western end of Khaosan Road; it offers a reasonable access to the area and a pleasant restaurant. Next to the lobby and occupying all the space to the street corner is a relatively large restaurant featuring an attractive design in dark wood; large windows allow the breeze in. The menu is rather basic and includes traditional Thai dishes and basic Western ones. The room is worth description; its single bed occupied more than half of it. A fan attached to the ceiling and aimed at the bed began to work once I inserted the key into a specially designed switch. The only additional piece of furniture was a wood box next to the bed. There were no windows except for a narrow opening along one wall, which was placed next to the ceiling, barely allowing seeing the corridors neon lights and nothing more.
The boxy, white structure of Top Guesthouse has no elevator, thus a room in the lower floors is recommended. Except for the crammed entrance, the building is kept clean and uncluttered. The room turned out being rather basic and overpriced. Room 22 offered a top view of the alley and the entrance sign, but little else. Being a double room, it had two beds with sheets and no covers; the pillows were the only article disturbing their flatness, the room had also a big fan at the ceiling, an open closet and a humble table. However, I am exaggerating; it doesn’t really belong to the very bottom options.
On the eastern side of Khaosan Road, Nana Plaza Inn enjoys a superb location, including a back-exit into an alley between Khaosan Road and Ratchadamnoen Avenue, where some of the best travel agencies in Bangkok are located. Nana Plaza Inn was among the first big guesthouses built in Khaosan Road and it still offers an interesting option for short stays in the city.
D&D enjoys a fabulous location at the very center of Khaosan Road. The last round of renovations created a direct access from the lobby to the alley separating Khaosan Road from Ratchadamnoen Road, augmenting thus its accessibility even more. The additions and renovations were done on layers, resulting in areas of different qualities. The rooms in Building 2 are much better than the older ones and thus the building is usually fully occupied. Checking out the rooms before occupying them is always recommended.
In a typical Asian move, the Siam Oriental Inn owners chose a name similar to the one used by another hotel, the opulent Oriental. Here the similarity between the two ends. The Siam Oriental Inn is a landmark in the eastern side of Khaosan Road. It was one of the first big guesthouses to establish themselves in the road and set an example for the plethora of establishments that appeared in recent years. It offers value accommodation as well as additional services like a restaurant, internet kiosk and travel agency for the joy of the backpackers flooding the area.
A Local Chain
In essence, the Sawasdee hotels and guesthouses are very Thai. The ground floor is open to the street and features – beyond the reception desk – a well-aired restaurant and a few computers. The rooms are in the upper floors and are not different of those found in other Thai establishments. However, Sawasdee is a chain.
They operate mainly in Bangkok (several locations) and Pattaya, offering always a professional and friendly service. If joining their members club there is a ten percent discount on addition to any other seasonal one.
Sawasdee hotels provide the guest almost with everything at prices that similar hotels can’t match. The rooms have air conditioners, a shower with hot water, television and a queen-size bed; some branches include refrigerators in the room. What’s the trick? First, they are a chain, thus their relative administrative costs are lower. Second, my initial statement was somewhat misleading. They provide everything, but they also crowd it in incredibly small rooms. Sometimes the only window in the room faces a narrow corridor. The space between the bed and the wall across the room is barely enough for a person to stand there; in fact, it is the width of a backpack. The television is just 14" and often offers only aerial channels.
Mango Lagoon Place was one of the last hotels to be built in the Khaosan Road area; I followed the lengthy construction process over what was until then one of those rare unoccupied lots in the area. Then I travelled away for a while and when I returned to Bangkok, I met the most impressive hotel along Soi Rambuttri.
As hinted by the room’s price, the hotel belongs to the top end of Khaosan Road hotels. Instead of a key attached to a plastic slab used for activating the electricity in the room – almost a must in the area – I got a proper magnetic card for opening the door. The last was heavy and solid. Once inside I couldn’t see everything at once – that was a good sign. Overall, the Mango Lagoon provides by the end of 2008, one of the most appealing options for staying in the Khaosan Road area.
When it was opened a few years ago, Buddy Boutique Hotel became the first up-market place in the entire street; placed nearby the eastern edge of Khaosan Road, it lured backpackers - the main segment of population here - not only with its inexpensive luxury, but also with the help of a small shopping center placed at its polished entrance. There, the Coffee World became the first coffee chain to set a foot in the street, McDonald opened a branch next to it and Buddy's restaurant above them defined new food standards in the area.
Viengtai Hotel was the first real hotel in the Khaosan Road area, and even today, its massive building is still one of the best choices for a good sleep there. The hotel is located on Thanon Rambuttri, the northern street parallel to Khaosan and offers easy access to all the attractions without surrendering to the backpackers' motto "cheaper is better."
Slightly less expensive than its exclusive neighbors (the Oriental and the Shangri-La) the Holiday Inn Silom offers an attractive compromise between lush luxury, a superb location amidst a major commercial and shopping area of Bangkok and reasonable prices.
A visit to Bangkok allows staying at top-rated hotels – on a world scale – at relatively accessible prices. Not enjoying the opportunity once in a while would be almost a sin.
Matching the expectations created by its name, the Shangri-La Hotel is one of the best hotels Bangkok has to offer. South of the Oriental and a bit far from downtown, it has a superb access to the Skytrain and to the Chao Phraya River. The list of facilities provided is long; but it is not that what makes the place worthwhile since most of the three-stars and up hotels in town provide the same them, the point here is the top-quality of each item.
Occupying a prime location along the Chao Phraya riverside, the Oriental is constantly recognized as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
The rooms are sumptuous, the Thai silk flows in them as water in the nearby Chao Phraya, and include also a private butler service. Opulent and luxurious, the hotel offers more services than it is possible to use, including several restaurants. Its Author’s Lounge is featured here also as one of the best coffee shops in Bangkok.