BKK First-timer - where to stay/how to prioritize

Discussion in 'Thailand' started by DCtrAAveler, May 8, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. DCtrAAveler
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    DCtrAAveler Gold Member

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    Hi all,
    Making my first trip to BKK this July as part of a 40th birthday RTW. Will be spending 4 nights (7th-11th). Not being familiar with the city, I'm having a tough time deciding where I should try and stay - not just specific properties, but overall location. Would it be best to stay near the sites I most want to visit but need to travel for restaurants and nightlife, or stay near the restaurants and nightlife and travel to the sites I want to visit? Thoughts? As a first time visitor, where would I be best placed to make navigating the city as easy as possible?

    I'm more interested in the historic, cultural, and great photo ops than in nightlife and shopping (although I will partake, I'm sure), so locations along the river (and in/near Rattanakosin) have most caught my eye. I also tend to seek out and prefer smaller, "boutique" hotels rather than larger chain properties with hundreds of rooms - but would I be doing myself a disservice by avoiding someplace like the Oriental, Peninsula, or Shangri-la (my budget will likely allow for those)? Does anyone know Chakrabongsee Villas, by chance? Praya Palazzo (is the west side of the river advisable?)? The Siam looks like a wonderful place, but I'm wondering if it's a bit too far removed (and pricey - would I get more for my money elsewhere)?

    Thanks in advance for the advice.
     
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  2. Jett Rink
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    Jett Rink Silver Member

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    Paging Kalboz...
     
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  3. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    I recommend making sure you are on the Skytrain somewhere so you can get around quickly and easily.

    We stayed at the end of the Skytrain (Wongwin Yai) on our trip there and were quite happy. Most of the popular areas seem to be quite crowded and big city like. If you are going to be out and about a lot it might be best not to be on the other side of the river. We chose a 10 * trip advisor rated three star property and were happy with it – the streets were quite once the commuters cleared out – the downside (or upside) is that the street vendors and shops around were not tourist oriented so no English menus etc…

    As Jett Rink said keep an eye out for Kalboz's response...
     
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  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    You definitely want to be near a SkyTrain stop to be able to get around. Silom has plenty of nightlife, good transportation options and a wide variety of hotels at different price points.

    As for Chakrabongsee Villas, I attended an event there a couple years ago (wedding of friends) and it was a beautiful property on the water. No idea what it is like as a hotel; they basically converted the whole space to be a party for our group, but it is nice. Transportation there is a bit harder, but it isn't particularly bad.
     
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  5. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    Rattanakosin? Praya Palazzo? Wow! I am truly impressed that you have done such a great job preparing for your trip ... many Thailand veterans don't even know or mention these places. And for that you are commended as you are not depending on others for information, but only for opinions. BTW, all the above are great suggestions.

    As others mentioned, I'd stay at Bangkok transportation artery of the elevated light monorail (simply called skytrain or BTS) and/or subway system (MRT). Great property with direct access to both is the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit (SGS) which is right at Asok BTS station and intersects right there with the subway system at Sukhumvit MRT station. MRT connection is good to go to Chinatown (Hua Lamphong station). Or, if you want to avoid changing trains at Siam to access the river-bound skytrain, you can always stay at the St. Regis which has direct access to Ratchdamri BTS station and you can enjoy the luxury & their awesome breakfast.

    Sleazy nightlife is very much concentrated around 4 areas: Lower Sukhumvit Nana, Asok area's Soi Cowboy, Silom's Patpong sois, and the heavily Japanese Sukhumvit 33 area. Other legit areas include Khaosan Rd., Ratchaprasek area, and Royal City Avenue (RCA). Good food and dining is basically everywhere: street, restaurants, and in hotels.

    If you want to stay by the river, there is not much nightlife around there but the majestic river is very impressive especially for the first time visitor. Take the river boat from the many piers for as low as THB 15 for a ride to all the historically significant places. Most Bangkok's historically significant places are located up river heading north beyond the hotel area of Saphan Taksin. I do this at least twice on every visit.
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    Sukhumvit/Asok area: SGS has a direct BTS access from its lobby​
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    The many piers that dot the river​
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    Chee Chin Khor Temple Pagoda at the Chaophraya River (on the west side of the river).​
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    Saphan Taksin area: Shangri-La hotel, Oriental, and then the Royal Orchid Sheraton (ROS) along the river.​
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    Street dining scene at Banglamphu (Thanon Tanao).​
     
  6. CrankyScott
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    CrankyScott Silver Member

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    If you would like a private guided tour, I cannot say enough good things about www.bkktours.com the husband and wife team have set tours, but will happily modify to your needs. I have used them multiple times and have always been very happy. The Ayutthaya tour is also one to consider.
     
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  7. DCtrAAveler
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    DCtrAAveler Gold Member

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    Thanks, Kalboz. I love researching a destination before I get there, and the planning is as much a fun as is the travel and experience once I'm there. I get to a point sometimes though where I've read sooo much that I get lost in the info and have to reach out to experts like you and others here to help cut through everything.

    Seems like I've got some thinking to do, and that this may be an instance where, especially as a first-timer, I need to stay someplace more established and central - rather than smaller and tucked away. Thanks for the suggestions - I'll give them all a look. Any thoughts on the Sukhothai? It's nearer the BTS/MTR and caught my eye early on before I started looking at places like Chakrabongsee Villas and Riva Surya. Heck, I even considered the Bangkok Tree House at one point :)

    Along the river, I suppose it's hard to go wrong with any of the majors (Oriental, Peninsula, Shangri-La), but does one stand out more than the others? Any smaller properties that might be recommended?

    Thanks again everyone for the advice. I'm really looking forward to my first visit.
     
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  8. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    To dovetail with this -- Question: my wife and I have been to BKK (stayed at the Grand Hyatt Erawan and really enjoyed it), but, we haven't yet gotten out on the river. Any recommendations for tours or just an opportunity to see another part of the city? We've only got half a day (have plans for the first part of the day already).

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  9. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    The Grand Hyatt Erawan is an awesome property ...

    One night in Bangkok? You pretty much you can stay at any property at the river and be okay. As for activities, I'd pick one from here: Six Nights in Bangkok ...
     
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  10. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    The Sukhothai Hotel is at least 500m from Lumphini MRT station (subway). It takes at least 10-minutes walk to get from your room to the hotel's front gate on Sathorn. I suppose you can ask the bellboy to flag you a taxi as Sathorn is well known for being concrete jungle loaded with skyscrapers. But if you insist on staying in this area, you will be better off at the Sofitel So Bangkok which is just across the street from the subway station.

    As for the riverside's 5-star properties, to be all honest, I have not stayed at any of them. I have gotten a spa treatment once at Shangri-La and dinned several times at the Oriental. I also have dinned several times at the Millennium Hilton (Primes & 360). All are good. The only riverside property that we have stayed at was further up river, the Royal Orchid Sheraton (ROS). This property was very good for us when we had a 4-night stay, but nowadays, some members here & on TOBB have expressed disappointment with this hotel.

    I have heard that the best view is at the Peninsula Hotel where you can see the entire Bangkok riverside hotel area from every room.
    [​IMG]
    The grounds at the Sukhothai Hotel​
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    Looking south from the ROS' Club Lounge at dusk - Note the Peninsula Hotel on the right bank of the river​
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    The ROS facing the Millennium Hilton while the other hotels are further down the river​
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    Friends at Oriental Hotel's Le Normandie for lunch​
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    The legendary Oriental Hotel is nestled between the Old Customs House & the historic East Asia Company​
     
  11. CrankyScott
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    CrankyScott Silver Member

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    To tour the river is very easy - walk out the front of the Grand Hyatt and turn left - you will walk for about 3 minutes and arrive at the BTS Station Ratchadamri. Walk up and take the train going in the same direction you were walking (away from the Grand Hyatt). Exit at Saphan Taksin. Go down to the ground and again walk in the same direction of the train and you will arrive at the Chao Phraya River.

    Jump on any boat with a orange flag going up river (to the right). You will pay on board 15 THB per person. Here is the map for the boat: http://www.chaophrayaexpressboat.com/en/home

    Don't bother with the tourist boat - stick to the orange flag (its more frequent and less expensive).

    N8 Tha Tien Pier will get you to the Grand Palace (5 minute walk) Wat Pho (1 minute walk) and Wat Arun (other side of the river) To reach Wat Arun, grab the cross river boat, right next to where Express boat drops you.

    Very easy to do - one word of warning don't trust TukTuk drivers around Wat Pho or Grand Palace - they will tell you things are closed. Its a lie.

    Have fun!
     
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  12. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    [​IMG]
    Ratchdamri BTS station: take the train heading to Talat Phlu​
    [​IMG]
    From Saphan Taksin, take the boat with the orange flag​
    [​IMG]
    Exit at Pier N8 Tha Tien for the Grand Palace, Wat Po & Wat Arun​
    [​IMG]
    Like Scott mentioned above: Grand Palace never closes​
    [​IMG]
    Beware of Tuk Tuk scams next to the Grand palace​
     
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  13. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    I would vote for the river. The pennisula is great, has a beautiful pool, and exceptional service. They run free, frequent boats to the train and accross the river.
    There has been talk for a long time about thaksin station closing but I dont know when it will actually happen.
    The oriental has changed hands and is very formal. I was refused entry to their lobby once because I was wearing shorts and had a backpack. I dont think they do that to their own guests, but it does give you a sense of their standards. I did not look disheveled or "poor" but still....shorts? I used to love the royal orchid, but they have doubled their prices and halved their service so I wont stay there now. If you like large, mostly obnoxious, tour groups crowding every venus, though, it will be grear -that was a bad joke!

    I also highly recommend the river boat. Not the tourist one! I usually take it to the end nonthuburi, walk around a bit, there are lotsmof choices of cheap food and a nice market about five minutes walk from the pier.
     
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  14. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    Thanks CrankyScott!! We're definitely looking forward to seeing more of the city, and you're detailed recommendations are very much appreciated... Last time we were there we didn't have the chance to take a TukTuk, and we were planning on that, so your warning is especially appreciated! Thanks!!
     
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  15. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    Thanks Kalboz - - I've truly enjoyed your awesome photos of Thailand! btw - I think I saw you at FTUDC but didn't have the chance to say hi, hopefully you will be at FTU-Tampa?
     
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  16. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    We flew into DC from Bangkok for the FTU ... yea, you should stepped by & said hi. Unfortunately at this point I don't think we gonna make it to Tampa as the boy starting school at the end of August ...
     
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  17. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    Well, I hope our paths will cross again -- we'll be in BKK May 24-26, but I'm guessing you're not heading back so soon. Btw - have you been to Raja's Tailor?
     
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  18. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    Two things I've never done in Thailand: never been to Pattaya & never had a tailor-made suit :)

    Another member has a whole thread on the topic: The curious case of bespoke tailoring in Bangkok
     
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  19. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    Received an email today: Countdown to Demolition of Saphan Taksin Station

    The construction will start/coincide in July along with the OP visit, and it will take 21 months to complete.
     
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