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Bangkok confusion

Hello fellow travelers,
We are going to be in Bangkok for a few days before heading up to Chiang Mai in May/June. We are extensive travelers in Europe, first timers for Asia. Have looked online for best places to stay but am still confused and lost on where to land. We want a house instead of a hotel, quiet instead of party city if possible. Any info would be appreciated for Bangkok and /or Chiang Mai. Also planning the overnight train from one place to the other, if anyone has any insight on that .

Posted by
4128 posts

It has been years since I visited Bangkok. I would not advice trying to stay in other than a five star hotel. Sorry, but Thailand is a third world country.

The city is wonderful, but the traffic is terrible as well as the air pollution. If you do try to rent a home, determine how you will get transport to places of interest. Also, some neighborhoods should be avoided.

Posted by
48 posts

I would check out Airbnb. There are a lot of good accommodations in Thailand. I have stayed in a lot of budget places throughout South East Asia and they have been fantastic. There are so many tourists in Thailand that it is very easy to get around. I took an Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai as the prices were very cheap.
The skytrain in Bangkok is a good way to get around. Watch out for taxis, I was in one and the driver had the meter go extra fast. Luckily I had a good idea what the trip would cost, called him on it and just gave him that price instead of his inflated cost. Tuk tuks are a fun way of getting around.
Bangkok was my first introduction to South East Asia and I was at first really intimidated by it's size. Once you get there you quickly realize how easy it is to get around.

Posted by
244 posts

I can't speak from personal experience, but this is the kind of query where I would start searches including "travel blog" in the key words in order to get some results with more explanations. This Nerd Nomads site looks like it does a nice job explaining neighborhoods and available options, and it looks like it includes apartment hotels. You could also use the neighborhood info to choose a place to be and then use a resource like AirBnB to pick a house if that is what you would prefer. For train travel, The Man in Seat 61 is always and forever a gem basically anywhere in the world.

Posted by
45 posts

I was in Thailand for a month in 2019 . I used booking.com for most of my accodemations.
download the grab app ( same as uber) to get around .
this will do 2 things :
1. order a ride and not worry about language barrier, haggling over price or having to pay as its put on your card
2. you can input your starting point and destination and it will give you a price then you can flag down a cab and have a rough idea on cost .**** always make sure the cab turns on the meter

I took the night train from Bangkok to phitsanulok so I could visit sukhothai
my 1st night train and it was great

Posted by
13930 posts

First, fly to Chiang Mai. Lots of options, fast, easy, not expensive. \

I've only been in February (3 times in Bangkok) which I believe is high season (better weather than when you're going). I have stayed at this place every time. It's in a residential area, so more locals than tourists, walking distance to some of the sights and very near the river - great to get to most of the top sights by boat, which is comfortable and not too crowded. I also use taxis a lot, cheap and usually the AC is blasting, a welcome relief. This hotel is everything the website says. It's quirky, but the AC is great, the vegetarian breakfast is varied and yummy, they have a coin-op washer and dryer, the rooms are decent-sized, the staff are knowledgeable and friendly, it's truly a quiet oasis.

On my second visit to Chiang Mai (2 years ago), I stayed at the Thannatee Boutique Hotel and it was very nice, on a quiet side street. The room was comfortable, I opted not to eat breakfast, but the buffet selection looked pretty good. I walked everywhere, sights, markets, supermarket, restaurants.

Posted by
2234 posts

I used to travel to Chiang Mai and that area quite often, and generally stopped in Bangkok for a couple of nights along the way. But it’s been many years now. Three thoughts: (1) even back then, Bangkok traffic was constantly absolutely horrible, and I learned to stay along the river, and then try to mostly do things along the river, traveling by boat. There are lots of things to see and do along the river. (2) Bangkok is a great city to splurge on a really nice hotel, given the traffic, the heat and humidity, etc especially if you speak no Thai. (3) in Chiang Mai I always stayed at a great, comfortable, economical place called Galare Guest House, a short walk to the Night Bazaar and other sites and public transport. Also happens to be along the river, generally with a nice breeze. I just checked it out in booking.com, looks the same but with new furniture, still affordable, depending on the season, and highly rated by past guests. I also always flew between Bangkok and Chiang Mai

Posted by
5637 posts

When we go to third world countries we always stay in an international 5 star hotel which offers a lot of support. In Bangkok that was theShangri La right on the river and it was very reasonably priced. We booked some tours in advance from home. You can access many of the historical sites, temples, by river ferries from right next to the hotel.

Posted by
5019 posts

Couple things...

From Bangkok to Chiangmai, you should fly. It's unbelievably cheap, it's fast, easy, there are multiple airlines so lots of competition, a no-brainer.

Bangkok is a huge city. Traffic is nightmarish. They do have a good set of subways + elevated trains ("Skytrain") (all modern, with good air con) which work amazingly well as long as you're in areas served by one of the lines (there's a line from the airport, too - I was on it a week ago).

My wife is Thai and we have family in Bangkok. I was just there a few days ago. You should be aware that AirBnB is outlawed in at least some places in Thailand.

In the entry to a family member's high-rise condo in downtown Bangkok, there's a very large, impossible to miss sign that says the following (I took a picture of it last week and have it handy, so I quote verbatim):

"ATTENTION FOR TRAVELER TOURIST BACKPACKER DAY/WEEK RENTAL
The rental unit on daily or weekly basis is ILLEGAL
(there's an airbnb logo with a red slash through it)
ANY SHORT TERM RENTAL
The rental unit on a daily or weekly basis is against to Thailand Hotel Law BE 2547 (2004) Artticle 15 and Article 59: Violators shall be subject to imprisonment for no longer than 1 year, or a fine of not more than 20,000 Bhat (currently US$660), or both. If repeated violators shall be fined not more than 10,000 Bhat (US$330) per day."

I asked a family member about this and she says they take it very seriously.

Now, Thailand being, well, The Land of Smiles (among other things), I wouldn't be completely shocked if this law was not universally observed. That said, if I were planning to use AirBnB-type short term rentals in Thailand, I'd be wary.

The good news is that you can find plenty of very nice places to stay for crazy cheap (even 5-star international hotels, complete with over-the-top bling). Accommodations in Thailand are not expensive.

Be sure any place you stay has good (and I mean really good) aircon - in May, you're gonna need it. Have fun.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you all for the helpful info. I had no idea about Airbnb being illegal. 5 star hotel it is.

Posted by
639 posts

I am planning a trip about a year from now so this post is of interest to me. I was planning on a 4 or 5 star hotel along the river so nice to know that's a good idea.

I've seen the Shangri La mentioned other places, just looked at it on booking.com and it's $275 a night in February. I guess for such a swanky place that's not a bad price but I certainly don't consider it a bargain. Any one have suggestions for nice hotels more in the $100-150 range.

When you say you book some tours in advance from home can you give some examples?

Posted by
187 posts

I spent several days solo in Bangkok before a tour elsewhere in SE Asia. It's a huge, sprawling, noisy city - with unbelievable traffic! However, I had traveled to other large Asian cities (Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul), so it was not that much of a shock to me. The people were great, the food was terrific, and the sights like nothing you've seen in Europe.

The Skytrain (subway/train) was easy to navigate and I took it several times on my own. If you have taken a subway in any other large city, you will be able to figure this out. There are boats on the river that act like bus routes. This is also a great way to travel through the city (and you get some views too). I've heard that some of the hotels along the river have their own shuttle boats that will take you to various places. I did not travel by tuk-tuk, although a lot of tourists do this. To me, it didn't look like that much fun in the heat and traffic (and it will be HOT!)

I stayed at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel Bangkok on Sathorn Road. It is not on the river, but very close to a Skytrain stop that will quickly take you to the river or wherever. I believe this 5-star (or 4-star, not really sure) hotel is owned by a Chinese or Taiwanese company, so many of the guests were Asian, but the staff had good English and were very helpful. (This is another reason to stay at a good hotel. The staff can help you figure out public transportation, get a cab, exchange money, and answer the many, many questions you will have.) The room was large, comfortable, clean, and the breakfast was fine. I looked online, and their rates seemed to be around $70-$100 right now. Once you get away from the really glitzy hotels on the river, I think you can find very reasonable rates.

I hired a private guide for one day from Your Thai Guide, https://yourthaiguide.com/ They organize a tour to your specifications. The guide picked me up from my hotel, we took the Skytrain and cabs to the various locations, we saw many of the major sights organized in an efficient way, we took a boat ride off the main river, and had a delicious lunch.

I also took a food tour from Taste of Thailand food tours, https://www.tasteofthailand.org/ We met near a Skytrain station mid-morning and went to six or eight places for tastes of food. The group was small - maybe seven or eight people. It was a great way to try some out-of-the-way locations that would be hard for a tourist to find, and the food was delicious.

Many tour companies offer transfers from the airport. I arranged a transfer from Oriental Escape, https://www.orientalescape.com/ It is true that you can take a cab, or even the train, from the airport. But after the really long-haul flight, it was nice to see someone with my name on a sign to get through the very busy airport transportation hub and straight to my hotel.

As I said above, the weather will be really hot and humid. I found that the best way to deal with this was to get out sightseeing in the morning, then return to the lovely air-conditioned hotel mid-afternoon for a rest, and then go out again in the evening when the sun was low/gone.

This will be quite an experience for you! Have fun.