Khao San Road vs. Ratchathewi

This post is more of an informative piece, to give you an idea about our experience as well as provide some resources if you are planning on coming to Bangkok.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bangkok: First Impressions, we started out our stay on Khao San Road. In that post I spoke about the general nature of Khao San; how it is really more of a party atmosphere and if you are not interested in stepping out your front door into that every day- then the area probably isn’t for you.

The area Banglamphu, which Khao San Road is in, is “touted” as the backpackers haven-cheap stays, cheap eats and cheap drinks. The thing is, after exploring other parts of the city it seems to me that there are equally as cheap places, and you can get a lot more for your buck. I’m sure in Khao San we could have found something nicer than the D&D Inn for a similar price, but since we stayed at the D&D, I’m going to have to use that as my reference. I’ll provide you with a little comparison.

Khao San Road at night

The D&D Inn had a special going on, buy 3 nights and get the 4th for free. This seemed like a great deal to us, so we got on board as soon as we arrived. We later regretted this decision, because it locked us into this hostel for more than half the week we ended up being in Bangkok. The room we got was a Double Standard: one large queen bed, en suite bathroom, no window. We asked for something quiet and in the back. Here is what we got:

Lovely. No folks. that window doesn't open.

This room also came with, mold all over the shower curtain and an air conditioning unit that leaked from the ceiling onto a sopping wet mat on the floor.

Bathroom at D&D Inn, I'm standing under the drip.

Mold on the Shower Curtain. Excellent.

As for being quiet, between everyone tramping home at 2:00am and the maids starting their rounds cleaning at 6:00am there wasn’t too much quality quiet going on. The maids start their rounds at 6:00am by opening up all the rooms that need to be cleaned and turning on the TV while they clean. Every few minutes, the maid’s office at the end of the hall gets a phone call (that can be heard all the way down the corridor). We learned upon check out that these calls are the front desk calling to verify that the room has been cleared out by the person who wishes to check out. Lovely.

Much to our displeasure, there is no wi-fi in the place (despite what our guide book promised). There were also NO electrical plugs in the entire room. This is kindof a big deal not only because we both have our laptops with us (which I understand not everyone does), but because you can’t charge your camera batteries. Every tourist has a camera with them, and every tourist needs to recharge their camera batteries (unless they are those poor souls with disposable camera batteries-ugh). This is just a fact of life. This was a big minus for us.

The staff at the D&D Inn seem to consist solely of 17 year old Thai kids on their cell phones-who, if you want to ask them a question, or get their help in anyway, you must lure away from the giant mirror behind the desk, where they are checking their hair and primping (mostly the boys are doing this, the girls are just spacing out). When you ask them a question, they give you a one word answer, and a glare. You’re forced to deal with them every morning though, because you have to get a “ticket” for breakfast and the pool everyday. The ticket for breakfast seems like a meaningless system, because who would know where to go for breakfast and at what time if they weren’t already staying at the hotel. The pool tickets were definitely useless; we were informed that they only allowed one entrance to the pool per day (seriously?) and we stopped getting them after one day and went to the pool whenever we wanted. Give me a break.

I don’t judge if you want to be in the center of things, easily access the bars and the nightlife and the crazy scene that Khao San Road is, but as I’ve said before, this is not for us. We started to not like Bangkok because we thought everyone was rude, pushy and out to swindle us. We thought it all must be like this because it’s so difficult to get out of the area, that we hadn’t really seen anywhere else yet. Things changed when we went to get our Vietnamese Visa. Because we needed to go across town, we ended up being not too far away from the Thailand Creative & Design Center. Upon the reccommendation of my friend Boramy, and our guide book, we visited this magical place. A future post will be all about the glory of the TCDC, but for now, the point is that it got us to a different part of town.

We liked the TCDC so much, that we wanted to move our lodgings to a closer location so it would be easier to go to it. We also thought it would be a lot simpler to be located on a BTS (Sky Train -like a way more awesome version of the Muni), to get to the airport when we were to depart Bangkok. We checked out a few places that our guide book reccommended as in our price range. They were in an area called Sukehmvit, which to closely resembled Khao San Road for our tastes. The two places we checked out were to dingy and dank. We decided to pass.

We had stayed at the TCDC (at Phrom Poeng Station) until it closed at 9:00pm. For this reason, we couldn’t take the canal boat we had used to get from near Banglamphu, to downtown (they only run during daylight hours).  So we decided to take the Bangkok Sky Train as close as we could to our hostel and walk the rest of the way (about 2 miles). By this point, I was thoroughly discouraged about our lodging situation and was not looking forward to the next day. That night was our last at the D&D and we hadn’t found anywhere outside of Khao San Road to stay (our back up plan was to move to Sleep WithINN, still in Banglamphu). As we walked along the road back the hostel, about 10 minutes from the Ratchathewi train station, Eric was busily trying to cheer me up. As we passed a hotel he said, why not check in here? I was skeptical but he convinced me. This hotel was offering a Double room for 900Baht a night. We went up to see the room, it was clean, quiet, nice, with plugs and internet and a clean shower. I was sold! After checking their availability, we told them that we would be back tomorrow to check in. As we walked outside, we saw the hotel just next door, the Bangkok City Hotel.

Bangkok City Hotel

Again, we thought let’s go in and ask what they have. Now, I was VERY skeptical about this one-it looked SO nice from the outside. All shiny and new and modern. They had a promotion going on for 990Baht for a Double room. We went inside, and it was a whole new world. Immaculately clean, everything was brand new, they had a safe in the room, remote control A/C, a beautiful bathroom, wifi, plugs and breakfast included. DOUBLY SOLD!! They told us at the desk that they were sold out for the next night, but in my experience with hotels, I know that there was a high likelihood with a hotel that big (20 floors), there was bound to be some cancellations. Sure enough, when we went back the next day they had availability! We happily booked 3 nights. Here’s what we got:

Double Room $30 at the Bangkok City Hotel

Bathroom at Bangkok City Hotel

Desk area at Bangkok City Hotel

Now I have to say that the next door option, was perfectly nice and would have been a great alternative. We were going to stay there if the Bangkok New City Hotel was sold out.

The new area we were in, near Ratchathewi station, was a completely different experience. Yes, there were tuk-tuk drivers, but they didn’t follow you down the street for 15 feet. There were lot’s of sidewalk street food restaurants, not just pad-thai-push-carts. People were a little friendlier and most importantly, we had access to other parts of town, because we were near the Sky Train. ALL OF THIS, WAS 3 DOLLARS MORE THAN KHAO SAN ROAD. To me, that pays for itself in the money you save taking the Sky Train than a taxi or tuk-tuk around town. From the photos, you can see how much more you’re getting. It’s unbelievable!

The hotel, was great. Spotlessly clean, refreshing, included a wonderful breakfast and the staff were very helpful. The wifi was sub-par but that’s to be expected-at least they had it.

My reccommendation, if you want to be in the center of the party-stay in Khao San Road. If you want a little nicer place, and access to the entire city as well as the airport, is to stay in another area of town, Ratchathewi or otherwise. You’ll be glad you did.


One response to “Khao San Road vs. Ratchathewi

  1. Pingback: Back to Bangkok and out of Asia…. | The Occasional Expat·

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