Category Archives: accommodation

Do you have to Travel Independently to Experience Boutique Bangkok?

The word ‘boutique’ is French and has the associations of small and unique. Many people view package holidays as the polar opposite of this namely, for many people and off-the-peg. Is it thus possible to travel and enjoy the boutique delights of Bangkok and South East Asia on a package holiday?

Early days of Travel Agents

When pioneers like Thomson started offering package holidays in the 1960s, foreign travel for the masses was a relatively new thing. At the time most middle class and working class families took their holidays in their own country. Venturing into Asia, Africa or South America was considered fraught with problems – crime, language barriers and lack of information. There was thus safety in traveling in large groups and letting experts guide you on your foreign holiday experience; besides many people enjoyed meeting other families while traveling abroad.

The Game-Changer

In the 1990s the world changed. The internet went from government secret to a new means of communication. It was a media that had no boundaries – all you needed was a computer and a connection to the growing nexus called the internet.

The internet is now the world’s largest library. It is also the world’s largest service provider. Those who intend to travel abroad can go to flight comparison sites, hotel booking sites and online travel agents to organize their holiday. Everything from rooms to rental cars to tours to nights at the opera can all be booked in advance through the internet. This is the epitome of boutique. You can make a holiday itinerary that is unique to you.

Up to you

Some people prefer to give a ‘brief’ to a travel agent and let them work out the details, book the hotels etc. Others use several internet travel agents and booking sites to digitally piece together their own holiday.

In both cases it is very possible to stay at some of Bangkok’s best boutique hotels like Ariysomvilla, the Mandarin Oriental and Hansar Bangkok, especially if you book well in advance.

Boutique in Bangkok

Boutique has come to mean stylish, elegant and unique. Boutique hotels in Bangkok are not just for the rich and famous. If you have the money, you can stay too. Some hotels such as Maduzi and Siam@Siam Design Hotel eschew the formal and staid. They are places for the young wearing designer jeans and looking for a ‘cool’ and ‘minimal’ hotel experience. Saying this, I am far from cool and I have stayed at both hotels.

Finally, boutique in Bangkok doesn’t necessarily mean expensive either. You can hunt around the internet for bargains. There are often last minute deals. In the low season you can sometimes get 30% off room prices with a bit of savvy searching on booking engines.

The Answer

So to answer the question put in the title, the answer is ‘no’. The notion of independent travel is a confusing one nowadays. There are still plenty of backpackers who carry the Lonely Planet and never book a room in advance. However, there are more people who use travel agents online, compare sites and booking sites to plan their holiday. Some of these people will travel in groups while others will travel in their own family unit. Technology has made the dichotomy between ‘travelers’ and ‘tourists’ blurred. Technology has also opened up the doors to more choice and more options; it is time that stereotypes caught up with reality.

Quick Guide to Bangkok Accommodation

Bangkok Skyline

If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, as with any city, it can be difficult to work out which part of the city to stay in. This article is designed to be a quick guide. Basically, for tourists the Bangkok city can be broken into five parts. Each has it pros and cons, which we have listed for you below.

Khao San Area

Khao San is the original backpacker area of Bangkok near the river and the tourist attractions of old Bangkok like Wat Po and the Grand Palace.

Pros of Khao San

  • Cheap accommodation and food
  • Lively with bars and clubs
  • Not far away from areas where people live in old fashion houses
  • Very accessible to tourists with English spoken widely and lots of amenities like ATMs and Internet shops

Cons of Khao San Area

  • If you are a bit older the young and exuberant backpackers might annoy you
  • The area isn’t connected to the skytrain or metro system making travel a bit more difficult
  • If it is luxury you are looking for, you won’t find it here

Hotels we recommend staying in the Khao San area (click on the links to read more about each place)

Baan Noppawong
Baan Tepa Boutique
Baiyoke Sky Hotel
Chakrabongse Villas
Navalai River Resort

Chinatown

Chinatown is a less touristy part of Bangkok with a noticeable Chinese influence. Near the river, the train station, and the major tourist attractions.

Pros of Chinatown

  • Authentic slice of Thai life
  • On the metro and skytrain system
  • Great restaurants
  • Great shopping

Cons of Chinatown

  • Bit off the beaten track with English not widely spoken
  • Not much nightlife which would appeal to the typical tourist
  • Not many amenities aimed at tourists

Hotels we recommend staying in the Chinatown area (click on the links to read more about each place)

Loy La Long Hotel
Shanghai Mansion Bangkok

Silom

Silom is the financial district of Bangkok popular with tourists near Lumphini park.

Pros of Silom

  • On the metro and skytrain system
  • Lots of great bars and restaurants
  • Near the lively Patpong night market

Cons of Silom

  • A bit touristy for some people with not much traditional Thai culture
  • A lot of the hotels and restaurants can seem a bit impersonal and ‘samey’
  • Very busy

Hotels we recommend staying in the Silom area (click on the links to read more about each place)

Baan Pra Nond
Heritage Baan Silom
Luxx
Triple Two Silom
The Metropolitan

Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit is a long road with many streets (known as ‘sois’ leading off it. This is the main area where expat residents live and it has the best amenities for tourists in the Bangkok.

Pros of Sukhumvit

  • Best hotels and restaurants in the city, the place to go if you want luxury
  • Great nightlife with lots of bars to suit all tastes
  • On the metro and skytrain systems
  • Some shopping opportunities

Cons of Sukhumvit

  • Not the place to go if you are on a budget
  • Very busy
  • Some people are put off by the blatant sex industry. There are two red light districts in this area and there are prostitutes on the street in some areas.

Hotels we recommend staying in the Sukhumvit area (click on the links to read more about each place)

Ariyasomvilla
Davis Hotel
Imm Fusion Sukhumvit
MaDuZi
Seven Hotel
The Eugenia Hotel

Siam Square/Chidlom

Siam Square and Chidlom are in the very centre of modern Bangkok.

Pros of Siam Square/Chidlom

  • By far the best shopping opportunities in the city
  • Lots of amenities like cinemas
  • Very accessible to tourists

Cons of Siam Square/Chidlom

  • In the evening this is not an area where you would go for a stroll on the street, not because it is dangerous, but because all the restaurants etc are in shopping centres.
  • The nightlife is centred around hotel bars, and most of the eateries are chain restaurants
  • Very busy at all hours

Hotels we recommend staying in the Siam Square/Chidlom area (click on the links to read more about each place)

Four Seasons
Hansar Bangkok
Hotel Muse Bangkok
Siam@Siam Design
Oriental Residence
Sukhothai Hotel
Tenface

As you can see, each of the 5 main areas has something to recommend it, and something to perhaps put you off. When I stay in Bangkok I often spend a couple of nights in one area and then move to another area.