Top 5 Best Areas to Stay in Bangkok
Making a decision about where to stay in Bangkok, the so-called ‘city that never sleeps’, may not be one that comes easily, and is one that deserves careful consideration. The ‘best’ place to stay will depend largely on what kind of environment and activities are likely to be deemed most suitable, with significant differences being apparent between some areas.
Bangkok has a dense population of around 10 million and offers a sprawling city scape that encompasses aspects of beauty, culture, chaos and seediness in equal measure. Renowned for its food, shopping malls, parks, nightlife and also its somewhat seedier underbelly, the city has much to offer to all walks of life.
Some of the main factors that need to be taken into consideration when deciding on which area to stay in Bangkok will be related to the age of the visitor, and other lifestyle factors such as preferences towards shopping, eating, entertainment and transportation. There is also the fact that in many ways Bangkok is not the most family friendly city in the world by any means, although there are ways around that which can be easily remedied by a little careful planning in advance.
So it is the purpose of this guide then, although being by no means definitive, to present pointers towards a few different areas that all offer slightly different angles of the city in the hope that making a decision about which is the best region to stay in Bangkok becomes somewhat smoother. If it is culture and temples or traditional and typical Thai lifestyles that are the attraction, then they can be found – as can crowded, intensely-populated areas heavy on the shopping theme and dense with traffic.
The most important thing is to know what aspects each particular area is likely to be focused around. So with that in mind, here are what could be considered as the five best areas to stay in Bangkok.
Thonburi is an area of Bangkok that may not always feature that highly on the lists of certain groups of tourists. This may be somewhat due to the fact that it has more of a community vibe to it than many of what might be considered the more lively areas of the city, but it is a little-known fact that at some point (mid-late 1700s) Thonburi was an area that actually served as the capital of Thailand.
Although Thonburi is home to one of Bangkok’s top temples, Wat Arun, along with other examples of culturally-rich, period architecture, it does lack the busy shopping malls and chaotic nightlife deemed necessary for many visitors. The plus side of that is a more laid-back, community atmosphere, and with lower volumes of traffic (due to the close proximity of the canal system and also the Chao Praya River), it is easier to take a glimpse at a more traditional way of Thai city life.
In fact, these neighbourhoods, with their canals and boats still being used for transportation running through them, many seem somewhat isolated compared to some of the full-on, ‘downtown’ areas of the city. Many of the canals feature vendors selling food and other market goods, and the popular Thai ‘floating market’ concept is still much in evidence here. The canal boat is also a popular way to travel around and take in the sites of the area.
As well as the floating markets, some of the other attractions of the Thonburi area include street markets, and Artist Village, a Memorial Park, an Anthropology Centre and of course the obligatory temples. Thonburi can be reached by the Talat Phlu or Bang Wa BTS stations but is actually easier to access by boat.
WHERE: Western region of Bangkok
TRANSPORTATION: Water, road, BTS Talad Phlu
COST /TYPE of ACCOMMODATION: Mid to High from resorts and boutique hotels to 5-star
2. Khao San
Not too far away from Thonburi in the Banglamphu neighbourhood of the city lies the notorious ‘Khao San Road’. This is ‘old town’ area, with many of the buildings being from generations gone by with the area having avoided modern development by way of shopping malls etc.
Although traditionally renowned as something of a backpacker haven, the 1km area of Khao San contains a plethora of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, local shops and street vendors, although it has slowly evolved more towards mid-range and boutique hotels in recent years. Having said that, ‘budget’ accommodation is still widely-available in the area, making it one of the main draws for particular varieties of tourist.
The network of little backstreet sois that weave off of the main one retain much of the bohemian feel that Khao San initially became known for, making it one of the most famous tourist areas of Bangkok.
Although not too far away from many of Bangkok’s top temple tourist attractions such as The Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the Khao San area is not accessible via the Skytrain or MRT lines (the nearest being Hua Lamphong MRT), so taxi is probably the best option for getting there.
Khao San Road is abundant in Thai street food and market sellers with clothes and accessories, and because of the array of bars that line the street it can get somewhat lively later on at night, and hence might not necessarily be considered as ‘family-friendly’ in some respects.
WHERE: Banglamphu region of Bangkok
TRANSPORTATION: Road; nearest MRT Hua Lamphong
COST /TYPE of ACCOMMODATION: Budget to mid-range
Although Silom is considered as Bangkok’s main ‘Business District’ by day, it metamorphasizes into something of a different animal after dark. The main road which runs through the area is characterized by office blocks and all other manner of skyscraper, but the streets themselves, not too mention the small sois and alleyways, become alive with all manner of street vendor from the evening onwards, as do the bars, restaurants and other nightlife that the area is renowned for.
Silom is home to one of Bangkok’s most well-known, long-established red-light districts, with a compact area of small, backstreet sois being populated with go-go bars and all manner of adult entertainment, with the main strip of them lining either side of a well-known market known as Patpong.
Still, this relatively small and somewhat seedy area of Silom is easily-avoided if necessary, leaving a variety of restaurants, both Thai and international in flavor, shops and modern malls to be explored. The region is also home to a gamut of 5-star hotels, including the ‘Banyan Tree’ with its popular ‘Vertigo’ roof bar which provides amazing views of the city, particularly at sunset.
The green and lush Lumpini Park is another draw of the area, providing a touch of nature for anyone wishing to escape the concrete jungle backdrop for an hour or two.
WHERE: South side of Chao Praya River
TRANSPORTATION: BTS Sala Daeng, MRT Silom
COST /TYPE of ACCOMMODATION: Mid to High from boutique hotels to 5-star
Although not strictly in geographical terms, the ‘downtown’ Sukhumvit area is often deemed to be the city centre by locals and expats alike. The Sukhumvit Road itself is apparently one of the longest in the entire country, running from Bangkok to Pattaya and beyond. However, the area that may be of interest to visitors in Bangkok is more likely to lie somewhere between the Ekkamai and Thonglor districts and the Ploenchit district.
Within this stretch (which is serviced by the BTS Skytrain system) can be found all manner of hotels from budget and boutique to grand, luxurious 5-star affairs. The same can be said of the variety of cuisine available, from local Thai eateries and street vendors to 5-star buffet, with different ranges of Asian, Western, Indian, Arabic, Lebanese, and…well, you get the picture – this area is one of the most versatile in terms of available cuisine.
The Thonglor area is one of the most upmarket, modern and lively in terms of nightlife such as trendy bars and clubs frequented by young, affluent locals and whoever else might find the place to their tastes. Again with a BTS stop to boot, the area starts at around the Phrom Pong BTS stop where the two luxury shopping malls Emporium and Emquartier are to be found (on opposite sides of the road, with Emporium also being next to a major city centre park, Benchasiri).
About 5-10 mins down the BTS line in the opposite direction are the Asok and Nana stops with Asok being home to the vast and popular Terminal 21 shopping mall, and Nana being home to some of the more seedier nightlife (comparable to Patpong in Silom), namely in the form of the huge entertainment complex Nana Plaza. There is even an Arab quarter in the same area, which serves up a small network of backstreets catering to lovers of Arabic cuisine.
Sukhumvit has long been one of the main expat haunts due to its range of English and Irish Pubs, and is not without a wide range of nightlife that pretty much caters for everyone. International cuisine, beer gardens and luxury shopping malls all abound, and in the evening the streets are also lined with market vendors (mainly along the stretch from Asok to Nana/Ploenchit) selling all manner of clothing and accessories.
This area even has its own range of unique, ‘pop-up bars’ which usually surface once many of the usual variety have closed. These bars, with their simple plastic chairs and tables, keep going until the light of day has arisen, or when no-one is left to serve!
WHERE: Central region of Bangkok
TRANSPORTATION: BTS Thonglor, Phrom Pong, Asok, Nana, Ploenchit
COST /TYPE of ACCOMMODATION: Mid to High range boutique to 5-star hotels
Just down a little further from the Ploenchit stretch of Sukhumvit and the Chit Lom area next to that (again following the Sukhumvit BTS line) is the Siam area of Bangkok. This could be seen by many as one of the top places to stay in Bangkok as it is considered by locals to be THE shopping capital of the city.
Siam is densely-populated with all manner of shopping experiences, from the mainstay Siam Paragon along with other massive centres of retail like Central World, Siam Discovery, Siam Centre, MBK shopping centre and a whole bunch of small boutique shops selling local brands, markets, cinemas, and much more.
Siam is on of the main stops on the BTS line, and also has a range of eateries, bars, coffee bars and even a museum and an aquarium, not forgetting a 50-year-old classic movie theatre that holds film festivals and shows films that are not exactly considered mainstream.
If you consider yourself to be OK with crowds and a bustling, lively environment on your doorstep, then Siam could be a great place to stay. As it is situated in close proximity to a local university, as well as some of what are considered to be the top schools in the capital, it is rather common to find hordes of teenagers congregating in and around the area.
A lively hotspot indeed, and well worth checking out if you want to get a glimpse of what may locals consider as the centre of the city, something that is likely to be reflected in the price of accommodation available in the area.
The hotels in the Siam area of the city tend to veer more towards the higher end of the spectrum of accommodation in Bangkok, although again there are other options available such as the recently-trendy boutique variety of establishment. Siam is also quite near to another well-known tourist and shopping hotspot, the Prathunam area, which is similar in that it is crowded and vibrant, although it does have a slightly more authentic vibe to it than the more Western-oriented Siam, so prices of places to stay there may be somewhat lower.