3 Khao San Road Hotels That Don’t Suck

If you’re visiting Thailand for the first time and have a strict budget, chances are pretty good you’ll end up on Khao San Road. Khao San is Bangkok’s main backpacker accommodation hub, with some of the cheapest hotels in the city — and some of the worst.

Although it has a reputation for cheap, low quality hotels, there are some surprisingly good places to stay around Khao San Road. Below, we’ve listed our three favorite Khao San Road hotels that don’t suck and are worth staying in if you’re visiting Bangkok and want to save your money to spend in North Thailand or on the islands.

#1: Dang Derm Hotel

The Dang Derm Hotel is one of the biggest hotels on Khao San Road, and with its bright yellow exterior it’s very hard to miss. Unlike most of Khao San’s hotels, it’s kept clean and aimed at mid-budget travelers instead of people looking for the cheapest rooms in the world.

Is it luxurious? Well, actually, it kind of is. It’s not the Ritz Carlton, but the Dang Derm has nice rooms that are clean and comfortable, some with balconies that face onto Khao San Road itself. With a rooftop pool, it’s also a good place to relax during the day, when you aren’t partying or visiting temples, of course.

#2: D&D Inn Bangkok

Another big property on Khao San Road (and another with a big rooftop pool), the D&D Inn is a local institution. It’s recently been renovated, so its once dated rooms feel much more comfortable and modern, and its rooftop pool is one of the best places on Khao San Road to hang out and escape the heat.

The D&D Inn is cheaper than the Dang Derm Hotel, making it a good option for budget travelers. The rooms are spacious enough and have comfortable beds with soft sheets and free Wi-Fi, giving it pretty much everything you could ask for in a budget hotel.

#3: Fortville Guesthouse Bangkok

This one is a bit of a cheat answer, since it technically isn’t located on Khao San Road. Fortville Guesthouse is a boutique guesthouse on Phrasumen Road, which is about five to 10 minutes from Khao San on foot. It’s a small but clean and modern guesthouse with a variety of cheap and decent rooms.

What separates Fortville Guesthouse from other guesthouses on Khao San is that it’s really clean. In an area that isn’t renowned for its hygiene (look at any of the disgusting budget hotels in and around Khao San for proof) Fortville Guesthouse is a welcome, well maintained alternative.

Bangkok’s Best Sky Bars

Bangkok’s hot and sunny weather makes it one of the world’s best cities for sky bars. Rainy season aside, the weather in Bangkok is warm all year, making it easy to enjoy the sunset without worrying about being rained on.

Add a great skyline and a population that loves to drink and you’ve got the perfect city for rooftop drinks and dining. Bangkok has many sky bars, ranging from cheap hangouts to ultra-expensive sky bars featured in famous movies.

Feel like a drink with a view? Below, we’ve cataloged three of Bangkok’s best sky bars, from iconic favorites to cheap and simple sky bars that are priced more in line with the city’s other nightlife options.

Sky Bar at Lebua

Best for: being seen.

Famous for its role in The Hangover II, Sky Bar at Lebua is a ritzy rooftop bar on top of the absolutely massive State Tower building in Silom. It’s arguably Bangkok’s fanciest rooftop bar, with extremely ornate decor and prices to match.

Sky Bar at Lebua has a great view of the Chao Phraya River, but it’s a bit too far from Bangkok’s main business district to have a perfect city view. You can still enjoy a good look over the city, but you aren’t right in the buildings like you are at other sky bars.

Drinks at Sky Bar at Lebua are very expensive (think 400-500 baht for a cocktail) but are strong and taste great. The bar has a moderately strict dress code and won’t let in men in shorts or open shoes.

Is it Bangkok’s best sky bar? If you like to be seen and be surrounded by tourists and hi-so locals, it’s a good choice. However, Sky Bar at Lebua’s stupid photo policy (you are only allowed to take photos in a small section of the bar) loses it a few points.

Vertigo and Moon Bar

Best for: taking your family.

Vertigo is a rooftop restaurant atop the Banyan Tree Hotel on Sathorn Road. Moon Bar, the adjoining bar, has the same view and a selection of seats and tables for guests to relax at and enjoy the truly stunning view of Bangkok.

Of all Bangkok’s sky bars, Vertigo has arguably the best view. It’s right in the city, so you can see plenty of other skyscrapers and interesting buildings. It’s also close to Lumpini Park, giving you a view over the city’s biggest central park. You can catch a glimpse of the river in the distance, but if you want to see the Chao Phraya it’s better to go to Lebua.

Drinks at Vertigo and Moon Bar are expensive, but not as ridiculous as Lebua. The whole place also has a much less pretentious and more welcoming attitude, making it more of a place to hang out and enjoy yourself than a fashionable spot to be seen.

Cloud 47

Best for: taking your friends.

Another Silom area rooftop bar, Cloud 47 is MUCH more laid back and casual than the two hotel bars listed above. This bar is located on top of the United Centre building on Silom Road, with simple terrace tables and a live band (or DJ on certain nights) making it feel more like a nightclub in the sky than a high-end rooftop bar.

Is it fancy? Nope. Is it fun? Definitely. The view isn’t quite as dramatic as Bangkok’s other rooftop bars, but it offers an incredible view of the city, cheap drinks and an exciting party atmosphere that makes it a more exciting option than the two hotel bars listed above.

Exploring Ayutthaya: Thailand’s Ancient Capital

Feel like getting out of Bangkok but don’t want to spend all day on a bus (or hours on a plane)? One of Thailand’s most interesting historical destinations is just over an hour from Bangkok by van, and it’s packed with interesting things to do.

Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s oldest and most historically significant cities. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong for a rather unusual reason: he wanted to escape an outbreak of smallpox (at the time an incredibly serious health threat) in the nearby province of Lop Buri.

The city was founded and it became the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (also known as Siam). Within 250 years, the small city had grown into a fairly big one, with a population of more than 300,000 people. This may not sound that impressive today, but in the 17th century it made Ayutthaya one of the world’s largest and most populated cities.

Ayutthaya fell apart in 1767, when Burmese invaders destroyed most of the city. Today, it’s an amazing relic of Thailand’s deeply interesting history and a major tourist attraction for both Thais and people from abroad.

The best place to visit in Ayutthaya is Ayutthaya Historical Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers more of the old city’s ruins. Good spots to visit include Wat ChaiwatthanaramWat Kudi Dao, and Wat Mahathat, which provide an interesting look into the Siam and Ayutthaya period of Thailand’s history.

Bring a camera (or a smartphone with a good camera), since you’ll want to take plenty of photos of the cool Indiana Jones-style temples.

It’s worth remembering that Ayutthaya is an important historical area, and that dressing like you’re going to the beach probably isn’t a good idea. Wear long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, or else you might be turned away at some of the temples due to the city’s somewhat conservative dress code.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok’s seemingly endless expanse of concrete and spend a day exploring a side of Thailand that many people don’t see (Ayutthaya is nowhere near as popular as Chiang Mai or the islands) then visiting Ayutthaya is a good choice. Getting there is easy — just take the minivan from the public station at Victory Monument.

My Favorite Phuket Beach: Nai Harn

Phuket is one of Thailand’s biggest tourist destinations. Every year, millions of tourists arrive and usually head straight in one direction: to one of the island’s ultra-popular west coast beaches like Patong, Kata or Karon.

The beaches on Phuket’s western coastline are popular for a reason: they’re really nice (with the exception of Patong, which is just too developed at this point to be a nice place to relax). But while they’re easy to access and extremely popular, they’re far from the best beaches on the island.

Ask the average Phuket expat which beaches are the island’s best and they’ll point you towards one of the amazingly beautiful beaches in the north. Mai Khao BeachKamala and other spots north of Patong are admittedly nice, but they’re a little bit boring if you’re aged under 50 and want to enjoy Phuket as both a beautiful and exciting destination.

A good alternative to the west coast beaches is Nai Harn — a smaller beach on the south coast of Phuket famous for its rough waves. Nai Harn is Phuket’s equivalent of a surf beach — which is to say that it’s a surf beach with small to mid-sized waves. It’s also a really beautiful beach that’s mostly undeveloped and only attracts a fraction as many tourists as the ultra-popular Patong and Kata to the north.

Getting to Nai Harn Beach is pretty simple. You can either take a tuk-tuk from almost anywhere on the island (be prepared to pay 500+ baht from Patong) or rent a scooter and make your way there on your own. It’s an exciting ride from Patong, with lots of sweeping bends and beautiful sea views. If you’re an experienced motorcyclist, it can be a lot of fun — if you’re not, if can be a little scary.

A better option, especially if you want a quiet vacation, is to just stay on Nai Harn Beach in the first place. There are plenty of nice resorts and hotels around the beach with high-end suites and cheap rooms alike available. Since Nai Harn is less popular than Patong and Kata, it’s also a much cheaper part of the island to stay in.

So — that’s it! If you’re searching for a nice beach on Phuket and want to avoid the usual suspects (Patong, Karon and Kata) then visiting Nai Harn is a great way to see Phuket as it was 10-20 years ago, before it developed into the massively overvisited tourist destination it is in many ways today.

Kanchanaburi: A Quiet, Peaceful Escape Close to Bangkok

Immortalized in the movie The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is a small city about three hours from Bangkok by road that’s one of the best weekend trips in Thailand for people based in Bangkok.

No, there’s no beach. There aren’t any beautiful mountains either (other than a few small hills). But there is a great relaxing atmosphere and some of the best WWII sites in all of Thailand.

Lots of people forget that Thailand was part of World War II, since we mostly think of Germany and Japan (and occasionally Italy, who gave up a little early) as being the Axis. But Thailand was also on the same side, and had several large work camps for Allied prisoners who were tasked with building railroads and other infrastructure for the Japanese.

Kanchanaburi was the center of this, with several camps and the infamous Death Railway now part of the city’s history. While it might have a dark recent history, the Kanchanaburi of today is a peaceful, relaxing city that’s a nice place to visit from Bangkok for the weekend.

Our writer stayed at U Inchantree — a beautiful resort near the River Kwai that’s amazingly relaxing. Although the area around the hotel is mostly made up of tourist restaurants and attractions, it’s still a fun place to spend the day and a nice change to the endless noise and crowds of Bangkok.

Not far from Kanchanaburi, there’s the Hellfire Pass Museum — a moving memorial and museum to the numerous prisoners of war that died during the construction of the Burma Railway. Kanchanaburi is an interesting mix of serene and sad, with WWII sites scattered around what would otherwise be a fairly typical Thai town.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok for the weekend and like WWII history, visiting Kanchanaburi is a great idea. Even if the idea of war museums isn’t your thing, the city’s chilled out atmosphere, relaxing riverside area, increasing number of nice resorts and good mix of Thai restaurants still give it plenty of appeal.