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By Ping Palahan, a Bangkok local who knows all the ins and outs of this crazy capital’s various neighbourhoods.
Edited by Elodi Troskie
Bangkok is one of the world’s most exciting and most diverse travel destinations. Deciding where to stay in Bangkok can be quite the daunting task since the different neighbourhoods of the city are each so unique. Depending on your budget, travel style, and the experience you’re looking for during your stay in Thailand, there are many factors to take into consideration while you’re searching where to stay in Bangkok. Use this guide to the best areas to stay in Bangkok to help you narrow down your search!
Sukhumvit is located in the central part of Bangkok, a great neighbourhood to stay in since it’s easily accessible by both the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway. This is one of the best areas to stay in Bangkok for nightlife, especially if you want to explore Bangkok’s higher end bars and nightclubs. Home to many expats and upper class local residents, Sukhumvit may lack traditional Thai tourist attractions, but it makes up for it by offering some of Bangkok’s best luxury hotels, fashionable shopping malls, spas, restaurants and hangout spots for a night out. This area is home to Nana (Bangkok’s Arab neighbourhood), the well-known red light district, Korea Town, many an infamous strip club and countless other nightlife hotspots popular among expats. Head down to Phrom Phong, a popular area for Japanese cuisine, or check out the luxury shopping scene at EmQuartier.
Siam is Bangkok’s shopping hotspot. Within walking distance from the BTS station, you can easily access popular shopping centres like MBK Centre, Siam Discovery Centre, Siam Centre and Siam Paragon. If you want to eat, shop and live like a local, Siam is the best area to stay in Bangkok. But it’s not just glamour and luxury – in this area, you can also explore Bangkok’s cultural tourist attractions like the Jim Thompson House and Museum, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World, and Madam Tussauds. Siam is especially popular over weekends when locals stream to its shopping centres to treat themselves to some luxury shopping. This area is quite westernised, so if your aim is to explore traditional Thai cuisine, this might not be the area for you.
Silom is the business district of Bangkok where most of the city’s offices and financial companies are located. This neighbourhood, however, is packed with luxury hotels and stunning rooftop bars. Silom has it all: great shopping, accommodation options by the masses, and some of Bangkok’s best bars. There are countless amazing restaurants serving delicious, authentic Thai dishes, as well as street food vendors on every street corner selling local favourites at bargain prices. Silom is also home to Bangkok’s biggest green space, Lumphini Park, where you can go for a run or join the locals in practicing Thai Chi. Silom also doesn’t disappoint after dark. Some of the most popular night markets in Bangkok are located in this neighbourhood, like Patpong, a somewhat notorious bazaar where you’ll find anything from fake Rolex’s to strip clubs. Another night market favourite is the Lalai Sap market, a hidden gem that is popular among locals, but lesser known to tourists.
The Bangkok Riverside is one of the most beautiful areas in the city and has proven to be a popular spot for honeymooners to stay in thanks to the scenic views and luxury hotels situated along the Chao Phraya River. Cruising down the river is not only a unique way to sightsee Bangkok but is also a convenient and very affordable way to travel from one attraction to the next, like Wat Arun and the Grand Palace. For a unique insight into the lives of Bangkokians who reside in this neighbourhood, take a ride on a commuter ferry where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of local day to day living. After all, there is no better way to get a glimpse of authentic life than spending time with locals! If you decide to stay in this area, keep in mind that apart from the Chao Phraya boat that operates until 19:00, there aren’t any other forms of public transport like the Skytrain and Subway that operate in the city centre. Don’t worry – you can still grab a taxi!
Khaosan is the centre of Bangkok’s backpacking community. If you’re traveling on a budget and you’re looking to meet and socialize with fellow travellers, this is the best area in Bangkok to stay. You’ll never have a quiet moment in Khaosan. Every hour is happy hour and the party never stops! There are countless budget guesthouses, hostels and mid-range hotels to choose from when looking for accommodation. When it comes to nightlife, this is one of most energetic areas in all of Bangkok since it’s so popular among the younger generation. If you’re in Bangkok to experience the party scene, you’ll be very happy in Khaosan. Many of Bangkok’s iconic landmarks like the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha and Reclining Buddha are within walking distance, so you’ll find yourself in a very good location to enjoy the best of Bangkok’s cultural attractions as well as the sometimes notorious nightlife!
Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the oldest parts of the city, giving it a rich and very interesting history. Staying in Chinatown is a cultural experience of its own. Home to some of the best street food you’ll find in Bangkok, this is the best area to stay if you want to explore the vibrant street food culture. Chinatown has an authentic feel of local living to it and this neighbourhood hasn’t been modified to appeal to tourists. This means that you find much of the typical Bangkok party nightlife here, and if you’re looking for international restaurants and westernised amenities, you may have to search for a while. Of course, it’s great that this area is so untouched and true to the locals’ way of living! If you want to explore the rest of Bangkok, and especially it’s crazy nightlife and party scene, a night or two in Chinatown will be enough.
Rattanakosin, Bangkok’s Old Town neighbourhood, is ideally located if you have a list of landmarks and attractions you want to visit. Rattanakosin is a historical area and some of Bangkok’s most famous historical landmarks are located in this neighbourhood. Home to a multitude of Buddhist temples, monuments and museums, history lovers will be in their element in the Old City district. To mention a few: the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Sanam Luang (a historic park situated next to the Grand Palace, traditionally used for Buddhist ceremonies), the National Gallery, and Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. This area isn’t very big, so it doesn’t offer the wide variety of accommodation options you’ll find in many other neighbourhoods in Bangkok. But because it is so centrally located in the heart of the city’s most important cultural landmarks, and conveniently close to the Chao Phraya River from where you can take a ferry to move around between must-see’s and must-do’s on your itinerary, this area is ideal for those who want to make the most out of sightseeing Bangkok.
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