An alternative to Khao San Road, Bangkok

Bangkok

When last in Bangkok, my friend and I found ourselves staying in the infamous backpacker haunt of Khao San Road. At 19 years old and arriving in Thailand for the first time, we welcomed the no frills budget accommodation, cheap bars and wacky street vendors. Scorpion on a stick anyone?

I don’t even recall us leaving the area until it was time to head to the airport.

Six years later, in exploration mode as apposed to just cheap booze and late night piercings mode, I found myself wondering why the heck we didn’t bother seeing anything else around the city!

Khao San Road
~ Boots and backpackers on Khao San Road

As we wanted to try a different area of the city, Adam and I knew that rocking up and finding accommodation wouldn’t really be ideal after getting off a flight from Delhi. So we scoured Hostelworld and Hostelbookers to check out the options other than Khao San Road.

In the end we decided to park ourselves up at Bodega hostel near Sukhumvit metro station. At 350 Baht a night you can’t go wrong, especially when the beds are the comfiest you’ve had so far on your trip!

We usually take a private room wherever the difference in price is minimal, but in this case the dorm was much cheaper. The room was super clean, the owners friendly and it has a decent bar/common area to meet plenty of other backpackers.

Staying around Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit Road
~ Overlooking Sukhumvit MRT station from the walk to the BTS

Excellent public transport

Unlike Khao San road, you’re close to the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (metro) lines here so accessing other parts of the city is really easy and cheap.  We were able to take the metro from the airport, before a 5 minute walk to the hostel. Any way to avoid a potential fight with overcharging taxi drivers on arrival is good with me!

Bangkok metro
~ MRT – there’s a system where people queue inside the yellow lines to get on the train. Massive culture shock coming from India

If you want to head to Khao San road for a visit you can do so by taking the MRT from Sukhumvit to Hua Lamphong and then haggle a taxi or tuk tuk.

Nightlife

Sukhumvit is the hub of good shopping, eating and nightlife. From our hostel we were able to take a 10 minute walk to Soi 11, which is home to a number of cool bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Definitely worth hitting the pop-up Volkswagen campervan bars. (And for those unfamiliar, Soi means side street)

There are loads of sky bars in the area, but I’ve heard prices and atmosphere can vary. It wasn’t our priority to try one this time but we’ll be returning in the near future and may give one a try.

Oh, and if the seedy red light district is top on your list of ‘attractions’ to see there’s also Soi Cowboy.

Soi Cowboy
~ Did I mention the route to Sukhumvit MRT and BTS stations was through Soi Cowboy?

Street food!

We were so happy to have been recommended Soi 38 by Adam’s family friends. We had been looking forward to some proper Thai street food and here is where we got our fix, multiple times! One of the ladies at the end of it is pretty well known for her mango and sticky rice. I was so excited to finally get my hands on some, but imagine the disappointment when I found out it wasn’t my cup of tea. The pad thai and spring rolls certainly made up for it though.

Mango sticky ricePad thai and spring rolls
~ Mango and sticky rice
~ Pad thai and spring rolls

Soi 38 was only a couple of stops away from our hostel on the BTS, or when feeling too full to climb the stairs after all that food, a few minutes taxi ride.

Soi 38Soi 38 street foodSoi 38 food stall
~ Soi 38 street food

Shopping

Sumhumvit offers plenty in the way of shopping opportunities, from luxury designer malls to markets where you can pick up a bargain. The malls closest to Sukhumvit BTS and MRT stations are Terminal 21 – for familiar brands like H&M, Nike and other highstreet fashion, and Emporium – for your designer goods and glamorous boutiques.

A bit further down the BTS line, near Ploenchit stop, is Central Embassy luxury mall where we were introduced to the new supermarket come food court, Eathai. You can order anything you want from a number of cooking stations including northern, southern, north-eastern dishes, veggie, seafood and street food. Yum!

Near to Lumphini park

If the hustle and bustle of city life is getting to you, there’s Lumphini park nearby where you can seek out some shade in peace.

Other things we got up to around the city

bike tour

Co Van Kessel bicycle tour – another recommendation, this is a company set up by a Dutchman who’s mission was to rediscover Bangkok, behind the façade of modernisation. We did the excellent Co Classical 3 hour tour, which allowed us to explore markets, backstreets, temples, and residential areas off the beaten path and parts of the city we otherwise wouldn’t have known about or easily been able to get to.

Golden BuddhaBangkok markets Lotus flowers

Siam Center – another mall worth stumbling across with its local designer boutiques and quirky fashion. Amongst the unusual but hip Thai stores there are some international brands like Levis and Havianas. It was here that I upgraded my daytime footwear, because surprisingly, my £2 pair of flip flops gave up the ghost after 2 months.

Muay Thai at MBK shopping center – there are fights outside this mall every Wednesday and they’re free to watch. Although not particularly a fan, it was pretty cool to catch some of the national sport for free and with a fun atmosphere.

Muay Thai

After this visit, Bangkok has definitely gone up in my estimations. I’m excited to see what the next visit has in store when we meet up with Adam’s parents and brother who’ll be holidaying in Thailand.

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2 Responses

  1. Kelly May 6, 2015 / 4:09 pm

    This is a good guide to the area! I’ve also stayed in both Khao San and Sukhumvit (well, not actually ON Khao San, it was on nearby Soi Rambuttri which was great) and can see the appeal of both. I like that you can walk to a lot of the big “must see” temples and historic sites from Khao San, but having the convenience of the Skytrain near Sukhumvit is just the best! We stayed at a hostel on Sukhumvit Soi 11 which was the perfect location!
    Kelly recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to 2 Weeks in Thailand

    • Jade May 15, 2015 / 12:01 pm

      Thanks Kelly! Agreed, the Khao San area is definitely well located in that respect! I think I’m a sucker for Sukhumvit now though 🙂

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