Friday, April 4, 2014

Great Places to Stay in Thailand

As promised, my accommodations review comes to you today. I can only comment on the places I stayed while in Bangkok, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, so this is by no means a hotel guide.

Bangkok: Suk 11
I stayed here both at the beginning and end of my trip to Thailand. The reason I chose this particular hostel was because of another travel blog that I read. Finding a place to stay in Bangkok was really overwhelming because I didn't know the city at all, and it was very difficult to tell what the places were really like just from reviews that were all over the map. This place was exactly what I needed after a very long two days of flying. I was able to check in after midnight with no hassle, and my room was clean and provided a fresh towel and sheet. There was also air conditioning which was also very nice.
This place looks like a wooden junk yard, but in the best way possible. There are empty bird cages scattered around the place and wooden slats the form a path to your room. Past guests have written all over the walls, but somehow it all works. The lobby area has free wifi and very cheap water and snacks throughout the day. The staff is somewhat helpful and most of them speak decent English.

Restaurant: It was convenient, and the outside atmosphere was really lovely, but the food was nothing special. There is a much better place to eat right down the street called Kinnaree, or there are tons of street food vendors right outside the door.

Location: It is located in the heart of Sukhumvit Road across from the Ambassador Hotel with plenty to see and do all around you. There is a metro station just down the street and a 7-11 right outside the entrance of the hostel.

While I think it was a bit overpriced for what you get, it is centrally located, and you get the basics with a couple extras. Check it out on your next trip through Bangkok. 

Koh Samui: Jungle Club
My own jungle hut.
I cannot say enough about this place. It is a true hidden gem in Koh Samui, and I am so glad that I got to spend a majority of my trip here. From first glance, it is obvious that this place is something truly special. The views of the island are absolutely breathtaking. There is no main hotel area except the open air restaurant where the front desk is located. The staff is absolutely lovely especially Tsa who did it all from check in to taking orders at the restaurant. He even helped me with getting a bus ticket when my train tickets were wrong. There was always good music in the background, and I honestly just loved sitting in the restaurant with my laptop or notebook looking at the water and writing. It was one of the most relaxing places I have ever been. There is also an infinity pool and plenty of places to lounge and think. Many people come up to the club for lunch, but the staff does a really wonderful job of making the guests feel special and not have to compete for tables or space at the pool. The decor is smart and modern, but it still maintains Thai charm.

The hut was right in my price range, and it contained the bare essentials. One of my favorite things was the "Thai flush toilet" where you use a nice metal bowl to scoop water from a barrel into the toilet to flush. The hut is pretty much all open with no screens on the windows, but it provides a good breeze in the evening so no A/C is necessary. The huts were not the only option, however, there are also larger villas as well. There was even some wildlife hanging around including some pigs who make their way up the mountain in the morning, a squawky parrot, some sort of very loud lizard and a couple of friendly dogs who live there. It felt like home in a strange sort of way.

Restaurant/bar area with stunning views.
Restaurant: Serving both Thai and European fare, there was something for everyone. While I only ate Thai food while I was there, I can only comment on that. It was awesome especially the tom khar gai coconut soup. I could have eaten it every day. They have a full bar with delicious treats like pina coladas made from fresh ingredients and smoothies made from all sorts of fruit. The prices were affordable which made it even easier to stay there each night for dinner and admire the lights of the island from up above.

Location: Being situated at the top of a mountain on Koh Samui is both a drawback and part of what makes it so charming.  The drawback is that the only vehicles that can get to this place are the 4wd trucks from the hotel. There are two free rides per day (one in the morning and the other in the evening), but if you want to go up or down at a different time, you will have to pay a small fee. I saw motorbikes up the mountain, but they were locals. The hill is steep, and if you don't know what you're doing, it could mean disaster. But the views are priceless, and it's tempting to just stay there for the whole day.

I highly recommend this place. It can fit into anyone's budget, and it is both relaxing vacation and rugged adventure packed into one beautiful package.

Spend a day in a hammock looking at Koh Samui.

Koh Phangan: Hard Road Hostel
I don't have much to say about this place because I was only here for a few hours. What I will say is that the owners were very accommodating when I showed up on the doorstep in the evening asking for a room during full moon week. I was given a quick walking tour of the facilities by one of the guys, and I was given a larger locker to fit my laptop. The price was right (cheap), and I was given a top bunk in a room full of many other girls. That's really all I was expecting for the night, a place to lay my head and a spot to store my stuff. If I was about 10 years younger it would have been awesome. There were scheduled activities throughout the week, meeting areas throughout the property and a full bar.

Location: It was a bit of a hard road getting there. It's best to take a minibus or a regular taxi from the port. It will cost about 100bht which is about $3. It's far from the town, so it's best to plan accordingly.

I didn't eat at the restaurant, so I can't comment there. I did, however, find a really nice little coffee shop a little ways down the road that served coconut water right out of the coconut at the perfect cold temperature. And there is a pretty nice (in the dark) beach bar across the street from the hostel. It has the same name, and from what I saw they offer a free welcome drink.