Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city, spanning more than 600 square miles and housing more than eight million residents. The city is divided into fifty districts which are divided across the east and west sides of the Chao Phraya River. These distinct neighborhoods offer dramatically different accommodation options, transportation connections, attractions and dining options. So where should you stay in Bangkok? Check out these six neighborhoods, each of which offers unique advantages for visitors choosing to make them their home base.
Located about two kilometers north of the towering Victory Monument, Ari is known as Bangkok’s hippest new up-and-coming neighborhood. As one of Bangkok’s newer areas, Ari is notably clean and safe. Along its main street, Phahonyothin 7, there are a number of trendy coffee shops, bars, restaurants and boutique shops, while the area around the MRT (light rail) station is packed with street food vendors who serve authentic Thai dishes to the locals who live nearby. Ari only has a few hotels and hostels, but travelers looking for a vacation rental can choose from dozens of modern, fully-serviced apartment rentals.
If you’ve seen Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, you’ve already seen Banglamphu. This neighborhood on the east banks of the Chao Phraya River features a mind-blowing juxtaposition of hard-partying young backpackers and calmly meditating monks. At the north end of Banglamphu, Khao San Road beckons to budget travelers with inexpensive hostels, countless souvenir shops and parties that nobody remembers the next day. Less than two kilometers to the south, The Grand Palace houses Thailand’s king and the Wat Pho complex of temples is one of the nation’s most important Buddhist sites. Banglamphu is the ideal area for travelers who love to explore by foot, as you’ll rarely need to use public transportation while you’re here. Check in to one of the many cheap hostels, or try one of the new boutique hotels along the river.
Midway between the city center and the Don Mueng International Airport (which primarily serves low-cost airlines), Chatuchak is an interesting neighborhood for travelers who want a taste of the real Bangkok. During the week Chatuchak is relatively quiet, but on the weekend it comes alive with Thailand’s largest market. Whether you want to buy a pair of sunglasses or a live shark, one of the 8000 market stalls will have what you’re looking for. Chatuchak is close to the Mo Chit MRT station and has a handful of hotels that cater primarily to weekend shoppers (in other words, you’ll get great deals during the week).
Locals refer to Bangkok’s Chinatown district as Yaowarat. During the day, shoppers pack the sidewalks to shop at the traditional Chinese markets and shops. At night, pedestrian traffic spills onto the busy main road as locals and tourists alike come to sample some of the world’s best street food. If you’re okay with staying in a neighborhood that doesn’t have its own MRT station and that tends to be a bit noisy twenty-four hours a day, basing yourself in Chinatown can make for a completely immersive cultural experience. There are several massive, upscale hotels in the area, along with a few backpacker hostels too.
After a day or two in sprawling Bangkok you will start to realize that Siam is the closest thing the city has to a city center. The Siam BTS Skytrain station is the busiest in the city and it marks the point where Bangkok’s two Skytrain lines intersect. Outside the station, six major shopping centers compete for your attention with attractions such as the Jim Thompson House museum, the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute snake farm, the National Stadium and Bangkok Art and Culture Center. This where most of the international hotel chains have their best Bangkok offerings, and if you’re willing to walk a few blocks away from the action you’ll find a range of independent hotels, guesthouses and hostels.
Sukhumvit is Thailand’s longest road, with countless smaller sois (side streets or alleys) branching off of it to form one of the city’s busiest tourist enclaves. If you’re looking for nightlife (but prefer an older crowd than the kids partying on Khao San Road), want to meet expats who now call Thailand home, or are ready to try your first authentic Thai massage, Sukhumvit could be your perfect home base. Sukhumvit also offers the city’s widest range of dining options including Western chain restaurants, upscale mall food courts, numerous Middle Eastern joints and traditional Thai street food. There are lots of hotels catering to business travelers around Sukhumvit, but budget travelers should be careful to avoid the seedy low-cost hotels that rent rooms by the hour.
Whether you want to immerse yourself in traditional Thai culture, spend your holiday chowing down on hot and spicy street food, or shop until you drop, there is a neighborhood in Bangkok that is perfect for you.