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Thai nights: Where to rest your head

An experienced Asian traveler I know is fond of saying, "Crash a tuk-tuk in this town and you hit a five-star hotel." Indeed, Bangkok supports some of the finest accommodations in the world, but the capital also offers a rich variety in all price categories.
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An experienced Asian traveler I know is fond of saying, "Crash a tuk-tuk in this town and you hit a five-star hotel." Indeed, Bangkok supports some of the finest accommodations in the world, but the capital also offers a rich variety in all price categories. And you'll find luxury lodging and fine services at a fraction of what you'd pay in Europe or the U.S. And bring your appetite, as dining in Thailand's capital is alone worth the trip, everything from superb Thai banquet meals to noodle shops, from gourmet French to pizza and all for very little.

Thailand has always been a fantastic bang for your buck, and many hotels offer great promotional packages with unique inclusions (breakfast, airport transfers, laundry, or local calls). Remember — the hotel prices listed in this guide are the published rack rates — with the exception of guesthouses, these rarely represent the actual rates you should pay. Contact hotels directly about special deals. Unless otherwise noted, the prices listed are subject to 7 percent government value-added tax and 10 percent service charge. In the high season (Dec-Feb), you must make reservations well in advance.

On the River — This is one of the most convenient and picturesque parts of the city. The river hotels offer great views and access to the fascinating Chao Phraya River, the birthplace of Bangkok. View and access don't come cheaply though, and you'll pay the highest prices at the three centrally located facilities.

Chinatown — It's a trip to the past really in the small streets and alleyways of busy Chinatown, really one of Bangkok's more out-of-the way destinations and a unique choice for foreign visitors.

Banglamphu & Khao San Road — Most of the major tourist sights are located here, making sightseeing on foot more feasible, though it's quite a long ride from commercial Bangkok. For budget travelers, the widest range of low-price accommodations is found in this area around Khao San Road.

The Business District — Sure, this area is convenient for business travelers whose appointments are concentrated in nearby office buildings and banks, but if you're here on leisure, don't be put off by the "Business District" name, which is merely to distinguish this area from the others. There is a wide range of choices in the upper- and middle-price categories as well as some good values in the inexpensive range. It's an easy taxi ride to the river area and a 30-minute trip to the Palace area (depending on the time of day).

Sukhumvit Road: The Shopping/Embassy Area — Accessed along its entire length by the convenient skytrain, Sukhumvit Road is the heart of upscale, commercial Bangkok. Here you'll find many of the town's finest large shopping complexes and restaurants, as well as busy street-side shopping and dining stalls. Many businesses now house offices in the numbered side streets, called sois, that extend from this main thoroughfare and tourists as well as business travelers will find this the most convenient location with many comfortable hotel options. There are few good budget choices (much better than busy and inconvenient Khao San Rd.) and direct access to the BTS skytrain means you can get anywhere you need to go in town at any time of day.

Keep an eye out for the Bangkok's newest hotels, both under construction at the time of this writing: The former Hilton at Lai Nert will reopen in 2004 as the latest member of the Raffles chain (tel. 02253-0123), and, the former Intercontinental Hotel, adjacent to Siam Center, will be the Paragon. Both provide five-star luxury in the heart of town.

Hint: Siam, the skytrain's main hub and center of the shopping area is pronounced with a long "see" instead of "sigh." Say "See-yam" if you want to tell the taxi driver how to get to the area.

The Airport Area — Don Muang International Airport is anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour (or more) by car from the center of Bangkok depending on your destination and traffic. Traffic is lighter going into town in the evening, but if you have just a quick overnight or a long layover, there are a few good choices near the airport.

The Railroad Station Area — As in most cities, the area around the train station is not what you'd call idyllic. Tuk-tuks and taxis are available around the clock to take you to any hotel in town, but in a pinch try the Bangkok Center Hotel (328 Rama IV Rd; 2 blocks east of the station; tel. 02238-4848), a large but basic business hotel with rooms starting at 1,000B ($24). Krung Kasem Sri Krung Hotel (1860 Krung Kasem Rd., Bangkok; tel. 02225-0132) is a budget stop just to the right and across the canal from the station. Very basic rooms start at 550B ($13).

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit its online hotels index.

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