Great for a rooftop sundowner
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Going strong since the 1980s, the River View Guest House continues to draw a mix of younger travellers and old backpackers hoping to relive their glory days. The renovated rooms and back-lane Talad Noi location make it a fine choice for those looking to experience a more offbeat slice of Bangkok. And, of course, you get some river views.
In an increasingly upmarket city, it’s refreshing to see a place that accommodates flashpackers while also making room for travellers on tight budgets. The River View has made some half-hearted attempts at adding boutique-y touches, but it remains one of the only good old-fashioned guesthouses found beyond the Khao San Road area in Bangkok. The family owners even state on their website that “River View Guest House has never been a hotel, nor do we ever want to become one.” We’ll drink to that.
The eight-floor concrete building houses a bunch of different room types accessed by stairs or a cramped lift. Mixed and women-only dorms each come with four single beds (no bunks) placed side by side, cooled by fans and relying on shared hot-water bathrooms attached to the rooms. The so-called “young traveller” rooms sport nothing more than fans, two single beds and large windows for 500 baht, with shared bathrooms located off the hallways.
Higher-end fan rooms bag you small ensuite bathrooms, TVs, desks, fridges and plenty of space, though the 950 baht price tag is questionable given the lack of air-con. Instead we’d splurge for a 1,200 baht air-con room with large windows and even some black-and-white photographs of old Chinatown architecture. You’ll have to shell out at least 1,500 baht for a private balcony with river view.
All rooms come with windows and firm beds propped on basic frames over tile floors. The three that we checked out appeared well kept save some peeling paint below an air-con unit. We dug the fretted and louvred wood touches in the “oriental charm” room, but not the plywood found in the “urban chic” edition. Especially if you opt for a fan room, be prepared to wake up to the sound of drills chopping up engines at the nearby used car part shops.
A spacious rooftop restaurant and bar tops the building with views over the Chao Phraya and the San Jao Jo Su Gong Shrine, which is next to the guesthouse and worth a wander. We’ve heard good things about the cocktails, and the setting is ideal for watching boats glide past as the sun sinks over Thonburi. We also liked a small terrace with tables and potted trees set beside the classic half-oval archways that front the guesthouse. A few shared computers may come in handy should the WiFi fail to cooperate in your room.
Staff does a good job of pointing guests towards the modest delights of the Talad Noi neighbourhood. They also rent out push bikes for 120 baht a day, though we feel that the lantern-lined lanes are best explored on foot. The location is about a 15- to 20-minute walk from Yaowarat Road and Hualamphong Station; and five minutes from the River City shopping centre and Marine Dept express boat pier. Some might be nervous about the back-alley setting, but the neighbourhood seems safe to us.
River View Guest House wins the prize for being Bangkok’s trickiest place to find despite being easy to see from the river. To get here from Marine Dept (or River City) express boat pier, walk straight east and hang a left (north) on Soi Wanit 2. After a few hundred metres, look for a small sign pointing left down narrow Soi Chow Su Kong and then follow a few more signs to the guesthouse. Motorbike taxi and tuk tuk drivers in Chinatown will most likely know River View by name, but you may have trouble getting here by taxi from the airports or elsewhere in Bangkok.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 18th April, 2016.