Jan 29 2013
One of many fresh and funky new hostels to hit the Bangkok scene over the last few years, Chilli Hostel is anything but ordinary. Tucked down a narrow alley away from the tourists but close to the Chao Phraya River off Charoen Krung Road, the Chilli boasts a stylish atmosphere, a smart set-up, a staff that will make you laugh, and generally something different than most Bangkok hostels.
The first thing that struck us about the Chilli is its relatively off-the-beaten-track location a good way from any other accommodation (see map). To get here it’s necessary to wander past hanging laundry and lounging old folks down the tiny and very “local style” Charoen Krung Soi 37, and then follow signs even deeper into Bangkok’s underbelly through an alley lined with bright graffiti art on either side. A left at the end and the chilled out Chilli presents itself almost like a hidden opium den would have a century ago.
A location like this isn’t for everyone — if you want nightlife and tourist-oriented travel offices and restaurants in the immediate area, head for Khao San, Silom or Sukhumvit. If you want to experience behind the scenes Bangkok while enjoying quiet and a total lack of tourists (apart from those sharing the hostel), it couldn’t get much better than this.
Of course, you could shack up in some serviced apartment way out in east Bangkok for a similarly “local” vibe, but the Chilli’s location is quite strategic. It’s within a 10- to 20-minute walk of Si Phraya express boat pier, Saphan Taksin BTS station, Hualamphong rail and MRT station, Chinatown, Silom Road and the upscale tourist-centric atmosphere further south along Charoen Krung itself. I’m a big fan of this location, but then, I also don’t have a problem walking into a dimly lit Bangkok side alley after dark. Apart from that potential fear (or perhaps security — though it felt safe to us) issue, eating options are thin nearby and it might be a pain to locate the hostel if you’re not prepared.
If those obstacles seem surmountable, the Chilli offers a couple of budget room choices. Tiny but clean air-con “dorms” are unique in that each room only has two beds (a single bunk), costing 425 baht per bed. Only four of these two-bed dorm rooms are available and each come with a “private” en-suite bathroom shared only between the two roommates. If you’re travelling solo there’s a good chance you’ll get a whole room all to yourself for the price of a dorm. If you do have to share with a stranger, each room is strictly female or male only, so you won’t be awkwardly spending a night in a tiny room with only the guy who made a pass at you at the bar downstairs.
While some hostels offer dorm rooms with four beds and en-suite bathrooms, this is the only place we’ve found so far in Bangkok that offers dorm rooms that are this intimate. If you’re travelling with a buddy, you can request both beds in a single room to effectively have a private room. On the other hand, if you’ve got a group of three or more looking for cheap beds in the same room, the Chilli is not for you.
Coming in at 850 baht, private double rooms are spotless and have en-suite bathrooms and soft beds with fresh smelling sheets to go with flatscreen TVs and big windows overlooking the neighbourhood rooftops below. Like the dorms, these don’t offer much space, and if you’re the claustrophobic type you can find larger rooms at similar prices elsewhere, though perhaps not with soulfulness to match the Chilli.
Free WiFi and lockers are available for all guests (not just dorms), and a small but inviting lounge area has a big TV to compliment a small bar. We found the slick urban-style atmosphere refreshing after checking out some hostels with perhaps over-the-top decor. At Chilli you’ll find polished concrete walls and floors, potted palms, a leather couch, a few communal computers and a book exchange — more than adequate for relaxing with other travellers but without all the wacky flair.
The Chilli’s other big selling point is the guy who runs it, Mr Mike, a cool, cheerful and hilarious Thai man who speaks good English and claims to work 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. Whether that’s true or not, Mike is a fun character who’s also helpful and straightforward when it comes to info on the city and beyond — just the sort of person I hope to find running a guesthouse.
If the Chilli is too out-of-the-way for you, New Road Guesthouse is also off Charoen Krung but closer to restaurants and bars, and Saphai Pae Hostel is a fine choice for something larger but also in a “local”, though far less charming setting. For a more classic budget hotel in this general vicinity, the Swan and King Royal are worth a peek.
The Chilli Bangkok
53/15 Soi Charoen Krung 37, Bangrak, Bangkok
T: (026) 395 707
F: (026) 395 808
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