An oldie recreated for the future
Run by the same family that first opened its doors to backpackers in the early 1980s, Apple Guesthouse recreated itself in recent years by erecting a modern concrete building in place of the old wooden house. Some will say it now lacks the charm of the old days, but you’ll still find the same laidback vibes along with exceptional budget value and a lot more comfort than before.
Long before developers realised the profit potential in the Khao San Road area, there was Mama, as Apple’s owner is affectionately known, and a handful of other locals who rented bare-bones rooms to passing travellers for the price of beer. On our last visit we arrived to find Mama sitting with her familiar warm expression, chatting up a guest in the shiny new common room. Now that she’s in her twilight years, her adult children take care of the nuts and bolts of running the guesthouse.
We were startled to find that the original house had disappeared, but also reassured after soaking up the same homely atmosphere and seeing that rates had only increased slightly since before the reconstruction. In a city where old-style, family-run guesthouses are dying out, it’s refreshing to find one that lifts itself up for future success while staying true to what made it good to begin with. They even added free WiFi, a website and security cameras.
A walk up the shiny stairs takes you to three accommodation options, all relying on spacious bathrooms with modern appliances and cold-water showers found on each floor. The cheapest is a fan-cooled dorm with single beds lined up in a row and more space than most Khao San area dorms. Or you could go for a private double room with choice of fan or air-con; these come with two single beds but couples should have no problem pushing them together.
Though lacking decoration and the rustic charm, perhaps, of the old Apple Guesthouse, the new four-storey building is much cleaner, brighter and more spacious. This extends into rooms with multiple windows, clean tile floors and high ceilings. Mattresses are firm but adequate and you’ll find no other furniture in the rooms. Nevertheless, Apple represents exceptional value in an area where cheap and clean private rooms are increasingly hard to come by.
When you’re ready to sit and socialise, head to the ground-floor living room outfitted with a widescreen TV, several tables, sofas and a fish tank. A high ceiling joins open sides to create a sense of spaciousness and allow the air to flow. Compared to the dark and musty common room once found below Apple’s original house, it’s a major improvement.
The guesthouse still has a kitchen and, if you’re lucky, Mama herself will whip you up one of her famously tasty Thai meals. Otherwise you could stroll out to either Phra Arthit Road or Phra Sumen Road to find a host of terrific eateries and cool bars with more of a local vibe than on Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri, which are both an easy five- to 10-minute walk away.
If it weren’t for Apple’s newly built facade, narrow Soi Kai Chae would feel like a time capsule from a previous era. Century-old wooden houses dot the lane alongside a handful of other cheap guesthouses that, like Apple, could perhaps be more accurately described as homestays. If you prefer the old house setup, check out R.S. Guesthouse or Thai Green Guesthouse.
Address: 11 Soi Kai Chae (off Phra Sumen Rd), Bangkok
T: (02) 281 1219;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º29'45.65" E, 13º45'44.38" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: Under 600B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Dorm fan cooled||200 baht||200 baht|
|Dbl fan share bathroom||350 baht||350 baht|
|Dbl air-con share bathroom||500 baht||500 baht|
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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