One of the originals
11 Soi Kai Chae (off Phra Sumen Rd; the alley begins directly across from Fortville Guesthouse), Bangkok T: (02) 281 1219
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In a charmingly dilapidated neighbourhood, Apple Guest House is a throwback to another era. It was one of a handful of the original guesthouses to open way back in the early 1980s, long before developers realised the big-profit potential of the Khao San Road area. Hardly changed a wink after all those years, Apple remains a worthy option for dirt-cheap digs and old-style Thai hospitality.
Long before the concrete low-rises popped up to sell characterless rooms in the Khao San vicinity, budget travellers stayed in simple houses owned by locals who rented out their extra rooms. Apple is one of the only ones left today, the last of a dying breed. Though prices have finally gone up slightly, this is still one of the cheapest choices around.
Rooms are situated on either side of a hallway on the second floor, each with a couple of windows, creaky wood floors, firm beds with worn linens and perhaps a portrait of a Hindu god for decor. The old air-conditioners can be switched on for an extra 130 baht, and very basic cold-water shared bathrooms are located downstairs. A fan-cooled mixed dorm room has little more than a few bunks and light bulbs.
The wooden walls are paper thin, but you don’t have to worry about traffic noise thanks to the hidden-away location. The place is still run by the same kind-hearted elderly woman, known to long-time guests simply as “Mama,” along with her laidback son. Her warm and quiet demeanour compels guests to respect the unspoken rule that this is not a party place.
Apple is about as inexpensive as accommodation gets in Bangkok. With that in mind, we feel it offers fine value as long as you keep in mind how little cash you’ll part with to stay here.
A dark ground floor includes a communal TV, basic laundry facilities and kitchen where the owners whip up home-cooked meals for cheap. Just about everything appears to be exactly as it was in the ’80s — except the addition of free WiFi. Apple remains a good place to meet other travellers, perhaps while chatting with Mama on one of the outdoor benches.
The location down tiny Soi Kai Chae puts you within a stone’s throw of several terrific eateries and coffee shops on Phra Sumen and Phra Arthit roads. Lined by attractive old houses, the alley is not well lit after dark, but it’s only a 50-metre stroll from either of these main roads (the alley connects them). It’s a 10-minute walk to Khao San; five minutes to Soi Rambutri and Phra Arthit Express Boat pier.
A few years ago, someone posted a “horrific” story of being robbed at Apple on several travel forums, accusing the owners of entering their locked room and lifting cash, credit cards, passports and computers. This seems to have been an isolated incident. Having met Mama and her son and being aware of their long-standing good reputation, we feel that someone else (perhaps another traveller) was responsible.
Doors are indeed flimsy and the old locks could probably be popped open in more ways than one, so don’t leave valuables unattended in your room. (This is a rule of thumb at any guesthouse.) Much of Apple’s business comes from repeat customers — some going back decades — who swear by the owner’s sincere hospitality.
The guesthouse used to be called Apple 2 Guesthouse but Apple 1 closed years ago, and now the signs simply say, “Apple Guesthouse.” True to the old-style Khao San ways, Apple cannot be booked online.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 7th November, 2014.