Nails the chill-out vibe
Born Free Hostel’s black-and-white paw print sign pokes out from some greenery to mark the spot of a relaxing and artistic scene with great-value dorms on a side lane near Khao San Road.
The ground floor common room feels bigger than it is thanks to natural light from wide windows near the old shophouse’s high ceilings. Raised off the floor, tables and floor cushions make it easy to chat up other travellers or disappear into a book or laptop. With dark wood trim, an artsy spiral chandelier and a great selection of music often playing on the soundsystem, it struck us as the sort of chill space that you might find in Amsterdam or Geneva.
Those looking for an extra measure of privacy can settle into Thai-style floor cushions on a second-floor loft. You’ll also find a book exchange here, and the free WiFi worked well for us. Decoration ranges from abstract paintings to a world map and a Pearl Jam tour poster. Don’t be surprised if the resident Persian cat lazily settles in on your lap.
Hailing from Switzerland, India and Thailand, staffers have created a laid-back and unpretentious ambiance attracting some folks with a hipster bent. Expect to meet mostly mature travellers including quite a few Europeans in their mid twenties and thirties. The atmosphere is conducive to kicking back over some beers or writing in a journal, but not pounding buckets until 3:00 in the morning (head down to Mad Monkey Hostel if that’s your thing).
On the third floor and reached via a staircase, the 12-bed mixed air-con dorm is spacious and well kept. Extra-wide wooden frames come with two side-by-side bunks placed up top and down below. Rattan partitions separate each bunk, meaning solo travellers may need to sleep next to a stranger with the partition serving as divider. Couples can remove these to create a double bed.
One floor further up, the similarly airy 10-bed fan dorm, also mixed, has a more traditional setup that relies on steel bunks placed side by side with gaps in between. The bunks that don’t receive constant airflow from rotating ceiling fans are equipped with private mini-fans. While personal reading lamps and electrical outlets are provided in the air-con room, most of the fan bunks only have the outlets. Dim light from street lamps filters through a curtain after dark so that you don’t have to turn on the main lights. Having a torch would be helpful.
Firm foam mattresses come with soft comforters in the air-con room, thin silk blankets in the fan edition. Both rooms have attached balconies overlooking the street that tend to fill up with hanging clothes. Lockers are located outside of the rooms and are large enough for valuables, including the chunkiest of laptops, but not whole backpacks. Each floor has two stalls, each with toilet, sink and cold-water shower.
With no private rooms to speak of, Born Free offers some of the cheapest dorms in Bangkok and the standard is higher than we’d expect for the prices. Since our last visit, the crew had opened a cafe across the street serving fresh coffee, beer, breakfast and Thai food. You’ll also find a clutch of cheap street kitchens run by locals on nearby Samsen Soi 4 and Soi 2. It’s an easy half-kilometre walk south from Born Free to Khao San Road and Rambuttri.
The owners also run a second hostel, Born Free Vista, located a bit closer to Khao San on Chakrabongse Road. While we prefer the original, the sister property has very similar dorms and a small rooftop terrace.
If you like the sound of Born Free but could go a bit further in the hippie direction, he nearby Back Home Hostel has similarly cheap dorms to go with a common area that was filled with dreadlocks and tattooed bodies when we passed through. The British-run Oasis Hostel is another fine alternative set in an old house with seats in a common garden area out front. You could also go for the Oh Bangkok Hostel if seeking a younger scene, or pop across Samsen Road to the family-run Khaosan Immjai Hostel for more of a homely vibe. If looking for a cushier option, check out nearby 3Howw or head a bit further south to Canale Hostel or Suneta Hostel.
These are just a few of the options in an area that we’ve dubbed “hostel city.” Stroll around Samsen Soi 6, Soi 4 and Soi 2, and you’ll see roughly 20 hostels clustered into a relatively small neighbourhood.
Address: Samsen Soi 6, Bangkok
T: (02) 628 5718;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º30'0.73" E, 13º45'51.29" 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||190 baht||190 baht|
|Dorm air-con||260 baht||260 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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