This will be our first time in Bangkok and therefore we will want to see all of the tourist sights, but we really like the sound of the KT guesthouse because we love having a swim in the heat, and we like to be somewhere that is quiet at night time. Lots of people have recommended KT guesthouse but many have said that first time visitors should stay on Khao San Rd...
Exactly how far is KT Guesthouse from all the action, and is it too far to get to anything without a taxi e.g. at night time? Or does public transport go everywhere?
KT is not really close to anything of interest other than some excellent day and night markets. It's not far from the subway, and it's a short cab ride from the Samsen railway station. By cab it's about a 40 minute trip down to Banglamphoo (Koh Rattanakosin ... old Bangkok ... with the classic temples and great markets). In my opinion, too far for someone just being introduced to the city.
I love KT and have stayed there several times over the years. The rooms are quite good, the prices are great, there's a pool, and there's a coffee guy about 50m from the front gate who has a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine and does superb coffee. Nights, as you say, are quiet. It's a favourite for working ex-pats and old school backpackers who have moved up a notch. But as much as I love the place, I think that for someone going to Bangkok for the first time there are better areas to stay in, especially Samsen and Banglamphu Districts.
I'm not saying that it's a bad idea to stay there, because it's not. It provides for a very soft landing into the city. The neighbourhood is very good, as Exacto has mentioned many times, and the nearby markets are excellent. But if it's your first time to Bangkok, I think that you'd probably enjoy yourself more if you were within sight, or at least within walking distance of most of the main tourist attractions and the river. There are plenty of spots around these two districts that are quiet at night. Being close to KSR doesn't mean 24 hour mayhem. It's quite contained.
There are hundreds to choose from.
I stayed at the Shanti Lodge last time I was there. Despite some bad feedback on TripAdvisor with regards to the attitudes of the workers there, and I found the place and the people running it to be fantastic. The location is excellent, in my opinion. You can reserve online without using a credit card. I haven't gotten around to writing up my review on the place for TF, but I will shortly.
If you want a pool, and don't mind paying a bit more, you can try the Royal Hotel over near Sanam Luang. It's pretty funky ... art deco-ish.
On the river, on Thanon Phra Athit (a great area) are Navalai and New Siam Riverside. Both have pools and river view rooms. Never stayed at either of these, but I've been inside to check out the rooms. Nice. Lots of excellent eating places in the immediate area, as well as a water taxi pier.
Plenty of no frills, inexpensive places in the area.