I used Travelfish way back when, I think at the time you only covered Thailand then, mebbe 8 years ago. now I've saved up for another trip.
Before anything else congrats on expansion to loads more of South East Asia. Very nice. Great for readers and I guess great for you too. Nice.
BUT, where is the budget accommodation gone?
Im flying into Bangkok and when I looked at your Khaosan section it seems a lot more slim than it used to be. Theres more words given to stylish places over those that are cheap and cater to real travellers doing it on the cheap. I've been away for a long while, have all the places closed or have you removed them or what? I'm a bit confused to be honest.
So if you couls explain I'd like that.
But not complaining a lot. I do like the longer stuff you are doing. Your guy David Leukens is great -- please tell him I'd love to buy him a beer should our paths cross. It would be great to see more coverage of some of the out of the way stuff he is doing.
Anyway. Thanks, you were great for my first trip and want to use you again.
#1 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
"...cater to real travellers..."
Real "travellers" go someplace for five or six years to get a real feel for a place. People who come for a month of two are called tourists.
There's plenty of places in the 300 baht department, which is only ten bucks. But Thailand is a rapidly growing economy, so naturally inflation is a factor.
There are still plenty of inexpensive backpacker places to stay. Tilapia, for example, frequently mentions a few of his favorites that are a short walk from the Khao San area not far from the river.
Having said that, I think two things have happened since your last trip. First, as long-time independent travellers like me have gotten older, we've shifted from strictly backpacker style towards a more flashpacker style. It means a little more comfort and quality at a higher price.
Second, Thailand has developed quite a bit over the last decade. That development has meant higher quality on lots of things from transportation to accommodation to health care, and with it higher prices.
As a result, the accommodation listings you see on the site tend to reflect those two changes, which is why you see a wider range of lodging choices than before and why things seem a bit more expensive than you remember (because they are).
As I said above, you'll still find plenty of strictly backpacker-style places, particularly as you get out of Bangkok and into other areas of the country. But don't rely exclusively on guidebook or website listings either. Use them to get a sense of where you might want to stay and how much it will likely cost, and then get info from other travellers once you arrive and have a look around on your own. It is really fun to discover some gem of a place yourself through your own exploration and research.
Should you meet up with DLeuk in Bangkok, please buy him a beer for me too. I completely agree that his stuff is top notch.
Have a great trip. Cheers.
Welcome back ;-)
Ahh the simple answer to your question is:
"The backpacker places are still there, though we list less of them than we used to and prices have probably inched up a bit since you were last in the Kingdom."
The more detailed answer is a few years ago we made a decision to list less places, so in the case of the greater Khao San Road area at it's peak we listed around 150 places to stay, while we now list around 60. Some have closed or slipped in standards to the point we de listed them, but in some cases, where you have say a dozen near interchangeable places in a row, we just removed most, kept one or two and noted that there are other similar places nearby.
So yes we list less places -- but not just budget -- this is across all budgets, so there are less lux as well.
Also individual reviews may often be longer than before and mention multiple places. See this post for Samsen Skyline for an example.
We are introducing a way in the coming weeks for readers to submit new places into the site, but these will be clearly marked as reader-submitted, rather than from one of our writers. But we expect that to see a bulking out in some areas.
I'm afraid you've just missed David as he should be just about setting foot on Ko Jum as I type this.
#8 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,737
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as someone now sitting in Samsen-not that skyline of course:
1.the nr of really dirt-cheap and very low stndd places has gone down, yes
2.todays newbee bepekker is too afraid to travel old-style ''just see what there is''-and has to use her/his smartfone for fear of ''all being full'' That means that an enormous nr of hoStels has opened-and many of the @1 places being transferred into hoStels too-with dormbeds, all bookable online and in often surprising places. Just look at sites like hostelbookers or hostelworld for BKK. Why any bekpekker would even choose to stay in the Silom area is completely beyond me.
3.thus: the much lower nr of those places and the still impossibility of them being booked online, means that info on them only travels by word of mouth. We keep of coruse very silent about the real gems. PLUS that the ever growing nr of odd other nations-think of Chinese- also refelcts sometimes: when they discover a cheap place and put it on their www, a formerly nice place can be transferred into a mobbed out only cooked noodles and wash yourself clothes and no need to speak any english either. Would that be a nice place to stay? Others of those places are landed in the JPNese bekpek-scene, or even worse the Koreans. They might then start to refuse westerners.
LC should only spoil cyberspace if he can really add useful things out of the Nana-ghetto.
#9 captainbkk has been a member since 16/2/2012. Posts: 472
"...particularly enjoying the diversity of passers-by."
That's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it would be to say that it's a freak show and yet another way would be to say that it's a freak show on a grand scale.
Thankyou for your answer. I guess that makes sense. Sorry about the "real traveller" thing I wasn't thinking much when I wrote that - I meant budget travellers.
I do like the diversity of the area and you betcha there is a freak show aspect to it. It does take all kinds to make up this travelling thing.
#11 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
"Another way of putting it would be to say that it's a freak show and yet another way would be to say that it's a freak show on a grand scale."
Mmmm - maybe so. But my take is that the present KSR passing parade, although good value, has nothing on the good ol' backpacker days. Does that make them a freak show on a grander scale?
No doubt cool crooner agrees, but everyone knows cool croooner is a hard case.
btw - viva the hard cases! Diversity rules!
Given the good ole days have been brought up, an old friend of mine Jim Algie recently penned a piece on KSR. Ahh the memories.
#16 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,737
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Some interesting thoughts here on the general shifts in the Thailand accommodation scene. Exacto and captainbkk both hit it right on the head. Guesthouses do seem to be going gradually going out of fashion, and many are being reborn as hostels and "boutique" hotels. S1 Hostel on Soi Ngam Duphli is a perfect example of an old flophouse turned slick hostel. Cheap guesthouses are still the norm in some places, like Trat town and Sukhothai, but there's a growing number of more "stylish" accommodation all over the country and especially in Bangkok. I think this is due to a number of factors, not least of which is a continually strengthening Thai economy.
More and more Thai people are traveling due to an increase in disposable income thanks to an economy that keeps on booming. For the most part, Thais seem to avoid guesthouses like the plague, and there are now quite a few places (especially some island destinations) where budget accommodation is virtually nonexistent. Meanwhile, a lot of the old backpackers who came to Thailand 10+ years ago are now mid-aged travelers who appreciate a little more comfort and style. Long gone are the days when Lonely Planet toting backpackers went to the same old guesthouses and travelers with more cash / less time booked through travel agents.
Travelers across all budgets are increasingly savvy in the modern age, and the accommodation scene in Thailand has adapted quickly to cover all of the various niches. In most destinations, online booking has become a lot more prevalent than walk-in booking, and the prevalence of online accommodation reviews (pioneered by Travelfish btw) has given hoteliers a much clearer insight into what travelers might be looking for. However this information is skewed, as the majority of travelers who write online reviews fall into the midrange to upscale bracket, while many of the cheap places still have minimal online presence.
So while TF covers less places in general that it used to, I'd also say that the number of "old school" budget places has slowly decreased. As a Travelfish researcher, finding good budget options is still my #1 priority in a given destination, so TF has by no means abandoned the backpackers. But there are many places (for example, Railay, Khlong Prao on Ko Chang and most parts of Bangkok) where there simply isn't much budget accommodation left to write about. In those cases, I tend to list most if not all of the budget spots, but they might be overshadowed by flashpacker to midrange spots simply because there's a lot more in those categories, and there are often a lot of really interesting places to stay in that price range as well.
Even so, the current Khao San Road page includes a lot more backpacker accommodation than anything else, and a lot of the old school guesthouses still offer very basic private rooms for under 300 baht. If anything, changes in the KSR accommodation scene have been minimal as it still mainly caters to the "old-style" backpackers.
It is true that the backpackers of a decade ago now have more disposable income and so are happy to pay more, surely isn't there another generation of budget travellers coming through? Wouldn't they be looking for the same standards that their peers of yesteryear wanted?
I'm curious if by and large backpackers today are happy to pay more, or of it is more that don't have a choice.
I agree with not meeting Thais in guesthouses. I can't ever remember meeting a Thai traveller, ever. If more are travelling that's cool, but a shame if thats why the prices are going up.
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
#21 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
"I agree with not meeting Thais in guesthouses. I can't ever remember meeting a Thai traveller, ever. If more are travelling that's cool, but a shame if thats why the prices are going up."
Why would it be a shame if that was why the prices are going up? Do you realize what you just wrote? As if Thais should not be travelling around their own country if that's going to make prices go up for priveledged ******* white boys. Seriously, WTF?
Thais don't want to stay with farang backpackers. They normally go for family rooms or bungalows at 1000 to 2000 baht a night. They would think it's funny how all these backpackers can afford a $1000 plane ticket but whinge about paying more than $10 on a room.
Re price rises Im not surprised that el cheapos are becoming rarer. Inflation plus cheaper plane tickets plus more tourists plus people want things like wifi and more luxury.
Still you can find some real bargains in Thailand if you go low season and avoid the tourist ghettos. A number of the room websites have good deals and specials off season.
Leonard: I like to stay in cheap places because I'm not picky about my accommodation and because I'm more interested in spending my money on other things rather than accommodation. Everyone travels with a finite amount of money, I choose to spend a smaller proportion of my money on accommodation than some.
Madmac: DLuek inferred that there was a shift in the focus of hotels and guesthouses because Thais were becoming more affluent and so spending more and he suggested that this was one of the reasons that there were fewer cheap places to stay. I don't quite follow why that was a superb analysis while me repeating the same thing was the words of a privilieged whatever white boy.
I think it is great that more Thais are travelling in their own country and I'd love to have the opportinity to hang out with some in the guesthouse common room, but from what DLuek is saying, that's not happening because they prefer fancier accommodation - I think that's a shame if it means that teh budget places are getting squeezed out. I brought up Thais, because Dluek did - I'd say the same if Thailand was suddenly fully of New Zealanders who only wanted to pay $50 a night! As tezza says the diversity is what is great.
#25 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
On my previos trip I saw lots of Thais travelling in the National Parks (I spent a lot of time in the parks in Loei) and they were doing it A1 cheapass - camping, mama noodles and so on. So they do do budget. I just never see them in a guesthouse.
#26 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
Nps mostly have more basic rooms but there are better hotels nearby.
Why would a Thai family hang out in a common room with smelly backpackers?
Thais tend to travel in groups or families not solo.
Local families travelling in their own country dont want to hang with backpackers.
Ok, you don't need to use the "common room" to meet Thais. They are everywhere in Thailand. I'm not being sarcastic here. Seriously, you hit on a repeated theme here, "travellers" who want to "absorb culture" but don't ever actually spend time trying to meet the people or learn the language. These aren't "travellers". These are tourists, plain and simple.
What you have hit on is the backpacker subculture. Backpackers who want to stay in cheap places, eat in cheap places, and above all socialize with other backpackers. Get photos of the exotic, get passport stamps and get street cred. And the fact that Thailand is no longer a third world country, but a recently developed one with prices that measure that development is considered "a shame". Think about it? That era of the grunge backpacker hitting the banana pancake trail is slowly being squeezed out by the improvement in quality of life for Thai people. This is not a shame. This is a positive. It also accounts for why shitty ass Laos has become so popular with the backpacker crowd. Poor places with correspondingly cheap places to stay are considered a plus in this inverted logic and places where peoples lives have improved because their economies have developed are considered "a shame".
Leonard: It's all relative. Not all $10 places are dumps, some are though.
Madmac: Wow, it's amazing how much you seem to think you know me from my 5, nay now 6 posts. So let me correct you on a couple of your assumptions.
I speak the language. After my previous trip I went back to university in my home country, studied Thai for two years and while I'll not claim to be extremely fluent, I am pretty damn good, and pretty much everything in the above conversation (except for your XXXXX) I could speak in Thai.
You live in Thailand. How is your Thai?
I don't need to meet Thais in the common room, as you say I can (and plan to) meet them every day when I'm out and about. But I'd love to have them in my common room as well - along with a bunch of ***smelly*** backpackers - they'd probably enjoy having someone like me, a westerner who can speak to them in their own language, along with a bunch of falang who don't. It's all about breaking down barriers. That's one of the reasons I learned the language.
As I mentioned up top I spent time in Loei last trip, maybe you should try it. It's very popular with Thais, few westerners. That doesn't matter to me as I don't actually choose my places by the cultural/societal/racial mix of the visitors, I choose them because they sound great. I'm into national parks, Loei has some great ones. Check it out some time.
So, ease up on the quick assumptions and quit barking at me.
I started off with a straight up question, thanks Admin & dluek for clarifying where this site is at.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
#30 SamJames has been a member since 14/3/2014. Posts: 6
Let's start with your first question, how well do I speak Thai? Reasonably well. I go to school every week and have almost since I've lived here (seven years) but there was a break, so I'd say I've been going to school for about five actual years. That's only two hours a week, but of course I get daily practice. I read and write like I'm in the second grade. My daughter and I often do her homework together. She's about to outpace me in written Thai (but not quite yet - she just finished the first grade).
All I am saying is that it's not a shame that the low end guesthouses are going by the way of the dinasours when you considered why they are going that route. I have watched my father in laws village go from a place where there were only two paved roads, periodic running water, periodic electricity, one telephone, no medical services within a 5 km radius and of course no internet to a place where almost all the roads are paved (all the main ones), there's running water and power almost always, there's a clinic in the village which provides the basics, everyone has a phone since there's cell phone availability and there's high speed internet. The quality of life in that village has risen a remarkable degree and the reason it's risen is the same reason low end guesthouses are dying off - the nation is more affluent.
FYI out in the countryside the short time "resorts" usually offer nightly rates around 300 baht. They're everywhere out here.
Given u have been to Loei you would know that cheap hotels r easy to find away from bangkok and the islands.
Bangkok gets an enormous amount of visitors which pushes prices up.
Given u can also speak Thai u can go to thai nightclub areas like ratchada and talk to thais. No need to hang out with backpackers on ksr.
For middle and upper class Thais, comfort and cleanliness are pretty much the deciding factor. It's not that Thais steer clear of guesthouses, they simply pick different, perhaps pricier ones - anything with the word "boutique" in its description, or is decorated along hipster lines, is bound to be a sure winner with the twenty-something white collar crowd. The exception to the rule tend to be university indie types who are happy to slum it, though you tend to only see them along the coast and in the more popular northern destinations (think Pai and Chiang Khan).
Another thing to keep in mind is that domestic tourists rarely take more than a weekend off and did not spend months saving up to do so, so splurging on accommodation is not as traumatic as it may seem for actual backpackers.
1,000 baht a day is a splurge if your daily budget is 1,000 baht.
Leonard if nothing else you're as consistent in your inability to comprehend that others may have different price points they enjoy travelling at as you are in you're apparent need to trash talk about those who prefer to spend less than you.
At all levels, regardless of if you want to spend $5 or $500 a night, SEAsia offers tremendous value and of course (duh) the prices in people's home countries are often considerably more. That's one of the reasons people are travelling here rather than there.
On my recent 18 day hostel trip in Singapore there were lots if Thais in under $30 hostels, so maybe/hopefully we 'll see more doing the same in their home country sooner than later.
#39 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,737
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Sam - if you get off the banana pancake trail there are plenty of cheap places, but no backpackers. They are out there, but you have to go to places other people don't go to - which of course pushes prices down. The thing is, if you go to these places you aren't going to see "amazing" things. Because there aren't very many. You are going to hang out in Thailand with Thais because that's what you feel like doing.
"On my recent 18 day hostel trip in Singapore there were lots if Thais in under $30 hostels, so maybe/hopefully we 'll see more doing the same in their home country sooner than later."
I think Leonard is correct in his assessment you might see that in places like Pai and Cha 'am but for the most part, it appears the trends are set.
I am not nostalgic for the "good ol' days" of super cheap places packed with backpackers, really cheap beer and really cheap women. Thailand is growing out of that an I think that's perfectly OK.
I don't agree with Leonard that everyone should be looking to spend 1,000 baht or more on a hotel (although like Leonard, that is what I do) , but I also object to the backpacker model of moving around SEA (if that's not obvious by now). I'm cool with them doing what they want, but I'm not cool with them claiming to be "into the culture" instead of lying on a beach, with this haughty attitude, and then actually not being into the culture at all but all grouping together in the "common room". I think that's farcical. I would prefer to hang out with beer swilling sex tourists - at least they're honest about what they are.
If a 300 baht room in 2004 is 500 baht now it might be 800 to 1000 baht in 2024.
Unrealistic to think 300 baht rooms is the future.
The best way to reduce the impact of price rises is to travel low season.
High season prices, especially at the islands get really jacked up.
Stayed at Mut Mee guesthouse two days ago while cruising through Nong Khai and while talking to the owner he said he has more educated Thais (Thais who had overseas experience) coming to stay. He said they are creating a new group who are interested in both the guesthouse environment and see it as an opportunity to meet non-Thais in a social setting. BTW this was a good place - a lot of fun.
I didn't either, but he says they do come. There was a guy from Africa there. I'll be going with my wife - we'll see if any other Thais are there. Oh wait, there was one Thai bar girl there with her customer. It was easily identifiable.
And it was too. BUT, I have to admit it did have a cool element to it, in spite of some of the clientelle. Almost every guy there had dreadlocks and every girl war wearing fishermans pants. They all looked like they got off the plane, went to Khao San Road to get their clothes and hair done before moving on... Almost like a uniform. They looked at my buddy and I, riding in on bikes bigger than Honda Waves, with a certain level of disgust. But the girl running the check in, who was quite attractive, was also very friendly to us our whole stay.
Well sometimes I like the upscale, some times I do cool funky as well. It depends on the place and my mood and whether or not my wife and daughter are with me.
BTWI rode back to Muk along the Mekong and two towns there that are really underrated - if they're rated at all - were Phon Pisai and Tha Uthen. These were towns with a really fun vibe to them. Not so small as to have no nightlife or no decent restaraunts but still upcountry without too much pace. NKP also remains a favorite, as does That Phanom. Beuatiful ride with a decent road (except the construction coming out of Nong Khai) and not heavily trafficked.
Ha ha MADMAC, that's funny!
Good to know things don't change much though. I got thoroughly snobbed off by the cool crowd at the Mut Mee in 2004. BTW Julian, the owner, used to spam the LP board back in those days.
I dropped in for lunch one day and unfortunately didn't know how their peculiar ordering and paying system worked. You can not imagine the contempt that that drew.
Anyway, most of the guests were like all bummed out man because the Lao border was like closed because of some conference. My heart bled.
Julian seemed OK. I got on with him fine.
The guy working the bar was cool.
The girl working check in was hot and cool. Very friendly. She loved the fact I spoke Thai.
I liked the environment and I don't care about the snooty backpacker types. Be what you want. But I did find their attitude a little funny. But whatever. No skin off my back. I'll go back with my daughter. She'd like it.
It's Thailand, there are Mosquitos. But actually I didn't see a single one. I could imagine at certain periods though where they could be a problem. But the rooms come with mosquito nets.
The place has a funky - cool feel to it. The rooms are rustic and simple. But mine was clean and pleasant with AC and not overpriced given the location.
I liked the staff. The guy from Guinea working the bar (Nielsen) was really a good guy. The girl working the desk was hot - always a plus for me - with a good attitude.
It's not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. I also liked Nong Khai . But it certainly has a lot more white people kicking around than Mukdahan has. I saw them all over the place in town. Here you can go all day without seeing one. Muk also is much busier, with a lot of traffic. Nong Khai had a slower paced feel to it. Don't know why.
After a recent trip to Chiang Mai, it sure made me appreciate where I live. Crappy dirt roads and all. The only foreigner I know of in a 20km radius is only there a few months of the year. Spends the rest down south on the coast. No restrauants here MM. The wife will sell noodles and other prepared food but she's kind of seasonal on it.
MM, I understand about the looking. :) Most of sex is mind **** anyway.
#57 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
None. Had a woman try to sell some things from a grass roof hut along the road but it didn't last long. I'm in the boonies man. I'm the only one with an internet and it's an aircard. Which this far out isn't very good. No videos. It's 3 dirt roads in and out. During the rainy season those pickins can get pretty slim. There is a little clinic about 5 km away but it's just to stablize you before sending you on. I had to laugh a little when I first came when my wife woud point out a few creatures that would kill me. She would just say "you die". I'd say you mean we have to go to the hospital and she would say "you die". We're too far out. LOL
#60 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
Warin Chamrap, then Ubon across the river. Takes us an hour to get to Warin.
#62 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
Kill ants. There's always something to keep me entertained. Weddings, local village festivals, funerals(gambling), or just tying one on with the guys. LOL About twice a year I'll go into Ubon for a night or two. I'm an old man Leonard, easy to keep entertained.
#64 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
LOL Well , I don't think I'm that far gone yet. A person does have to get their mind right to do it, I guess. I was the monkey in the zoo for the first 2 years. But now even people in the other villages don't stare as they go by.
#66 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
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