I am wondering what experiences folks might have of hotels in the royal city area (‘aka’ Rattanakosin) in Bangkok. This area is so interesting, especially in the southern neighborhoods, the markets, the area around the ‘amulet market’ between the Pinklao Bridge and Thammasat University. The river walk between Thammasat and Phra Athit Fort is great. It is a great walking area. In addition, not so apparent to firsttime visitors is the incredible mobility afforded by way of the river ferries which stop all along the river front at designated piers. One pier in particular (Tha Chang) is a launch pad for klong tours in Thonburi, across the river. These piers also have ‘cross-river’ ferries to take you across the river to Wat Arun, Siriraj Hospital area, etc. Even less known by many is the San Saeb canal ferry which begins at the Phan Fah bridge just off Rajadamneon Avenue and can take you (for 14 baht) to Pratunam and all the shopping around that very commercial area. An onward canal ferry can take one all the way to Ramkhamhaeng University, about a 30 minute trip, for another 20 baht (as of June 2008). The river ferries and the San Saeb canal ferry give access to subway and skytrain stations, expanding mobility greatly.
So, the question is, where to stay in Rattanakosin in a quiet, safe, comfortable accomodation, beyond the cultural vortex of Khao San Road’s guest house, travel agency scene? I’ve been staying at the Royal Hotel, but am constantly on the lookout for alternatives in case the Royal decides to go upscale or closes. So, I am wondering what impressions people might have of the alternatives in the area that are in the same ‘mid-range’ hotels in the area.. I’ve looked at the New Siam Riverside, and the new Navalai River Resort, both on Phra Athit Road. I’ve checked out the Boonsri Palace on Boonsri Street (‘behind’ the Royal Hotel). They look nice, but their rates are higher than the 1200 or so one can book the Royal for online (via Travelfish portal).
The Royal Hotel has location, location, and location in its favor. It’s close to many marqui temples and museums, close to the river piers (for the ferries) and across the street from Bangkok’s ceremonial center and recreational magnet, the Sanam Luang.
The Royal has been down in the mouth in the past several years, partly due to the uncertainties over its lease from the royal family, or the crown properties bureau which is the dominant landlord in the area. The uncertainties have been solved and some physical upgrades are visible – a new lift, new carpets and furniture, etc. The Royal was built in the 1930's I think and the hotel has not been gutted and done over as one might have expected from a more ambitious owner/lessee. The Royal is mostly a warm place, whose staff are helpful and friendly. The hotel offers a breakfast buffet which is sumptuous. Internet service is available for a fee. Laundry can be arranged for same day return. They have a pool on the premises. Every room has a small refrigerator, and to help you fill it, a 7-11 is located 50 meters from the front door. The beds are comfortable, something the reviews in the rough guide and lonely planet neglect entirely. One can book the Royal from most travel agents and through the travelfish online reservation portal anywhere from 1150 to 1800 baht for the same twin room. You’ll be quoted 1800 at the front desk if you show up without a reservation or inquire directly. A lot of bargaining occurs over this subject and last month the rates charged (the patrons I spoke with) varied between 1150 and 1800. The travel agency in the lobby of the Royal can book for you in the lower range. The people at this travel agency desk are very helpful and informative.
Across the way from the travel agency desk is their opposite: A bunch of older men who contract with the hotel for their space and (apparently) a license to overcharge and underserve a gullible clientele of hotel patrons... once. Every time you even approach the front door of the hotel these guys will pepper you with ‘taxi,’ ‘where are you going,’ etc. Research will reveal that every destination in Bangkok on their price list is about 2-3 times what a ‘meter-taxi’ will charge you. Most of their cars are clapped out and have insufficient air conditioning and upholstery to warrant the terms. Meter taxis, available just outside, will convey you in greater comfort at less cost, and leave you without the feeling that you are prey. The Royal management appears not to ‘get’ that these clever operators reflect badly on the hotel.
There are a couple of decent restaurants close by on Rajadamnoen Avenue. One is the Sky High, which menu ranges from western to Thai. It’s become a family-oriented restaurant having recently added outside tables. It’s a big place, with English menus. The rest of the dining opportunities within a close walk are on Thanon Dinso and Thanon Tanao. These are worth exploring... most of the streetside restaurants have an English or picture menu even though their signs are all in Thai.
I would recommend the Royal. It’s a local institution with a certain amount of charm. It would be nice to stay on the river without staying paying the boutique rates. It would be nice for a change, anyway. Anyone have any impressions recommendations of the mid-range alternatives in the area?
#1 scomoore1 has been a member since 30/7/2006. Posts: 33