When I’m really excited to go somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, I can’t help but have the urge to plan out all the details farther in advance than might be necessary. Do you know the feeling? It makes the trip feel sooner, and frankly makes waiting easier. This was the case when I went to Thailand a few months ago, as I’d wanted to travel there for SO long.
I reached out to friends who had been before, but they’d all either stayed at really fancy and expensive resorts or, on the other end of the spectrum, were backpacking and therefore mostly stayed at hostels. Since flashpacking is all about finding that “Goldilocks” middle ground, I didn’t have anyone to recommend some hotels that fit what I was looking for.
The following are the hotels I stayed in, but I know there are plenty more fantastic hotels that also fit the flashpacker criteria in Thailand. Note that these are generally mid-range hotels and not ultra luxury nor hostels. If like me, you prefer staying in hotels in order to have your own space, but don’t have the budget for 5-star properties (although in Thailand it may still feel like it), these are perfect for you.
This is not a sponsored endorsement – just some recommendations I wish I had when planning my trip. Of course there’s always reviews you can use on TripAdvisor and Yelp, but these are at least coming from someone you can interact with, and they’re all condensed into one post, rather than having to search by area. Plus because this isn’t sponsored, I can give 100% honest feedback including both pros and cons for each. Please feel free to drop me a line if you have any further questions or feedback! :)
• Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, Bangkok
When I first arrived in Bangkok, I had arranged to stay at a hotel that I won’t name, and wound up being in a pretty shady area. Bangkok, shady area…..you get the picture. Then I met some British expats that recommended staying nearby the Chao Phraya River to lift my spirits. As a Starwood Preferred Guest, the choice was clear after that, and I chose the Royal Orchid Sheraton. I have many friends that will agree Starwood treats it’s SPG members extraordinarily.
The Royal Orchid Sheraton has several floors dedicated just to it’s members. Of course there’s also the free wifi, and my favorite, the complimentary breakfast buffet/afternoon hors d’oeuvres at the Club Lounge, which offered views like this over Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River:
Speaking of views, the one from my room wasn’t terrible either:
The location of the Royal Orchid Sheraton is also pretty optimal. It’s next door to the River City Complex, which is Bangkok’s largest resource for antique Buddha’s with several dedicated floors to such. There’s some cheap massage places there too. You can reach the River City Complex without having to even step outside. How convenient for the monsoon season?
But if the weather does hold up and you would like to step outside, may I recommend the hotel’s riverfront pool? Very “Brokedown Palace” (the beginning, though, not the end):
The hotel’s location right on the Chao Phraya river also provides easy ferry service to several different parts of Bangkok, including the ever popular Wat Pho and Grand Palace.
• Maehaad Bay Resort, Koh Phangan
I want to start off with a warning for any solo travelers reading this post: the Maehaad Bay Resort is not for you. I stayed there alone, and was asked at least six times at check-in if anyone else would be joining me. I also had to explain that I only needed a table for one several times each morning at breakfast. Unfortunately, this hotel does not cater well to solo travelers. In fact, I think solo travelers (particularly women) simply just perplexed the staff there. But I would still recommend this property to non-solo travelers since the service for couples and families seemed to be significantly better.
The whole Resort is appointed with beautiful teak furniture and plenty of frangipanis that deliver a Southeast Asian sense of place. Just watch out for the relentless flies at breakfast (and lunch and dinner if you decide not to leave the hotel at all).
In addition to the Resort, I’d also recommend staying anywhere on Maehaad Bay for reasons of pure beauty, as it is directly adjacent to Ko Ma which you might remember from my instagram post:
This ranks as one of the most beautiful places in the world to watch a sunset. If you’d like to get away from Full Moon Party Beach of Haad Rin, or are instead looking for somewhere to recover after the Full Moon Party, this is the perfect beach in the north Koh Phangan. Here’s another photo purely for your viewing pleasure:
• The Hammock, Koh Samui
I’m not happy to be including this incredibly low-key hotel on this list, because I intended to fully keep it a secret just for myself. The Hammock was one of the best places I’ve ever stayed. I didn’t intend to stay long on Koh Samui because it’s touristy reputation made me apprehensive. But then I found The Hammock and stayed for nearly a week. I could’ve easily stayed way longer, if not indefinitely.
Situated on Mae Nam beach, far enough from Chaweng to not have to deal with a lot of the riffraff, but still close enough to grab a cheap taxi for a little partying at Ark Bar. The Hammock is also just a two-minute walk from some great restaurants, pubs, and a 7-eleven, so if you’d rather stay out of Chaweng during your whole visit, that’s completely feasible.
Now let’s talk about the beach which was, hands down, the best beach I’ve ever been to in my life. With Koh Phangan in the distance, it created a serene lagoon-like atmosphere devoid of any waves where you can float in bathtub temperature water for hours on end. My hands had never been so prune-y. Luckily, each bungalow is just a few steps away from the shoreline if you need to get out of the sun for a little while.
I couldn’t complain about the restaurant onsite, either. Cheap Thai dishes as well as some limited Western fare were done quite well. One of my favorites in particular was the fried noodles (pad si ew) with squid:
Now, enjoy dining on that while watching this:
• Casa De Mar, Koh Samui
Although it was a difficult task to drag me away from The Hammock, a group of Australian friends I met convinced me to spend my last night on Koh Samui with them at their hotel, Casa De Mar, on Chaweng Beach. Although it’s a much busier area, Chaweng Beach is still resplendent with turquoise water to wade in for hundreds of feet and exudes that overall euphoric feeling of paradise.
In contrast to the other places I stayed on Koh Samui, the vibe at this hotel was very Euro-cool and littered with gorgeous Europeans that somehow manage to look hot no matter what they’re doing, including activities like kitesurfing where it’s difficult for the rest of us to look at all attractive. There was also a good share of house music.
The bar and restaurant at Casa De Mar are quite overpriced, but you’re just a 10-minute walk from the heart of Chaweng, where you can hit the Night Market for some delicious yet cheap treats.
• Koh Samui Resort, Koh Samui
Despite it’s name which implies it’s at the center of everything, the Koh Samui Resort is extremely secluded and mostly feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. That being said, if you’re looking for the castaway experience, this just might be your spot and the reason I decided to include this hotel on the list. Here, take a look:
This was also the site of my infamous Honeymoon Suite upgrade, which as a solo traveler, isn’t really that much fun. But the room and the staff at the Koh Samui Resort were quite charming, and after a couple cocktails at dinner, I got over myself and was appreciative that I’d received an upgrade.
• Khum Jao Luang Boutique Hotel, Chiang Mai
I tried staying in a hostel in Chiang Mai. I really tried. But that life just isn’t for me. It’s not really the communal aspect of it all, either, because I did meet some cool people at the hostel I stayed at. But it was moreso the hostel staff that try to jam tours and treks to see elephants and tigers down your throat everytime you’re within earshot of reception.
Needless to stay, after two nights of this, I hightailed it out of there and booked a stay at the Khum Jao Luang Boutique Hotel, which was a decision mostly based on location to the renowned Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. As soon as I arrived, though, I wish I’d known about this place in advance so that I could’ve come straight there and spent more than one night.
This hotel is sexy. The rooms have a boudoir feel to them, and the bathrooms each have a legitimate bathtub, which was something I hadn’t seen for quite some time in Thailand.
Speaking of the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, it is not to be missed. While it might take a few days to be able to cover it all, even if you’re on limited time, you should still give it a visit. This is one-stop shopping for all your Thai souvenirs, and I saw things for sale here that I didn’t see anywhere else in Thailand. I’d say the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is on the same scale as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul – seemingly never-ending and chock full of cheap great finds. Don’t forget to do a bit of haggling, but not too much. In many instances what you’re arguing over can be equivalent to 50 cents.
As you can see, unfortunately I didn’t make it to the Andaman Coast of Thailand including Krabi, Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Railey, etc. But I hope to in the future, at which point I’ll update this guide. Have you stayed at a hotel in Thailand that you think meets the “Goldilocks” criteria? Or have you stayed at one of the hotels mentioned and have something to add? Tell me about it in the comments below!