Bangkok, Bangkok. Unparalleled, unsurpassed, paradise, and most importantly to you, the Muay Thai capital of the world. You can’t quite call yourself a fan of the sport if you have never made a pilgrimage to the Big Mango, the Venice of the East, the City of Angels and numerous other monikers the city goes by.
Choosing a place to stay is often one of my -and probably your- immediate concerns when it comes to planning for a trip. Central Bangkok is linked by an efficient system of skytrains (BTS) and subway (MRT) that most visitors hardly need to venture beyond too far away to fully appreciate the city’s attractions. That’s why it makes a whole lot of sense to base yourself within easy walking distance to a BTS/MRT station.
On my earliest trip to Bangkok, I made the mistake of booking a value-for-money business hotel that is unfortunately, too far away from the convenient train stations. Imagine having to walk back to the hotel after a long day of sightseeing or hard training at a Muay Thai gym. Taking taxis to/within downtown Bangkok can be a nightmare in the infamous Bangkok traffic so it’s only recommended for places that are situated outside of the train network zone.
And of course, If you are looking to fit in some Muay Thai training on your trip, then there is no better guide than this. While some gyms offer on-site accommodation, I personally recommend staying in a more convenient location with access to easy transport, food, and the attractions for which the city is known. This is even more important for those visiting Bangkok for the first time – it’s a darn waste to not see the city’s many wonderful sights.
Many first-time visitors to Bangkok make the mistake of overestimating their physical conditioning and underestimating the Thailand heat. The hot, humid climate coupled with the open-air training will wear most people down. Even if you are planning to stay and train in Thailand for an extended period, it is best to ease into the training for the first week. It is recommended to train just once a day (instead of twice), preferably in the morning when it’s relatively cooler, and take the rest of the day off resting and relaxing. Most visitors tend to train in the afternoon as getting up early for the morning session can be arduous after a night of partying or sightseeing.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
To help you plan your next visit, I have identified the best areas in Bangkok along with some of my personal hotel recommendations. This list is compiled from numerous trips made to the city over the years along with recommendations from fellow Muay Thai vacationers. Even if the hotel doesn’t quite match your budget or personal preference, it gives you a good idea of where to base yourself for your vacation.
Training: Yokkao Training Center, Elite Fight Club, RSM Academy
Attractions: Nightlife, Khlong Toey Wet Market, Emquartier Mall, Terminal 21
Muay Thai Fights: MX Muay Xtreme at GMM Grammy Studios
Gear Shopping: Super Export Shop, Yokkao, Fairtex (Emquartier Q Stadium)
The Asoke area is hands down, one of my favorite areas to stay in Bangkok. Great food options, easy accessibility, unlimited hotel options of all classes, the nucleus of Bangkok’s infamous nightlife, and of course, proximity to several of the city’s most well-known Muay Thai gyms and gear shops. The stretch of Sukhumvit encompassing neighboring areas of Nana and Phrom Phong have tonnes of excellent accommodation options.
Regardless of your budget, there is bound to be one to match your needs. Anything from 5-star luxury hotels to hip dormitory hostels can be found here. Hotels here compete for your patronage and many constantly revamp themselves to stay attractive, as do most businesses in the whole area. There is a lot of great deals at all classes to be had if you know where to find.
You can start the day off with a jog at Benjakatti Park where the Yokkao fighters go for their daily run. Finish it off with a bowl of hot noodle soup before a thorough shower to get you ready for a day exploring the city’s attractions. The day wouldn’t be complete without a Muay Thai session in the afternoon. You can have a choice of the popular Yokkao Training Center or the solid Elite Fight Club. For beginners, there is the RSM Academy over at Jasmine City along Soi 23. Fuel up with a whole range of Thai gastronomical delights over at Pier 21 food court in Terminal 21 mall where food is tasty and price is cheap. After sundown, the city is your oyster.
If I have you convinced this is the area to stay, here are some of the hotels for your consideration:
This is a no-frills boutique hotel ideal for those who need a clean, quiet room that is close to the train stations (150 meters from BTS and 300 meters from MRT) and action. The place is run by a Belgian owner Gregory (picture above) who will receive you with a warm welcome and a bottle of cold refreshing water. You will find pretty much everything you need here from unlimited free bottled water, air-conditioning, fresh linen towels, bathroom amenities, free in-room WIFI, refrigerator, flat-screen TV and hair dryer upon request. Rooms are clean and free from any odor. The hotel is situated in an alley from Asok road and away from the main strip, so it’s close enough to the action but yet peaceful enough when you need it.
Cons: Breakfast is not provided but that is hardly a problem in Bangkok where food options are available at every turn, literally. There is no lift/elevator in this small hotel so you will be climbing plenty of steps especially if you stay on the higher floors (like I did). No worries about the luggage as the owner will personally lend a hand. The lack of a safe box may also put some people off but this is an honest establishment so it’s not an issue.
On my last trip, I managed to score a good deal on Agoda where I found a single room for just 22 usd per night! This may not be a full-fledged business hotel but for those on a budget, this is one of the best deals in this area.
If you are looking for a little more comfort and space, then this is an absolutely great option. Again, this is not another characterless business hotel. The modest 12-room boutique hotel offers rooms that rivals any 3- or 4-star lodging, with free breakfast, a fitness center, an inviting outdoor pool, safety deposit boxes, a bar, dry cleaning services, free WIFI and pretty much everything else you expect from a typical hotel stay. This is a fairly new hotel that is only 2 years old so everything’s in tip top condition.
Cons: There were some reports of poor WIFI connection in the room but I personally experienced no problem so this could be an intermittent issue. Breakfast is not really worth waking up for but there are plenty of food options around that this isn’t a major issue.
Price-wise, this hotel can match larger, more well-known hotel chains. However, they are great value when on offer with large savings. Set a price alert so you can monitor the price. If not, the rooms average around 70usd per night which is a reasonable price for its location and standards. Check prices here.
Andy Newall is the head Muay Thai coach at Hertford Combat Academy and Fight Sports UK with twenty plus years experience in Muay Thai. He is a frequent visitor to Bangkok and he recommends a hotel located a few minutes away from Asok, near to Nana BTS station.
“I stayed in Aloft Bangkok along Sukhumvit Soi 11 near to Nana BTS station on my most recent visit. It was fantastic value for money, five-star in my opinion and very central for the skytrain. The hotel is super modern and offers an amazing breakfast.“
2. On Nut
Training Options: Attachai Gym (15 minutes by taxi), Eminent Air Boxing Gym (2 stations away at Punnawithi)
Attractions: Massage street
Gear Shopping: Boon Sport
While there isn’t a hell lot going on at On Nut, it’s just a few stations away from downtown Sukhumvit where the action is at and yet far away to feel markedly more peaceful. Hotels here are of exceptional value and many long-staying expats rent an apartment in this area. You have all the amenities you need here, and with the cheapest massage in metro Bangkok, On Nut is on track to becoming my favorite place to stay. If you plan on being in Bangkok for a while, this is a great area to be to stay sane.
For its price, this is about the best hotel stay you can find anywhere in central Bangkok. At least from my own experience.
The bright rooms are quiet, clean, devoid of odors, and the cable tv channels actually work. There is a nice desk for those who want to get some work done, like myself. This was about the most perfect stay I had in Bangkok for the price point. There are a few other hotels along the same street that I imagine would be of similar standards. But I won’t bother because I have already found this amazing resting spot. Just remember to ask for a room facing the back of the hotel.
Cons: Other than the sweaty walk to the hotel from the On Nut skytrain station when you first arrived, there is absolutely nothing to fault about this hotel. The hotel provides an hourly tuk-tuk service to take you to (or pick you from) the main street where the skytrain station sits. The tuk-tuk did break down once during my stay and inconvenienced the poor Chinese tourists who were checking out. With their excessively large luggage, I imagine it was a nightmare walking to the skytrain station. But it’s an easy walk if you are without any heavy portage.
Free bottled water, speedy internet connection, this is about as good as it can ever possibly get. The best part? Paying just 23usd per night at the hotel, all in. This was because I found a great deal, as usual, using Agoda, to seek out the best prices. If you need a well-rested sleep every night, look no further.
3. National Stadium
Training Options: NIL
Attractions: Shopping Malls, and more shopping malls. Jim Thompson House is also a famous attraction.
Muay Thai Fights: MBK Fight Nights (irregular schedule)
Gear Shopping: Action Zone, Thai Battle Boxing, SKS Empire, Copa (Windy), Fairtex (I’M Park)
If shopping and dining is your thing, then the area around the National Stadium extending to Siam is a definite ideal option. This area also has one of the best congregation of Muay Thai gear shops anywhere in Bangkok, with some of the best deals in Thailand. While there are no Muay Thai gyms in the area, the area is central enough that it would take no more than 20 minutes on the skytrain to find a decent one to train at.
There are many classy hotels in the area and as many mid-tier options. When it comes to budget rooms, this area has experienced a bit of drought over the years. I used to stay in this area when I first visited Bangkok 10 years back and I remember a few low-cost options. Those days are now over with just a couple of run-down guesthouses left that aren’t even worth the effort mentioning.
There are merits to staying in this area, mainly with the proximity to malls and endless restaurants. If you can afford it, there are lots of good hotels here and its centralized location makes it convenient as a base to explore the rest of the city.
Since you are in this upmarket area, might as well go for a 5-star stay. This is situated in a very strategic spot just right next to the Ratchathewi BTS station and minutes from Siam shopping area. Pretentious hotel name aside, the Sofitel brand is a trusted name in the hospitality sector and the VIE Hotel lives up to all expectations.
I stayed here on a previous trip with the family. Not my usual style as I tend to travel with a modest budget when I’m on Muay Thai vacations. You will certainly appreciate the luxury and excessive comfort especially after a day of sightseeing and a whipping-good Muay Thai session.
On top of the usual stuff like daily newspaper, bottled water, toiletries, coffee maker, and WIFI, you can also expect lovely city views and a spacious bath tub to end the day with.
Cons: What’s there to complain about? Price, maybe if you are concerned about budget (costs around 140usd per night but deals can be found now and then). It’s a holiday. Why not just go on and give yourself a well-deserved treat? Reasonably priced compared to hotels of similar standing in Europe and US, given that it’s 5-star.
4. Khao San Road
Training Options: Sor Vorapin Gym 1, Jaroethong Muay Thai Gym (both catered towards tourist-beginners)
Attractions: Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Amulet Market, Sriraj Medical Museum, Chao Phraya River
Muay Thai Fights: Rajadamnern Stadium
Gear Shopping: Rajadamnern Stadium
To be completely honest, this is not my favorite area to stay in. There may be a lot of accommodation options and priced for budget-conscious travelers but in truth, are usually not very value-for-money. You will find an entire street of hostels and guest houses, most of which have seen better days. But this remains the backpacker central of Bangkok and there are good reasons to stay here.
If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, then Khao San road can be a good base to visit the city’s most famous sights like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and explore the city’s water-scape on the Chao Praya express boat. Its proximity to Rajadamnern stadium gets another thumbs up as you can walk to the historical landmark for a night of Live Muay Thai action without having to deal with the horrendous traffic sitting in a cab.
There are a few night markets here with all the famous Thai street foods and knick-knacks. You can also find numerous western options for those missing the taste of home. Like many people, Khao San road was my first impression of Bangkok and I can’t say I liked it at all. Pushy touts, rampant scams around the famous sights, and drunken backpackers. The Khao San scene is not my thing and when I revisited in November (2017), it just reconfirmed my aversion towards it. The whole area is heavy on partying mood with the young backpacker crowd, so if that’s your thing, go for it.
I suppose that if you are looking to stay here, you would be a tad concerned about budgeting. Single rooms can be found here for around 15-20 usd especially off of the main Khao San drag. I stayed here at Amarin Inn which can be quite hard to locate since it’s down an inconspicuous, narrow alley. (Google Maps took me to a dead end) but it was only 15usd for a night.
The place is typical of guesthouses in the area: tired decor and crampy rooms. Very basic. Air-conditioning did work but not the TV. WIFI was a bit iffy in the room. There’s no elevator so it’s a good workout each time you come back. Its saving grace is the lovely staff and welcoming reception.
Cons: Pre-dawn wake-up call from the muezzin (there’s a sizeable Muslim population in this area) but I managed to fall asleep after that. Other than that, a quiet location if you don’t have banging-loud neighboring guests.
For a night, this was bearable. But you are probably better off along the main strip for the party at a similar-standard guesthouse or the ibis Hotel along the parallel Rambutri alley.
I used to use Tripadvisor to compare prices among the online hotel booking platforms but after a while, I realised that I was always using Agoda. There are always great deals to be found on Agoda which I personally use to book for all of my hotels for every single trip now. The trick I use is to first shortlist a few hotels a month prior to my trip and then monitor the prices daily or just get price alerts for each hotel sent via email by enabling the feature. Prices can vary wildly for the same hotel so don’t rush into booking and use the price alert. Look for this icon:
Many bookings can be booked first and payment will only be credited from your credit card a few days prior to the hotel stay. Additionally, there is often a free cancellation feature so you can cancel your existing booking and rebook at a better rate when you see one. Look out for both features before you book. I signed up as an agoda affiliate because I have compared Agoda against Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Asia Travel and CTrip and Agoda often edges out in terms of the best prices. Agoda for the win!
There is no shortage of hotels to choose from but the seemingly endless options can be overwhelming. Tourism accounts for almost 20% of the country’s GDP so the hoteliers that are ranking well with tourists clearly know what they are doing to stand out. All you have to do now, is to identify the right area to base yourself and you have a whole list of hotels to choose from.
Hopefully this article gives you a better idea of where to stay for your trip to what is possibly the most alluring cities in the world. Booking a hotel in Bangkok is the easy part. As the song goes, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Welcome to Bangkok.