We earned our backpacker spurs our first time around in Bangkok by flopping down in some real holes. We were grateful for them too. On our first night in the city, in 2003, we arrived and experienced our first and only night of real homelessness on that trip.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers drove us close in Auckland. We had left that city to head to the Bay of Islands and on our return learned the band was in town. Everywhere was full. On that occasion the staff at the ACB Hostel in Auckland knew we would have paid for a night’s accommodation were a room available. Our faces were familiar from our previous stay so when they threw out everyone trying to sleep in any available space in the common room we were given a subtle nod to stay put.
Chinese New Year caused our sleepless night in Bangkok. After the cliché of a fight with a cheating airport taxi driver, we wandered the streets with a French Canadian and a Swede rescuing shoeless, drugged robbery victims until we camped in a bar until hostel turnover time next morning. The room we eventually got on the Khao San Road was so tiny that when we pushed the two single beds together the door wouldn’t shut and an ill placed footstep centimetres outside would have sent us tumbling down a flight of stairs. Later we moved to Soi Ram Buttri, the road that winds around the temple just across from one entrance to the KSR. Though our rooms there were better they were still small and sticky.
Bangkok was also the last night overseas we spent on our whole around the world trip. At one point we were a pretty decent advert for the good things travel can do for the body but the health and vitality accrued from good food, exercise and sunshine over the course of that year were partly lost on the final night in Bangkok to such vehement bedbug bites that Deirdre needed a course of antibiotics. Scabby, infected legs didn’t encourage any of our friends to follow our example and go travelling.
Though I liked Bangkok the first time around, Deirdre wasn’t so enchanted for many of these reasons but thanks largely to our stay this time with Lub d, rated by The Observer as one of the coolest hangout hostels in the world, she has reconciled herself to the city. Once the main sightseeing is over, Bangkok is a city many like to get in and out of quickly but we stuck around for 13 days sampling the different areas, the street food and the food courts and were in no rush to leave.
We still experienced what we call the Bangkok curse but our spacious room dispersed much of the negativity. This time the curse ambushed us at the airport. We forgot to tell our banks in the UK we were visiting Thailand and they took it upon themselves to withhold our money. It was only the last minute finds while packing of left over euros from our visa runs to Greece and dollars from our time in ATMless Iraq that we had currency to change into Baht and see us out of the airport in Bangkok’s Skytrain.
I should mention at this point that Lub d provided us with a complimentary stay in both their Siam Square and Silom hostels. This is a clever thing to do. It shows they get social media and travel bloggers and while this doesn’t make the beds any more comfortable it shows they are in tune with the little touches that make or break a new face in Bangkok’s accommodation market.
A quick google shows we are not alone in being offered the chance to add our opinion on Lub d. We walk in the shoes, or, more pertinently, have slept in the beds of, among others, SEA Backpacker, Hole in the Donut and Wild Junket. Like us I’m sure these bloggers gave their opinions untainted by favour. With that in mind here is our view on Lub d:
Professional and hospitable
We noticed Lub d’s professionalism throughout both hostels from Nalin, our marketing contact, to the reception staff and the cleaners. Having in the past experienced cleaners so off message they would hold loud morning conservations from the extreme ends of each side of their hotel I thought it said a great deal about Lub d that even their lowest paid members of staff were without exception cheerful, helpful and competent. I suspect plenty of time is spent training all staff in knowing what we backpackers want and don’t want.
The two hostels are the future of backpacking in Bangkok as the industry moves away from the cheap flop houses of the past to the branded professionalism seen for decades in Australia and New Zealand. On the desk English fluent staff were both helpful and friendly. This and the free Skype phone (a nice touch) provided at reception in the Silom hostel helped to solve our banking problem. Though we missed most of the events held in both hostels these too suggest a tilt to the Australian style organisation of social events that I’m sure will help solo travellers break the ice with their contemporaries. This, combined with the hostel bar and the common areas help to create a good vibe about the place.
Putting the Jobs Abroad Bulletin together, plus some other overdue work and a bit of illness, meant we spent more time in our rooms than we would otherwise have liked but if we had to stay inside this was the place to do it. On both occasions we were given a private double room with bathroom to road test and were pleased with the space provided, particularly in the Silom hostel where, for a hostel room in Bangkok, the space was particularly generous.
The room in Silom easily accommodated our two (fairly big) backpacks, our day bags and had enough space to spread our crap about the place as, day by day, the room became more lived in. There was a little more climbing over each other in Siam Square but we felt the smaller room was more cleverly designed to maximise the lesser space. Silom was light and airy with a large window that looked down on tuk tuk drivers at play while the other room looked onto a nearby wall and was quite dark.
I had room to work while Deirdre had a TV with channels that might actually be worth watching to keep herself amused. Both rooms displayed a clever functionality to maximise space though I felt by placing the sink in the bedroom rather than the bathroom a little bit of cheating was involved. This made lady stuff and personal moments with a mirror a bit more difficult and more of each other’s little mysteries have been solved by the other. Water also splashed and got trod around the room. The good, warm and strong shower and the toilet were in small separate cupboard sized spaces and could have been a touch more private – head sized holes in the doors, slightly above head height were an odd feature in Siam Square.
On the other hand, hotel style touches included drinking water and toilet paper provided daily and the rooms kept well stocked with soap and shampoo. Both beds were comfortable. Safes in the room and a key card entry system to the stairway added a sense of security and a women only dorm, again with its own keycarded entrance, is available.
Connecting to the internet is obviously important for me and while the wifi is free, fast enough and reaches the room it wasn’t possible to connect two devices at one time. If I was online on the laptop, Deirdre had to be offline on the iPod. Setting it up initially was a problem because the password page didn’t always come up automatically but once I bookmarked the page and could access at will I was happy with it.
Though I like the Khao San Road area for its proximity to the river and main sights, we enjoyed exploring different areas of the city. Silom, the commercial district of Bangkok, offers good food options and, though it is well removed in atmosphere, the seediness of the Patpong area is only a short walk away.
For travellers wanting somewhere safe and convenient to stay on first arrival in Bangkok the Siam Square hostel really couldn’t be better placed with the BTS skytrain literally outside the front entrance. And travellers enjoying a last shopping spree before heading home will not be far from the main shopping centres.
Here Lub d falls down a little but you do get what you pay for. The thing about cheap, pokey rooms is that they are just that: cheap.
In a nutshell
The Good: clean, comfortable, friendly and helpful. Good locations and vibe.
The Bad: odd bathroom layout and not cheap.
I mentioned in the above piece that our stay with Lub d was complimentary but it bears repeating again here in case you missed it