Linger at Loy La Long: One of Bangkok’s Best Boutique Hotels
It’s rare that a hotel is the star of the show: more often than not, it’s where you grab a good night’s sleep and hopefully a decent breakfast before heading out for the day’s adventures – particularly so if you’re on a budget. And in a buzzing city like Bangkok, it’s even rarer that the hotel overshadows its surroundings, and becomes one of your favourite memories from the trip. Nevertheless, there are always exceptions – and Loy La Long, a gorgeous old teak guesthouse near Bangkok’s Chinatown, is one of them.
For our first trip to Thailand last year, and for the first place I booked, I selected Loy La Long – largely based on its place in The Guardian’s list of top budget Bangkok accommodation. In a city increasingly covered in towering concrete and fairly soulless imprints of hotel chains that can be found anywhere else in the world, it was important to me that we stayed somewhere unique: somewhere quintessentially Thai, that gave us a feel of another side of Bangkok. I was particularly interested in Chinatown as a location anyway, after hearing it still retained some of its old-town vibe and had generally resisted the creep of gentrification and the influence of tourism, so when I found that Loy La Long was situated on the edge of the area and – even better – right on the famous Chao Phraya river itself, I was smitten.
The hotel itself takes some finding, and despite the cost, I would recommend going with the offer of a pick-up from the airport if this is your first visit. Being the plucky (i.e. foolish) adventurer that I am, I decided that a regular taxi would be fine for us. Unfortunately the taxi driver had even less of an idea of its location than we did, and we found ourselves wandering the streets of Chinatown at night, boiling hot and dragging massive suitcases. The reason behind this confusion became clear when a kindly local pointed us in the right direction: the hotel is actually situated inside the grounds of a working temple, Wat Prathoomkongkha.
Tugging our cases down a narrow alleyway between houses, with stray cats and friendly dogs sniffing around us, I began to wonder quite what I’d brought us to, but once we stepped inside, slipped off our shoes to feel the warm, worn teak wood beneath our feet, and spotted the Chao Phraya sweeping by outside the large airy windows, I knew I’d scored a stunner.
With seven rooms of varying sizes and drop-dead gorgeous lounge areas upstairs and down, you feel more like you’re staying in your cool friend’s bohemian pad than a hotel, and the unfailingly kind and helpful owners and staff only add to the place’s charm. Beautiful art, curious collectables and brightly coloured fabrics add a quirky sense of style and character to this otherwise thoroughly Thai teak house. The seven rooms are referred to by colour, (Green; Black; Blue; and so on) and offer accommodation ranging from a plush double to a budget single, with a larger option for groups and families too. Our room (The Blue Room) was situated on the first floor of the building, with a low, comfortable bed and wide windows looking out to the water. The bathroom was also lovely: modern and super clean but with stylish touches. The deep blue colour of the walls contrasted perfectly with the dark tones of the wood that’s in evidence everywhere, and an ornate gold sink finished the look off perfectly. A large window provides a discrete vantage point over the river, and despite there being shutters for privacy, I secretly rather liked showering whilst watching Bangkok sail up and down on the water outside. (Quite what the folks on the river made of this I don’t know. As far as I’m aware there were no complaints…) We even had a mini balcony that we could sit on, although we spent most of our time in the shared lounge gazing out at the view.
The communal areas at Loy La Long really are its highlights, and it seemed that the few other guests we saw whilst we stayed were as drawn to them as we were. Filled with low-lying, comfy chairs and bean bags, it’s a perfect spot for relaxing after a long day of exploring, and is possibly the most chilled place I’ve ever been to. The staff will happily provide you with heaped bowls of awesome curries (the food here was among the best we had in Thailand) for next to no price at all, and there’s also an honesty fridge filled with beers and soft drinks. There is a stack of DVDs free for borrowing if you’d rather retreat to your room, and various musical instruments can also be found around the lounge if you’d prefer to make your own entertainment. Listening to the river lapping against the old wooden structure whilst you sip a cold drink is probably all you’ll want to do however, and with very good reason indeed…
I was a paying guest at Loy La Long and the opinions above are my own – if you’d like to visit too, check out their lovely website and treat yourself to a unique stay in Bangkok.
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