Bangkok at a Price That's Right
'Hood: Soi Ari, in the northern part of the city. It's an up-and-coming area that still has a distinctly Thai flavor. Artsy cafés jostle for space with traditional noodle shops.
First Impression: A celebration of camp--its exterior is painted shocking pink--Reflections blazed the trail for Bangkok's thriving boutique-hotel scene when it opened in October 2004. The lantern-lit pool area is still a hotspot. Smartly dressed locals meet there for after-work cocktails.
The Rooms: Owner Anusorn Ngernyuang's artist friends decorated the 33 rooms. The Taj Mahal is painted red and has silk lanterns, gauze curtains, and doorways cut in the shape of Mughal arches. Freak Show features graffiti-covered orange walls, spray-painted couches, and Japanese vinyl toys.
Plus: If you fall in love with the pint-size, pink Venus de Milo in your room, buy it. Much of the quirky furniture and accessories is for sale.
Minus: In a few cases, form trumps function. The Post Industrial room is cool-looking but too austere to be comfortable.
Details: 81 Soi Ari, Phaholyothin 7 Rd., 011-66/2-270-3344, reflections-thai.com, from $80, includes breakfast.
'Hood: Phra Nakorn, a section of Old Bangkok with Buddhist temples and ramshackle wood houses. Khao San Road is a backpacker hangout.
First Impression: With a quiet location, lush garden, and unhurried service, Phranakorn Nornlen has evoked the slow pace of rural life since late 2005. The manager, Barisara Mahakayi, is passionate about creating peaceful surroundings for her guests.
The Rooms: Rooms put recycled materials to good use, like the terra-cotta pots that have been turned into sinks. Beds are on traditional wooden platforms and dotted with colorful silk throw pillows, and pastel walls are painted with murals of lotuses, birds, and trees.
Plus: The hotel supports the community by limiting services. There's no laundry, for example: You're directed to shops nearby.
Minus: There are lots of mosquitoes in the garden, especially right after the rainy season (June to October).
Details: 46 Soi Thewet 1, Krung Kasem Rd., 011-66/2-628-8188, phranakorn-nornlen.com, from $60, includes breakfast.
'Hood: Sukhumvit, one of Bangkok's main drags. Restaurants and condos are cheek by jowl with girlie bars and souvenir stalls.
First Impression: Opened in March 2006, the Eugenia exudes unapologetic nostalgia for the days of the British Raj (even though Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by a European power). There are game trophies, a tiger-skin rug, and sepia-colored maps.
The Rooms: The 12 suites are furnished with antiques, including hand-beaten copper tubs and four-poster beds. Modern amenities include flat-screen TVs, free broadband, and well-stocked minibars. Several rooms overlook the courtyard and swimming pool.
Plus: You can pay to be chauffeured around in one of the owner's vintage Mercedes-Benzes or Jaguars.
Minus: The Eugenia can't completely shut out the nuisances of modern life. Next to the hotel are a large construction site and an occasionally smelly canal.
Details: 267 Soi 31, Sukhumvit Rd., 011-66/2-259-9011, theeugenia.com, from $163, includes breakfast.
'Hood: Rattanakosin Island, home to Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and the flower market, Pak Klong Talad.
First Impression: At the end of a dozy lane of cream-colored row houses that double as stores, the small waterfront property feels removed from modern high-rise Bangkok. The Arun's open lobby is especially inviting, with ceiling fans, comfy armchairs, and a selection of magazines.
The Rooms: The five rooms are done in a tasteful colonial style, with clapboard walls and wide-plank floors. All offer spectacular views of the 18th-century Wat Arun temple across the river. The top-floor Arun Suite has a private deck.
Plus: Arun's riverside restaurant, the Deck, has earned a following for its Thai-French cuisine. Reservations a must.
Minus: The boat traffic on the river is picturesque, but it's also extremely noisy.
Details: 36-38 Soi Pratu Nokyung, Maharat Rd., 011-66/2-221-9158, arunresidence.com, from $83, includes breakfast.
'Hood: Near Silom Road, the heart of a bustling business and nightlife district. Office workers in suits crowd the sidewalks during the day, while nightfall brings out tourists and club hoppers.
First Impression: In 2005, architect and designer Dusadee Srishevachart gutted two town houses to create a style-conscious look. The result combines Japanese minimalism and Scandinavian functionality.
The Rooms: Polished wood, chrome, and glass dominate the 13 rooms; also, expect flat-screen TVs, CD/DVD players, and free Wi-Fi. In suites and studios, the bathroom is partitioned with sliding wall panels, allowing guests to watch TV from the barrel-like tub.
Plus: The firm, king-size "beds of heaven" are dressed in crisp linens and down duvets.
Minus: Rooms in the back get less natural light--especially those on the second floor, where windows are blocked by a neighboring building.
Details: 6/11 Decho Rd., 011-66/2-635-8800, staywithluxx.com, from $93, includes breakfast.