Q: My wife and I are planning a heritage exploration of Thailand. Our broad itinerary: Land in Bangkok and immediately proceed to Ayutthaya. 3N at Ayutthaya before returning to Bangkok. Next, Bangkok to Sukhothai the same day. Spend 5N and explore the historical parks at Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaing Phet. Head back to Bangkok for a couple of days before returning home. My queries: 1. In the three locations where we will stay (Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Bangkok), are there interesting heritage stay options? We are not on a backpacker budget. 2. A recommendation for a taxi service, for the Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai legs as well as for airport trips. Possibly inside Bangkok for a day too. 3. Recommendations for where I can get authentic handicrafts. 4. Where might I find a Southeast Asian graphic novel representation of the Ramayana or Mahabharata?
1. Ayutthaya doesn’t really have heritage hotels in the sense of old properties. But there are several that put traditional Thai architecture and aesthetic to attractive use, and offer excellent value for money to boot. Baan Thai House (from THB 1,900; baanthaihouse.com) is a quiet retreat with accommodation in wooden villas, set away from the main drag. Access to the temples isn’t a problem because tuk-tuks are freely available. Beautiful gardens, pool,massages, good food, everything you need to recover from the depredations of sightseeing at the temples. Baan Tye Wang is another appealing option, similarly priced, quiet, green and well-serviced (baantyewang.com). The iuDia is more boutique hotel than guesthouse, superbly located across from the historical park and offering rooms with sitouts or verandahs with views of the river and the temples (iudia.com).
Sukhothai, too, doesn’t have any authentic heritage properties. But the Thais are excellent at showcasing their heritage in new properties too. Try the pretty Ruean Thai Hotel, done up in teak and traditional style (fromTHB 1,480; rueanthaihotel.com). The Sriwilai Sukhothai is more resort-like (fromTHB 2,535; sriwilaisukhothai.com). Lotus Village features plenty of Thai art and artefacts (from THB 1,300; lotus-village.com). Bangkok, on the other hand, offers plenty of true heritage options, all redone stylishly–and the prices reflect that too. Shanghai Mansion is a super stylish boutique hotel restored from an 1892 building, and set in the heart of characterful Chinatown (from THB 3,900; shanghaimansion.com). Arun Residence, on the Chaopraya riverfront, is a lovely renovated old Sino-Portuguese building with flashes of Thai-Indian dÃ©cor. Great views of Wat Arun, excellent restaurant, superb massages (from THB 4,500; arunresidence.com). Chakrabongse Villas, in the heart of Old Bangkok, was once a princely residence (from THB5,600; thaivillas.com). The Eugenia offers splendid colonial luxury just off Sukhumvit Road (from THB6,000; theeugeniabangkok.com).
2. Two popular taxi operators:Thai Happy Taxi (thaihappytaxi.com) and Enjoy Taxi (enjoytaxibangkok.com). Check out their websites for prices and to book online; they do all manner of runs, from airport to city/Ayutthaya and back to day-trips out of Bangkok to four- or-eight-hour city tours.
3. Reliable but upscale stores in Bangkok include House of Chao in Silom (for antiques), OTOP The Gallery on Ploenchit Road(handicrafts), Jim Thompson (Thai silk) and Thai Craft Museum, located atop the Gaysorn Plaza mall.
4. Interesting question but I can’t give you a failsafe answer. Passport Bookshop in the heart of Old Bangkok seems a likely bet to me, though, since its focus is on books about Southeast Asia. Dasa Book CafÃ©, on Sukhumvit Road, is a good prospect too.