This place was doing well in my book before I had even left the UK. Not only was it getting rave reviews everywhere I looked, but the service when I booked by e-mail went far beyond what I’ve come to expect elsewhere – message after message confirming the booking, giving me directions in Thai to show the taxi driver, and much more besides. And so it continued when I arrived, late, tired and looking like a monster thanks to 14 hours’ flying time and a long taxi ride through horrendous traffic jams caused by the ongoing red-shirt protests, which have since resulted in a state of emergency being declared (twice) throughout Bangkok.
Despite having poured over countless listings and reviews of Sam Sen Sam, I had spared only a cursory glance for photos of the place. So, expecting the usual rundown Bangkok guesthouse (not helped by the fact that it is down what by night seemed like a rather shady soi), I was rather taken aback and very pleasantly surprised by the eye-catchingly bright, emerald-shaded little palace that I saw through the cab window. Such surprise, in fact, that I let out a little ‘oh!’ to the driver, ending our traffic jam chat on everything from protests, to English vs. European currency, to him trying in vain so many times to convince me to let him drive me all the way to Kanchanaburi.
A very warm welcome awaited me inside and, in fact, the staff at Sam Sen Sam lived up in every way to the solid reputation they have built up online amongst foreign travellers. I only stayed the one night, yet I was greeted by first name when I got there – and by the following morning every member of staff seemed to know my name. I hadn’t even met or spoken to any of those on duty at breakfast, so I don’t know how they do it – passport photos pinned up behind the desk, maybe? However they manage, it is a lovely personal touch and one which goes a long way to making you feel at home, even on just a short stay.
Rooms here are simple yet comfortable – the double fan room I stayed in was far from the biggest I’ve seen, but definitely not cramped either (and more spacious than the room I would come to stay in at Shambara Boutique Hostel at the end of my trip). Okay, so there are shared bathrooms, but they are immaculate (and there are ensuite ‘deluxe’ rooms too, if you do fancy some privacy). The whole place is oozing with Thai charm and character – there’s none of the anonymous concrete that lines most joints in Bangkok, but brightly-painted wooden walls and well-finished, varnished floorboards. There is a real sense of being in someone’s home – not just from the first-name treatment, but other little touches too, like the fact that you’re asked to take off your shoes before going upstairs (how many Thai places, especially in big cities, still ask for that?), and just the general tranquility of the place. This is the middle of Bangkok but, tucked down a quiet alley, you would think you were anywhere but. Eating breakfast on the pretty, leafy courtyard has an amazing sense of peace and serenity about it – only to be matched when I made it up to Sangkhlaburi.
Rooms at Sam Sen Sam Place start at 590 Baht per night, including continental breakfast. Internet access available (30 Baht per hour); free wireless throughout. 48 Samsen Road, Soi 3, Banglamphu, Bangkok 10200. Phone: +66 2628 7067; fax: +66 2628 7887; http://www.samsensam.com; email@example.com.