I’ve switched between various high-end and low-end accommodations around the world, and never have I been so relieved to switch to the high-end. In Bangkok, the difference between a well-ranked $20 hotel and a well-ranked $100 hotel is substantial. It’s not so much that you can travel on a shoestring here, although you can. It’s that you can eat out, get air-conditioned taxis, stay in a four-star hotel, order room service late at night, and still keep it to under $150 per day. It’s a place to splurge without going totally broke.

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I’m staying at the Millennium Hilton (like the Millennium Falcon, but less portable), and my room looks out over the river. From the hotel’s private pier, I get ferried gratis to points of interest. I go check out the pool, and it’s probably the nicest hotel pool I’ve ever seen. Or maybe I mean the most interesting. They’ve tried to turn it into a beach; there are sand outcroppings and the sunbathers sprawl with the skyscrapers in the background. I pick a hammock and sway in the breeze.

However, there was one thing I liked better about the cheap place with its dim, flickering light bulbs and less-than-impressive kitchen facilities. The hotel restaurant, Thai Smile, was actually great. It was better quality for the price and not at all crowded, and, I was sure, far more authentic. And I liked sitting outside in the shade by myself, rather than in the too-cold air conditioning with nasal voices to break the silence. Here in the Hilton, there are way too many tourists.

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