WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2013 - What would Buddha do … in Bangkok? The modern capital city of the Thai kingdom is a monkey mind of forward pressing architecture, writhing shopping palaces, skyscraping hotels and canyons of urbanity blazing the trails of contemporary fashion for Asia and beyond.
What would Buddha do if he needed a hotel in Bangkok? He might go to the Muse, or Siam or the Bangkok Tree House or any number of new Bangkok hotels that have put their imprint on the Bangkok skyline in recent months … and chill. Nirvana can wait. There are new wine bars to try, spas to experience, views to enjoy and nightlife to engage in the City of Angels they call Bangkok.
It’s in with the new with The Siam that opened in June on the precious banks of Bangkok’s River of Kings. This is a precious Bangkok experience of only 39 keys, each room a recreation of a colonial or literary vision as imagined by socialites of a certain time. Those socialites would include silk tycoon/spy Jim Thompson (whose life story crescendos with his final disappearance into the jungles of Malaysia never to be seen again) and his notorious buddy Connie Mangskau, once the toast of Bangkok with parties attracted the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Henry Ford, John Rockefeller and Roger Moore.
The legend lives on in each room and suite filled with antiques collected by the property owner’s family and managed by creative director Krissada Sukosol Clapp, who initially made his own fortune as a Thai-American rock star and film star before joining his family’s hotel empire (Siam City Hotels and Resorts). The spaces have been given the heady breath of design by the knowing touch of Bill Bensley (a darling of Architectural Digest whose work includes all the Four Seasons in Thailand). The layout of the new property incorporates four traditional Thai houses initially salvaged by Thompson and Mangskau from the former capital and reconfigured in this three-acre space of prime riverfront in the royal Dusit neighborhood (the Royal Palace is around the corner) to form a restaurant, teaching kitchen and the Siam’s top suite, Connie’s House.
The mix, at some $1.5 million per room, includes 16 Siam suites done up in Art Deco décor with interior verandahs for having a leisurely breakfast or afternoon tea over the Main Residence atrium. A dozen Mae Nim suites offer views of the river. Then there are the 10 villas that offer private gardens, dipping pools and open-air moon terraces.
Chon Thai Restaurant and Cooking School anchors the F&B, which includes a Deco Bar, a pool bar and the outdoor, riverfront Café Cha.
Public spaces are worth the exploration. The library here puts first edition collectors’ books on its shelves. Every room is stocked with odd and whimsical antiques. The concierge desk is in the library, a perfect place to answer questions.
But if plans call to stay in, the Opium Spa is there to oblige. Focus at this spa – which houses a hammam — is on a full array of massage and body treatments, but puts the bulk of its weight on the Muay Thai ring in the gym adjacent to the spa. There, Muay Thai instructors provide spot lessons or entire weeklong lose weight/learn-to-box packages for yet another unusual, only at The Siam twist.
“We want to be able to provide something that a guest cannot get somewhere else that goes beyond the experience of simply staying at a fabulous place,” said general manager Jason Friedman, noting he hopes to offer regular stay-and-spa packages soon that will be directed at guests who want to learn this boxing art.
The property is a member of Small Luxury Hotels and a part of the Virtuoso collection. It is represented to the trade by Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates. The location offers options for breezy 15-minute longboat rides to and from top shopping spots and Skytrain depots, or even a tuk tuk to local temples and museums.
Rates started at $550 for the Siam Suite.
It’s hard to imagine a place of little noise, clear skies and lush landscape within a 30-minute ride from the crush of downtown Bangkok. But the Bangkok Tree House, the brainchild of Joey Tulyanond, a former Fulbright Scholar whose family owns the Old Bangkok Inn on Rattanakosin Island, is just that – an eco-paradise, in a parallel universe where accommodations are jungle tree house “nests” made of driftwood and bamboo, where food is organic and slow, and where garbage is a distant memory. Even the roofs are edible here. But that does not mean guests are sleeping on a rock under a jackfruit tree. But it does mean most of the residences are built into the treeline
Most of the 12 rooms available have walls, air-conditioning, comfortable beds, TV, DVD and electricity to run them and, of course, complimentary wifi. And while the Bangkok Tree House could very well write the book on how to leave nary a footprint on nature (all kitchen and organic wastes are composted; laundry is line-dried; water runs through refillable glass bottles; natural springs provide the swimming options; appliances are powered by wind and sun) some 2.2 pounds of trash are removed from the adjacent Chao Phraya River for every booking made.
The eco-resort opened at the beginning of May and includes little dazzlers like free home made ice cream, free cell phone use with private Thai number, complimentary breakfast, and free use of bikes to go out and explore the jungle settings and river markets. Guests arrive by dedicated speedboat to a private dock from a nearby platform. The Skytrain is 1.5 km away. The resort is 30 minutes by car from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
The property is a great take-in for high brows who want a change as well as low brows who want to save their change. Rates start at $125 per night.
Hotel Muse opened in Fall 2011 to quiet fanfare inside a 25-story tower of Art Deco sheen that puts an impressive imprint on Bangkok’s concrete skyline. The 174-room Accor MGallery addition is sexy mélange of Renaissance resonance, Park Avenue luster, and Fin de Siècle flourish. Rooms are not sure if they are speaking to a businessman’s sense of global adventure or a leisure couple’s sense of gentry’d expectations. You’ll find the browns and leathers but also whimsical trunk-like cabinets, trompe l’oeil wood floor tiling, European etchings on the wallpaper and painted ceramic bathroom fixtures. All rooms have honor bars, desk/work areas, wifi (for a nominal fee now, that is expected to go away eventually), iPod docking and premium coffee and tea-brewing facilities.
Design’s the thing here and it tries to bowl you over wherever you go. And the entertainment runs from the basement – where trained hired opera singers burst into powerful arias as guests enjoy contemporary Tuscan cuisine at Medici Kitchen & Bar — to the Speakeasy at roof level, currently the hottest night spot in town.
Quiet conversations happen at the sky pool where there are more (fiber optic) stars in the pool than stars in the sky. Dining can be accommodated there until 10 pm. A fitness center features the latest cardio equipment with the latest connectivity jacks for personal electronics. While there is no onsite spa, in-room treatments can be arranged.
The property is in the centralized Lumpini neighborhood, a few walking blocks from hot shopping on Rama and Ploenchit roads and in a quiet district of bistros and embassies. Rates start at $133 per night. Call 800-221-4542.
This is the second under the new So Sofitel brand of “intense living/playful luxury” properties to open in an Accor expansion that is eyeing such places as Dubai, Beirut, Mumbai and Cairo to make a splash toward 18 new properties in the next five years. The new French sub-brand launched its first flagship in Mauritius in 2010.
Sofitel So Bangkok has the energy and channels it into the principals of Feng Shui – at least as far as room themes go. Find floors of rooms draped in the motifs of wood, fire, metal, water and earth expressed in colors, tapestries, and appointments as chosen by a battery of Bangkok-chic designers, and directed by fashion phenom Christian Lacroix.
Within the eight room configurations, all rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows and windowed bathrooms containing inviting soaking tubs and open shower presentations. Then there are the king beds with feather-soft toppers, computer integrated televisions with wifi Apple keyboard, mouse and Mac Mini, and clean-lined work spaces. The 238 rooms fill the 14th to 28th floors of the tower overlooking serene Lumpini Park. The Lacroix-designed Club Sofitel is an upgrade available to all room types for an average of $80 per night.
Onsite find such delights as the Chocolab devoted to all things chocolate, design-heavy pool and cabana areas high over the city, a bi-level spa themed as a mythological forest and focusing on French beauty and body treatments, plenty of wow-worthy meeting and event space, and rooftop lounges perched over Lumpini Park.
Rates run as low as $100 per night with breakfast. Call 800/SOFITEL (763-4835).
St Regis Bangkok opened in April 2011 on a valuable swath overlooking the race track/golf course and residences attached to the adjacent Four Seasons Bangkok. And it’s been on everyone’s hot list ever since. Consider Lady Gaga, who rented out the entire penthouse floor during her visit in May. For other guests, the new-build’s 227 rooms (including 51 suites) will do just fine with their brown and taupe color motifs, fine furnishings and plush textiles.
The property stands, as do many hotels in Bangkok, a comfortable 25 stories high with a lobby on floor 12. That lobby is the place to chill with a signature Bloody Mary (using a piquant lemongrass stalk for the celery stick) before heading to such venues as Decanter for wine sampling, Zuma for energy-charged dining, the Drawing Room for High Tea and (later) cigars, Viu for international fare with a view (and complimentary Champagne on the terrace each evening), or the lush pool setting overlooking the city. An Elemis Spa handles the call for deep relaxation treatments.
Guests of a certain ilk (Lady Gaga took the penthouse floor) will want to book the Caroline Astor suite on the 24th floor. The $1,000 per night suite comes with two baths, a bedroom surrounded on three sides with floor to ceiling views over the city, an elegant living room for entertaining and St. Regis’s signature dedicated butler attendance.
Published starting rates for standard rooms run a reasonable $206 per night. Call 800-325-3589.
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