Whether as a destination in itself or a stopover en route to elsewhere, Bangkok is a city which attracts travellers from all over the world. Its extensive array of accommodation options make it a jetsetter’s paradise – but how do you decide where to stay? Here’s some of our picks to help you find your perfect match.
When you ask seasoned Bangkok travellers what keeps them coming back to the Thai capital, “eating and shopping!” is the most common answer. The Hua Chang Heritage Hotel is in prime position for both of these activities thanks to its location within one of the most popular areas of the city. If you can bear to leave the comfort and glamour of your suite with its plush pile rugs, luxuriously deep bath, super comfy bed and chic styling (think clean white walls, mirrors and metallics with jewel-toned soft furnishings as accents), the Siam area’s swanky big-name shopping centres are just a short walk away. Here you can spend hours browsing through international and Thai designer boutiques and fuel up at restaurants and cafes in air-conditioned comfort, or step outside for a more local experience in the back streets which are full of smaller, quirkier shops and street food.
For a truly refined taste of Thai cuisine, though, hotel guests need only wander down to the Miss Siam restaurant on the ground floor, where local delights await at any time of day. Rub shoulders with in-the-know Bangkok families who gather here for the royal banquet-style lunches or indulge in afternoon tea – with prawn “money bags”, rich and creamy chicken and coconut dip and a selection of fine English teas included, it’s practically a meal in itself, rounded off with Thai sweets such as pumpkin custard. And should you have a craving for Thai desserts first thing in the morning, the breakfast buffet has you covered, with bananas in coconut milk and sticky rice cakes just some of the dishes sitting temptingly alongside the more traditional western fare.
Stay at the Hua Chang Heritage Hotel if: you’re ready to spend up big on designer names and explore Bangkok from a central location – but need a chic retreat where you can put your feet up between shopping sprees.
Built in 1876, the then-Oriental hotel was the first luxury hotel in the Kingdom of Siam. So it’s not surprising that a stay here could define Bangkok hotel perfection. From the grandeur of the vast foyer with its awe-inspiring floral artwork to the views of the Chao Phraya river from the restaurant and guest rooms, this is a hotel that impresses from the start. But while the sweeping vistas please the eye, it’s the attention to detail that has guests returning year after year. The concierge on each floor who welcomes guests back with an amuse-bouche after a day out, for instance, or the white orchids in the bathrooms that add a luxe accent to the Indochine-inspired rooms. Then there’s the riverside setting that allows glimpses into local Bangkok life at any time of day from the hotel’s restaurants and bars – watch the city wake up as you linger over coffee and your choice of breakfast cuisine, from eggs any way you want them and fine cheeses to congee and other Asian selections; come back for the sumptuous lunch buffet or save room for cake and iced coffee for afternoon tea and watch the ferries and tourist boats glide past; then enjoy a drink and stay on for dinner as dusk falls and the bright lights start to play on the water. The river is your link to the city, with a free shuttle boat ferrying guests to the nearest Skytrain station should they wish to explore Bangkok. It also carries guests to the opposite bank where the Mandarin’s gym and running circuit as well as the sala for its dinner show are located. At the time of writing, the hotel’s original building with its renowned Authors Lounge was closed for renovation, but – along with new suites including the largest presidential suite in Bangkok – it’s set to open in January 2016 in time for the hotel’s 140th birthday celebrations. And after a stay here, you’ll agree this is a hotel worth celebrating.
Stay at the Mandarin Oriental if: you need plenty of pampering in right royal style before you explore Bangkok from the river or tackle the streets of Chinatown.
What do you do when there’s no more room for your collection of priceless antiques? Open a hotel to display them in, of course. At least, that was the solution Krissada Sukosol Clapp came up with. A collector of antiques and ephemera from all over the world (and an actor and rock star too!), Sukosol decided to create a hotel where countless pieces could go on show, drawing on his family’s hospitality experience and ignoring naysayers who claimed The Siam’s location was too far up-river to be of interest to guests. Granted, the hotel is far removed from Bangkok’s mega-malls and disco balls, but it’s just a short boat ride to the Grand Palace and other attractions in the older part of the city and the walking tours crafted by the hotel management offer enough neighbourhood insights to please the most jaded tourist. And besides, there’s so much to see and do on-site – even just in the main building, the stunning art deco-inspired design of which incorporates a huge atrium housing banana palms whose height spans all three levels of accommodation. The spa and Turkish bath house-styled yoga studio are also here, as are the library and the screening room which allows guests to enjoy movies and meals in private. There’s also the gym, where rock star guests have been known to rub shoulders with Thai royalty and where guests can learn the art of muay Thai, and a special chamber where tattooing is performed by a top artist. And for those whose interests are more of the cerebral variety, there are countless antiques on display everywhere, from Ming dynasty ceramics to vintage portraits of Thai beauty queens and the current royal couple. It goes without saying that the food here is also superb, whether enjoyed in the traditional teak houses that now serve as restaurants, or in the privacy of your suite. According to the concierge, many guests describe a stay at TheSiam as “like coming home” – which, if your home happens to be a supremely stylish riverside retreat housing invaluable art and antiques with impeccable service, is an entirely accurate description.
Stay at The Siam if: you want to discover the best of Bangkok at a leisurely pace away from the crowds, with a museum-worthy collection of artefacts steeped in history, art and design at your fingertips.
The name of this boutique establishment clearly invites word association with jewellery and all things precious stone-related, and for good reason: it’s a gem of a hotel. Set at the end of a soi which also houses classy interior design store Casa Pagoda and Australian-run restaurant Quince, the Cabochon – despite its charmingly old-world Indochine appearance – is a recent addition to the neighbourhood, which is known for its street food and bars that draw travellers and well-heeled locals alike. The roomy, light-filled suites make the hotel popular with discerning wedding parties (at times, the entire hotel is booked out by such groups) and longer term guests who appreciate the sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere created by the vintage and reproduction furniture, fittings and knick-knacks that adorn the tastefully neutral accommodation areas. Foodies will appreciate the suites’ kitchens too – beautifully styled, they are nevertheless fully functional and invite would-be chefs to hone their skills, perhaps taking inspiration from the delicious fare served up in the hotel’s antique timber-lined Thai Lao Yeh restaurant. With dishes representing the four main regions of Thailand, guests can take a culinary journey from the comfort of the dining table – there’s fermented pork ribs to eat with herbs and peanuts wrapped up in cabbage leaves, smoky beef larb, papaya salad and other favourites from around the country for a truly memorable meal that’s light years away from the standard pad thai at your local takeaway. Round off your indulging with a flick through fashion, design and style books in the hotel’s plush library, head up to the rooftop pool for some laps, soak in your suite’s huge tub or admire the aviation-themed antiques and enjoy a cocktail at the Joy Luck Club bar – if you’re looking for somewhere to host the ultimate luxe, lazy get-together in Bangkok, the Cabochon is a girl’s best friend.
Stay at the Cabochon Hotel if: you’re travelling as a couple or in a group, especially for a long-term stay. The kitchen fitouts mean you have the choice of cooking up a storm in your own suite or sampling Thailand’s regional cuisine in the hotel’s Thai Lao Yeh restaurant, while for the adventurous, the location is a good base for bar hopping.