Choosing a hotel in Bangkok is like trying to find the prettiest wildflower in the field. There are just so many and they are all precious. But if you narrow that search to a boutique luxury hotel on the Chao Praya River – a few doors down from the home of Thailand’s crowned prince, you will find yourself at The Siam.
The Siam could be considered one of Thailand’s jewels in a shimmering city of gold. The 39-key property opened in June 2012 as a hideaway within Bangkok’s towering skyline. It’s right on the river, tucked into a corner of the Dusit neighborhood, a stones’ throw from the Chitralada Palace, and it hails from another era entirely.
The small, white two-story expanse seems more turn of the century colonial or 1920s expat hip than 2014 fashion forward chic. The Siam is a unique property with a capital “U” in Bangkok, if only for its efficient use of rare riverfront real estate and a commitment to keep things interesting for its discerning visitors.
A quick look around The Siam shows a petite Deco lobby area that flows into a library and game room that could have been the setting of a gothic coming of age novel: rare first edition books, new oversized art books, oddities from world travels, antiques that pop out of forgotten steamer trunks. No doubt a mysterious monkey doll is hidden in there somewhere.
The library is part of the main building that offers a variety of rooms lined up along a comely atrium, all smartly themed in 1920s Art Deco. The rooms here are ambient and comfortable, easily evoking times past. Beyond the main building are the restaurants, patios and pool all facing the river and benefitting from its cooling breezes. The Chon Thai Restaurant and Cooking School anchors the F&B, which includes the Deco Bar, a pool bar and the outdoor, riverfront Café Cha. Chon is the signature here and a treat for the palate. Home-cooked Thai dishes are served in teakwood elegance amid spaces that once saw such socialites as Jackie Kennedy, John Rockefeller and Henry Ford mixing with Thai dignitaries.
That’s because The Siam has a back-story. Current owner Kamala Sukusol, a star singer and entertainer in Thailand (and the head of Sukusol Hotels and Resorts) bought the original property from the estate of Connie Mangskau, a notable Bangkok bon vivant who lived there through the years and threw legendary parties at this perch on the Chao Praya. The three-acre spread contains some Thai heritage houses sourced by silk tycoon Jim Thompson that Mangskau had moved from the ancient royal capital of Ayutthaya. Thompson, considered the god of textiles in these parts, revitalized the silk industry in Thailand but lived a life of mystery and adventure. A close friend of Mangskau the two were linked socially, but all that ended during a trip the two took together in 1967 to Malaysia where Thompson disappeared during a stroll from his bungalow in the jungle highlands, never to be seen again.
The intriguing design of the Siam, at some $1.5 million per room, includes 16 Siam suites done up in Art Deco décor with interior verandahs for leisurely breakfasts and afternoon teas over the Main Residence atrium. A dozen spacious 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. Upon request, personal butlers cater each suite. Complimentary wi-fi is available property-wide.
Pampering is on the menu and the Opium Spa offers a hammam and full array of massage and body treatments, but puts focus on the Muay Thai ring in the gym adjacent to the spa. There, Muay Thai instructors provide spot lessons and offer weeklong lose weight/learn-to-box programs.
The property is a member of Small Luxury Hotels and a part of the Virtuoso collection. Nightly rates start at around $532 per night but plenty of packages, mix and match opportunities and suite deals are available through a quick check of offers on the website.
Getting there: Shared transfers to/from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), about 35 miles away, cost around $90 per vehicle each way, and The Siam can arrange. Taxis to/from BKK run around $20 each way.
The Siam, with a dock right on the river, offers options for breezy 15-minute longboat rides to and from top shopping spots and Skytrain depots, and easy tuk tuk to local temples and museums from the front entrance.