Awarded as one of Thailand’s most gorgeous properties, The Siam Hotel is a unique riverside boutique luxury hotel in the royal Dusit neighbourhood.
Owned by one of Thailand’s most artistic and philanthropic families and designed to blend Art Deco with the style during Thailand’s grandest times, The Siam Hotel is imbued with antiques collected by Sukosol Creative Director and famous Thai artist Krissada Sukosol Clapp.
Old maps showing the Siam Empire under King Rama V, in the second half of the 19th century, dot the walls across corridors and suites and are a representation of the Empire’s disputed independence at the time. At the end of his long reign, King Rama V had managed to finally secure the borders, after ceding Laos to France and various parts of Malaysia to the British.
Meandering through the corridors and lush gardens the neon green of the grass and the overflowing plants and palm trees stand out against the black and white style of the buildings resembling the heritage houses of Singapore. Earthy colours and a wide range of textures bring the otherwise monochrome design to life on walls, sofas, desks, shelves, cupboards and chairs.
Kriss enlisted the help of famous architecture guru Bill Bensley, known for having designed over 150 hotels across the world, from the likes of Intercontinental in Danang to the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai or the Oberoi Udaivillas, as well as Shinta Mani Wild and Shinta Mani Siem Reap.
Bensley helped him conceive an appropriate home for his incredible collection of artefacts. The result is a mix of old and new, conservation and modernity, the obscene and the sober. The Siam Hotel is a feast to the senses in a calm and subdued way.
Arrival and check in
Forget about traffic jams or about surviving Bangkok’s infamous streets and arrive at The Siam Hotel in the style of your own private boat. The Siam picks up guests from the pier in front of the Sheraton (or other pre-agreed locations) and takes them up the River of Kings to the hotel’s hideaway.
The 30 minute ride is a sightseeing expedition in itself and one that most people will pay for a tour of. At The Siam Hotel, this is offered at no extra cost to you.
Although I would recommend this as the most leisurely way to arrive in a newfound mood, you may also take a taxi to the reception.
We were met at the pier by a few of the staff members including our butler, Mac, who escorted us through the beautiful property, romantically lit for the evening, and right to our room, where we finalised the check in. This was one of the few occasions when I have not been asked for a credit card at check in and I welcomed the relaxed feeling that gave me. Talking money after you just met is vulgar.
After a highlights introduction to the room with the key facts that would be most useful, like how to change the temperature and how to lock the door, which comes with a special system, Mac left us to enjoy the evening.
The Siam Hotel has some of Bangkok’s largest suites. Kriss’s art collection is spread over the property, with statues, paintings, maps and other elements decorating each room distinctly but all of them sharing the black and white high ceiling interiors. No two rooms are alike. Dark wood, white walls and linen, checked tiles and thick curtains completed a comfortable modern-colonial stay.
The room is cozy and warm as there is no direct sunlight into the main bedroom area, but the bathroom is floodlit with the sun rays of Bangkok. The front of the room is separated by a half wall with a lounge also illuminated by the natural light coming in from the common areas of the building. There was a sense of serenity and peace in each room and we barely saw any other guest for the duration of our entire stay despite the hotel was running high occupancy.
The courtyard all the suites face is ample and inundated with light. Designed like a greenhouse, lush plants in the same neon green of the lawn grow towards the sky making you feel like you are in an internal garden. The hyper high ceilings and glass walls at either end are a fantastic way to start the day whereas the suites remain cozy and private. The moment we opened the door to the suite the light from the blue sky blinded us. A beautiful way to wake up.
The bathrooms were fabulous. With a separate shower and a free standing old fashioned bathtub to soak in after a day’s touring Bangkok’s temples, this was the perfect place to retire. Plush velvet banquets and silver apliques completed the look.
The Siam has two restaurants, one bar and one poolside lounge area. Chon is the main restaurant for breakfast and is also the hotel’s Thai cooking school. Traditional yum Thai dishes like curry are served sharing style in this cluster of three century-old Thai teakwood houses which belonged to antique dealer and OSS agent Connie Mangksau.
Connie’s parties were legendary and gathered global glitterati like Jackie Kennedy, John Rockerfeller, Roger Moore, William Holden and Henry Ford. Connie became close friends with rumoured double-agent Jim Thomson and it was her who invited him to Cameron Highlands the fatal weekend he disappeared. The houses were originally in the Thai capital of Ayuddhya and were transported to The Siam.
The Deco Bar and Bistro is a casual eatery with live music and Cafe Cha is where one can enjoy the most relaxed and stylish afternoon tea in town. Instagram is filled with the photogenic images of this gem tucked into Bangkok’s royal neighbourhood. Light snacks and drinks can be ordered from under the pool umbrellas, while laying on one of the riverside sun beds or chilling at one of the sunken sofas that float atop the Chao Praya river waters at the Bather’s Bar.
Breakfast is particularly irresistible with a long list of a la carte options from porridge to eggs Benedict, Thai dishes or waffles. The setting of the few outdoor tables standing by the edge of the lawn, riverfront, make you forget you are in the second most visited city in the world. As the noise of the traffic appears muted by the peace of the property, it feels almost as if the cars have become silent.
The facilities and activities
Quirky and one-off elements make The Siam a place to remember. The Tattoo studio, manned by the skilled Ajarn Boo, a Yak Sant tattoo master, gives visitors the ultimate souvenir. Yak Sant is a traditional tattoo typical of Thailand which is inked with a fine bamboo stick.
The artist usually determines the symbol and the intricate design based on each person and one cannot choose its appearance. They are also blessed and carry good luck to the person having them.
The Siam is also banging on the latest trend: boxing. Offering Muai Thai lessons and retreats, the hotel leverages one the Thailand’s best known sports to create a balanced wellness and boxing plan. For the less aggressive, yoga or tai chi can also be enjoyed on the outdoor pier or terrace.
The spa is another design feat. Dark and elegant, the grey palette joins black and white with touches of gold and soft velvet to transport you to another place. Sodashi chemical-free products are used here and the Hammam-inspired Bath House offers dry and steam saunas, steam showers and Jacuzzis. Retire down to the Opium Spa and I guarantee that you will forget about the stress happening upstairs.
The Siam has repurposed a heritage boat for sunset cruises on the busy Chao Praya River. At dusk the river fills with all types and sizes of boats looking for the riverfront view of temples and dilapidated buildings mixing in with modern shopping centers. Bangkok’s creative mess is best viewed from the luxury of a private wooden boat.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the hotel is the waterfront pool. Long and parallel to the river, it is elevated and beautifully symmetrical. Secluded by thick greenery and flanked by a colonial-inspired bar and two of the luxury villas, it is hard not to spend the entire day lounging by the water, ordering fresh coconuts and delicious snacks. It is easy to understand the magic of riverside living.
Mac was our butler for the duration of the stay and he was always there when I even considered I needed him. We did not pass by the reception during our stay and every time we needed anything Mac was there to help. He took our orders for breakfast, checked on us by the pool, arranged my drop off at The Peninsula, organised dinner bookings and was incredibly invisible otherwise. He was efficient and calm and I immediately knew that if I asked him something once it would get done.
There were a few details during our stay that showed service was a core foundation at the property. When we arrived at the Sheraton’s pier on arrival day, we were trying to follow the online instructions to find The Siam Hotel’s boat, but we couldn’t as there were many.
I called the hotel, they indicated the 6pm boat had left 15min prior as it was passed the schedule time. I could see the boat in front of me and pointed this out to the receptionist. She called the boat and got them to pull right back into the pier that was in front of us.
Her responsiveness and proactivity saved the day. I had a conference call at breakfast and wanted to take it at Chon, but in peace, as I had no headset. Mac found me a spot straightaway. I wanted to stay in the room until 1pm because of another call, then get dropped off with the 1pm boat at my next hotel.
He got my luggage picked up and organised seamlessly prior to the call so I just unplugged my laptop, packed it and walked to the jetty. I give The Siam top grade for all these many small things that made a difference between a professionally run hotel with staff that has initiative and a hotel with staff that follows rules.
Kamol Sukosol, father of current owner Kamala Sukosol, acquired the land where The Siam stands in 1973 and used it as a pier for his river exploration. As a successful businessman, exclusive dealer of General Electric products and Mazda cars in Thailand, Kamol slowly built an empire of his own.
In 2005, the lease on a restaurant that stood prior to The Siam Hotel expired and Kriss saw it as the ideal opportunity to follow the family’s footsteps into the hospitality world. His hunch was right.
Contrary to most river-facing hotels, all of which are part of large chains, The Siam Hotel has less than 40 rooms. It is privately owned and operated by a family with strong ties to philanthropy. In 2009 Kamala was named one of Forbes Asia’s “48 Heroes of Philanthropy”.
This attitude shows in the service and trickles through to the smallest details, of which there are many. This was a stay fit for a king, peaceful as a peasant’s life and beautiful as a designer’s dream. Bangkok is crazy and noisy enough. At night, retire to the heritage house of Thailand’s most creative family and be surrounded by thoughtfulness in the smallest things.
Once in a Lifetime Journey was a guest of The Siam. As always, all opinions are our own.
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