Imagine an Art Deco hotel that name-checks Paris’ Musée d’Orsay as a source of inspiration; a jazz space where one can relax on a chaise lounge in taxidermy heaven while playing some of the LPs on offer; 39 rooms designed in a neutral palette and in which the unmistakable sounds of Edith Piaf greet guests; and lush gardens so serene that the only sound you can hear is the croaking of frogs, which instantly halts the second they hear you coming. Now imagine this hotel in the heart of the hustling and bustling city of Bangkok. Perched on the shores of the Chao Praya river, The Siam gives a whole new meaning to the term “urban sanctuary”.
This privately owned hotel, which belongs to the Sukosol family, was conceived by Krissada Sukosol Clapp, a Thai indie-rock singer and actor, and designed in collaboration with award-winning American architect Bill Bensley. It boasts all of the qualities and none of the trappings of a private hospitality business, running as smoothly as any international five-star resort but offering the kind of personal, familiar, and attentive service that is only found in places where the word “boutique” is more a philosophy and less a marketing ploy.
I had the pleasure of staying at the award-winning hotel earlier this year during a trip through Thailand. Already familiar with the city, I was accustomed to its loud sounds, strong smells, and general busyness. Seated in the back of BMW 7 series, which picked me up from Suvarnabhumi Airport, I watched as the shanty towns and high rises of the city I knew disappeared into the distance, replaced instead by the towering walls of the royal palaces and the lush gardens surrounding them. It was my first time in the calm Dusit District, the kingdom’s administrative center, which incidentally derives its name from the Thai word for heaven.
As I pulled up to The Siam’s entrance, past intimidatingly high walls and a large gate, I was greeted by the hotel staff. My private butler, who would look after me during my stay at the hotel, walked me through the atrium, around which the main part of the hotel was built. In the center is a breathtaking, tiered water feature from which giant palms grow, reaching the balconies of the second floor, and on the surface of which floating tea candles glisten in the evening. I followed him up to the first floor, past an impressive number of antiques that range from ceramics to old barber chairs (think: Sweeney Todd), which I later learned was the Sukosol family’s private collection, to my room. Inside, it’s all modern colonialism and charm – and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when my butler knelt on the floor beside me as I took a seat on a window banquette. He handed me a check-in form (much more convenient than checking in through the lobby, I thought) and sliced into a local exotic fruit (somewhere between an apple and a pear) for me to try. As Edith Piaf continued to croon in the background, I couldn’t help but think, “Is this how the other, other half lives in this kingdom?”
The next few days I spent at The Siam were a series of wonderful discoveries, from the explosion of flavors of the spicy pomelo and shrimp salad at the hotel’s Chon restaurant, set on the edge of the river, to the library and cinema room to the Opium Spa, a haven of tranquility that offers more adventures than any hotel spa I’ve ever visited. Indeed, guests of the hotel have access to the spa’s luxury Muay Thai training center (done in an elegant monochrome palette to match the rest of the hotel), the first of its kind in the country, a hammam-inspired bath house, and, most interesting of all, a traditional Thai tattoo, also known as sak yant, parlor.
Also in the compound is a pool setup worthy of Jay Gatsby and a number of old traditional Thai teak cottages, which were transported up the river to this plot of land and restored by the Sukosol family. The majority of them have been transformed into ultra luxurious suites.
While The Siam provides you with every reason not to want to leave its calming grounds and venture outside, it offers guests a number of tailored experiences to discover the city around it. On my second morning in Bangkok, I watched as a hotel butler helped a group of older American tourists onto four tuk tuks headed to the food market before making my own way into town on board The Siam’s gorgeous wooden motorboat, which shuttles guests up and down the Chao Praya river. Armed with the hotel’s list of recommendations and guide to the city, I set off on a tour of its temples, excited to explore but eager to return to my own sanctuary at The Siam.
Browse through the gallery for a glimpse at The Siam’s interiors.