Stay in the past – in style – in the Big Mango
Small, stylish hotels have been quietly springing up around Bangkok for a few years now, especially near the Chao Phraya River. Some are in heritage buildings, while others are purpose-built. Many aren’t five-star (or even four-star for that matter), but visitors seeking somewhere more intriguing than brand-name hotels, these nostalgic boutiques are romantic, unforgettable and fun. To get started, here are some of the best.
THE ASADANG & THE BHUTHORN
These intimate bed-and-breakfast guesthouses occupy century-old shophouses on different streets in Bangkok’s original Occidental business district. Both are therefore subject to strict conservation guidelines and have been refurbished to period authenticity – with the addition of mod cons such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, television and modem plumbing. Each of The Asadang’s nine guest rooms is decorated with antique, vernacular furniture and Thai fabrics. The Sino-Thai ambience of its dining/sitting room and the heritage architecture throughout are delightful. With an eagle-claw tub in your bathroom, plus the guesthouses’ location – adjacent to two khlongs (canals) – you’re immersed in old-time Bangkok, so to speak. The smaller property, The Bhuthom, offers three guest rooms in the heritage-listed Phraeng Bhuthom enclave, and while far less spacious is equally authentic. Western and Thai breakfast options at both places are delicious; however service standards still have a way to go to match the competition. Be sure to try the po-tong-go donuts and sticky rice balk if they’re on the menu,
The Cabochon Hotel located in the Walpole Building, is tucked away discretely at the end of Sukhumvit’s Soi 45. oblivious to the restless boulevard beyond. Designed by Taiwan’s Eugene Yeh, the Cabochon has four suites and four studios, all of which – along with its restaurant bar and library – tip their Panama hats and fascinators towards wicked, between-wars Shanghai. The decor is an exercise in smart postcolonial sampling, sans kitsch: wickerwork, teak flooring retro light-switches and antique bedsteads, with the addition of free Wi-Fi and other mod cons. Dine in the Thai Lao Yeh restaurant where the food is as authentically local as the bentwood chairs, tiffin holders and abacuses, or enjoy a nightcap in the intimate Joy Luck Club’s library lounge bar.
LOY LA LONG HOTEL
A night at the two-storey Loy La Long Hotel, perched beside the River of Kings, really brings the Leonard Cohen lyrics: “You can hear the boats go by. You can spend the night beside her,” to life. Barges, ferries and long-tail boats, plus water hyacinths and a classic Chinese pagoda are right at your window in this century-old, wooden hideaway. Each of the six unique guest rooms are creatively decorated in retrofunk-steampunk – a style that defies description. Loy La Long (which means “let it be, let it go, let it flow”) has a small cafe and bar plus sunny river-view decks where you can snooze, dine and allow your mind to drift downstream. Situated in the grounds of a riverside Buddhist monastery, Loy La Long also has romantic credentials as the setting of a memorable love scene in the 2009 chick flick, Bangkok Traffic Love Story.