Bangkok
Thailand

The Siam

Newest uber-hotel and darling of many Hot Lists around the world, The Siam is a deco-ese confection of black and white, gorgeous and antique-studded, on the banks of the venerable Chao Phrya river. Bill Bensley was retained by Thai entrepeneurs and popstar royalty the Sukosol family to make a riverfront plot into a world-class boutique experience.

A beautifully lit open-air bar area housing smart rattan seating bobs on a pier in the river; the long black and white tiled pool makes full use of its frontage on to the river; rooms are airy and enormous with touches of orchid-purple livening up the black and white theme.

The pool villas are two-stories with a private deck overlooking the river, but are right next to the bar area which would have been noisy had the hotel been busy. I preferred the Riverview Suites (one story up from the Mae Nam Suites but in the same layout) in the main building, with their cushioned window seats and huge ceilings.

The food is excellent and although the hotel itself was quiet during our stay, plenty of well-heeled Bangkokians were making their way to Chon Thai restaurant to celebrate this or that; the restored antique villas are used for private dining and would make a very special experience.

The location won’t suit everyone, far from the madding crowds of Siam Square (this may be a good thing). The hotel runs a launch to and from Saphin Taksin, one of Bangkok’s main piers and a pick up point for the Skytrain. The journey takes a leisurely 35 minutes and is a tour in itself, gliding past riverfront schools, the gorgeous spire of Wat Arun, the Royal Barge Museum, and plenty of daily life from the crumbling edifices at the edge of Chinatown to the plant-filled balconies of the myriad teak houses, perching precariously on their stilts over the water.

If you’re in a hurry however, it would be a little frustrating, although the taxi option is always available (there is little public transport around the hotel). At first blush I wasn’t taken with the local area, backing onto a local hospital and with seemingly little of interest around it, but to be fair I had only a night there and did not have much of an opportunity to explore. I find that it is usually off the beaten track that one gets a real sense of place – so I’d definitely be prepared to give it another go, particularly as the hotel itself is incredibly beautiful.