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Where to stay in Bangkok

Creativity is on full display in the Thai capital and nowhere more so than in its hotels. Whether it’s with stylish antique flourishes, retro rooms or minimalist chic, Bangkok has plenty of stylish places to bed down.

By Lee Cobaj
Published 4 Aug 2019, 08:00 BST
 Akyra Thonglor bangkok
Akyra Thonglor bangkok
Photograph by Akyra Thonglor bangkok

Tiny heritage houses, chic crash pads, and five-star resorts with lavish spas and helipads: the Thai capital has it all. First-time visitors are well advised to ease into this frenetic city by staying in the relative calm of the Chao Phraya River area, which has begun to attract a steady flow of independent designers, restaurateurs and creative types. Those wishing to be right in the thick of the action should head downtown to where the districts of Siam Si Lom, Chidlom and Ploenchit collide amid a multitude of malls, markets, food courts, restaurants and bars. Alternatively, Thonglor and Chinatown have plenty going on, but offer a more earthy neighbourhood feel, and are well-placed for those wanting to explore Bangkok on public transport.

For real city living: Akyra Thonglor Bangkok

Just a few sky train stops from downtown (and the river), the hipster Thonglor neighbourhood has seen an influx of artists, designers, baristas and mixologists in recent years. It’s also easy to navigate and has great indie shopping, as well as some fabulous affordable hotels, including the Akyra. Offering apartment-style living, its smoky-hued guest rooms are spacious (particularly the ‘residences’, which come with kitchens and washing machines), and most have balconies or terraces — a rarity in Bangkok. There’s also a sliver of a rooftop pool, a bar, a casual restaurant and a speakeasy.   
Rooms: Doubles from £65, B&B.

For design buffs: Bangkok Publishing Residence

This small, smart set-up — housed, as the name suggests, in a former printers — is just a 10-minute walk from the raucous backpacker zone of Khao San Road but feels like it belongs to a bygone era. Its atrium lobby features retro movie posters, vintage desks, battered leather chairs, printing accoutrements and piles of groovy old magazines. Over four floors, the eight retro-styled guest rooms — think antique wooden floors, wrought-iron beds, granny-chic oil paintings — are accessed via a scissor gate elevator. And up top, on the garden terrace, a bar, hot tub and table football await.     
Rooms: Doubles from £82, B&B.

For sumptuous style: Rosewood Bangkok

The structure of the Rosewood building — inspired by the Thai wei greeting with palms pressed together — has made the hotel a new downtown landmark. Inside, it feels more private residence than typical 21st-century Asian hotel. The lobby branches off into a brasserie with light filtering through pretty Thai fretwork. Luxurious creams, gold and bronzes dominate the 159 guest rooms and suites, complemented by marble bathrooms, cocktail bars, art pieces and top tech. There’s also an undercover pool wedged between the two halves of the building, a great Chinese restaurant and a superb little spa.   
Rooms: Doubles from £275, room only.

Hotel Once bangkok
Photograph by Hotel Once bangkok

For affordable romance: Hotel Once Bangkok

Located on a quiet street near the Chao Phraya River, Hotel Once Bangkok is tucked away from the city, yet well placed for exploring some of its biggest attractions. Walk 10 minutes to Asiatique night market, or hop on the free shuttle boat (available at the neighbouring Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Bangkok Menam Riverside) and head to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho Temple, Wat Arun and the new Iconsiam mall, with its Vegas-style fountains and indoor floating market. Drink cocktails at the rooftop bar and afterwards, flop in one of the crisp, minimalist guest rooms, softened by oyster greys, tropical plants and fleecy throws.     
Rooms: Doubles from £90, B&B.

For creative types: Como Metropolitan Bangkok

Set up by Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong, the design-led Como is a favourite hang out among the city’s stylish set. Find them peacocking by the palm-fringed pool, clip-clopping their Ferragamos across the makha-wood lobby floor, comparing notes at lauded Thai restaurant Nahm, and clinking glasses at the Met Bar. The 169 rooms are calming cocoons, with dark wood floors, white walls and oversized limestone bathrooms. But for ultimate relaxation, book a 90-minute signature massage at the Como Shambala Spa.   
Rooms: Doubles from £88, B&B.

For five-star views: Sala Rattanakosin Bangkok
Sala Rattanakosin offers the perfect spot to gaze across the river at the Wat Arun temple in all its ethereal glory. Its 15 guest rooms have a modern Thai look (black, white, ebony floors, low-slung beds); there’s also an excellent Thai restaurant and a slick rooftop bar. It’s just around the corner from Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School, a national institution where a one-hour rub-downs start from just £10.
Rooms: Doubles from £95, B&B.

The Siam hotel
Photograph by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

For vintage vibes: The Siam hotel

If you want a taste of Bangkok during the golden age of travel — birdsong at dawn, butlers and river boats, an air of mystery — The Siam is for you. Tucked away upriver from the Grand Palace, its discreet doorway opens onto a monochrome mansion with a verdant inner courtyard. From the entrance, a series of corridors and stone steps lead to a superb subterranean spa and a waterfront terrace with a pool and wonderful Chao river views. Suites and villas are Wes Anderson-y affairs with soaring ceilings, button-back armchairs, sprays of orchids and claw bathtubs. Villas also have private pools.     
Rooms: Doubles from £325, B&B.

For a pool with a view: 137 Pillars Suites & Residences

The emphasis at 137 Pillars Suites is most definitely on the vertical, from the lofty glass lobby to the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lavish guest rooms, and the showstopping rooftop pool with its drop-away city views. There’s also a sixth-floor mini putting green and driving range, and the top-notch Nitra Spa. The food is suitably fabulous, with contemporary Thai, European fine dining, cocktails, wines and cigars all on the menu across the hotel’s five bars and restaurants.       
Rooms: Doubles from £349, B&B.

For pure pampering: The Peninsula bangkok
There are a number of ways to arrive at The Peninsula Bangkok: in one of the hotel’s fleet of ‘Peninsula Green’ Rolls Royces, by liveried tuk-tuk, in a teak river boat, or by alighting from a helicopter and entering your suite via the aviation lounge. Breakfast — piles of tropical fruit, silver pots of tea — on the riverside is a dreamy affair, and then there’s the world-class spa, housed in a three-story, teak-lined mansion.    
Rooms: Doubles from £160, B&B.

For discerining diners: Shanghai Mansion Bangkok
Turn left out of Shanghai Mansion and you’ll run into Gaew’s Mango Stand, a street cart selling mango sticky rice that’s a fixture on city food tours. Across the road is another city institution, Nai Ek Roll Noodles. There’s a feast for the eyes, too, inside the hotel, with its Chinese-style red lacquerwork, koi ponds and silk lanterns. Guest rooms are equally vivacious, with rosewood four-posters, vivid silks and antique telephones.          
Rooms: Doubles from £59, B&B.

Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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