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Pleased to be Siamese

Bangkok has a new kid on the block, or more specifically on the riverbank, in the form of The Siam hotel.

What’s the story?

Thai pop singer/film actor Krissada Sukosol Clapp has returned to his family’s hotelier roots with the help of starchitect, Bill Bensley. The artiste turned design director had the vision to transform a three acre stretch of land on the banks of the Chao Praya in Bangkok owned by his mother into a luxury 39-suite hotel. After seven years the result – The Siam – opens fully this month.

What’s the design ethos?

A mixture of art deco, traditional Thai and colonial vintage that’s completely stunning. There’s a dramatic black and white colour scheme throughout with smatterings of dark wood and neutral fabrics. The main hub of the hotel is made up of three vast interconnected buildings with soaring ceilings, plant and water feature filled courtyards and light flooding atriums. They lead out to landscaped grounds where traditional Thai teak houses once belonging to Jim Thompson sit alongside chic, newly built villas, culminating in a riverside bar on what must be Bangkok’s most stylish jetty.

The Siam, main residence

What’s with all the vintage?

The overwhelming number of antiques throughout the hotel come from Sukosol Clapp’s own personal collection and helped shape Bensley’s design. There’s an abundance of vintage furniture, photographs and silk prints plus masses of unusual artefacts. A grouping of French horns hang from the ceiling in the art deco style bar while off the lobby, a room featuring a 1930s wooden model car is set aside expressly for guests’ chauffeurs.

Courtyard at a Pool Villa

Bedroom of a Pool Villa

What are the guest rooms like?

Even the entry level Siam suites are chi chi and roomy at 80 sq metres but the pool villas are a knock out; traditional double wooden doors open to reveal courtyards with daybeds for lounging in the shade and plunge pools, art deco inspired interiors and spiral staircases leading up to roof terraces for sunbathing.

If you’re looking for something romantic book Connie’s Cottage, a traditional Thai teak house once owned by Connie Mangskau, a friend of Jim Thompson and a fellow OSS (Office of Strategic Services) agent. Rebuilt in the grounds of The Siam, the charming two storey structure has its own garden and a plunge pool/jacuzzi and just one bedroom making a cosy hideaway. Despite the old fashioned feel, as with all the rooms there’s a thoroughly modern entertainment system for watching recent release films.

An entry level Siam Suite

If the hotel’s a Bill Bensley design, there must be a spa?

Absolutely. Take the striking wrought iron staircase in the main residence down to the cheekily named Opium spa where a serene lounge area awaits you. From there you’ll be escorted to one of the spacious treatment rooms which have separate dressing areas so you walk through to enjoy your treatment when you’re robe clad and ready. Much better than having the therapist walking in on you while you’re clambering onto the bed. Impressively, the aroma therapy massage I tried was not the usual lightweight experience but included some Thai massage stretching and firm pressure point elements.

Are there any fitness facility?

There’s a svelte lap pool parallel to the river and a slick gym decorated with vintage boxing posters and leather punch bags. While all the usual cardio equipment is gleamingly on offer, a more surprising inclusion is a Thai boxing ring, a first for me and reputedly “the first luxury Muay Thai gym in Bangkok”.

One of the Thai teakhouses

What about the restaurants?

Choose between Chon Thai, spread over three of the teak houses, and the Deco Bistro which is all matt black and mirrors. You can order from the Thai and Western menus in both restaurants and all the food is overseen by executive chef Blair Mathieson. Sounds dangerous but the food is superb, especially Mathieson’s (a New Zealander poached from the Chedi in Chiang Mai) Thai dishes. Standouts include the green mango and soft shell crab salad, prawn red curry soup and chargrilled beef with chilli sauce.

And bars?

As well as the aforementioned art deco number, there’s a small and incredibly cute bar in a teak house on stilts, filled with animal print rugs and antlers on the walls. Reached via a wooden platform it’s like a tree house for grown ups.

Anything else I should know?

The staff at The Siam are the friendliest I’ve met anywhere – a refreshing change for a “designer hotel”.

What’s the bottom line?

The Siam suites start at THB16,300 per night including breakfast, wi fi and butler service.

The hotel is in the Dusit district of Bangkok on Thanon Khao, Vachirapayabal. Tel: 66 2206 6999.

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