Bangkok is well known as a city of excess, but its growing number of smaller, boutique hotels and guesthouses show that less sometimes really can be more. Getting beyond bland rooms and faceless operations, these more intimate setups give you a glimpse at the real life of the city – here are five of our favourites.
Tucked away on a quiet residential square that’s a hop, skip and a jump – and yet light years away – from tourist hotspots like the Grand Palace and Khaosan Road, The Bhuthorn is a masterfully restored period Thai home. The work of renowned Thai architect couple Chitlada and Direk Sengluang, the tiny guesthouse has just three rooms but each is a haven of antique furnishings and gently preserved original features. The owners made a point of using as many of the building’s original materials as possible – examples are the small and quaint rotating windows on the first floor which were repurposed from elsewhere.
With so few guests in the house at any one time, service is flawless and has a real intimacy to it. Expect the front door to be locked when you arrive – a gentle tap and you’ll be welcomed in to a refreshing iced drink before making your choice of breakfast for the following day. Take the pintoh, a traditional Thai tiffin box containing an assortment of locally made delicacies sourced from the market – like steamed chicken and kale on rice, plus kanom krok coconut puddings and fresh watermelon – all beautified on banana leaf wrapping. The decor, atmosphere and personal service at The Bhuthorn all come together to make this a truly serene spot from which to explore the more peaceful backwaters of the Phranakorn district.
The Chao Phraya river is at the heart of Bangkok’s heritage, and how better to appreciate that than to stay right on the water – literally. This temple of devotion to the slow, uncomplicated life sits on ground that once housed a fish sauce factory in the backwaters of Chinatown, but today the open terraces of Loy La Long make this place all about soaking up the tranquil and unpretentious vibe of the community and its killer river views.
Located within the grounds of the neighbourhood temple, the hotel boasts individually designed, colour-themed rooms that combine a nod to the Thailand of yesteryear with the conveniences of today. Beautifully designed bathrooms and relaxation spots are as important as the bedrooms themselves and, with the Chao Phraya literally beneath your feet, these are the kind of rooms you are unlikely to want to leave.
Technically outside of Bangkok, this eco-friendly 21st-century hotel sits on the artificial Phra Pradaeng island in the Chao Phraya river, in Samut Prakan province on the outskirts of the capital. Firmly carving out its green credentials with the likes of solar power, juice carton insulation and locally sourced produce – they even write their receipts on leaves! – the Bangkok Tree House is adamant that this need not mean stooping on comfort. The collection of treetop nest rooms are linked by elevated wooden pathways over the mangrove and other vegetation below. One of these nests, sold as a ‘view with a room’, has no walls or ceiling and allows you to literally sleep under the stars – though the hotel says it has a cunning trick to deal with crawly critters and Bangkok’s sometimes heavy rain.
Being environmentally friendly doesn’t mean doing away with amenities like free wi-fi, while guests also get free bicycle rental and plenty of tips for getting around Phra Phadaeng – if visiting at the weekend, Bang Nampheung floating market is well worth a visit. If that all sounds a little too active, each room comes with its own rooftop sun deck that you might find it hard to tear yourself away from. Adding further to its green credentials, for every booking received the Bangkok Tree Houses commits to pulling a kilo of rubbish from the Chao Phraya river, across which it’s a short hop by ferry from Bang Na BTS station, meaning that despite the seclusion you’re still within a short eco-friendly (and traffic-free!) journey to downtown Bangkok by public transport.
Touting itself as the first and only boutique hotel in Chinatown, the Shanghai Mansion is certainly a classy act for Yaowarat. While a tad on the large side for the ’boutique’ tag with its 70+ rooms, the hotel nonetheless does a good job of serving up a pure slice of 1930s China in the bustling heart of Bangkok. One of the first nine-storey buildings from Chinatown’s early days in the Yaowarat district, today it is done up in the style of a Shanghai merchant’s house; think a heavy dose of deep red and plenty of coloured lanterns.
Bedrooms are generously sized and well equipped, while plush vintage armchairs kit out the communal veranda spaces that are perfect for dozing. Facilities are bountiful – it may lack a pool but, as well as two restaurants and a jazz bar, it has a ballroom, spa and even a Chinese supermarket thrown in! And while it may be a short tuk-tuk ride away from Hualamphong MRT, it is only meters from the finish point of our Bangkok Night Lights Tuk Tuk Tour!
The majestic structure of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, is a highlight for many visitors to Bangkok. Difficult to miss on a ferry ride along the Chao Phraya river, despite its name it is in fact best appreciated at dusk as the sun sets behind the grand chedi – and better still from a room at the Arun Residence on the river bank directly opposite.
The six bedrooms at the Arun Residence, with strong elements of traditional Thai design in a restored shophouse from the early twentieth century, all have views of Wat Arun, while Wat Pho is at the end of the soi and the Grand Palace is only a short stroll away. For something more modern and minimalist in design, with simple but effective white walls and black floors that allow the views of Wat Arun to take centre stage, nearby Sala Rattanakosin is a good alternative to Arun Residence. The location also puts both hotels close to the Pak Khlong Talat flower market and other highlights of our Bangkok Night Lights tuk-tuk tour. However, if you take our afternoon Diversity and Harmony walking tour, we finish about half a kilometre away and the rooftop bar makes for an amazing spot for a drink while watching the sunset over Wat Arun.
At Expique, we’re experts at showing you the unique parts of Bangkok that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably won’t discover on your own. Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in bangkok and ensure you leave with a memorable experience.
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Have you stayed at these hotels? Which is your favourite unique hotel in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
The Bhuthorn photo by Chris Wotton; all others by respective properties.
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