The largest city in Thailand is more accessible—and far more calm—by the river, exemplified by the lush boutique hotel The Siam and its one-of-a-kind approach to culture, wellness and design.
Weave through a quiet-for-Bangkok neighborhood’s palaces and tall walls, and you’ll reach the tranquil entry. Noted as one of the Thai Princess' favorite spots, the blood pressure-dropping palette of all white, black and electric green creates an unmatched sense of arrival. Walking inside feels akin to a fantasy. Ferns drip overhead, glowing with sunlight from a glass pyramid above, while a hall of towering banana leaves arcs over the world’s most elegant reflection pool.
Set against these lush surroundings is a fascinatingly-diverse collection of striking antiques, artifacts and art (wooden Shan Buddhas and Ming dynasty ceramics among them), regularly in flux thanks to rolling acquisitions by the owner and creative director, who is also an anthropology buff.
Keep walking past the screening room that houses an E.T. figurine to take the elevators up to the eclectic suites and tree-lined walkways which lead to sophisticated, ultra-private pool villas. There, you’ll reach the long, turquoise infinity pool that overlooks the Chao Phraya River.
Reality at The Siam is every ounce as magical as it sounds. Royal but subdued, it offers a stark contrast to the Thai capital of almost 10 million people that grows increasingly mad as one heads downriver.
The Siam’s long, graceful wooden boat is your portal from the resort-like hotel to the rest of the city. Cruising in it is the most ideal way to get around and gaze at gilded temples and busy tourist sites on the banks, as the cleaner air and calmer atmosphere extends the reach of the Edenic property’s three acres.
This one-of-a-kind boutique hotel is the work of the most dynamic of creative duos. The aforementioned antiquities collector owner is none other than beloved Thai-American pop singer and actor Krissada Sukosol Clapp. He’s joined in the venture by Bensley Design Studios architect Bill Bensley, a design superstar in his own right.
Though they opened doors in 2012, there’s nothing staid about The Siam. Bensley recently collaborated on the design of a brand-new courtyard and the restyled, terrace-studded Café Chao. He’s also working with the family to design a forthcoming property: The Siam Chiang Mai.
It’s peaceful, yes, but also vividly alive, especially inside the Muay Thai boxing ring. Boasting as chic a setup as has ever existed, 80-minute sessions with the small but fierce and always smiling experts involve instruction and drills in a variety of jabs, elbows and kicks, along with plenty of sweat, laughs and dramatic faux knockouts.. Training is fully customizable in the comprehensive gym, frequented by the aforementioned princess.
Follow your workout with a specialized Muay Thai massage downstairs in Opium Spa, where you’ll find the therapists might be even stronger. A fragrant foot bath gives way to a firm, tension-melting rubdown, arm and shoulder stretch, and knot-eliminating karate chops to the back. Cultural offerings even include the sacred tradition of Sak Yant tattooing, ancient geometric and deity symbols with Buddhist prayers believed to transmit magical powers.
Culinarily, The Siam excels too. Enjoy fantastic Western food at Deco (impeccable fish and chips, for example), as well as mouthwatering native specialties at Chon Thai. Cooking classes are a must; multi-sensory exploits that start with a tuk tuk ride to a local market for produce shopping amid everything from live frogs to pink century eggs.
Back at the property, ensconced in a darling century-old teak house by the riverside, chef Than guides two pupils through proper techniques—using a mortar and pestle to crush curry paste, chopping and slicing papaya shreds, flipping noodles in a wok. His advice when cooking? “Control your gas [on the stove], move your body and always smile.”
The latter part of that is impossible not to follow when spending leisurely days and nights in this 39-key gem. Around every corner is a waiting discovery—like a secretive upstairs bar filled with trombones and brass instruments—guaranteed to curl the corners of your mouth. Not only a true escape on the Chao Phraya, it’s total Thai immersion on your terms.
Visit The Siam online and start to plan your dream Thailand vacation today.
Photography by: Courtesy The Siam in Bangkok