Emily Finch heads to the Thai capital with kids in tow and finds a lot to love about a Bill Bensley designed hotel in the city’s historic district.
We have family in Bangkok so it seemed an obvious choice for a non-beachy holiday with our kids. Naturally, when we were looking into accommodation options, I informed my husband that these trips only really work out if we have suitable digs to return to for comfortable lunchtime and evening chill-out sessions. (OK, I mean iPads – don’t judge!). If he was thinking along the lines of something backpackerish, which is of course how we did Bangkok when we were young and carefree (and children-free), forget it!
Luckily for us, we were invited to spend a few nights at The Siam Bangkok, a hotel I’d always wanted to try but felt I couldn’t justify the spend. Having experienced two nights there with the family, I really can say it’s worth every bit of the hefty price tag. Here’s why.
On arrival at this luxury urban resort, I was slightly concerned that such a slick-looking outfit mightn’t be the place for us: all those little hands touching the beautiful flower arrangements; opening library books that were clearly there for show; or doing massive dive bombs into the narrow but stylish riverside pool.
In fact, The Siam had thought of everything. The room design featured a smart partition dividing the bedroom and lounge area, so that the adults could watch TV, read and have something from the rather senior mini bar while the kids slept next door; the children’s beds in our suite were neatly made and turned down with goodies left on them; the restaurant had a kids’ menu; the hotel offered a babysitting service; and there were private movies available for the brood in the beautifully appointed on-site cinema (complete with ET figurine and old school cinema chairs) or in-room movies for the little ones after a big day’s sightseeing.
Smart but not pretentious
The hotel fuses a colonial vibe with Art Deco touches. High ceilings and ornate vases full of long stemmed, freshly-cut flowers greet you in the main lobby. Don’t you feel that the smarter the hotel, the more inconspicuous the check-in area is? Here, it sits discreetly at the back of the main lobby, with low lights and staff who are attentive without being overwhelming.
The main part of the hotel houses the suites, which are reached from three stories of colonnade-style corridors, seemingly open air, despite being under a very high glass cupola, with tropical reeds and plants almost touching the ceiling. It’s all very botanical and immaculate, like a scene from the Chelsea Flow Show!
The Siam is designed by renowned Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley, and as you wander around the hotel’s three floors, you can see his eye for funky detail creeping through at every turn; there’s a slick pool table holding court, a 1920’s-style dentist chair and a small bar cart in the form of a vintage car nestled in a corner. All these features made excellent eye-candy (and touch-candy!) for our young girls.
Stunning, spacious rooms
When you’re travelling with young children, you really do need a night-time set-up that’s conducive to the smalls heading off to bed while allowing you the privacy for that much needed de-stressing glass of something cold while in situ. None of this having to sit there in the pitch-black, waiting for them to fall asleep before hooking yourself into their iPads, watching a movie and going to bed at 8pm! (We’ve all been there…) The rooms are partitioned so you can relax in your own smart lounge area while the kids sleep, and get stuck into a movie and that mini bar. Failing that, there’s always the babysitting service – not to be overlooked!
I’ll be honest: The Siam isn’t in the middle of Bangkok’s tourist and shopping mecca, but in my opinion that’s what makes it such a haven. This is a hectic city, and while it might take a little longer to get around from here – it’s in the historic Dusit district, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River – the tranquil setting that awaits when you return from your trip down Khao San Road (or “memory lane”) is worth it. The hotel also boasts its own pier. All rooms come with a private butler who will give you the boat schedule and organise any other activities that this fantastically vibrant city has to offer.
Food, glorious food
While the poolside food and room service fill a gap admirably, the true culinary action takes place at The Siam’s signature restaurant, Chon Thai, set on the banks of the river within the hotel’s three acres. It’s a perfect spot for sundowners or late-night tipples after an evening at the night markets – just keep an eye on little ones, as there are a few low walls and bushes dividing this area from the pier. The restaurant sits within three century-old Thai teak houses, stylishly renovated inside and out. Yes, there’s air-con, but I suggest choosing a table outside under the stilts to really get a feel for the surrounds.
Our Thai relatives joined us for dinner at Chon Thai one night, and, as we all know, when a place gets the seal of approval from “locals”, it must be doing something very right indeed. Our meal was authentic, in-season and well-cooked – one of the best Thai meals we’ve had, in fact. Our rellies concurred and were pleasantly surprised that a hotel primarily pitched at non-Thais could produce such authentic food. We didn’t have time to try, but guests can also book a private cooking class with The Siam’s Thai chef.
Packing a punch
The Siam houses its own snazzy full-sized boxing ring in the well-equipped gymnasium. My husband and kids were given a one-hour lesson in Muay Thai, which included donning the obligatory silk Thai boxing shorts and protective mitts. The knowledgeable and highly agile instructor must have been laughing on the inside when he saw my team heading his way! Nonetheless, it’s a novel, fun and physically gruelling activity, and our girls were kept thoroughly entertained. The gym is decked out in classic Siam style, while the finishing touches – smart shower rooms, lockers, décor and layout – are in keeping with the slick urban feel of the hotel.
Special offer: Try out The Siam’s “Stay for Longer” package and bag yourself three nights for the price of two. Head to thesiamhotel.com/offers for more!
Getting there: Numerous airlines fly daily to Bangkok. We used skyscanner.net to find the best deal.
Visas: None required for Thailand (we travelled on British passports), but check the relevant immigration sites to be sure.
Accommodation: The Siam +66 2 206 6999 | thesiamhotel.com
By Emily Finch
See more articles on Thailand…