Bangkok's secret peaceful oasis
In the middle of downtown Bangkok, Siam Kempinski Hotel hides behind Siam Paragon, one of Southeast Asia’s largest malls. Despite the throngs of shoppers who flood the adjoining mega mall and the frenetic neighborhood, the hotel manages to carve out a secret peaceful oasis.
The hotel was built with this in mind; it sits on the site of the former Lotus Pond Palace, commissioned by Rama IV (best known to Westerners as the king in The King and I) as a summer retreat. The grounds now also house the private royal residence of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Whether you’re in the airy, marble-clad lobby adorned with 46-foot-tall pillars, the exotic gardens and three saltwater pools in the center of the O-shaped property or the soothing, chic guest rooms, you’ll enjoy the quiet.
The stylish 401 rooms and suites in the Bangkok hotel have a thoroughly modern Thai look with a palette of black, gray, white, beige and muted purple, and oversized sepia prints of lotuses. Most have vistas of the gardens and the pools.
The must-book accommodations are the Duplex Suites. The striking two-story spaces come with a gray marble bathroom on each floor, Thai artwork and, our favorite feature, a patio that steps off right into the hotel’s serene saltwater pool.
Siam Kempinski houses an impressive Thai art collection. A group of professors and students from the College of Fine Arts in Chiang Mai were commissioned to create art exclusively for the luxury hotel. Throughout the property, you’ll find 4,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, installations, objets d’art and antiques, including a pair of 23-foot-tall lobby paintings with celestial bodhi trees, representing man’s quest for knowledge and wisdom.
You will also spy artistic details like 250 brass sconces shaped like the decorative fingernails of traditional northern Thailand dancers performing a welcome ritual. The brass sheets bear a cutout pattern of a lotus bloom in splashing water, which makes for interesting shadows.
The lotus is a recurring symbol throughout the Siam Square hotel, appearing on carpets, on staff uniforms, in lobby water fountains in the lobby, and in fresh, tropical floral arrangements in the public areas.
Siam Kempinski offers several dining options, including casual Niche and Brasserie Europa, whose Sunday Longest Lunch is a draw with a spread that includes Maine lobster ravioli in sweet corn sauce topped with tobiko caviar, Thai-style soft-shell crab curry, oysters, foie gras and free-flowing champagne.
Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin is a destination restaurant. Even if you aren’t staying at the city hotel, visit the sleek split-level space dotted with small pools covered with lotuses (Sra Bua is Thai for “lotus pond”) to indulge in multi-course menus featuring molecular Thai cuisine.
Traditional Thai food is cleverly reinvented while maintaining its distinctive flavor profiles. Take the classic mango sticky rice — the dessert arrives as a big ball of coconut cotton candy. As the server pours coconut sauce on it, the ball melts to reveal housemade mango ice cream and shredded coconut.
Before or after dinner, hit up alfresco pool bar Rotunda, the lobby-level Hanuman Bar or 1897, a smoking lounge that comes with its own terrace.
Stay in an Executive Room, Cabana Room or suite, and you’ll gain access to the warm 17th-floor Executive Lounge, where you can use meeting spaces or have cocktails, tea, tapas and breakfast away from the fray while admiring the view from the big-picture windows.
On the eighth floor, there’s a light-filled gym with Technogym equipment, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, a steam bath and a room that holds aerobics, stretching and muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) classes. One of the best amenities is on the seventh floor: Kempinski The Spa, the brand’s first in Asia, overlooks the garden and specializes in seasonal treatments.
Drop off the kids at the bright Kempinski Kids Club, a complimentary service for children ages three to 12, and head up to the spa for the therapeutic Spring in Your Step Detoxing massage to rid toxins from your body and boost your energy.