City slicker: the Siam Kempinski Hotel

A genteel oasis in the heart of Bangkok’s high-rise hub

Massimo Morello
October 11, 2012

A genteel oasis in the heart of Bangkok’s high-rise hub

By Massimo Morello
Bangkok never had anywhere for strolling, no squares. But the city’s outlook is changing. Around the big shopping malls pedestrian areas are opening up where people can meet,” says Pat Chalermpanth, one of Thailand’s most established architects. His comments apply above all to Rama I Road, and particularly to the central shopping area, built around the Siam skytrain stop. A real town square, complete with fountain and water features, has been created on the north side facing the Siam Paragon, the mall said to be Asia’s most luxurious. Water cascades down the stone walls of the palm tree-lined steps, leading from the square to Siam Ocean World, one of the largest aquariums on the continent. On the other side of the street lies Siam Square, chock-full of designer clothing stores.

This major exercise in town planning gained a new attraction in 2010 with the opening of the Siam Kempinski Hotel, a 5.2-acre complex that includes 303 rooms and 98 serviced residences. Its location alone makes it stand out among the many other cathedrals of consumerism in this emerging economy. But it also enjoys an important historical context: This is the site of the Lotus Pond Palace of Rama IV (known in the West from the story The King and I), and it is close to that little gem of Thai architecture, the Sra Pathum Palace, current residence of HRH Princess Srindhhorn, who cut the ribbon during the hotel’s grand opening. Such diverse elements of history and modernity are reflected in the design of the hotel. In its central garden, among frangipani trees and pools that reproduce an ecosystem of small lagoons, the surrounding skyscrapers summon the impression of having been dropped into a parallel space and time. This sensation is heightened by the classic Thai art collections on show inside the hotel, juxtaposed with the futuristic grandeur of one of the hotel’s entrances. At times, stepping through it is like possessing one’s very own stargate.
The chef who came in from the cold
Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, the Thai restaurant at the Kempinski, is, to certain super-conservative gourmets, a heresy. Danish chef Henrik Yde Anderson, whose Kiin Kiin restaurant in Copenhagen was awarded one Michelin Star, hails from a different stratosphere in cultural and climatic terms. Yet thanks to him the restaurant is serving traditional Thai cuisine, using a dazzling array of ingredients, with a contemporary twist.
Mind over matter
The spa at the Kempinski was designed to be an oasis of rejuvenation and tranquillity, perfect after a day of sightseeing, shopping or business. The Royal Siam Signature Experience is an unforgettable three-and-a-half-hour pampering journey: a true Thai healing experience.

Wat Pathumwanaram
This ‘royal temple’, built in the second half of the 19th century, stands just beyond the Paragon mall and is made up of pavilions surrounded by ornate cloisters. Its unique quality is its location, offering a sacred oasis perfumed by great frangipani trees, in the heart of a huge shopping and business district.
Siam Square
Bangkok’s largest outdoor shopping area is a popular meeting place for the city’s youth and a great chance for visitors to gaze at the city’s more eccentric styles. “In Bangkok you are what you wear,” says fashion designer Suwatcharee Hongsilathong. Most kids aspire to appear “dern”, or modern, and interpret that in a variety of ways. A fun example is the Siam Girls, influenced mainly by manga pop culture.
Website: Tel: +66 (0)21 629 000. Reservations: Rates: from $220 per night. Suggested accommodation: cabana room (with direct pool access, from $350) or garden suite (with balcony overlooking the garden, from $440).

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