We are often asked where’s best to stay in Bangkok – beside the river or in the heart of the city? In truth, there are so many fantastic accommodation options in Bangkok, from six-bedroom former royal residences and boutique retreats to large impressive hotels with spectacular city views. With a growing underground, Skytrain and riverboat network, you can’t really go wrong. Wherever you’re staying in Bangkok, you can explore the whole city.
I personally love the allure of the water. Not only is there the aspect of space in a bustling city, but you’ll observe the buzz of local life on the busy Chao Phraya River – it really is captivating watching the barges, water taxis and longtail boats going back and forth. Also, on the river you can choose a location with low-rise buildings, so you can couple views of Wat Arun temple with being within walking distance of the Grand Palace and Wat Po (I’d recommend either Sala Rattanakosin and Chakrabongse Villas). The extended Bangkok underground now reaches out this far, so it’s easy to get back to the shopping hub of the city if you wish.
A new addition to the river’s allure is Icon Siam, a shopping mall which not only has numerous luxury shops, but also plenty of dining options with outdoor terraces and river views. Plus, in the basement is Sook Siam, with its cool floating market set-up offering street food-style dining. Besides riverside dining, there are also incredible views of the river and city from the numerous rooftop bars and restaurants at the top of lebua at State Tower, located behind the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Sky Bar and Sirocco are the best known, partly because they both starred in The Hangover 2 movie!
Riverside hotels include the beautifully refurbished and elegantly classic Mandarin Oriental, or The Peninsula, which boasts some of the best views across to the city lights of Bangkok. A more contemporary option is the new Capella, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, fresh modern suites and pool villas. The utterly unique Chakrabongse Villas was formerly owned by a Thai prince and with just six suites, it’s both intimate and authentically Thai. Finally, The Siam is a boutique hotel located in a quieter part of the river, away from the hubbub.
The Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La all have boat shuttles to and from Icon Siam, as well as the Skytrain station to access the rest of Bangkok. Asiatique is another night-time riverside shopping and dining venue, located further down the Chao Phraya River and created from converted warehouses. It has more of a market feel and is great for families. You can get there via a free boat shuttle from the Saphan Taksin Skytrain station.
In the city choose to stay in the Siam district, where it’s surrounded by shopping malls, a plethora of restaurants and conveniently close to the Skytrain. [email protected] is a funky boutique hotel, ideal for young couples with a great rooftop bar. The larger Siam Kempinski is great for families, with a huge landscaped pool, bright rooms, kids’ club and plenty of dining options – it’s almost like a resort in the city. Closer to Lumpini Park is the Banyan Tree, famous for the inimitable Vertigo and Moon Bar on its rooftop, both of which command amazing sunset views and night-time cityscapes.
Which would I choose? Quite frankly, I’d be happy in any of these suggestions. Each hotel has its own appeal, so it’s just a case of figuring out which one is right for you!