Chakrabongse Villas, Bangkok
Just a few short paces from the Chao Phraya River, Chakrabongse Villas achieves a unique feat: it retains the aura of a tranquil oasis despite being on the doorstep of many of Bangkok's big-ticket sights like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The atmosphere here is more akin to that of a luxurious homestay than a traditional hotel and there is a reason for that. It was originally built in 1908 as a quiet retreat for Prince Chakrabongse away from busy palace life and it has been in his family's hands ever since. It's now under the ownership of his granddaughter Narisa, who decided in 2007 to open it up as a regal retreat for guests. To this day, she still lives in the main house for part of the year.
Every effort has been made to keep Chakrabongse Villas in its original condition with the antiques and artwork featuring throughout to reflect the family's noble history and love for traditional Thai culture. The rooms are found either in the old staff residences, decked out in tapestries and furnishings sourced from Morocco and India, or in teak wood villas with Thai rattan sofas and contemporary artwork.
A stay at Chakrabongse Villas really is an authentic glimpse into the lives of Thai royalty. Nothing says this better than dining by the riverside on a meal that was born of the Grand Palace's kitchens, while watching the glow of Wat Arun twinkle in the night sky on the opposite bank.
The accommodation at Chakrabongse Villas is essentially split into two types, with the smaller rooms housed in the former servant quarters and the larger suites situated in separate teak wood villas.
The three smaller rooms are firmly Moroccan in influence, with dark-wood window frames and brightly painted interiors. The tapestries, paintings and furnishings inside the rooms all hail from Morocco or India, brought back by Prince Chakrabongse following his travels around the globe.
Specially commissioned by Narisa Chakrabongse when the hotel first opened, the four larger suites are all located in rustic teak wood cottages. All are traditionally Thai in style but each one has heaps of individual character. The Thai House Suite was originally a 19th-century stilt house in Ayutthaya but was carefully disassembled and rebuilt piece by piece here, while the River View Suite is one for the romantics, with fine views of the Chao Phraya River and tropical gardens.
The hotel's restaurant, Aharn Thai, spectacularly looks out over the Chao Phraya River from an open sala (pavilion). If you'd prefer, there's also a riverside open-air terrace fronting the restaurant – this is especially gorgeous at night in front of the golden glow of Wat Arun. Breakfast here is at any time you like – you just need to let the hotel know a time the night before each morning. The à la carte offering is delicious, with a selection of cooked food, fruits, toast, juices and traditional Thai dishes available.
Lunch and dinner both use a set menu that changes on a daily basis. There's absolutely no question about the quality of food here – every meal was once enjoyed by the Thai monarchy straight from the palace kitchens. Each dish lives up to its regal reputation and just to give you a flavour of what you might expect, deep-fried soft-shell crab, crab meat curry and juicy river prawns have all featured on the menu. This is a meal you'll never forget.
Chakrabongse Villas is right on the doorstep on many of Bangkok's top sights, including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, so you're well-placed to make the most of the city. If you want to explore a little faster than on foot, the hotel has complimentary bicycles you can use for zipping around the capital's streets.
Being on the riverbank, the hotel also offers a selection of cruises. By day, glide the tranquil canals which branch off the Chao Phraya, stopping off to wander the stilted communities which line the Thonburi side. In the evening you can enjoy a sunset cruise in the hotel's comfortable Riva speedboat, seeing the Grand Palace and Bangkok's temples bathed in golden light. Fancy something more adventurous? A little-known excursion Chakrabongse Villas offers is the opportunity to go canoeing along the river at midnight!
The hotel's swimming pool and serene leafy gardens are among the most relaxing places in all of Bangkok. Across the river, Wat Pho temple is famed for its massages and the hotel can organise for one of the temple's staff to give you a massage in the privacy of your own room.
Where is Chakrabongse Villas?
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