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The Siam Kempinski, Bangkok

By:
Harriet Upjohn
 

Bangkok’s main shopping and entertainment district is the last place you’d expect to find a bit of peace and quiet, let alone a romantic getaway five-star resort where you can lie beside a pool in a tranquil, bird-filled garden in one of the world's most vibrant holiday destinations. But the Siam Kempinski is just that. To step inside this low-rise hotel is like going from one world to another – from the chaotic streets and sprawling, maze-like shopping centres that lie just beyond its walls, to an oasis of calm. It certainly feels like a million miles from the steamy whirlwind of Thailand’s capital city.

Kempinski, which claims to be Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, is a relative newcomer to Bangkok’s five-star hotel market. The Siam Kempinski was opened in 2010 on a site that used to be part of the Lotus Pond Palace (Sra Prathum Palace), adjacent to Siam Square in Pathumwan. Hence the lotus flower figures prominently throughout the property, from the décor and furnishings, to artwork and fresh flower displays around the hotel.

From the minute you arrive at the grand entrance, sweeping past a large fountain with a dancing flame at its centre, there’s no mistaking that the Siam Kempinski is something special. And once inside, you would never guess that you were in the middle of one of the city’s busiest shopping districts, with 20,000 shops on the doorstep. The glitzy, upmarket Siam Paragon shopping centre is literally next door.

In the opulent lobby, 14-metre-high limestone pillars soar upwards and towering windows offer serene views of the hotel’s three pools and lush tropical gardens. Graceful, cone-shaped brass wall lights, inspired by the decorative fingernails of traditional Thai dancers, cast intriguing shadows on the pillars while comfortable chairs beside a trickling fountain provide the perfect spot to soak up the grand ambience of the place.

The hotel basically forms a triangle, with three wings overlooking the gardens and saltwater pools. In this central garden sanctuary sun loungers are dotted about the lawns, beneath the trees and beside the pools, so it’s easy to find a private spot to lie back and relax. The ground floor is largely occupied by the lobby and bar, three restaurants and 21 to-die-for Cabana Rooms and Duplex Suites that have direct pool access from their own private terraces.

Perhaps the most unique feature of this hotel is its premium dining venue, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, one of the most prestigious and innovative Thai restaurants in the world. The brainchild of Danish chef Henrik Yde-Andersen, of Michelin-starred Kiin Kiin restaurant in Copenhagen, Sra Bua takes guests on a culinary journey that aims to both thrill and surprise.Think Thai fine dining with a twist. It is a jaded person indeed who fails to be delighted and inspired by Sra Bua’s extraordinary seven- or 11-course degustation.

Rooms

Siam Kempinski has 303 guest rooms, including 42 suites, spread across the Garden and Royal wings. The Kempinski Residences, which form part of the Royal Wing and are generally designed for longer stays, offer a further 98 serviced rooms and apartments with basic kitchen facilities.

Accommodation choices range across 11 categories, from 40-square-metre Deluxe Rooms to the 300-square-metre Royal Suite. Many have balconies and most overlook the gardens and pools. For a romantic escape, it’s hard to go past the Cabana Rooms and Duplex Suites that have direct pool access from private terraces in the Garden Wing, but all guest rooms feature the same elegant, contemporary décor with Thai touches in the artworks and furnishings. And no matter what your room category, complimentary Wi-Fi is offered across the board, and soft drinks and local beers are replenished daily for all guests free of charge.

We stayed in a Deluxe Room with balcony in the Kempinski Residences on the seventh floor of the Royal Wing. Our room felt wonderfully spacious with a lounge area, desk and king-size bed (complete with the biggest, softest pillows I’ve ever come across). The marble bathroom, with separate shower and bath, and window overlooking the rest of the room (but with a blind for those who like a bit more privacy!) was a standout, and there was enough storage space behind the wardrobes’ mirrored doors for a small army.

Those in Cabana Rooms, Duplex Suites and all other Suites have complimentary access to the Executive Club on the top floor of the Royal Wing. There, as well as a personalised check-in and check-out service, and meeting and secretarial facilities, guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast, all-day snacks, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails featuring a range of Thai and Western appetisers, made-to-order sandwiches and light meals.

Dining

Dining choices at Siam Kempinski range from the casual to the exquisite. While all are of a standard you’d expect in a five-star property, the hotel’s premium restaurant, Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, is the one you’ll be talking about for years to come. Here, guests are told to expect the unexpected, and Danish chef Henrik Yde-Andersen’s extraordinary culinary creations certainly turn Thai cuisine on its head. We went the whole hog and chose an 11-course degustation with wine pairings that took us on an almost theatrical journey through the flavours of Thailand. A street-food inspired appetiser was served from a bell jar amid a swirl of wood smoke. The drama continued when a dish of warm lobster with frozen curry pearls was deftly produced from a cloud of liquid nitrogen. And a pomegranate salad with raw shrimps arrived on a bed of white candyfloss that magically vanished as our waiter poured a dressing over the top. At 5,400 THB ($210) per person, the 11-course set menu with wine pairings isn’t cheap, but it is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make it worth every cent.

Coming back down to earth, buffet breakfasts and casual lunches are served in the relaxed Brasserie Europa and Niche restaurants, both of which have poolside alfresco dining terraces. Apart from breakfasts, the daytime Brasserie Europa is famed for its Sunday Longest Lunch with free-flowing champagne, while the fun but stylish Niche offers all-day dining, including evening meals. Breakfast choices were among the best I’ve seen anywhere with everything from Middle Eastern and Asian dishes to a vast array of European-style fare plus a wide selection of breads and pastries, cereals, fresh fruit, juices, smoothies and homemade yoghurts. Chefs were on hand to prepare eggs, noodles, you name it, in wonderfully creative ways. We chose scrambled egg served in the shell with caviar and crispy croutons, and Alaskan crabmeat and poached egg topped with truffle Hollandaise sauce.

For drinks and light refreshments, the resort-style Rotunda pool bar is the perfect spot for an icy cold beer during the day while the sophisticated Hanuman Bar in the hotel lobby is great for afternoon tea (there are 60 loose-leaf varieties to choose from), aperitifs and nightcaps.

Spa/Gym

Not surprisingly, a session at the gym was high on my priority list the morning after our 11-course dinner at Sra Bua. Situated on level 8 of the Garden Wing, it is spacious and well equipped with the latest Technogym treadmills, and crossfit and weights machines. Complimentary aerobics, stretching and fitness classes are also available for guests. On arrival, I was handed a towel and a Philips headset, and given a brief tour before hopping onto a treadmill in front of a large window overlooking the pools and gardens.

To complete the healthy transformation from the previous night’s excesses, my next stop was the hotel spa, situated immediately below the gym, on level 7 of the Garden Wing. I’d booked in for Kempinski The Spa’s signature Seasonal Massage, a blissful 90-minute therapy that’s said to be inspired by the European cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The session started with a consultation to work out my current seasonal mood (winter, apparently) and techniques/massage oils were chosen accordingly. The experience was so heavenly the 90 minutes went by in a flash. I might have started off in winter mode but came away feeling more like spring. The Seasonal Massage costs 3,600 BHT (about AU$140).

The Verdict

A wonderful surprise to find this tranquil and luxurious sanctuary in the heart of Bangkok which is perfect for a romantic getaway or city break. Certainly a worthy alternative to Bangkok’s Oriental, Shangri-La and Peninsula hotels for those who don’t mind being in the city’s main shopping district rather than close to the Chao Phraya River.

Siam Kempinski rates for bed and breakfast start from about 7,750 THB (AU$300).

Address and contact details:

Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok,
991/9 Rama I Road, Pathumwan,
Bangkok 10330 Thailand
Phone: +66 (0) 2 162 9000
Website: kempinski.com/bangkok

Getting there:

The Siam Kempinksi Hotel is about 50 minutes by limousine or taxi from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Taxis cost around 500 THB (AU$20) one way; hotel limousine (BMW 7 Series) costs 2,800 BHT (AU$110) one way.

An alternative is to get the express Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai station in central Bangkok (about 45 THB) and then take the BTS Skytrain to Siam station, which is very close to the hotel.

Nearby attractions:

Shops, shops and more shops, notably Siam Paragon, Bangkok’s largest luxury shopping centre and home to Siam Ocean World. Also close by are Siam Square and Siam Centre shopping malls, the National Stadium, Chula Longkorn University and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

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