Nestled amongst Bangkok’s historical palaces, temples and museums, and along the River of Kings lies this expansive 39-room luxury retreat. Dubbed “The Siam”, this boutique gem is set on three acres of premium river frontage, transporting guests to a bygone serenity suffused with priceless antiquities, quintessential Thai allure and contemporary comforts. The Siam includes private pool villas and unique access to Bangkok’s historic palace district. At The Siam, guests have the unique experience of exploring Bangkok by boat from the hotel’s private pier. When it comes to relaxation, indulge in a pampering session at The Siam’s seductive spa or simply unwind with a sunset cocktail at the hotel’s riverfront bar.
With a striking million-dollar reinvention, The Siam has pulled out all the stops when it comes to enhancing the aesthetics of its interior space including a bold new black and light grey checkered courtyard with a soaring glass pyramid roof. Modern and functional, guests are welcomed into a temperature-controlled environment before indulging in an extraordinarily culinary experience curtesy of The Siam’s signature Chon Thai Restaurant.
The Siam stands out for its ability to meet the growing demands of today’s modern traveller while simultaneously staying true to honouring Thailand’s heritage. Genuine kindness, authenticity and a caring attitude are all Siamese characteristic that this hotel strives to maintain. Be it for an overnight escape or ultimate private riverside adventure, its no secret why The Siam was crowned as one of the “most iconic hotels of the last century” by Architectural Digest Magazine. LUXUO speaks to Nick Downing, the general manager at The Siam hotel to find out about the hotel’s unique offerings, curated artworks and future plans for expansion.
Tell us about your experience in hospitality and how it all started?
Being an only child of parents who travelled avidly, I suppose I was always destined to fall in love with hotels and different cultures. While I was at university studying Business and Information Systems, I actually wrote to all the five-star hotels seeking an entry level job. Luckily Hyatt Regency Perth offered me the night porter position and the rest is history. I was studying during the day and working the nightshift. Hyatt was my hospitality foundation; including me in all their training programs and promoting me through the ranks and eventually ended up transferring me to Park Hyatt Canberra as the Front Office Manager. From a solid ten-year period with Hyatt, opportunities opened ahead of me to take amazing positions ranging from opening Palazzo Versace to amazing experiences in Maldives, the Seychelles, Cambodia, Thailand and other countries around the Indian Ocean.
When did you join The Siam hotel?
I actually joined The Siam family in late 2016.
What is the DNA of The Siam hotel and how does the hotel differentiate itself from other high-end boutique hotels in Bangkok?
I always think words such as “luxury” and “boutique” are quite generic words these days without real meaning. I often feel “boutique” hotels are all about style but somehow missing soul or heart. Ultimately it has to be more than a simple design. That being said, we obviously have a stunning Bill Bensley designed property in the royal district of Bangkok. However I believe the secret is that we are family owned and independently managed. The Sukosol family lead by Khun Kamala has always given us the freedom to do whatever it takes to succeed. Our primary goal is to ensure we have happy guests and a happy team. This will ultimately lead to success as a property, creating an exceptional reputation for crafting memorable experiences beyond simply checking in and out.
The Siam is known for offering unique private pool villas but what do your guest love most at The Siam?
We have so many features at the hotel which differentiate us. Guests love the fact that we have so many hidden corners to explore. Whether it be the Vinyl Room with an amazing collection of vinyl records to enjoy, or the private screening room to enjoy watching that favourite movie with your family. Our Opium Spa which not only features a haven of exclusive space but also the opportunity to receive a traditional Sak Yant tattoo from a Master. Or perhaps it’s the opportunity to enjoy a class with our chef by the river learning some key Thai recipes. Guests constantly mention the sense of space throughout the property. Most hotel designers or owners would have put over 100 rooms on a site of this size, whereas The Siam was created to ensure a sense of exclusivity and serenity, a true sanctuary to retreat to after a day exploring the frenetic energy of Bangkok.
How easy is it to access Bangkok’s vibrant city centre using the Chao Prayah river?
This is the key to the guest experience of The Siam. Guests take advantage of our private water limousine than runs on a schedule throughout the day for our guests to explore key historic sites and head out for amazing meals or shopping experiences. Trips are arranged through their butler and coordinated depending on their wishes. Not only does this escape Bangkok’s infamous traffic snarls, it also ensures that guests can accurately plan their day knowing they will get somewhere or return to the hotel at a specific time, ultimately maximising their time with us.
Every detail at The Siam hotel tells a story with an emphasis on reinvigorating local craft, arts, culture and community. Tell us more about its exterior as well as interior design and decoration.
The Siam was designed by Bill Bensley who always has a sense of drama to his properties. The Siam is now different and is quite striking. A blend of Deco and Asian influences. Dramatic black and white scenes throughout the hotel. However due to both Bensley and the owner’s love for the reused and repurposed, the antique and curious, the whole hotel gives the atmosphere of and Hotel and Museum with its corridors and rooms filled with artwork and antiques from around Asia and beyond. Owning family member, Krissada Sukosol-Clapp is known for constantly decorating and styling areas around the property as he finds new pieces or inspiration. The latest is the Bar at The Story House which had taken a dramatic turn with red accented pieces and a gothic style chandelier. Both recent additions for the surprise of our regular guests.
Tell us more about the special relationship between The Siam and Thai luxury brand Jim Thompson?
In 2022, it was decided to convert our famous Connie’s Cottage from a guest villa into public space. We had various ideas what to do with the spaces. However it was owner Khun Kamala who suggested we open discussions with Jim Thompson (as an internationally recognised iconic thai brand) to see if they would be interested in a formal collaboration to take over all or part of the villa. This was especially relevant as Jim Thompson features in the history of the four antique Thai houses that are on the property. We then had a discussion with the incoming CEO Frank Cancelloni who was also looking to partner with other iconic Thai brands. We eventually came to agreement for them to take the ground floor as a small retail space which would introduce our guests directly to the brand with the idea to entice them to visit their revitalised and relaunched Heritage Quarter downtown. I am pleased to say the partnership and collaboration has been a great success for both parties.
What The Siam has on offer on fine dining?
Our signature restaurant is the riverside Chon Thai Restaurant. However rather than going down the “fine dining” route, we have preferred to focus on exceptional home-style cuisine for our guests to enjoy the best flavours from Thailand while sitting in the historic surroundings of century-old wooden Thai houses.
To counter this traditional Thai experience; during the covid period we chose to create a new dining experience at the other end of the hotel called The Story House. A striking Bensley designed renovation was completed and a dramatic series of rooms filled with Krissada’s antiques, artworks and furniture created a space for guests to experience a menu of contemporary culinary options with flavours from around the world. Opening Executive Chef, Blair Mathieson was bought back to launch this restaurant and I am delighted to see guests enjoy a wide range of options with many plant based specialities also.
Will The Siam experience in Bangkok be reproduced in other parts of Thailand? What are the plans for brand expansion?
In November 2019, we actually announced plans for The Siam Chiang Mai. The Sukosol family have purchased an incredible site which lends itself to create an experience unique for Chiang Mai. For us, it’s important that any new guest experience we create in Chiang Mai (or elsewhere) is also a logical and is a welcomed extension to the one we have created in Bangkok. Ultimately Covid paused this project and we hope to revisit this in the near future and bring the project to life.
Bangkok is rapidly changing. What are some of the challenges the city is facing post-Covid in attracting more tourists from the Southeast Asian region and beyond?
The Bangkok skyline is changing daily and is unrecognisable from ten years ago. This includes a multitude of new hotel developments stretching from downtown to the riverside with more to come in the next few years. The challenge comes not only from increased local competition but also from other countries and regions. Ease and cost of travel to and from any country is critical as well as the safety and security of travellers while visiting. Even though travellers have short memories and tend to revert to old travel habits in a short period of time, it is also critical for any country to be politically stable. Thailand continues to prove its resilience and continues to look forward with hope.
To end this interview, tell us one secret that you have never shared about The Siam hotel? Perhaps a hidden location or a secret experience?
There is not a period of time that we are not thinking about the next guest experience we create or how to elevate The Siam to new levels. Whether it be improving a space or looking for new ways to impress guests. For example we are starting a collaboration with a local photographer who has taken metal plate vintage portraits and we are introducing this unique experience for our guests. I cannot share the exact details but we are currently looking at the feasibility of another guest experience that would definitely be a first for any Bangkok or indeed any Thailand hotel. But sorry, you will have to wait for those details!
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