The Chao Phraya River – which meanders through the heart of Bangkok on its way to the Gulf – has always been the lifeblood of Thailand.
A source of food and jobs for millions, it’s the king of rivers – or, as it’s also called here, the River of Kings, a nickname earned by ferrying monarchs across their empire by boat during centuries.
Now, on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok welcomes its guests to a majestic new estate fit for royalty.
Open during the pandemic, it’s more than the city’s last five-star hotel.
This impeccably constructed resort is an urban resort that will change the way you think about accommodation in Thailand’s bustling metropolis.
The river is wide and flows slowly through the city, and I begin to reflect that rhythm shortly after arriving at the Four Seasons.
The sounds of tuk tuks and motorbikes on the street disappeared somewhere along the 150 meter long driveway leading to the main entrance.
Now I imagine I hear the breeze passing through the trees and the tinkling of the water. Standing in the hotel lobby, it’s hard to tell where the walls end and the floors lead.
There is a clear line of sight through full-length windows to the edge of the river but, between here and there, I count at least ten different levels descending in height, through gardens, water features, restaurants, swimming pools and a wide promenade.
It’s described as “waterfall architecture” and I can feel the hotel – and myself – flowing from the street to the water, from the inside to the outside, from check-in to a recliner.
In fact, if it weren’t for the check-in and concierge in a prominent but unobtrusive rounded section of the ground floor, you might not even realize it was a hotel.
Space is in abundance, with large outdoor courtyards bringing natural light throughout. The focus is on creating an atmosphere that’s as outdoor as it is indoors, where you can walk past artwork on your way to the various dining options, or float past glistening floors of decorative water as you go down to the pools.
A room with a view
It’s not until I go upstairs that the urban resort begins to feel more like a hotel, though the flowing textures follow me to my room.
No detail has been overlooked and, where one would have expected a plain wall, subtle shapes are formed by wallpapers of different colors, framed in wood, with nooks and shelves decorated with lamps and vases.
The man to thank for all of this is Jean-Michel Gathy, the interior designer who has become the darling of the luxury accommodation world.
Born in Belgium and based in Malaysia, he has designed for most major hotel brands. Perhaps his most famous creation is the rooftop infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
One of Gathy’s signature elements is water, so it’s no surprise he was drawn to a Four Seasons with 200 yards of river frontage.
“Sometimes dramatic, sometimes intimate, but always charismatic”, is how he describes his vision for the hotel.
I find all of these elements right in my room – from the wall of glass that has an amazing view of the river, to the freestanding bath from where I can also see the view, and the personal cocktail bar in case I’m in the mood prepare a drink myself.
Even with a king-size bed, elegant chaise lounge, cushioned daybed, and open spa-worthy bathroom, there’s still plenty of space.
The smallest rooms, including the one I’m staying in, are still an impressive 50 square meters. For guests looking for more space, there are Family Suites (which can have a fabric tent set up for the kids), Two-Bedroom Suites, or even an Epic Upper Level Suite that includes a massive terrace. outdoors perfect for entertaining.
A world of restoration
Bangkok tends to lie, which is perhaps no surprise for a city that likes to stay up late. But the Chao Phraya River never sleeps, and as I eat breakfast on the terrace of the Riva del Fiume restaurant, I watch the ferries and barges plod along the waterway.
Executive chef Andrea Accordi pops up and tells me that sometimes guests are initially disappointed with the hotel’s breakfast buffet because, at first glance, it doesn’t seem to be the huge range they expect from a five star hotel.
But rather than focus on quantity (much of which would be wasted anyway), he put his efforts into quality ingredients and made-to-order plates, saluting the fish in his own way and creating a special mini pizza. for breakfast with an egg on top, for example.
I fall in love with a hazelnut praline croissant roll after discovering its delicious creamy center and am relieved to find that I can get another one in the afternoon at the on-site patisserie, Café Madeleine, where all of the hotel’s pastries are baked under the direction of executive pastry chef Andrea Bonaffini, whose resume includes a stint at the three-Michelin-starred The Fat Duck in London.
Here at the Four Seasons, the restaurant already has a Michelin star itself, awarded to the Cantonese restaurant Yu Ting Yuan.
Specialties like Peking duck and dim sum are prepared in the bustling open kitchen, while large windows overlooking the reflection pond provide a tranquil balance. You can order a la carte (including dim sum at lunch), but many customers opt for one of the tasting menus.
After breakfast, Riva del Fiume becomes an Italian restaurant for lunch and dinner, while on the other side of the pools is the French-style Brasserie Palmier, its Riviera decor will be the perfect setting for its food-focused menu. seafood.
And in the evening, the hotel’s cocktail bar, BKK Social Club, serves food alongside its bespoke cocktails and suave design inspired by Buenos Aires glamor.
A creative neighborhood
It wasn’t until modern times that this stretch of the Chao Phraya River became popular with luxury accommodations. Since the founding of Bangkok at the end of the 18th century, the river was mainly dedicated to trade, its banks filled with merchants’ houses, immigrant quarters and warehouses.
It wasn’t until the 1970s, when commerce moved elsewhere in the city, that many buildings were abandoned and hotels began to make the most of large blocks of land with sea views. water.
In recent years there has been another wave of revival along the river. This time, it’s the creative industries moving into former commercial premises, bringing a vibrancy that also encourages new restaurants and nightlife to neighborhoods that hadn’t changed much since the end of the River port.
Walking the streets near the Four Seasons, through an area now dubbed the Creative District, I find vintage stores full of quirky antiques and distressed clothing, a designer furniture store, a Japanese-style izakaya at the end of a residential alley, and an unassuming bar that I’m sure is one of the coolest places in town.
There’s a restaurant that has a Michelin star and then, a few steps away, an old woman selling a bag of sweet breads for about 30 cents.
What I find impressive is that, rather than viewing this street art-covered hipster community as separate, beyond the hotel walls, the Four Seasons has embraced its location on the edge of a neighborhood trendy and gives customers advice on the best places to visit and even take tours through it.
The Four Seasons Hotel on the Chao Phraya River may be an urban resort, it may be a perfectly comfortable place with enough dining options that you don’t need to leave. But just as it embraces the river, it’s worth exploring the surrounding neighborhood and embracing what the river has given Bangkok.
For regular visitors to Thailand who normally stay in Sukhumvit or Silom, this is not only a refreshing new hotel, but also a new side to town.
About staying at the Four Seasons Bangkok
What was your favorite dish?
The hotel’s crown jewel may be the Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, Yu Ting Yuan, but I have my favorite meal at Riva del Fiume, where Executive Chef Andrea Accordi’s Italian heritage shines through.
The Thai coastline inspires my starter of sea bream carpaccio with sea urchin, as well as a taste of pan-fried kinki fish served with razor clams and black truffle.
The smoked pancetta and piennolo tomato stuffed ravioli are beautifully wrapped presents that I devour like a child on Christmas morning, but the highlight is the wagyu from Maruya Station in South Australia that melts in my mouth.
What was your favorite moment?
Am I in Thailand or Argentina? That can sometimes be hard to tell at BKK Social Club, the hotel’s flagship bar.
It is designed to evoke a timeless essence of decadent Buenos Aires, while capturing the vibrancy of Bangkok’s nightlife. Sitting at the bar, I chat with the mixologists while sipping Evita – a cocktail made with rum, Campari and Aperol that, perhaps rightly, is pleasantly sweet with just a hint of acid.
I snack on barbecue pork empanadas (although I also watch lobster tacos) and wonder why you would ever go out anywhere else.
What should I bring?
While elegance runs through every aspect of the Four Seasons Bangkok, there is always a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Shorts won’t look out of place during the humid day, with sleek linens and comfy robes, a good choice for sunset drinks and alfresco dining. If you’re looking for an excuse to dress up, the BKK Social Club attracts a hip local crowd in the evenings.
To explore the city, I recommend bringing a bag to carry things like water, sunscreen, and a camera. Although taxis are cheap and public transport is frequent, good walking shoes will allow you to explore more authentic neighborhoods.
The Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is approximately a 40-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi Main Airport.
To get around the city, it takes about 10 minutes by taxi to Silom and 15 minutes to Sukhumvit.
Pricing for a deluxe room starts at around $600 a night and a suite at around $1,200 a night.
The excellent breakfast buffet costs around $50 per person. There’s 24-hour in-room dining, free boat transfer to public transportation, and the concierge can arrange tours, including of the local arts and food scene. More details are available at fourseasons.com/bangkok.