Located on the banks of the Thai capital’s iconic waterway the Chao Phraya River, my transfer from the heart of Sukhumvit to Rattanakosin (aka Old Town), was one of the easiest journeys to a hotel review I have experienced, but the transition from Thong Lor to Sala Rattanakosin is not to be ignored.
Leaving the relentless bustle of trendy Thong Lor and seguing onto Rattanakosin, which I found out for the first time was actually an island – after living here for getting on for four years – I could not help but notice how calm and peaceful Old Town is, even from the confines of Grab taxi. There was a distinct air of stillness not easily replicated in a city of 9.7 million.
Home to some of Thailand’s most well-known landmarks, the approach to the hotel has got to be one of the best in Thailand, and I gawped up in wonder at the Grand Palace (above) before being deposited at the top of a small soi leading to the hotel.
The sense of serenity continues with local shops and bars, in the immediate vicinity of the Sala Rattanakosin Bangkok, whose owners and patrons move around with a quiet respect for the location – which includes the striking Wat Po, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Stepping into the lobby of the luxury boutique hotel I found the same quiet energy as I did on the streets outside, except this time enriched with the professional and genuinely ‘pleased-to see-you’ members of staff, who whisked me through check-in and directly to my room – and a remarkable view of Wat Arun that will remain with me for as long as I live. Don’t believe me? Check the below.
Sleeping with the curtains open, to keep an eye on the dance of light over the temple as dawn broke, may have not been the smartest of moves sleep-wise, but the memories are spectacular.
Sala has opted for a simple and understated interior design, with dark hardwood floors, white linens and soft furnishings complementing the subtle magnolia walls and, essentially, allowing the grand spectacle across the river to hold the limelight.
Food and drink
The view of Wat Arun, along with more sweeping sights of the Chao Phraya River, can also be seen from the hotel’s swanky open-air rooftop bar The Roof. The bar serves a solid range of wine and beer, not to mention some great cocktails, notably a pear-infused Gin Fizz, which I sipped as the sun went down over Wat Arun.
The hotel’s restaurant stretches over two stories, with indoor and outdoor seating, and serves a menu of international dishes and traditional Thai favourites. I plumped for Sala Rattanakosin’s take on the classic Massaman Curry – an unctuous and deeply savoury concoction of lamb, potatoes, onions, fish sauce and tamarind.
As a boutique hotel, Sala Rattanakosin does not have enormous ballrooms or cutting-edge event tech that some of Bangkok’s bigger sites can boast. But the inspiring location and impeccably well-drilled staff mean that it can hold its own as romantic venue. The restaurant, bar and assorted function rooms makes it ideal for intimate meeting or, indeed, as breakout venues for conference training sessions or cocktail parties.