Anantara Siam, Bangkok
In the heart of Bangkok, in a neighbourhood filled with high-end hotels. The Anantara Siam is a few blocks' walk from the city's major shopping district, with a series of giant shopping centres flowing into one another. The famous giant MBK is among them.
The building started its life as a Peninsula hotel and the influence of that Hong Kong brand can still be felt in the enormous, colonial-style lobby area, which features a large lounge serving high tea. Thai flourishes have been added, such as the impressive ceiling featuring large watercolour images on raw silk. The grand staircase also features a huge artwork, again on silk, representing many facets of Thai culture. The work, by artist Arjarn Paiboon Suwannakudt, was so ambitious that he died before getting a chance to finish it. It was completed by his children. The hotel features 354 rooms including 19 suites and four private villas adjacent to the pool, which offer the feel of a resort despite being in the centre of one of the world's busiest cities. The rooms underwent a refurbishment last year to create a more modern feel.
There's a 24-hour gym, squash court and yoga studio along with a large spa, something this chain is renowned for. There's also an abundance of dining options (see The Food below) as well as several in-house shops selling boutique high-end goods.
My king room feels almost like a suite, with a generous space featuring large, bright blue couch, sitting chair, large desk (and another chair) and a giant flatscreen TV. The bathroom is marble with a deep bathtub and separate shower. A great feature is the room's smartphone, which guests are free to take with them when leaving the hotel. It offers unlimited 4G data along with free domestic and international calls. While it has its own apps and features, it's most useful as a Wi-Fi hot spot, allowing you to use your own phone without having to get a local sim or face huge roaming charges. Just don't lose it or you'll have to pay a hefty replacement fee.
The property has long been associated with fine dining and several of the restaurants here predate the hotel's rebranding as an Anantara in 2015. There are four main restaurants, each with its own speciality: Biscotti focuses on Italian cuisine and wine; Madison offers grilled steak and seafood; Shintaro has sushi and other Japanese cuisine; Spice Market, my personal favourite, offers a vast range of Thai dishes using exotic spices - there are 12 different curries. For those unable to decide, the hotel's courtyard restaurant, Aqua, allows you to order dishes from any of the four other restaurants' menus. In addition, there are several more casual dining spots in the hotel complex. This includes a popular high tea in the lobby, perhaps a hangover from the property's original life as a Peninsula hotel. Every September the hotel plays host to the World Gourmet Festival, with star chefs from all over the world converging for special events including cook classes and dinners See https://www.worldgourmetfestival.asia
While the most obvious attraction in this area is the shopping, a lesser known spot worth checking is the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre. Although the name suggests it might be a place dedicated to Thai history and culture, it is focused on contemporary art. The lower levels feature several boutique shops from local designers, while the upper levels feature temporary exhibitions, from works by local school children through to collections from famous photographers. Entry free. See en.bacc.or.th
The Anantara brand is expanding and the Thai chain's owner wanted to create a flagship property in the heart of Bangkok. The Siam fills this role admirably with everything one could wish for in a luxury hotel - comfort, excellent food and great service.
Rooms at the Anantara Siam start from $A217. See https://www.anantara.com/en/siam-bangkok
You would need more than a couple of nights here to try all the dining options, so being able to try a selection across the restaurants at Aqua is great.
Traffic in this part of Bangkok is horrific, meaning it can take a long time to get in and out of the area by taxi, particularly during rush hour.
The writer stayed as a guest of Anantara Siam.