Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Regal apartments fit for Bangkok's River of Kings

From John Defterios, CNN
December 24, 2013 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
  • At 256 meters tall, "The River" is Thailand's tallest residential tower
  • The luxury development has helped regenerate some of Bangkok's most neglected areas
  • A key component of "The River's" success has been the development of new transport links

(CNN) -- When Thai monarch, King Rama, founded Bangkok in the late 18th century, he bestowed upon the bustling waterway that ran through his new capital a title fit for royalty -- "Chao Phraya" (the River of Kings).

Settlers to the city built their homes along the river's banks, its waters providing the maritime access essential for commerce as well as the fish to feed a growing population.

Today, Chao Phraya remains a busy thoroughfare. The living space that has built up aside its shores however is vastly different.

See also: Thailand's luxury property market

Living on the river affords you the ability to have a space like this which could be a resort
Hans Brower, design consultant

This transformation is no more apparent than at the edges of Khlong Ton Sai, a formerly barren neighborhood on the river's western banks.

It is here that "The River" -- an aptly named tower of condominiums and luxury living space -- soars above the bustling waters and streets below.

At 256 meters (840 feet) tall, the giant structure is 6 meters (19 feet) taller than Chao Phraya is wide, making it the tallest residential building in Thailand.

For Hans Brower, the Thai-Dutch design consultant behind the project, The River is a potent symbol of modern Bangkok -- a vibrant metropolis that can offer spectacular accommodation at cheaper rate than other big Asian cities.

Lush gardens and quiet pools in the facility grounds maintain the feel of an urban oasis amidst the surrounding concrete jungle.

"Living on the river affords you the ability to have a space like this which could be a resort if you did not have this poster which is the city of Bangkok," Brower explained. "It has that 5 star feel."

A new track

A key component of Bangkok's riverside regeneration and the rise of facilities like The River has been improved transport links, Brower explained.

The prices that we are asking for here maybe in the higher end of the Bangkok
Gerry Healey, Ramon Land

Myriad boat services frequently cross Chao Phraya while the city's skytrain (known locally as the BTS) has provided faster access to areas that were once considered too out of the way and poorly connected.

See also: China's crazy property bubble

"I think the definition of a boundary changes radically depending on accessibility and mobility and that has changed," Bower said. "Today the BTS comes across and goes all the way into west (of the) country."

While the skytrain has ensured properties like The River are viable and desirable, it has also had a knock-on impact on the areas it passes through. Those who live in its shadows have seen their property values soar.

"I could earn something already (by selling)," explained said Chaiyot Suriyanonlin, standing outside the humble shop-house that has been in his family's possession for generations. "Whatever my father left for me I should do my best to keep it for (his) legacy," he added.

Developers' paradise

For developers, meanwhile, a relaxation of planning laws (restrictions on how high they can build have been set aside) has incentivized the construction of quality accommodation in areas like those which host the Suriyanonlin abode.

"The regulations limit what you can do in various places so at the time this site came up it was an opportunity to do something big," said Gerry Healey, who oversees The River for developer Raimon Land.

Although roughly 10% of apartments remain without owners (primarily those not overlooking the water), there is a strong financial incentive for developers to invest in Bangkok. As Healey illustrates, the average cost per unit was $3,400 a square meter in 2007. Today they go for $4,700, with penthouses selling for three times that amount.

"The prices that we are asking for here maybe in the higher end of the Bangkok market but by comparison with Singapore or Hong Kong we are very (affordable)," Healy said. In fact, this equates to just a fifth of the price of luxury property in Singapore.

While such sums still represent a considerable outlay, Healey's hope is that potential investors will be encouraged to snap up the remaining properties and become part of the next chapter of Bangkok's famous river.

Part of complete coverage on
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0404 GMT (1204 HKT)
An artists impression of a Shinzu Corp structure on surface level.
What would happen if the legend of the Lost City of Atlantis was crossed with the screenplay of Kevin Costner's 1995 hit movie "Waterworld"?
December 4, 2014 -- Updated 0439 GMT (1239 HKT)
An development off the coast of Singapore is set to be the world's largest eco-resort.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 0954 GMT (1754 HKT)
2014 has been a big year for towering new skyscrapers, but next year will be bigger.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Viticulture meets real estate development in the Dominican Republic.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 0202 GMT (1002 HKT)
It's the latest landmark on Singapore's already busy skyline.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1638 GMT (0038 HKT)
The city has found a novel way to revive depressed neighborhoods.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1433 GMT (2233 HKT)
CNN's John Defterios explores how Japan is transforming abandoned factories into soil-less hydroponic vegetable farms.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0308 GMT (1108 HKT)
Brazil might be viewed as booming emerging market, but with growth has come problems.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1352 GMT (2152 HKT)
CNN's John Defterios explores how the company is re-designing its headquarters in Munich, Germany.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0321 GMT (1121 HKT)
A new kind of location service could change the way we look at the world.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
It's the townhouse that twists like a Rubik's cube, to bask in the summer sun and shield itself when winter bites.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
Could you fit your life into 300 square feet? Developers are betting on it, with new, tiny living spaces for urban millennials.