A tour of The Siam, Bangkok’s most magical hotel

CNN  — 

In a city crammed with so many of the world’s top luxury hotel brands, it takes a visionary to create a property that’s not only going to compete with the best, but offer something that truly stands out from the pack.

Such is the case with Bangkok’s The Siam, a 39-suite luxury urban resort on the Chao Phraya River created by Thai musician and actor Krissada Sukosol Clapp under his family’s Sukosol hotel brand.

Though The Siam opened in 2012, it remains one of the city’s top stays and was named the 2019 “Hotel of the Year – Asia Pacific” by independent luxury hotel brand Preferred Hotels & Resorts, which handed out its 2019 Awards of Excellence this week.

Krissada worked with famed architect and interior/landscape designer Bill Bensley to develop the Art Deco-inspired property.

Its predominantly black and white color palette acts as a canvas for Krissada’s extensive stockpile of antiques and collectibles – items he’s been accumulating his entire life.

As a result, The Siam is often described as the city’s most beautiful luxury hotel, an antique-filled sanctuary. But the word “beautiful” doesn’t do this place justice. And these aren’t run-of-the-mill objets d’art.

There’s something remarkable around every corner, whether you’re catching a film in the screening room near an E.T. statue or getting a sacred “sak yant” tattoo in the resort’s specially consecrated space.

Destination: Thailand

Visitors to The Siam's Screening Room are joined by E.T.

Competing with the big boys

Krissada prefers to think of The Siam as an indie hotel – a nod to his musical background and the struggles that come with being a small player on the scene.

“When we were starting out, [we were] up there against the big boys and I don’t mean to create a metaphor but we’re not the Four Seasons or the Marriotts, Park Hyatts, Orientals… We’re just a local family hotel and no one knew us,” says the soft-spoken celebrity.

“So how do I stand out? How do I do something different and be myself? How do I have my own identity among the big boys?

“We have to be a bit different, we have to work hard, we have to build a following like an indie band or a wonderful Indie movie that goes through film festivals. You build that following and hopefully it’ll work, sometimes it doesn’t but sometimes it does… I hope it does with us.”

So far, his hopes seem to be on track.

We asked Krissada to take us on a personal tour of his beloved indie hotel and share the stories behind some of its most interesting items, which can be viewed in the below video.

The Siam's library
The Siam: Inside Bangkok's coolest hotel
02:01 - Source: CNN

1940s Myanmar wooden dental chair

“The English brought over their engineering background to Burma and with the combination of the country’s teak wood and fine workmanship, the two nations were able to build some impressive tools and furniture.”

Thai military helmets

“The six military helmets behind the reception desks at The Siam are mostly from the reign of King Rama the 5th (1868-1910). I do have an interest in ‘hats’ as, back in the day, they represented who you were more than any other garment of clothing.

“Of course, this was more identifiable in Europe but hats/helmets did slowly gain traction in the colonial era (although Siam remained independent).”

Trip to Ayutthaya, Thailand, recalls glory days of old Siam

Leopard skin

Piano-top leopard in The Siam's vinyl room.

“This leopard sits on top of our piano in the Vinyl Room. It’s possibly from the 1960s… To be honest, I’m really not sure!

“I bought it from a dealer in Bangkok. Often such type of ‘antique’ is not from Thailand, but was brought overseas to our country by owners generations ago.”

Herbal medicine cabinet

“It’s from a 1920s medical shophouse in Chinatown, Bangkok.

“These ‘multi-layered drawer’ cabinets would contain herbal roots and leaves for ‘alternative’ healing. What’s also special to me is the handwritten description ‘fonts’ on each drawer. Its unfortunate that such calligraphy is no longer appreciated in today’s modern world.”

Bangkok Artist's House
Baan Silapin: Bangkok's hidden Artist's House
01:46 - Source: CNN

WWII gramophone

“This WWII ‘His Master’s Voice’ (HMV) gramophone is simply a reminder of what music used to be (I got it in the UK). How we made music and listened to it.

“Naturally this is important to me as a musician, particularly when today’s songs are being delivered through ‘air’ without touch and feel. Much of The Siam is about nostalgia whilst sleeping within and enjoying today’s comfort and service.”

1904 Bangkok guidebook

Original Bangkok guidebooks, on display in The Siam's library.

“This was one of the first guidebooks of our country ever. When you think about antiquity and how to care for it, books and print work are the most fragile, more than pottery or wood.

“As we all know, paper can disappear just like that, so if it’s preserved through time and it documents how we live, that is so precious to me and that’s why I love it.”

A sneak peek from atop Thailand’s new tallest building

Wooden seated Buddhas

“Their origin is Burmese, early Shan period, from the 16th century. They are two of the most spectacular antiques of the hotel! I was lucky to find them 20 years ago – today it would be hard to discover such genuine sculptures as the majority (in most antique shops) are fakes.”

Japanese military uniforms

“They are actually from early 1900s Japan.

“However, during this period, most of these uniforms were made in England or France and transported to Japan. Today, they stand behind our historical Siamese books showcase in our library.”

1930s Parisian bar cart

“There was a time when cocktail presentation needed to be maneuverable and innovative, particularly in a cafe. I believe that humor always helps, and why not this little automobile next to our snooker table?”

Photo of the Siamese twins

“This is an original photograph of the Siamese twins from the early 1900s.”

“It’s one of the latest editions to the hotel – our hotel is like a big home, a big house for me, there’s always rotating antiques here and there, you find cool stuff and want to display it, you want people to enjoy it.”

Jazz album collection

“I was given all these jazz vinyls from Hugh Van Es, a photographer from the Vietnam War. He shot the iconic photograph of the US evacuation from Saigon.

“He gave me his vinyls and he passed away about four or five years ago. I wanted to do something with his vinyls, with his music. So I decided to create a vinyl room.

“I’m showcasing most of his jazz albums and all his other stuff that I have.”

The Siam, 3/2 Thanon Khao, Vachirapayabal, Dusit, Bangkok, +66 2 206 6999

CNN’s Amanda Sealy contributed to this feature.

Originally published in 2017, updated March 7, 2019