Bangkok Anew
Southeast Asia’s most popular urban destination is already known for some of the most exceptional hotels in the world—and the bar has recently been raised.

Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

The original guest book of Bangkok’s Oriental hotel reads like a fairy tale called The Western World Meets the Glittering Kingdom of Siam. For it was in the mid-1800s that world leaders were establishing their diplomatic missions in Thailand and required a guesthouse on the Mother of All Waters. The stop served as an independent buffer among the British and French colonies of Southeast Asia, opening as a proper hotel by 1876.

Regarded among the best in the world, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok completed its largest renovation ever in 2019. The $90 million overhaul included 300 rooms, restaurants, lobbies, and the swimming pool. Colored fabric in the rooms and suites by Thai silk tycoon Jim Thompson echoes the adjacent Chao Phraya River, and sculptures of ornate royal barge riverboats adorn the silk walls. Lord Jim’s restaurant, named after a Joseph Conrad novel, received a transfusion of modernity and remains the local favorite for riverfront seafood and prime cuts. The Bamboo Bar’s face-lift gave it its 1950s tiger-striped groove back as a late-night classic for drinks and jazz.

The Oriental Spa, housed in a century-old teak pavilion across the river, was the first spa to open within a hotel in Thailand and remains a pioneer of Thai and Ayurvedic treatments. (The Thai Thermal Salt massage is a miracle cure for jet lag.) Nearby, the city’s newest luxury mall, IconSiam, incorporates the gleaming new Mandarin Oriental residences. From $582;

Rosewood Bangkok

Vertically stunning at 30 stories tall, this new arrow-shaped architectural landmark in downtown Bangkok points straight to decadence. Find the city’s most luxurious mall just across the sky bridge and recognize the hotel by its saltwater pool hanging off the ninth floor like a Bond villain’s lair. All 158 rooms blend a sleek marble and glass modernity with panoramic views of the surrounding city skyline. In addition to 20 suites, three opulent accommodations dubbed Houses are equipped with private plunge pools and terraces.

At Sense Spa, discover Thailand’s nearly lost herbal remedies. Among the four restaurants and bars is Nan Bei, specializing in an authentic culinary mashup of North and South China presented in an Art Deco emporium. After dinner try Lennon’s, the rooftop vinyl shop with a 6,000-album collection. Guests can spin favorite nostalgic tunes at the speakeasy while drinking signature cocktails inspired by them. From $230;

Capella Bangkok

Opened on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in October 2020, the hotel was designed so each of the 101 rooms, suites, and villas would enjoy uninterrupted waterfront views. Floor-to-ceiling windows simulate the feeling of being on the river in a barge, rather than looking down on it from a hotel room. Even the bathrooms have views, and all seven riverfront villas feature Jacuzzi plunge pools by the river edge.

At Auriga Wellness try an ancient Thai Tok Sen hammer massage. Or let the Capella Culturist team curate a window into the soul of the city with experiences in the surrounding neighborhood with its residents. The hotel’s location, on a prestigious estate at the intersection where the water meets Charoen Krung Road (the city’s oldest paved road), is a gateway to the melting pot where Bangkok’s trendiest cafés, bars, and art galleries meet traditional Thai street food and artisanal crafts.

Allot at least one night to Capella’s restaurant helmed by the one of the world’s top chefs. Côte by Mauro Colagreco, whose three-Michelin-star Mirazur restaurant in France claimed first place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2019, prepares a blend of contemporary French and Italian Riviera cuisines. For a homestyle Thai experience al fresco, head downstairs to the riverfront Phra Nakhon. Sunday afternoon is the best time to take in the pastry confections with cocktails to match at the Siamese jewel box Stella. From $580;

Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River

The striking tiered construction on the Chao Phraya opened in December as the sleek riverside sanctuary in the Creative District. The minimalist and monolithic interior design of the 299 rooms by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston achieves an unbroken connection with the silvery river and surrounding metropolis. Public spaces include a tiered, indoor/outdoor waterscape featuring pools and fountains that frame panoramic views at every turn. Terrace Suites are large enough to host a dinner party and the three-bedroom Presidential Suite on the 10th floor could win the title of Bangkok’s finest office-away-from-the-office, with dramatic two-story windows framing the view of the river, an oversize terrace, and a plunge pool.

The food and beverage program is likewise star-studded. Book ahead for the main culinary attraction Yu Ting Yuan, which presents authentic Cantonese cuisine in a high-style setting. On the riverfront next to one of Bangkok’s oldest seafood markets, Brasserie Palmier is where pretty young things gather for coffee and a croissant at weekend breakfast and order seafood towers in the evening. BKK Social Club crowns the jet-set’s scene list. Bringing the golden age nightlife glamour of Buenos Aires to Bangkok, the hotel’s social hot spot features two courtyards, one for cigars and the other for bespoke bottled cocktails by Thailand’s top mixologist.

Need a mind body tune-up? The Urban Wellness Center, the hotel’s answer to an Olympic training center for spiritual warriors, will offer two floors of innovation and one floor of holistic haven when it is completed later this year. The state-of-the-art fitness facilities and 98-foot lap pool that is the complex’s dramatic centerpiece are a temple for the body open now to guests only. The 73-story, 366-residence tower is scheduled to open later this year. From $335; —Serena French