For many Bangkokians, that usually means a weekend in Pattaya, Hua Hin or farther afield. And they’re prepared to put up with increasingly arduous road journeys to get there.
For a small but growing number of this city’s inhabitants who want a break but can’t face those long treks to the beach, Bangkok offers a rather interesting alternative. It’s called Tha Tien, a charming area set on the banks of the Chao Phraya River near some of the capital’s oldest and most revered tourist attractions, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace and the Temple of Dawn.
Tha Tien is located within Rattanakosin Island, the historic centre of Bangkok dating back to the city’s founding some 230 years ago. Bordered by the river and canals dug to serve as moats and protection from outsiders, this culturally-rich area has until recent years had precious little in the way of decent accommodation to offer visitors.
That began to change when some savvy entrepreneurs realised that the old shophouses and run-down commercial properties here had some of the best views of the river and with modest investment could be easily transformed into reasonably priced guesthouses and boutique hotels.
Today, Tha Tien is experiencing a mini boom as the whole area is gentrified. Grubby lanes and pavements are being given a makeover, dark and dank buildings are being refurbished and riverside restaurants and rooftop bars are popping up all over the place. Even the local market is being spruced up to lure visitors.
While catering mostly to tourists, this delightful local community is gradually catching the attention of people who live in wealthier suburbs such as Sukhumvit, some 40 minutes’ drive across the city. With its genuine old world atmosphere, the buzz of the Chao Phraya River and the promises of unbeatable sunsets behind majestic Wat Arun, Tha Tien is on course for an extremely prosperous future.
Take the BTS to Taksin station, then catch an orange flag Chao Phraya express boat from the Taksin pier to Tha (sometimes spelled Ta) Tien pier No.8.
Staying in Tha Tien
COMPLETELY refashioned and updated from a former commercial property, Sala Rattanakosin is a luxurious riverside boutique lodge consisting of 17 stylish guest rooms, most of which have panoramic views of the Temple of the Dawn.
The property’s premier accommodation, the Arun River View Suite, is located on the 4th floor and features a king size bed and open lounge area with sofa and oversized daybed. Bathroom facilities include dual vanities and separate bath and shower. The cost per night is B9,000++.
Sala Rattanaksoin also offers six River View Deluxe suites at B4900++, three Wat Po Deluxe rooms at B4000++, one Deluxe room at B3600++, and six Standards at B3100++.
The rooftop bar and terrace, known as The Roof, is a great venue for sunset drinks and beyond as its views encompass the entire stretch of the Chao Phraya River.
39 Maharat road ☎ 02 622 1388 www.salarattanakosin.com
ARUN Residence is a rerecently renovated historic SisSino-Portuguese house set on on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.
The restaurant, terraces, balconies and guest rooms all present an unfolding panorama of one of Asia’s finest views, the Rattanakosin skyline. Nothing could be further from the concrete and steel high-rise hotels that now dominate Bangkok.
Arun Residence has six air-conditioned bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, all tastefully decorated in the “Bangkok Period” style. They include the Arun Suite Jasmine Suite and Ratchapruek Suite, each featuring balconies and spectacular views of the river.
From the bed of every room, guests see partial views of the majestic silhouette of the Temple of Dawn.
The spacious “Deck by the River” restaurant overlooks the river and serves a full a la carte breakfast, light lunch and dinner daily. This elegant venue is also available for private parties.
Inside the residence is Arun Gallery, which offers local and imported decorative items. This is also the venue for art exhibitions, drawing and painting classes, charity shows, informal meetings and private parties.
26-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road.
☎ 02 221 9158-9 www.arunresidence.com
SET on three acres of verdant frontage along the city side of the Chao Praya River, The Siam is a private 39-room luxury retreat located in Bangkok’s royal Dusit district. Designed by renowned architect Bill Bensley, the art deco-inspired, Thai antique influenced masterpiece is set to become one of the kingdom’s premier urban resorts.
Amenities include restaurants, cooking school, bar, café, spa, gym, yoga terrace, Muay Thai boxing ring, beauty salon, library/cinema, infinity pool, gift/antiques gallery, conservatory and traditional Thai houses.
The Siam features 39 of the capital’s most spacious suites and pool villas as well as a uniquely historical Thai House, Connie’s Cottage.
The Chon Thai, the hotel’s signature Thai restaurant and cooking school, is set within a cluster of three, century-old Thai teakwood houses. The Deco Bar & Bistro offers international comfort cuisine amid a jazzy ambiance.
3/2 Thanon Khao. ☎ 02 206 6999 www.thesiamhotel.com
OPENED in October 2012, this is the sister hotel of Arun Residence and Sala Arun. Located right next to Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), it is also within a minute’s walk of the riverside and views of the Temple of Dawn.
The property has nine rooms divided into three room types, starting from just B1,800 per night.
370-372 Soi Pratoo Nokyoong, Maharaj Road.
☎ 02 622 2060 www.chetuphon-gate.com
SALA Arun is a riverside boutique hotel comprising of four deluxe and two standard rooms, plus one suite. Each named after various periods in Thai history. Renowned Bangkok interior designer Chavalit Chavawan is responsible for their distinctive iron and wood-influenced décor.
A small restaurant serves moderately priced simple meals in a pleasant setting. For serious lunch or dinner, the spacious “Deck by the River” restaurant is available two minutes’ walk away at the hotel’s sister property, Arun Residence.
47-49 Soi Ta Tien ☎ 02 622 2932 www.salaarun.com
Baan Wanglang Riverside
THIS newly established boutique hotel, situated by Chao Phraya River in Wanglang area – between Siriraj Pier and Wat Rakang Pier – gives it great access to many of Bangkok’s most famous tourist attractions
Set amidst the lively vintage Wanglang Market (best known for its savory local food), Baan Wanglang Riverside is beautifully hidden away in the serene ambience of a riverfront haven. Its views of Bangkok are absolutely stunning.
Rooms are decorated in Thai-colonial style, and every piece of furniture is made of real wood.
The property has a total of 32 rooms, with five room-types. All have free wi-fi, air-conditioning, cable television, en suite bathroom, and private balcony.
The 342 Bar is a rooftop venue overlooking some of Thailand’s most famous landmarks, while the riverside Olive Tree serves European and Thai dishes.
Soi Wat Rakang, Prannok Road. ☎ 02 412 7234
Loy La Long Hotel
THIS two-storey, 30-year-old teak house and deck is located on the grounds of Wat Pathumkongka and offers an unparalleled view
of life on Bangkok’s ever-busy Chao Phraya River.
Loy La Long was featured in Thailand’s highest grossing movie of 2009, Bangkok Traffic Love Story.
Accommodation ranges in price from B2,100 to B4,400.
1620/2 Song Wat Road (inside Patumkongka Rachaworawiharn Temple). ☎ 02 639 1390
SET on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in the heart of Old Bangkok, the spectacular Chakrabongse Villa provides a tranquil haven from the pressures of modern living and yet is in easy reach of all the major tourist attractions.
Six individual suites with all modern facilities are set in a lush tropical garden with a spacious swimming pool.
Built in 1908 by HRH Prince Chakrabongse, Chakrabongse House was originally used when he attended royal ceremonies in the Grand Palace and also for picnics and excursions on the river. Later, it became the residence of HRH Prince Chula Chakrabongse, writer and historian.
Today the grounds have been transformed into a magical boutique hotel by his daughter Narisa.
Accommodation includes the magnificent 129 sq m River View Suite, with rates ranging from B13,000 to B15,000++. This Thai-style teak apartment is set on the river front with a view of the Temple of Dawn.
The romantic Thai House, a traditional Ayutthaya–style teak house on stilts (97 sq m) is priced at B10,000 to B13,000++.
The stunning two-bedroom Chinese Suite (155 sq m) ranges from B23,000 to B25,000.
Less expensive accommodation is also available.
396 Maharaj Road. ☎ 02 222 1290 :thaivillas.com
STEEPED in history, this magnificent building dates back to 1923 when Bangkok witnessed an influx of Italian artists who had come here to work under the commission of King Rama V.
A noble of the Royal Court Custom Department who was assigned to design and build the mansion was greatly influenced by these Italian artists.
Located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, its position was ideal as an observation point for the owner’s custom duty as well as his home. In 1946, when the main means of transportation changed from waterways to roads, the family moved to the Sukhumvit area.
The building was used as a school until 1996 and then fell into decay for a decade before attracting the attention of Assistant Professor Wichai Pitakvorrarat. Convinced of its value, Khun Wichai teamed up with his wife to restore and renovate the building to its former glory, in spite of the heavy cost.
Praya Palazzo was brought back to life in 2009 with the opening of its restaurant. The first guests checked in two years later.
The residence is unique with sweeping verandas and rustic archways. Original features have been meticulously restored. The end result is a stylish historical residence of graceful design, with no equal in the city.
Praya Palazzo has 17 rooms each with unique features. These include nine superior rooms, three deluxe rooms, four suites and the Chao Phraya Suite.
757/1 Somdej Prakinklao Soi 2. ☎ 02 883 2998
Inn A Day
BUILT in 2013, Inn A Day is a distinctive addition to Tha Tien’s accommodation roster. One of its unique features is a timing concept which divides the old four-storey building into three time zones: dawn, day and dusk, each distinguished by blue, yellow and orange colours. These correspond to a time system, starting from 7am to 5pm, which offer guests greater flexibility in the hours they choose to stay.
Another unique feature of the property is the décor of its guest rooms, each of which is influenced by the local architecture of Tha Tien.
57-61 Maharat Road ☎ 02 221 0577 www.innaday.com
Riva Surya Bangkok
THIS modern riverside boutique hotel features 68 rooms, elegant dining options, swimming pool and leisure facilities.
Riva Surya is bounded by cultural treasures including The Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun; and within walking distance of the lively entertainment district of Khao San Road.
Accommodation includes 30 Urban Rooms, each boasting a balcony overlooking tree-lined Phra Arthit Road.
The Babble & Rum restaurant serves traditional Thai, Asian and European cuisine, while the riverside Garden is great for an intimate meal or cocktail.
23 Phra Arthit Road. ☎ 02 633 5000 www.snhcollection.com/rivasurya
WITHIN this beautifully preserved 100-year-old building, guest rooms have been renovated to high standards while retaining the atmosphere of the past. All have views of the Temple of Dawn.
336 Maharaj Road. ☎ 02 622 1055 www.aromdhostel.com
Aurum The River Place
TUCKED away on Rattanakosin island is Aurum The River Place, a compact-sized boutique hotel on the bank of the river within walking distance of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po) and several other interesting historical attractions.
This four-storey European style building has just 12 luxurious guest rooms.
At Vivi The Coffee Place, customers enjoy stunning views of the Temple of Dawn.
394/27-29 Soi Pansook (near CIMB THAI Bank, Tatien branch), Maharaj Road.
☎ 02 622 2248 www.aurum-bangkok.com