Bangkok’s Siam Kempinski Hotel is classic yet modern, and completely inviting.
THE personality of a city is often best represented by its taxi drivers and, to a greater extent, by the contents of their vehicles.
Within 10 minutes of stepping into the taxi at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, I spot several Buddhist amulets, a God of Prosperity figurine and a paw-yapping Japanese good luck cat statue jostling for space on the dash board. And to send the congenial message home, there’s also a “I Love Farang” sticker on the back seat window.
My driver, a middle-aged, uncle-type wearing a pair of cool gold-rimmed Aviator sunglasses, is pleasant enough. He turns the radio on, and we ride happily into the city bopping to the beat of a Thai pop song. Our destination: The Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok.
On the flight over from Hong Kong, I’d decided that for the next two days, the hotel would be my private refuge, a sanctuary in the busy Thai capital. Some 40 minutes later, the taxi pulls up to the hotel’s entrance.
At the lobby, I meet an old friend, the establishment’s sales and marketing director Tan Jee Hoong who, after a brief chat, describes the 303-room property, which opened in September 2010, as “an urban oasis in the middle of the city”, and he’s not wrong.
“It could be chaotic out in the streets, but once you are back at the property, you will find peace and calm,” promises Tan.
Indeed, the lobby with its low-slung sofas and traditional objets d’art, all of which centre on Thailand’s vibrant heritage of craftsmanship, have struck a balance between the old and the new. While the hotel is a relatively recent addition to the city’s hotel scene, its spirit as well as its decor is inspired by tradition, specifically by the precious lotuses that form a section of the former Lotus Pond Palace, built by Rama IV, where the Siam Kempinski Bangkok is now located.
As such, the flower’s motif is present throughout the property, including in my room. Above the bed hangs an arty photograph of a lotus in bloom.
The room proves to be very comfortable – during the first day of my stay I don’t leave its confines. All it takes are the white fluffy sheets, the comfy pillows and the super high-thread-count bed sheets. Dinner at the hotel’s contemporary Thai restaurant Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin that evening is rescheduled to the following night.
Instead, I place a room service order for a double serving of Pad Thai (460++ baht/RM45) and Hummus with Pita Bread (460++ baht). The extravagance is money well-spent as it means that I don’t have to hike across the road to Siam Paragon for a bite to eat.
My culinary adventures continue the next morning at breakfast in the hotel’s busy Brasserie Europa. At a table by the poolside, I make the most of the generous buffet spread. The restaurant is packed mostly with Hong Kong families and European tourists, none of whom notice my tucking into numerous servings of unbelievably thick globs of Nutella smeared on to slices of freshly baked banana cake.
After breakfast, I spend the rest of the day reading by one of the three saltwater swimming pools. The lush garden setting with chirping birds is calm and peaceful. Here, it’s possible to forget that a mere five- minute walk away is the chaotic gridlock of Bangkok’s city streets.
Later that evening, I experience the highlight of my two-day stay, a meal at the much talked about Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, the Thai offshoot of acclaimed Copenhagen restaurant Kiin Kiin.
Danish Chef Henrik Yde-Andersen turns Thai cuisine on its delicate head with inventive and, at times, molecular, variations of dishes like the creamy gelato-like frozen red curry with lobster and lychee and spiced lemongrass salad with scallop.
Both dishes, served in delicate degustation portions are Chef Yde-Andersen’s take on Thai street food. While the methods of presentation and serving temperature and textures might be unconventional (ice cream curry, anyone?), the flavours are as authentic as they come.
There are also several pleasing little nibbles that literally expend fumes of liquid nitrogen like the sweet and salty, bite-sized, soy-roasted Cashews Nut Meringue, the equally delicate kaffir lime leaf scented Lotus Root along with prawn crackers and chilli tomato dip.
Thankfully, the dinner’s highlight – a portion of Duck with Red Curry, green leaf winter cabbage and smoked sausage – is not served frozen.
The thick and juicy duck slices, proves tender to the bite; while the smoked sausages are a delightful recreation of Thai artisanal cooking that sears tradition into the mix.
For dessert, the Banana Cake with Salted Ice Cream and caramelised milk is both artful and quite irresistible.
And no, I did not ask for an extra serving of Nutella. Both the Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin and hotel are popular with business and leisure crowds.
In fact, on any given evening, the hotel’s sees a steady stream of guests and diners, all of whom, like me, are probably also seeking some peace and quiet in the fast-paced City of Angels.
SIAM KEMPINSKI HOTEL Rama 1 Road 991/9 10330 Bangkok Tel: +66 2162 9000