There are a handful of places that feel like an extension of ourselves. The café you stop at for exactly seven minutes in the mornings, your office cubicle with its fluorescent lighting, the park bench where you relax on weekend mornings. We don’t hold these spaces in particularly high regard, but we think we know everything there is to know about them, and we love them for that very reason.
Some cities, too, become part of us in a similar fashion. For many Singaporeans, our neighbouring city of Bangkok takes on this precise function. The capital of Thailand is a familiar haven for all our favourite things: shopping, massages and street food. Hence, it is the perfect weekend getaway spot.
Sometime during the pandemic, our collective attitudes toward travel took a seismic shift. Over time, the scarcity of movement and fear of being stuck in one place too long calcified what the act of travel truly afforded us—discovery of the new and rediscovery of the old. We were no longer interested in frivolous trips, but longed for exotic destinations that would sate our wanderlust. While we were searching for these wonders in faraway cities, Bangkok was quietly having a creative renaissance of its own, primarily around the Chao Phraya river. Sandwiched between the bustling body of water and neighbouring Charoenkrung Road is a pocket of space, untouched save for the Four Seasons Hotel.
As a Singaporean traveller who’s accustomed to space constraints, the first thing that struck me upon arrival at the hotel was the property’s sheer vastness. The ground floor spreads out languidly, with one end of the lobby barely visible from the other. Negative space is utilised beautifully within the building’s architecture, with acres of pristine land—most notably the areas right by the Chao Phraya river. Comfortable benches paired with beach umbrellas allow guests uninterrupted time to enjoy vistas of the iconic waterway.
This exceptional luxury of space is similarly felt within the hotel. With windows stretching from the floors to the tall ceilings, each room is suitably enormous. To get to mine, the walk from the gates took over 10 minutes. But it was a scenic trek—artwork framed every wall, with large-scale installations featuring river-inspired settings anchoring main sections of the lobby.
“While we were searching for wonder in faraway cities, Bangkok was quietly having a creative renaissance of its own”
This was my first introduction to a core pillar of the hotel’s ethos—one that makes it particularly suitable for the creatively inclined voyager. The Four Seasons Bangkok has a keen fixation with art. Beyond the spectacular collection of masterpieces on display (amassed by the hotel’s famed interior designer Jean-Michel Gathy), the hotel maintains a wonderful, symbiotic partnership with Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art, designed to nurture the thriving art community it is situated in the middle of.
The museum curates rotating exhibitions featuring contemporary Thai artists in the hotel’s art space, which has all the makings of a white cube except that it is surrounded by the verdant greenery of the Four Seasons courtyard. Leading in seamlessly from the ground floor lobby, this wing of the property is dedicated purely to nurturing young Thai talent and giving them a platform to reach a wider audience—the diverse pool of the hotel’s guests and residents among them.
Before I surveyed this gallery and its then-current exhibition of an amalgamation of provocative works by the most promising young street artists in Thailand, there was some time to take in my room. Gigantic, as previously noted, with tall windows as the centrepiece and each inch of space intelligently designed. My unblocked view of the river was framed by a reading nook comprising an opulent chaise longue and a side table stocked thoughtfully with art and culinary books plus one centred on Thai history.
The bed, criminally lush and impossible to leave, had a set of buttons on each side that allowed me intuitive control over the two sets of curtains, temperature and every lamp in the room. There was no fumbling around in the dark trying to find the lights in the bathroom at night. This bathroom, of course, was a spectacle in itself, taking up nearly half the room’s entire square footage. The cavernous space is outfitted with a gorgeous concrete tub (there’s also a luxurious rainforest shower to enjoy after a soak) across a sturdy slab of marble fashioned into two sinks complete with luxe furnishings that made every instance of hand-washing a ritualistic joy.
For a property that counts an abundance of space as one of its biggest draws, the Four Seasons boasts a fairly conservative number of rooms. There are a total of 299 to choose from—including suites—when the property could easily accommodate more. The rationale here is simple: quality of service comes before quantity of guests. Trademark Thai hospitality mixed with a brigade of dedicated hotel staff has led to the kind of pomp and pageantry directed towards each guest that makes them feel they may be the only ones in need of attention.
The manageable number of rooms also means that besides remarkably warm service, in-room dining orders arrive at the speed of light. This is therefore a fine way to spend a first meal in Bangkok while awaiting your PCR test results. Chef de cuisine Anchalee Ponrungsit elevates classic, comforting local favourites for an international palette by dialling down the heat while maintaining complexity of flavour within tangy bowls of tiger prawn Plah Goong, succulent Thai fish cakes and nutty, rich duck confit curry. The hotel’s restaurant trifecta includes Italian and French establishments Riva del Fiume and Brasserie Palmier, which turn out stunning fine-dining plates amid tropical-inspired interiors.
But the most exciting dining concept here is Yu Ting Yuan—Thailand’s first and only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant to date. Specialising in classic Cantonese cuisine (think intensely flavoured double boiled soups and buttery cod atop a savoury layer of pumpkin), the restaurant is a destination in and of itself, with reservations often booked out months in advance. “When a guest tries to make a booking to stay at our hotel, we ask them in advance if they are planning to dine here since we have to try to squeeze them into the books,” shares a congenial member of the restaurant’s staff. Yu Ting Yuan’s popularity is little wonder, with excellent food—the Peking Duck is barbecued to perfection, with wafer-thin crisp skin enclosing succulent meat—coupled with an elegant interior design that transports diners to imperial China.
The charm of Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok lays equally within and outside its walls. Charoenkrung Road, which flanks the property, is famed for being the first in Thailand to be built using modern construction methods in the early 19th century. It runs for nearly nine kilometres and encompasses the Bang Rak subdistrict, which is also known as the creative hub of Bangkok. Bang Rak and its nearby neighbourhood of Talat Noi are home to an eclectic array of art-filled alleys, galleries, cafés and bars. They are alive at all hours of the day, showcasing a facet of Bangkok that is seldom exposed to Singaporeans who have only seen the city’s commercial side.
A stone’s throw from the Four Seasons (a five-minute tuk-tuk ride will bring you right into the heart of this area), thriving vicinities fuel the artist community in Bangkok and feed its creative spirit. For the newly born slow traveller who wishes for a reintroduction to this misunderstood city—there is no better place to be. Here, find a curated list of the best undiscovered cafés, trendiest bars and most fascinating cultural venues worth a visit in Bangkok.
1 / 5
Home to one of the most beguiling pieces of street art in Bangkok: artist Vhils’ hand-carved piece expresses the Thai-Portuguese relationship while revealing ancient Ayutthaya-era brick.
26 Bush Lane, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
2 / 5
Impossible to stumble across unless you’re in the know, this retro café serves drip coffee concocted by a fashionable 70-year-old barista.
172 Charoenkrung Soi 22, Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100
3 / 5
Seven conjoined warehouses house a cluster of hipster stores and galleries—your one-stop shop for a taste of what Bang Rak has to offer.
48-58 Thanon Charoenkrung Soi 30, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
4 / 5
Dubbed the cultural bar of Thailand, this well-disguised spot is known for its home-infused Thai herbal whisky and nightly sessions of live traditional Thai music.
69, 71 Yi Sip Song Karakadakhom 4 Alley, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
5 / 5
Hidden away in a shophouse, this Chinese-themed speakeasy’s neon signs will give you the perfect Instagram opportunity. While you’re there, try one of its potent craft cocktails.
8 Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100
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