If you are thinking of planning a trip to Thailand, then make sure you factor in a stopover in Bangkok. It’s easy to overlook the city, with travellers keen to move onwards to Chiang Mai or the country’s idyllic island chain. While the more usual tourists sites should not be overlooked (a must is to put The Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Saket temples on your to-see list), it’s also worth noting that the metropolis is emerging as a hip destination in its own right, with a plethora of cool openings.
Once a commercial area, Thonglor has been busy reinventing itself as one of the city’s most fashionable hotspots and it’s now home to some of Bangkok’s best hotels and restaurants. For those after a glamourous place to stay, head to Akyra Thonglor, which has just reopened its doors after a major revamp by Bangkok-based Begray interior design studios.
Across the property, the design factor is decidedly ‘grown-up sophistication’ and has been inspired by the opulent look of the 1920s. The feel is pure va va voom and at full throttle in the lobby, with its polished floors, mirrored walls and gleaming black surfaces (a nice touch are the TVs which play silent black-and-white movies). The 148 rooms come in varying options, but for sheer comfort, opt for one of the apartment-style suites, which give tons of space, and come with a slick kitchen-dining room, a chic living area and a wide terrace for panoramic views across the city.
The cutting-edge contemporary décor means that beds are framed with oversized gold-and-white statement headboards and the en-suite bathroom is encased in an all-glass cube (luckily, for non-exhibitionists, blinds are supplied for privacy). Fornasetti plates hang on the walls, coffee tables are made of marble and brass and the dreamy beds are vast in size. The urban-design is softened with tactile accessories – such as thick rugs in mottled blue swirls, taffeta floor-to-ceiling curtains, luxury bedlinen and leather dining chairs.
On the 10thand 11thfloors, you’ll discover the hotel’s dining options and an impressive rooftop pool. The latter has cinematic appeal – with the city’s skyscrapers surrounding you as you float on by. At the Otto Pool Bar, you can make a splash (without getting wet) with one of the inventive cocktails and soak up the buzzy vibe. Inside, is the hotel’s Som Tam & Chardonnay Restaurant, which, as its name suggests, has a special focus on Som Tam (Thailand’s famous green papaya salad, which goes remarkably well with a crisp Chardonnay). There are five varieties available – from soft shell crab to shrimp, Thai sausage to an inventive mixed-fruit version. As well as Thai classics, the restaurant also serves an international range of dishes, such as succulent steaks, fresh pasta, super salads and the must-try signature White Pizza.
Attracting a dynamic type of guest, the gym is open 24/7 and the new Presidente Lounge offers private booths for afternoon teas, cocktails and light bites. Soon to launch is a new whisky bar, inspired by the word-of-mouth prohibition bars cropping up across Thonglor, and accessed via a secret door.
Those with an eco conscious, should head to nearby Sukhumvit – which oozes a downtown vibe and is another one of Bangkok’s most upcoming areas. Here, is the sister property, Akyra TAS Sukhumvit, and the newest hotel from the innovative hospitalitybrand. Since opening its doors in May, it has already garnered worldwide attention due to the fact that it is the first single-use plastic-free hotel in Asia – an impressive mantle to carry.
Its green ethos captures the current zeitgeist in the travel world, and some of the initiatives include offering guests stainless-steel water bottles, which they can refill on all floors, cloth shopping bags and bathroom toiletries infused with natural essential oils and packaged in celadon containers.
Adding to the appeal, the 50-room boutique property has a retro vibe with industrial-style interiors – think cage-shaded exposed lightbulbs, black-framed windows and natural-wood-clad walls. Crisp white-linen-laid beds have oversized duck-feather pillows and bathrooms are on the right side of luxurious with tubs offering cityscape views. Best of all is the dining, which tops and tails the guestrooms – on the roof is the Rise Rooftop Terrace Bar, while on the ground floor is the Siam Soul Café, an all-day diner. The latter offers everything from a gourmet breakfast and inventive suppers taken from a Thai-International selection. The space is buzzy with an urban vibe with low-hanging pendants, marble tables and al fresco tables on offer. Meanwhile, at the rooftop bar, a resident DJ gives night-time swimmers, taking a dip in the transparent swimming pool, a chill-out soundtrack. There are craft beers, Asian-themed cocktails and rooftop views.
Once you’ve had your city fix, it’s time to chill out for a while. Found on the Andaman Coast on Phuket, is Akyra Beach Club – a beach-front property offering immersive experiences and a bare-foot-luxury approach.
Here, in cobalt blue-and-white rooms, you’ll drift off to sleep with the ocean waves as your soundtrack. Whether you want to learn new skills or try your hand at something different, the hotel’s ethos is to offer you as much – or as little – as you wish. You can tap into Thai Wellness Workouts, which includes Tai Chi classes, Thai boxing, surfing and paddle boarding. Or perhaps you’ll want to get to grips with making the ultimate Pad Thai dish? Hands-on cookery lessons include trips to Khok Kloi’s local market, sunset fishing trips culminating with lessons with Thai chefs.
As well as trips to James Bond Island, hiking Samet Nangshe or morning mangrove walks, there’s plenty of down-time to be had, too. There are beachside massages to book, paddle-board yoga in the circular pool or cocktails at the weekly White Party, which takes place at the beachside bar with a resident DJ playing Ibiza-style chill-out tunes.
For families, the two-bedroom villa is perfect and comes with its own pool, al fresco dining area, inner courtyard and two adjoining rooms. Décor is bright and modern, echoing the sapphire-blue theme – with large bathrooms, complete with walk-in showers, subway tiling and toiletries made with natural ingredients and essential oils.
The perfect antidote to Bangkok’s assault on the senses, this is as relaxed as it gets – without getting boring. For evening drinks, there’s the Sports Bar and for total zoning out, the Ayurah Spa will do the job (try the Chakra Revitalising Massage, which uses thumb pressure on the head, neck and shoulders).
You can also feed your appetite with the innovative all-day dining – mornings kick off with breakfast: custom omelettes, house pancakes and exotic fruits. For lunch, there’s calamari with chilli-lime salt, caprese salads or freshly-made carbonara (the head chef is Italian so there’s a distinct nod to Italian cuisine). For your evening meal, the ‘From Asia with Love’ menu is a must – from Khao Pad (a local fried rice) to Massaman Curries, Crispy Pork to Nippon Snapper. It’s the ultimate in good taste – Thai-style.
Stay at Akyra Thonglor Bangkok from £200 per night, for a double room on a bed and breakfast basis.
Stay at Akyra TAS Sukhumvit Bangkok from £100 per night, for a double room on a bed and breakfast basis.
Stay at Akyra Beach Club Phuket from £120 per night, for a garden view double room on a bed and breakfast basis
*This article was also published on 16 September 2018 on The Arbuturian