Four small hotels are setting the standard for a more intimate—and affordable—experience in the frenetic Thai capital.
The Look Hidden on a small residential street in the Old City, this quaint four-story hotel abuts the Chao Phraya river and offers views of Wat Arun, the 19th-century Temple of the Dawn, from its open lobby.
The Scene Diplomats and Thai professionals arrive at the Deck, the hotel’s bi-level French-Thai restaurant, for cocktails at sunset, then stay for flavorful dishes such as rice vermicelli with prawns and chiles.
The Rooms Four guest rooms—each named for a local flower—have futon beds and glass French doors. The only suite has a private terrace.
The Amenities Arun’s space may be spare, but its price can’t be beat; we don’t mind living without an alarm clock and in-room safe when there’s such a genial staff—and those refreshing glasses of freshly squeezed mango juice upon arrival.
Dirty Secret Call ahead for directions—most taxi drivers have never heard of the Arun or the small soi on which it’s situated.
Nice Surprise The daybreak wake-up calls: roosters crowing, the swish of water taxis and river barges, and the sound of prayers rising from nearby wats.
36–38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Rd., Rattanakosin Island; 66-2/221-9158; www.arunresidence.com; doubles from $80.
BAAN THAI WELLNESS RETREAT
The Look Five 18th-century teak houses transported from Ayutthaya—the ancient Thai capital—create a blissfully shaded 21-room hideaway in the center of the city.
The Scene Fitness mavens and holistic spa-goers love the package deal, which includes meals, a daily spa treatment, and an in-room Thai cooking lesson.
The Rooms Opt for a spa suite with an outdoor massage table, full kitchen, and sitting area, or stay above the open-air yoga pavilion and unwind to the soothing sounds of afternoon vinyasas.
The Amenities Choose your spa treatments from a full slate of services. The 50-minute Divine Shirodhara rubdown is thought to cure headaches and reenergize the senses.
Dirty Secret We love the healthful spa-style Thai cuisine, but give yourself time to find the restaurant: the labyrinth of walkways can be more frustrating than relaxing.
Nice Surprise Traditional Thai art is displayed everywhere, from the ornately carved entrance gate to the stone Buddha sculptures beside the three curved pools.
7 Soi Sukhumvit 32; 66-2/258-5403; www.thebaanthai.com; three-night packages from $770 per person, double.
The Look Eastern colonial grandeur meets African game-lodge chic at this old-world hotel. Animal skins and trophies decorate the walls, brass light fixtures are imported from India, and the smiling staff stands at the ready.
The Scene Media tycoons and local fashionistas check out the turquoise pool from the adjacent bar and restaurant.
The Rooms Most of the 12 rooms have four-poster beds and antique wooden desks. Framed vintage maps adorn the periwinkle walls.
The Amenities The Thai-style turndown service includes a fragrant jasmine candle burning on the nightstand.
Dirty Secret Aluminum and copper bathtubs are fancy but work better in theory than in practice—keep a few towels on the floor to prevent a dangerous fall.
Nice Surprise Forget the rickety tuk-tuks; chauffeurs will take guests anywhere in Bangkok in the hotel’s eclectic vintage fleet, which includes a 1970 Daimler limousine, a 1958 Mercedes Ponton, and a 1965 S-Type Jaguar.
267 Soi Sukhumvit 31, North Klongtan, Wattana; 66-2/259-9011; www.theeugenia.com; doubles from $165.
The Look Echoing the modern-Oriental style of the nearby Metropolitan hotel, the newest arrival off Silom Road is white-hot, with a glossy bi-level entrance and 13 silver and slate–accented rooms.
The Scene Gen Xers stretch out on the lobby couches to read Lonely Planet guidebooks and Australian fashion magazines while using the free Wi-Fi.
The Rooms Request room No. 12, a junior suite with sliding glass doors, a state-of-the-art sound system, and outsize sofa (only $120).
The Amenities We love the iconic teak-barrel soaking tubs and waterfall showers.
Dirty Secret Room service could have been snappier, to avoid soggy eggs and toast.
Nice Surprise Hit the simple Thai massage parlor next door, or the open-air market just a two-minute walk east on Surawong Road.
6/11 Decho Rd., Bangruk; 66-2/635-8800; www.staywithluxx.com; doubles from $90.