Memories of that (very ethically run) camp came flooding back as I checked into the palatial Anantara Siam Bangkok, coinciding with a curiosity about the city credentials of a brand I’d previously associated with grand resorts.
The Anantara Siam Bangkok is downtown, but, like, posh downtown – that stretch round the corner from Chit Lom where the Royal Bangkok Sports Club is and the Grand Hyatt and the St Regis. You’re in a fairly average shopping district and then you turn down Ratchadamri Road and it’s like one of those lifestyle magazines you only see in airport lounges.
Its previous incarnation as the Four Seasons, and some characteristics remain, though it’s been given a colourful flourish. The marble staircase steals the show in the lobby, which is no small feat considering the silk murals and frescoed walls and intricate mandalas on the ceilings. I’d arrived pretty late, and though welcome drinks are never that much of a chore, I didn’t stand on ceremony and hightailed it up to my room.
The view would have to wait until morning, and I just had chance to note the solidly 5-star décor – nothing too flashy, marble bathroom, dark woods with colourful silk accents – before conking out.
The next morning, I got the full postcard treatment, the panoramic greenery of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club’s horse racing track and golf course spread out before the hotel, like you’d paid to be in a particularly nice stand. I’m a fan of the shambolic chaos of Bangkok, but this landscaped oasis works as well.
I went to stretch my legs, and was grateful for the handy smartphone that comes with the room, my jetlagged fug meaning my already poor sense of direction was way off kilter, the online maps helping me find my way back for further exploration of the property.
The hotel restaurants and shops are largely collected around a large indoor tropical garden, and it’s here that we can finally address the elephants in the room. They’re here largely due to an apparent partnership with the famed Jim Thompson House, hanging on the walls in colourful silks and carved from dark teak.
Thompson, of course, is the mysterious (he disappeared without a trace) importer/exporter of Thai artefacts and his empire is now a museum and retail one. The main court at the Siam enjoys a healthy dollop of his tasteful décor, some of the arcade walls also home to some striking contemporary local art.
It felt rude not to eat a lunch that Mr Thompson might have approved of, so despite the international dining options available, I lunched at the Spice Market. The deep-fried fish cakes and crab meat salad leading into a spicy sour orange curry, a new one on me but something I’ll look out for again.
Sadly, that was the extent of my one-night stay and I left the Anantara without having taken any elephant driving tests, instead just wishing that I could steer my tuk-tuk driver with anything approaching the same amount of control. No, sir I do not want to drop in on your cousin’s jewel shop on the way to the next hotel, but thanks for offering…