The royalty of Old Siam is full of romance and mystery, a la The King and I. One way you can experience the ambience, surroundings and traditions of Thailand’s royalty is in a stay at Chakrabongse Villas, an intimate boutique inn along the bank of the Chao Phraya River in central Bangkok.
Chakrabongse is owned by Narisa Chakrabongse, the great-granddaughter of King Rama V, and this bygone era still permeates the air of this beautiful resort. The centerpiece is the main house, once belonging to King Rama V and built in 1908. The house is the private home of Ms. Chakrabongse and not open to guests, but its beauty provides a grand entrance into the estate.
Once inside, peaceful courtyards span the green space between the royal family’s home and the decks at river’s edge, lined by the rooms, suites and private villa that can be rented by guests.
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Chakrabongse offers three bed-and-breakfast rooms in the first building, near the entrance gates. Each of the three upstairs rooms has a private bath, and are richly decorated in a fusion of Asian and Middle Eastern styles, with beautiful tapestries, bed coverings and antique furniture hand-picked by Ms. Chakrabongse in China.
Across the courtyard, three deluxe suites offer spacious interiors with teakwood floors and armoires, sitting areas and large, luxurious bathrooms.
And for those seeking the very best, or accommodations for a longer stay or family, the Chinese Suite beckons. This incredible two-story villa has a bedroom and bath suite both upstairs and down, with a full living room and small kitchen. The furniture and artifacts look as if they belong in a museum, yet the Chinese Suite is comfortable and imminently livable. An interesting facet to this private suite is that when Ms. Chakrabongse’s son visits – a record producer who represents Beyonce and Jay Z – this is where he stays.
All guest rooms have air conditioning, flat-screen television, mini-fridge and in-room safe.
One of the most enticing features is the lush, peaceful grounds and the multi-level terraces overlooking the river. Here you can stroll, read, enjoy dinner or an evening tea or glass of wine. A small dining room faces the river, and is the location for Chakrabongse’s delicious breakfast, which is your choice of full English breakfast or traditional Thai noodle soup. Guests can also reserve for a multi-course traditional dinner, available by ordering a day in advance and served by candlelight, a memorable setting with the lights of Wat Arun sparkling just across the water.
The location of Chakrabongse Villas is excellent, just down the street from Wat Pho which offers a bargain at 50 baht entrance fee, where you can see the awe-inspiring, enormous gold leaf Reclining Buddha. If you fancy a massage, this is the place, as Thailand’s premier massage school and clinic is located here. Wat Arun is just across the river, an easy 4 baht ferry ride, and is also priced at 50 baht, but offering much less ground to cover and so is doable on a shorter time frame. A river taxi stop away, or a stroll of about eight blocks, takes you to the magnificent grounds of Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. This is a more expensive ticket at 350 baht, but is a must-see and the ticket includes admission to Vimanmek and Dusit Palaces.
Chakrabongse Villas are about a 40-minute taxi ride from the airport, which will run 500 baht plus the 50 baht airport fee (a little over $15).
• Great river location with ease of water transport
• Luxury and attentive service in Old Thai style
• A glimpse into the royal lives of a bygone era
• Good breakfast that can keep you going well into the day
Good to Know
• It’s pretty quiet around here at night, but Chinatown, Khao San Road and the Sukumvit areas are all a fairly quick taxi ride away for nightlife.