Wanderlust with Cynthia Rosenfeld


Seven: boutique Bangkok hotel

Sleeping around in the world’s most expensive hotels is part of my job – but a high price does not necessarily define perfection. Heartfelt service truly is priceless and some of my most memorable hotel stays have taken place under the radar, well within a tighter travel budget. Lest this column be mistaken for a litany of inaccessible luxuries, I want to divulge the great value hotels discovered on my seemingly endless global sojourn, starting with my Bangkok secret address book.

While Thailand’s City of Angels offers plenty of soulless high-rise hotels across the price spectrum, in the shadows I have found a handful of exceptional addresses at enticing prices, including one starting from around $800/night, where you wake up royally, next to the Grand Palace. Seven generations ago, the Thai king bestowed this site to the ancestors of Nantiya Tulyanond, who turned her family’s shop house into the Old Bangkok Inn (oldbangkokinn.com) a few years back. Conceived as a ‘home away from home’, says the warm, well-travelled proprietress, the 10-room B&B is truly a family affair. Guests can follow her son Joey’s suggestions on the hippy chic nightlife along nearby Khao San Road. Thanks to his tech savvy habits and sustainable ethics, this humble abode offers high speed WiFi throughout and an active green programme to conserve water and energy. Guests choose among five Thai scented room types, all with air-conditioning, flat screen televisions and powerful showers. 

A recent addition to my wish-list is the family’s Bangkok Tree House (bangkoktreehouse.com, rates from $1,000), a hidden-in-plain-sight green retreat along the Chao Praya River, where one kilo of trash gets removed from the river for every booking made.

If you know where to book, Bangkok’s River of Kings can be delightfully affordable. Another well-priced hotel within an exceptional setting is the six-suite Arun Residence (arunresidence.com), named for its jaw-dropping views of the intricately carved Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, directly across the Chao Praya River. While room rates start at $1,000, another $500 buys you a suite with bed and balcony facing the timeless temple. This riverfront vista makes even pillow-top snobs forget about the lack of room service, business centre or swimming pool at the 85-year old wooden house-turned-hotel. For pale, pink-tinged sunsets behind Wat Arun’s stone spires and the signature Arun Surprise vodka cocktail, head to The Deck, the hotel’s alfresco restaurant deservedly known for its Australian sirloin and spicy Thai curries plus desserts like lavender crème brulée, all served up with a side helping of that captivating view.

Purple haze: enjoy a colourful stay in Seven's Purple Room

Not everyone comes to Bangkok to admire its ancient and natural charms. Those of you, like me, who arrive with a shopping list and no time for the city’s notorious traffic will appreciate Seven (sleepatseven.com, rooms from $780). Tucked into a cul-de-sac off Sukhumvit Road between Paragon and Emporium shopping malls, the six stylishly hand-painted guestrooms boast salvaged wood floors that would not look out of place inside far grander accommodations. Cross the lobby’s ruby red-painted koi pond to the lounge for fluffy omelettes, warm croissants and fresh-squeezed juice every morning. This hotel’s rock bottom room rate gets you into the chic second floor guestroom, which lacks only outside facing windows. Slightly up the price scale, the Green room is a twin bedded leafy haven with private garden while Purple boasts a queen size bed and is optimally situated to hear evening birdsong, one of many priceless pleasures among these now not so secret addresses.

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