Those who've been around long enough—the cultured ones, especially—must have been to Patravadi Theatre at least once or twice to indulge in mind-blowing contemporary acts. Established by National Artist Patravadi Mejudhon, the theater provided entertainment, fantasy and glamour in an open-air setting near the river. A few years ago, Patravadi relocated to Hua Hin and brought her art and artistic endeavors with her, leaving the crown jewel of the Wang Lang neighborhood behind. Later on, Patravadi’s daughter, Velvadi Sritrairatana, enlisted the help of her siblings and relatives to revive the theatre, but in another form, putting in place a hotel that still pays respects to the performance arts. That's how Theatre Residence was born.
"Long before our time, this area was part of the palace grounds. Back in the day, it was the place where artists lived, trained and practiced."
“Do you know why the area was called Wang Lang?” Pantoee Sritrairatana, Velvadi’s brother and the hotel’s marketing head, asks. “Long before our time, this area was part of the palace grounds. Back in the day, it was the place where artists lived, trained and practiced. These artists performed only for the royal family, they didn’t perform for anyone else. Later, they became civil servants, [and left the area]. Khun Ying Supratra [Singholaka], who was given this piece of land, preserved it.” Khun Ying Surpatra was a noblewoman who served in the royal court of King Rama VI. (She was also a businesswoman who transformed her mother’s shuttle boat service into the multimillion-dollar business known to us today as Chao Phraya Express Boat.) She kept the land granted to her by the king relatively untouched before passing it on to her daughters, one of them Patravadi, who, in 1992 established a theater on part of the land.
“And now, my sister has turned it into [Theatre Residence]. So, basically three generations of women have been involved,” says Pantoee, while guiding us through the hotel to marvel at the details designed to recreate the hotel’s history. Airy and welcoming, the lobby was built in the shape of a shipyard to illustrate what occupied the land before it became a theater. Each guest is welcomed by a bust statue of Khun Ying Supatra, and behind it, costumes Patravadi used to wear onstage. Set behind the gigantic lobby is a courtyard and swimming pool hugged by a green, L-shaped building where the hotel rooms are housed. Excerpts and quotes, as well as photos and stage props from famous plays adorn each floor. The rooms, however, are dressed in modern-minimalist décor and neutral tones, and are equipped with everything you would need for a pleasant stay. Guests fascinated with the hotel’s surroundings can take a boat tour, but not along the Chao Phraya. Theatre Residence looks to a more off-the-beaten-track approach, taking guests down smaller canals to see another side of Bangkok.
"We know exactly what’s here and there. We’re happy to show you what’s best in our ’hood. Places that have been running for ages, generation after generation."
The hotel has one restaurant where you can feast on breakfast and all-day meals designed—and sometimes prepared—by Patravadi’s daughter, Pataravarin Timkul, a famous actress who’s also now an avid chef with her own cookbooks and a cooking program on TV. Pantoee explains that visitors are also encouraged to go out and explore the neighbourhood, which has long been famous for its street eats. “We’re not a newbie so we know exactly what’s here and there. We’re happy to show you what’s best in our ’hood. Places that have been running for ages, generation after generation.” Pantoee hints that they’re also renovating a family house by the river into a restaurant, which should be able to welcome guests before Songkran.
“Wang Lang is charming, lovely,” he says. “Every morning, you’ll still see a mother walking her child to school. You’ll see kids singing the national anthem every morning. You can offer alms to monks right here in front of the hotel. It feels like we’re back in the old days, the traditional days. These people have lived their whole life here. It may look busy, but only at lunchtime. It’s slow, a slow river lifestyle.”
The best small design hotels in Bangkok
Ten years after it closed down, Prince Rama Theatre has been revived as a hotel called Prince Theatre Heritage Stay. Rebuilt with much respects to its original structure, the hotel has 26 rooms and suites, each decorated with elements that reacquaint guests with the hotel’s origins. The hotel also offers a walking tour that brings visitors to hidden gems around the neighborhood. Check out the cinema-themed bar for drinks inspired by movies previously screened at the theater.
Nestled on the left (and quieter) bank of the Chao Phraya River, near heritage community Lhong 1919, Amdaeng is the brainchild of award-winning advertising executives, Passapol "Lek" Limpisirisan and Wiboon "Min" Leepakpreeda. The eye-catching cinnabar-red boutique hotel houses ten guestrooms, and a restaurant and bar called NYE. Hotel guests are also entitled to exclusive access to the hotel’s rooftop bar.
The charming house King Vajiravudh granted to his beloved royal governess stands on a piece of land that is now home to Raweekanlaya, the latest boutique hotel operated by the TCC Group. Raweekanlaya still offers a tranquil hideaway setting with a leafy courtyard and glorious landscaping surrounding a picturesque swimming pool. The hotel’s design glorifies the good old days of the modern Rattanakosin era. Two separate wings house six types of rooms, each similarly decked with colonial details such as white wooden interiors and floral-patterned bric-a-brac.
64-172, Krung Kasem Road, Bang Khun Phrom, 0 2628 5999
Theatre Residence sits on the grounds once occupied by the former Patravadi Theatre—and before that, the residences of royal artists. The hotel sits on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in one of the oldest residential communities in Bangkok and within a neighborhood that is known for its amazing street food.
Hidden from the bustle and chaos of the main Phaholyothin stretch, this hidden gem offers guests a peaceful home away from home in stylishly converted Thai-style wooden houses. Airtel (its name is a play between “Airbnb” and “hotel”) incorporates the friendly and no-frills vibe of Airbnb accommodations while retaining the five-star service offered by luxury hotels. The common area also functions as a co-working space and a dining room. Airtel is also pet-friendly. Your stay promises to be paw-fectly memorable thanks to uber-cute Airy and Sparky, the owner’s Japanese Spitz and Labrador.
38 Supharat Soi 1, Phaholyothin 8, Phya Thai, 09 3571 0880. BTS Ari
Ba Hao, the new Oriental-themed bar in Charoenkrung that serves snacks and booze inspired by Chinese street eats, also functions as a boutique hotel. Its upper three floors offer accommodations that veer away from the Chinese concept. Two spacious rooms, also designed by hip design firm Integrated Field, strike the balance between retro charm and modern chic, and feature gigantic mirrors and terraces that look over Soi Nana.
8 Soi Nana, Charoenkrung. MRT Hualumpong. 08 1454 4959
Modena looks to please budget travelers who are not so fussy about frills but would rather not compromise on service quality and amenities. Located within walking distance from the Queen Sirikit Convention Center MRT and Klong Toei Market, the hotel catches the eye with contemporary, urban chic decor injected with pop art depicting Thai motifs (we’re talking tuk-tuks, old-school baskets and all that jazz). Ask for a room with a balcony that looks out to Sukhumvit’s skyscrapers.
2527 Rama 4 Road, Khlong Toei, 0 2033 0888. MRT Queen Sirikit Convention Center
Oozing hidden charm, its location by the Bangkok Noi canal is the main highlight at this new boutique hotel. Renovated from an antique house, Chann offers a selection of superior, deluxe and exclusive suites, the designs of which nail the balance between retro charm and contemporary chic. Most rooms include a private terrace for watching the procession of boats slowly making their way through the canals.
30/1 Somdet Phra Pinklao Road, Bangkok Noi, 0 2435 5997
K Maison Boutique Hotel exudes sheer elegance starting from the lobby. The design throughout is vintage-inspired, with three types of room decked out with earth-toned walls, classy furniture and marble bathroom fittings. Opposite is the hotel-owned café, which is popular among locals for brunch, not to mention its photogenic all-white setting.
116/17-21 Rangnam Road, Phya Thai, 0 2245 1953. BTS Victory Monument
Have you ever wondered how it would be to sleep in a Shakespeare-style setting or in surroundings inspired by your favorite Broadway musical? This cool boutique hotel, nestled among the capital’s dining heavyweights in the middle of Thonglor, boasts four themed rooms each one themed around a famous musical including Romeo & Juliet, Mary Poppins, Aladdin and the Thai period drama The Four Reigns.
205/22-23, Thonglor soi 9, Sukhumvit 55, Sukhumvit, 0 2712 5747. BTS Thonglor.
Praised as one of the most romantic hotels in Bangkok, Hotel Once is popular for its photogenic classic black-and-white décor. Perched on the top floor is Top Knot, a rooftop restaurant serving East-meets-West grub with stunning views of the Chao Phraya River.
2074/99 Soi Charoenkrung, Charoenkrung, 02 688 2596
You are in Chinatown after all so why not stay in a hotel that feels like it? Head to Shanghai Mansion, a boutique hotel in Yaowarat that transports you to the Paris of the East during the 1930s. Refurbished from an old Chinese theater, the sexy venue is filled with delightful Oriental details, vibrant colors and opulent furniture.
479-481 Yaowarat Road, Yaowarat, 0 2221 2121. MRT Hua Lumpong