Chakrabongse Villas

Bangkok, Thailand Book from THB5,618

Set right on the river are 4 exclusive suites tucked in the verdant grounds of a royal residence, plus 3 simpler rooms for those with a tighter budget
In the heart of the city, with skyscraping condos, aquatic shanty towns and traffic-clogged avenues stretching for miles in every direction, lies this oasis of calm. Leafy gardens, tall palms, colourful frangipanis, raised wooden decks and a flower-ringed swimming pool usher you into a distant dream world. But the view from the floating pavilion is pure Bangkok: across the Chao Phraya’s busy waters, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) and Wat Kalayanamit flank, like exotic spaceships, the fortress of Vichai Prasit.

This hidden pearl among river-front hotels is the 100-year-old residence of Prince Chakrabongse (pronounced Jackapong), 40th son of the prolific King Rama V and hagiographer of the Chakri Dynasty. It now belongs to his granddaughter Narisa. At the end of its gardens are some lovely little Thai-style cottages housing 4 suites; while an annexe attached to the main house contains 3 cosy rooms for travellers watching their baht. Whether you’re a romantic couple, a discerning group of friends or a family looking for a home from home, it feels like a privilege to stay here.

Highs

  • We loved the sense of space and tradition in the wooden Ayutthaya-style cottage suites
  • Our Thai dinner was one of the most memorable we've eaten in Bangkok - sitting at low candle-lit tables in the riverside pavilion
  • This is a real haven in a big bustling city, with a beautiful garden setting right by the river, and views to Vichai Prasit
  • A plush and powerful James Bond-style speedboat (extra cost) for exploring Bangkok the authentic way, via its extensive river and canal network
  • A real sense of privilege and seclusion, and you often have the grounds and pool to yourselves

Lows

  • Since we first trumpeted this place, rates have risen to 4-star-hotel levels, but that is the price of such an exclusive venue
  • The 3 annexe rooms are pretty small, but you can relax in the gardens too
  • Expect noise from the longtail boats whizzing up and down the river - especially early in the morning
  • If you want to eat lunch or dinner at the hotel you need to let the staff know several hours in advance, which could irk some
  • We would have loved to look around the impressive palace building; but sadly it's still a private residence and is closed to hotel guests

Best time to go

Bangkok is best in the so-called cool season (expect a mere 30C), from November to February. It starts to get hotter through February, typically reaching a 40C climax in April and May, before the rains arrive. It’s still warm, though wetter, from June to August. At the end of the rainy season (September-October), whole districts of the city can flood, and there is frequent disruption.

Our top tips

The property is discreetly placed and most Bangkok taxi drivers don’t speak any English, so make sure you pick up one of the cards from reception that provide directions in Thai. This will save you massive amounts of time when returning from daytrips. Oh, and if you are using taxis, make sure you always insist on the meter being switched on.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Apartments
  • 4 suites + 3 rooms
  • Restaurant (+ basic self-catering)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
Room:

Rooms

At the end of the garden are 4 adjacent but independent suites housed in Thai-style cottages (one is more of a Chinese-style villa), while in an annexe attached to the main house sit 3 small but cosy rooms.

We stayed in the Thai House during our 2014 revisit, an old wooden building with beautiful carved arches, whose home was once Ayutthaya before it was dismantled, transported and reassembled here, piece by piece. It overlooks the pond, and is the perfect love nest thanks to its secluded location, veranda with mosquito net-covered daybed - allowing you to fall asleep under the stars - and huge terrazzo tub in the bathroom (big enough for 2). This is the only suite which lacks a kitchenette.

However, we think couples should pay a little more for the impossibly romantic River View Suite, which is the pick of the bunch thanks to its incredible views of Bangkok’s busy Chao Phraya river. From the garden, wooden stairs lead up to a glorious veranda that stretches to the water’s edge, making you monarch of all you survey. We thought this house felt private, spacious, and distinctly exotic.

The ground-level Garden Suite is a cosy, modern apartment that backs onto the communal kitchen. It's convenient and can fit an extra bed or cot, though it’s less exotic than the others. This suite, though, boasts the most functional kitchen.

The Chinese Suite is a 2-bedroom house with a generous, glassed-in living room, and a private veranda leading to the communal pool (via a gate), making it ideal for families. Chinese touches include antique lacquered cabinets, carved screens and (in the master bedroom) a sumptuous Chinese four-poster bed.

In an annexe attached to the palace building are 3 smaller Double Rooms, named Mali, Fueng Fa and Chaba. These are far more sedate in size and charm, and lack the incredible history of the garden suites, but they do still have a splash of character in the shape of old Moroccan doors or Indian beds brought back from the owner's travels. On the upside, they are much more affordable, and you can always choose to unwind in the gardens instead of in your room!

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

A simple but delicious breakfast is served up overlooking the river when you emerge to greet the day. You’re asked to specify what time it’ll be the night before, but our jetlagged midday start did not seem to trouble the staff at all. During our first visit, we opted for the divinely succulent whole mango, buttery toast and Bonne Maman jams, eye-wateringly fresh orange juice and a pretty ceramic pot of tea which appeared as if by magic on the raised sit-out of the riverside pavilion. More recently, we tucked into a real British fry up - eggs any way, crispy bacon and real sausages. Of course, there’s also a more traditional Thai menu on offer, too.

Lunch and dinner (be sure to book in advance) consists of a daily changing, fixed menu of Thai dishes that were developed from the Royal Family’s own recipes. (Note that the restaurant is closed on a Monday.) In a city full of outstanding food, our evening meal still managed to shine above the rest: a mind-blowing Penang curry, deep-fried soft-shell crab, and a selection of vegetable dishes - all really imaginative and presented with flare. For the quality and setting, dinner was is a real bargain, and it all feels hopelessly romantic having just a few private tables set up overlooking the river, with Wat Arun lit up in the background.

If you feel like treating yourselves by having a completely secluded meal, book the gastronomic experience where the chef and dining terrace is yours for the evening (they’ll need at least 24 hours’ notice). Three of the suites (Garden, Chinese and River View) have a basic kitchenette for preparing light meals and snacks.

If you can tear yourself away from this oasis of calm, just outside the residence is a simple Thai restaurant called Coconut Palm which is handy for lunch or a light dinner. Further afield (10-15 minutes’ walk or a short taxi ride) is Phra Athit Road, where Hemlock and Roti Mataba come recommended for, respectively, their exotic Thai dishes and their stuffed or curried rotis.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You could be not better-placed for Wat Po or the Grand Palace. The former is perhaps Bangkok’s most quietly impressive temple, with its massive Reclining Buddha and colourful, stupa-filled courts. You can also get an excellent, inexpensive massage there. The latter is the city’s compulsory tick, with dazzling gold-, silver- and ceramic-bedecked temples and endless Ramayana frescoes, not to mention the sporadically-open royal palaces
  • Or you can hop on a boat across the river to the distinctive Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn, with its polychromatic porcelain flower-decorations and its fine river views
  • Slightly further afield are the big attractions of Khaosan Road and Banglamphu, while in the other direction lies Chinatown, with its cloth and jewellery markets
  • Right outside, stretches the flower market of Pak Klong Talad. It comes to life after dark, when the city’s flower sellers congregate to buy the next day’s supplies, while the young and glamorous order artistic bouquets for their sweethearts
  • If you want to get about in style, you can book the residence’s elegant and powerful speedboat with driver, which will whisk you in leather-seated luxury to Bangkok’s furthest sites in a matter of minutes
  • A canal tour of Thonburi gives you a different glimpse into this ‘Venice of the East’, while a cruise down Khlong Saen Seb will take you to Jim Thompson’s fascinating home-museum, and (eventually) the city’s most ginormous shopping districts
  • Dare to brave the Bangkok traffic by borrowing a bike from the hotel to go exploring
  • If it’s all too much, the residence’s lush garden with decent-sized pool is one of the most relaxing spots in the whole city

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome at Chakrabongse Villas, and it’s well suited for families with kids of any age as the gardens are peaceful and safe. Plus the majority of the suites have kitchenettes, allowing (basic) self-catering. Under 12s stay free of charge.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Parents with 1 child should book the River View Suite or the Garden View Suite, both of which can fit an extra bed or a baby cot. Larger families will like the spacious Chinese Suite which has 2 double bedrooms and can fit an additional bed or baby cot. The Chinese Suite also has a private gated terrace area and has direct access to the pool, and as all the other rooms are set back, it can feel as if the room has the pool to itself and parents can keep an eye on the kids from the terrace.

Babysitting:

Babysitting can be arranged.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and bedding are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Three of the suites have small kitchens, and you're within walking distance of numerous restaurants and shops selling food. For a touch of luxury, you can book the house chef. The in-house restaurant is geared to couples in the evenings so families would probably feel more comfortable eating elsewhere.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • A small selection of children's books
  • Lush gardens to run around in
  • A sleek James Bond-style private launch for river tours of Bangkok in its own wooden house

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Glittering temples
  • Heaving street markets
  • Buzzing Chinatown
  • The Siam Museum
  • Speedboat tours of Bangkok

Families Should Know:

The pool isn't fenced. There's a mall 15 minutes away where you can buy nappies, baby food, toys etc.

Distances:

  • Airport: 60 minutes
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
  • Shops: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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