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Ariyasom Villa: Stay in a traditional Thai mansion in the heart of Bangkok

A common criticism of deluxe hotels in Bangkok is the lack of traditional local Thai style.  The Ariyasom Villa is a 1940’s traditional Thai estate that has been carefully converted into a deluxe boutique resort, in the center of the city.  If you ever wanted to stay at Jim Thompson’s house, this is your hotel.

David Lees and his wife own and manage this property, the wife Khun Pariya Sheanakul being the granddaughter of the original owner.  It is only steps away from the famous Bumrungrad Hospital, known for some of the best medical care in SE Asia, as well as the growing medical tourism industry.  The property is located at the end of a soi (side street) close to the highway, and a BTS SkyTrain station, making it convenient to get around town and to the airport.  Lees and his wife have a background in landscaping and interior design and it clearly shows.  The property feels like a garden oasis in what would otherwise be a fairly typical ugly Bangkok street.  There is lush tropical landscaping everywhere, feeling more like a boutique property in the Thai countryside.  The feeling you’ll get when you stay here is of a luxury traditional Thai bed & breakfast.  The Lees, including kids, come around to say hello to greet you and welcome you to their home during meal times.

Lees and his wife have hand selected nearly every item in every room, from the art on the wall, to the desks, even the real teak flooring which Lees sourced himself in the north.  Much of the art throughout the property is from the owner’s personal collection.   Except for the bathroom fittings and the TV and a few others, you won’t find any generic store bought modern furnishings.  Even such things as lamps are custom designed or reproduced from an original piece.  With all this personalization and local artifacts adorning your room, you aren’t sacrificing modern comfort either.  There are LCD TV’s, DVD players, and free WiFi throughout the property and nicely designed rock garden type bathroom with rainfall shower and large tub.  All the rooms have either a terrace or large windows that look down on the lush landscaped gardens.  My personal favorite is the Executive Suites as these duplex rooms make good use of the high arching colonial architecture and tall windows.

The one restaurant, Na Aroon, is located in the main building and each dining experience feels like stepping back through time.  Tall ceilings, a balcony and chandeliers provide an elegant, colonial authenticity.  The restaurant serves mainly organic vegetarian, with some options having seafood.  Lees is also very hands on in the restaurant, designing the menu, sourcing the ingredients, and ensuring high levels of service.  The saltwater swimming pool located outside the restaurant in the main courtyard is stylishly designed flanked on one side by chaise lounges and even has underwater fiber optic LED decorations when lit at night.  There is another building with a large library/lounge on the first floor and a meditation room on the top floor.  Guests are encouraged to join in on the regular early morning meditation sessions.  One would think that a hotel this size wouldn’t have a spa, but the hotel has a small spa built in the traditional rural style, where guests can get Thai massages.

Right outside the property is a typical downtown Bangkok soi.  The street is lined with restaurants, pubs and the required 7-11 convenience store.  If you walk out to the main avenue Sukhumvit there are malls and major restaurants.   There is also the Ploenchit BTS Skytrain station two minutes walk from the intersection of the soi and Sukhumvit.   One local tip I wish to share is a small restaurant called Thai House Soi One restaurant, located on the first left cross street immediately after the Bumrungrad parking garage.  It is relatively new, family run, English speaking and best of all, air conditioned.  It also allows you to try local street food type cuisine in a cool, clean establishment, where the menu and staff know English.

Located right behind the Ariyasom is one of Bangkok’s remaining canals with regular ferry service.  Most of Bangkok’s canals were filled in and paved decades ago and now make up the constantly congested city road system.  This is the same canal that runs behind Jim Thompson’s house.  Complete your historical Thai villa experience by visiting the Ariyasom’s neighbor, Mr. Jim Thompson.

When you stay at the Ariyasom Villa, and David Lees welcomes you to his home, be sure to tell him you learned about it on Deluxe Upgrades.


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