In Thailand, private holiday villas are nothing new. You’ll find dozens dotting Phuket’s jungled hills and lining the palm-tufted beaches on Koh Samui. They take over rice fields in Chiang Rai and secret coves in Koh Phangan. Bangkok, however, remains the domain of high-rise hotels or — if you’re looking to splurge on privacy — luxurious Airbnb penthouses. By Chris Schalkx
Thai-Filipino couple Kirati Thepsoparn and Irma Go saw it as a void in Bangkok’s hospitality scene. “As parents who love travelling with our kids, we enjoyed incredible experiences in places that serve a real purpose in their locations,” Go told Travel + Leisure. “We’ve stayed in farmhouses in Bordeaux, old palazzos in Tuscany, and even a converted post office in Ghent. We always felt that Bangkok was missing a place like this, a place to welcome families like ours.”
Here’s a peek inside the family-friendly riverside villa in Bangkok
Six years ago, on a boat trip around the khlongs (canals) of Bangkok Noi, a low-slung and quiet suburb across the river from the Grand Palace, they spotted a trio of dilapidated Thai houses by the water. The “For Sale” sign in front immediately sparked the idea for the canalside holiday home they were missing. They purchased the land, along with the houses and their decades-old furnishings.
But it wasn’t quite the fixer-upper they expected: Many of the original structures were unsalvageable and the couple quickly discovered that simply renovating the houses wouldn’t make for a comfortable stay. Instead, they travelled around the country to meet with artisans specialising in vernacular Thai architecture and worked with a local studio to design a new villa that would honour the old one. Siri Sala, they named it, which roughly translates to Auspicious Pavilion.
The design follows a traditional layout: three stilted wooden houses with pointy gabled roofs, connected by a courtyard. In old Thai homes, the indoor-outdoor spaces were reserved for entertaining. Siri Sala follows the same approach, with a breezy dining room (including a 20-seat table), a library lounge, a spa area, and a 65-foot saltwater pool out front. A kid-friendly lounge and four bedrooms take over the second floor of this riverside villa. Each bedroom features lofty bathrooms with jewel-hued tiles and traditional earthen scoop showers (alongside spacious rain showers and free-standing tubs). The two bedrooms in front are festooned with intricately painted ceilings.
During the construction process, the couple found different ways to preserve the spirit of the original building. They remade the hardwood floorboards into furniture and reused the old window grills and wooden doors around the gardens and living room. One of the houses was meticulously deconstructed and rebuilt into a moodily lit cocktail lounge in the backyard. Opposite, the original spirit house, a small shrine on stilts, is still used for offerings of red Fanta and marigold garlands in return for good fortune.
The cost? From USD 3,500 (INR 2,64,409) per night, which raises to USD 6,000 (INR 4,53,273) per night in high season. That covers up to eight guests, though, and includes airport transfers and a two-hour guided boat tour around the canals. Activities around the villa include massages in the fern-fringed spa garden, lotus-folding workshops, and chef-led Thai cooking classes in the open kitchen. Visitors can also expect sunset drinks with views of the Wat Suwannaram temple across the canal, a welcome dinner (be sure to order the plump, garlicky river prawns), and daily breakfast.
“There are so many beautiful hotels and houses all over Thailand, and a lot of them hark into the past,” Go said. “But here, we wanted to redefine what a Thai house would look like today.”