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Loy La Long Hotel

A riverside antiquarian masterpiece

What we say: 4.5 stars

On Chinatown’s most charmed street, a hand-painted sign hangs lopsided from a tree along the footpath that fronts an ancient wat. It leads us past the temple’s chedis and monks’ quarters, into a narrow alley where a couple of kids play with a shaggy dog. Here, tucked along the Chao Phraya River in a restored century-old teak wood house, we find our dream hotel: Loy La Long.

Got to love it when cute little dogs pose for our standard 'front of hotel' shot.

Poodle sold separately.

We’re first greeted by a neighbourhood woman who washes dishes while relaxing on her porch beside the hotel’s unassuming frontage. Pointing next door, she says “Loy La Long” with a cool smile. Go ahead, say it out loud — loy la long. The soothing ring of the name is a sign of what’s to come.

When we ring the door bell, a soft-spoken man and woman appear wearing loose-fitting, traditional Thai pants to go with bare feet and T-shirts. Their calm demeanour seems so distant from the pulsing energy that encompasses much of modern Bangkok. It makes us wonder, “was that alley a wormhole that shot us back 200 years in time?”

Don't worry -- it leaves you back in the present time on the way out.

Don’t worry — it leaves you back in the present time on the way out.

Setting foot on deep brown timber planks in the hotel’s open-air lobby that once served as a small fish sauce factory, we’re treated to the same distinctive grace that caused Jim Thompson to fall in love with Thai culture six decades ago. It’s an everyday sort of elegance we’ve experienced in places like Amphawa and along the canals of Thonburi, but this is the first we’ve come across it in such an unforced way at a hotel in Bangkok proper.

A narrow flight of stairs carries us into a living room space that seems to beg anyone who sets foot in it to ditch all plans, sit back and be unresistant to the hotel’s motto — “let it be, let it go, let it flow”. Grass mats, floor cushions and a ukulele are placed on smooth wood floors. Charming yet evocative portraits join a flatscreen TV on the walls. Off to one side, wood shelves are occupied by thought-provoking books, board games, a selection of DVDs and old framed black-and-whites of the Thai king and queen. Natural light shines through wide doors that open on to a veranda perched directly over the river.

Midday nap?

Midday nap?

Another flight of stairs leads us to a second common space, this time centered around a sturdy wooden table with space for 10 to enjoy a shared meal. While we appreciate the floor cushions on the veranda downstairs, a rocking chair on this third-floor terrace — perhaps accompanied by a good book and pot of tea — is the stuff travel daydreams are made of.

Winner of Bangkok's best porch award 2013.

Winner of Bangkok’s best porch award 2013.

Each designed to the tune of a different colour, all seven rooms are exceptionally tasteful, and they’re beyond trendy terminology and pretension. While indeed tranquil, the hotel’s atmosphere is as laidback and friendly as the tiny neighbourhood that surrounds it.

It's the little things ...

It’s the little things …

Every room is a work of art. The sleek ‘green’, ‘black’ and ‘blue’ editions boast wide river views punctuated by museum-worthy paintings that reflect both a modern edge and a tip of the hat to old-style Thailand. Smaller, cheaper and situated along the side of the building but still in sight of the river, the ‘orange’ and ‘yellow’ are no less stylish or inviting. The airy ‘white’ features four navy blue single beds to contrast flush white walls and furniture across a series of lofts that can be collectively rented out as one big family room or partitioned into shared dorm space.

Think they have any trouble getting this one booked for Valentine's Day?

Think they have any trouble getting this one booked for Valentine’s Day?

Although we glimpse some of the others, the only room available for us to fully check out is the warm and cosy ‘red’. Crimson curtains are draped over a triangular window that allows light to reflect on the the same polished dark golden teak wood floors found throughout the building. A double bed is romantically tucked on a platform beneath a slanted ceiling, and a red door opens to a private balcony with views over the river.

Wooden beams, antique bureaus and maroon velvet curtains separate the bathroom from the sleeping space. While the lack of a proper door between bed and toilet could be a turnoff for some, the bathroom is one of the classiest places to wash up that we’ve seen anywhere in Bangkok (yes, that includes you, Terminal 21).

“I’m just gonna stay in the bathroom for a while… Yeah… I’ll let myself out.”

Although the building’s classic Thai-style design allows for the cool river breeze to flow through interior spaces, each room is equipped with air-con as well as flatscreen TV, fridge, safe, hot water and WiFi. A bed in the shared ‘white’ space goes for 1,100 baht, the ‘orange’ room runs 2,100, the ‘yellow’ 2,700, ‘red’ fetches 2,900, ‘black’ and ‘blue’ can be yours for 3,200, and the ‘green’ suite tops out at 4,000. The hotel also offers a small cafe serving Thai and Western staples to go with a range of beverages.

All room rates go up by 500 baht during the peak months of December and January, but even then, this is exceptional value — not only for the exquisite design and intimate setting but also the in-room extras and overall comfort. In all seriousness, and even if money were no object, we’d happily choose a room at Loy La Long over those at any of the big five-star hotels downriver that start at around 12,000 baht a night.

How many hotels have a temple in their front yard?

How many hotels have a temple in their front yard?

As for location, Loy La Long isn’t the most convenient choice in the city, but it could very well be the most interesting. It’s literally situated within the grounds of Wat Pathum Khongka, making this the only place we know of where it’s possible to stay inside a temple complex without committing to a meditation retreat or freeloading on a grass mat in the corner of some dingy communal room. Song Wat Road is lined with picturesque old street lamps, alleyways and shophouses, and it retains a far quieter atmosphere than most of Chinatown.

This sign is the only evidence on the street that a hotel exists here.

This sign is the only evidence on the street that a hotel exists here.

The dizzying shopping and fabulous street food of Yaowarat and surrounds are only a 10-minute walk away should you feel the need to snap out of Loy La Long’s trance. Both Ratchawong Express Boat pier and Hualamphong MRT station are also 10 to 15 minutes away on foot, and there’s never a shortage of tuk tuks around in case you want to get somewhere fast. Not surprisingly, Loy La Long is often full — advanced bookings are essential.

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Contact details:

1620/2 Song Wat Road (inside Wat Pathum Khongka), Bangkok.  T: (02) 639 1390 , (089) 133 1131 
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What we were quoted

Type of room Low season High season Notes
Dbl air-con private b'room 2,100 baht 2,600 baht Up to 2,700, 2,900, 3,200 and 4,000 (each room is different)
Quad air-con share b'room 4,400 baht 4,900 baht Can be rented as dorms for 1,100 per bed

Added to Travelfish on: 11th November, 2013
Last visited or updated on: 11th November, 2013

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.
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Loy La Long Hotel
1620/2 Song Wat Road (inside Wat Pathum Khongka), Bangkok. 
T: (02) 639 1390 , (089) 133 1131

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