46 Thewet Soi 1, Krungkasem Rd, Thawet T: (02) 628 8188-9, (086) 336 2425
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The Phranakorn Nornlen experience takes you straight into the creative soul of Thai culture. Comfortable rooms and abundant common spaces are adorned with imaginative murals; vintage displays lend the feel of a classic Thai market; and daily workshops encourage guests to create their own masterpieces. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth stopping by for the arts, crafts, antiques and food.
Originally just another clapped-out Thai hotel, the building underwent an unbelievable revitalisation after being purchased by its current artist-owner. Dreary scuffed concrete walls were invigorated by eye-catching murals throughout the maze-like property. A bakery, coffee shop, ice cream parlour, restaurant, cooking school, art gallery and local products shop are punctuated by vintage cameras, phonographs, rickshaws, Thai movie posters and spirit houses. Quirky Thai folk music keeps the mood light.
Phra nakorn norn len translates as “sacred city of sleep and play”, the len aspect covered by crafts and cooking workshops that attract local Thais and expats in addition to guests. On any given day you might create etchings, embroideries, handicrafts, fisherman’s pants, hats, toys, pillows, fresh-baked breads, cakes and organic soaps that can be carved into “soap-blossoms” later. The highly regarded classes are casual and relaxed, with no pressure put on guests to join.
Each room is individually designed with its own distinctive murals and hand-made bathrooms — something we’ve rarely encountered before. You get the feeling that wall-paintings of shutters might actually open to reveal a child’s fantasy world. Depicting goldfish ponds, firefly-covered landscapes and even an entire kitchen with windows “opening” onto rice fields, the detailed murals add a sense of depth that will make imaginations run wild. Viewing the dozen or so rooms feels more like an art gallery tour.
Just as comfy as they are inspiring, all of the spotless rooms feature air-con, several windows, vintage furnishings and firm beds adorned with beautiful hand-embroidered bedspreads. At least one room boasts a balcony that allows you to gaze at neighbouring Wat Indraviharn’s 32-metre-tall Buddha as it gazes back at you. High ceilings make the already spacious rooms feel even larger. A complimentary organic breakfast helps to make these rooms good value in the flashpacker range.
The ground-floor, open-air common area is an atmospheric spot to chill with a coffee or tasty meal while chatting up other guests and the super-friendly staff. You’ll also find a soothing garden along with a shared living room, kids’ play space, Thai massage, free WiFi, laundry facilities and rooftop seating with smashing old city views — and an organic garden! We uttered one “wow” after another while exploring.
Phra Nakorn Norn Len is situated on a quiet side street lined with humble old teakwood homes, a school and several hole-in-the-wall eateries. Nearby Krung Kasem and Samsen roads host loads of great street food along with a few hole-in-the-wall convenience stores and cafes. Thewet express boat pier is a five- to 10-minute walk west, while Khao San Road is around 20 minutes on foot to the south.
The hotel is a bit tricky to find and could do with a little more signage. The easiest access is from Krung Kasem to the north, from where it’s a three-minute stroll down Thewet Soi 1 to Phranakorn Nornlen’s easy-to-miss front gate, set just back down a narrow side alley on the right if heading south.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 22nd June, 2014.