Intimate spot in an "everyday Bangkok" area
279-283 Soi Charoen Nakhon 28, Bangkok T: (02) 438 4479
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Set in a renovated 50-year-old house, Focal Local is a charming bed and breakfast with an intimate atmosphere and seven tastefully artistic rooms. True to its name, Focal Local offers an offbeat experience in a non-touristy neighbourhood of Bangkok.
While we love Focal Local’s catchy name, it’s also an apt description. The bed and breakfast truly does focus on the understated charm of one of Bangkok’s typical yet extraordinary local neighbourhoods. It’s found a short stroll down Charoen Nakhon Soi 28, an alleyway so ordinary that we lived less than a kilometre away for over a year and completely overlooked it until catching wind of Focal Local’s outstanding reviews online.
Like so many sois throughout the city, this narrow alley is home to no-frills food shops, convenience stores and laundromats that double as modest homes. A local street food market sets up nightly towards the back-end of the soi. Just past the market begins a walkway beside a tiny canal that serves as a very local-style shortcut to Krung Thonburi BTS sky train station, which is only a kilometre away.
Charoen Nakhon Road itself is a busier affair, though even here foreigners are often met with surprised looks from the locals. The road supports a bounty of street food, restaurants and cafes, including Rom Ngao Indo-Chin and 1001 Nights, and Khlong San market isn’t too far off to the north.
Staying in this area is also quite strategic — the sky train runs direct to Sathorn, Silom and Siam Square, and river express boats can be caught for Chinatown, Banglamphu and the historical sites of Rattanakosin at nearby Sathorn pier. Of course, Focal Local is also well-positioned for exploring Thonburi.
While Focal Local’s bright orange facade looks a bit quirky from the outside, a few steps into the ground-floor reception/dining area and we were struck by an elegant design that incorporates cool mint green and soft yellow walls complimented by dark wood tables, tasteful floral patterns on polished concrete floors and plenty of natural light. Both of the staff members we met spoke excellent English and had a polite, warm demeanour; they’re certainly a focal point of an overall intimate experience.
A single flight of stairs led us up to a lovingly renovated common area with soft reddish hardwood floors, classic Thai works of art and stained glass windows that allow blue-green tinted light inside. Making optimal use of limited space, an open-air roofed mini-courtyard features benches, small trees, flowers, stone floors and a fountain with the soothing sound of water trickling over rocks.
Each of the seven rooms are artistically designed to the tune of a different theme, with distinctive names to match. “Yesteryears” features swirling yellow walls to go with vintage toy robots and black-and-white checkered floors in the bathrooms. “Living Nature” draws on forest greens, rustic woods and actual leaves imprinted into the bathroom floors. The “Siamese” room has deep maroon walls, ornate carved wooden furniture and classical Thai art. Not at all overdone, the attention to detail is striking — each room is even outfitted with a uniquely styled wash basin to fit the theme.
All rooms are equipped with hardwood floors, several windows, air-con, soft double bed with fresh sheets, flatscreen TV, mini-fridge, safe, free WiFi and rain showers in modern bathrooms. The old house’s one disadvantage is that rooms are on the tight side, although the generous common areas offer a fair amount of extra breathing space. While not a great choice for families or backpackers who only want a cheap and functional room, Focal Local is perfect for couples seeking a romantic yet offbeat experience.
Focal Local’s five smaller rooms go for 1,500 baht per night while the two more spacious editions fetch 1,800. It may seem like questionable value given the small rooms, but when you consider the thoughtful design, outstanding service and extras like complimentary Thai breakfast, free bicycles and one free tuk tuk ride to the BTS or pier per day (worth 50 baht), rates are right around where they should be. In any case, the place is often full — it took us some coming-and-going before we could check out a room — and booking ahead is recommended.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 15th November, 2013.