Go for the black room
Tucked into the grounds of a sleepy Bangkok temple and perched over the Chao Phraya River, six-room Loy La Long is in an unlikely but lovely location and offers charm by the bucket load.
Loy La Long is set in a restored century-old teak wood house accessed through a locked door in the middle of Wat Pathum Khongka. A taxi dropped us off in the grounds and we had to nosy about a bit to find the nondescript entrance, but if you look for the sign below and the door to the left, you'll be fine. As we rang the bell and waited, cat peered at us from above the doorway, suggesting, as if we hadn't already realised, that this is a hotel that's on the special side.
A woman who is presumably the manager greeted us and gave us a chilled welcome drink in a Thai-style silver cup while she sorted out our reservation. The small communal area is eclectically decorated with tables, chairs, grass mats and colourful cushions, and is open to the river lapping at its edge; this dark-brown timber-lined room used to be a small fish sauce factory. Wood shelves are occupied by thought-provoking books, board games, DVDs and old framed black-and-whites of the Thai king and queen. There's a peace and a bit of a yesteryear atmosphere here that's at odds with most of the rest of the city. It's the same distinctive grace that presumably caused Jim Thompson to fall in love with Thai culture six decades ago, an everyday sort of elegance we’ve experienced in places like Amphawa and along the canals of Thonburi.
Another flight of stairs leads us to a second common space and a veranda with a rocking chair that, perhaps accompanied by a good book and pot of tea, is the stuff travel daydreams are made of. We were then whisked to our room, with our bag following shortly after; staff gave it an all-over vacuum, apparently the latest in bed bug defence, or else we just looked particularly shabby.
Each designed to the tune of a different colour, the six rooms are scattered across two floors (a seventh room is currently closed). All are unique—some big, some small, some with private decks and hammocks, some without. If you can afford it, the ‘black’ room bags you a large window that’s placed just over the surface of the river. Water lapping beneath the teakwood floorboards will either lull you to sleep or keep you awake, depending on how light a sleeper you are. If we were heading to Bangkok, and this room was within our budget (3,900 baht), we would book it as soon as we could.
The ‘green’ and ‘blue’ editions also boast wide river views and 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 ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ are no less stylish. The airy ‘white’ features four navy blue single beds across a series of lofts that can be collectively rented out as one big family room or partitioned into shared dorm space. All rooms are equipped with air-con, flatscreen TV, fridge, safe, hot water, tea and coffee-making facilities (pods), blow dryer and WiFi.
In the romantic ‘red’ room, a double bed is tucked on a platform beneath a slanted ceiling, and a red door opens to a small private balcony. Maroon velvet curtains separate the bathroom from sleeping space, which is the case in several other rooms as well. While the lack of a proper door between bed and toilet could be a turnoff for some, the bathrooms sure are classy.
We stayed a night in the 'black' room and it was worth it purely to wake up in the middle of the night and realise that the Chao Phraya is actually a barely moving body of water. At 4:00am, the waters are completely calm; it's the boat traffic that churns up the water and gives the river the impression of being rough. The mattress set on a platform and is dressed in comfortable linens, and we loved the thought that has gone into the decorating. The bathroom is modestly sized, but when you can take a shower as the river courses by next to you, well, who cares! We liked little details like the prickly heat powder box. The only out of place thing for us was that one of the chair's base cushions still had plastic covering it.
There's a room service menu, but you'd probably be more comfortable eating out in the common areas. And while the menu is extensive, we returned to our room at around 20:30 and the restaurant had already wound down. The manager told us she could offer us 10 sticks of satay; we accepted and then later realised that we had possibly eaten her dinner. We ate it sitting upstairs by the rocking chair with a bottle of beer, watching the disco boats screech on by. The included breakfast is ordered the night before, and includes an interesting small selection of Western and Thai dishes.
Loy La Long is exceptional value, not only for the exquisite design and intimate setting but also the in-room extras and overall comfort. 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.
As for location, Loy La Long isn’t the most convenient choice in the city, but we reckon its positioning over the river, and within striking distance of Chinatown, makes it worthwhile. The street eating around here is great while the excellent Samsara riverside restaurant is just upriver (five minutes on foot) and a small cafe is located just opposite the wat serving up coffees along with locally made Japanese-style wooden buckets.
If you need to get into the rest of the city, both Hualamphong train station and MRT are 15 minutes' away on foot, and the Ratchawong Express Boat pier is closer. Loy La Long is often full so advanced bookings are essential. If there is no availability on Agoda, be sure to get in touch directly, as it seems for now they make only the quad room available there.
Address: 1620/2 Song Wat Rd (inside Wat Pathum Khongka), Bangkok
T: (02) 639 1390; (089) 133 1131;
Coordinates (for GPS): 100º30'38.09" E, 13º44'8.02" N
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Room rates: 1,500B to 4,000B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Sgl air-con private bathroom|
|2,700 baht||2,700 baht|
|Quad air-con private bathroom|
White. Up to 5,500 baht depending on number of guests.
|3,000 baht||3,000 baht|
|Dbl air-con private bathroom|
Red. Black and blue priced at 3,900 baht.
|3,600 baht||3,600 baht|
|4,900 baht||4,900 baht|
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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