24-Hour Room Service: Old Bangkok Inn, Thailand
Saturday 14 June 2008
Climbing up the ancient wooden staircase to my floral-themed room, I almost forgot I was in the midst of frenetic Bangkok. An environmentally sensitive alternative to the city's sky-scraping chain hotels and the Khao San Road's guesthouses, the Old Bangkok Inn felt more like a home than a hotel.
The building has been in Nantiya Tulyanond's family for seven generations. The former palace, left to decay, was a run-down noodle house before its current incarnation as a 10-room B&B.
The conversion project was imbued with green values from the start. The staircase, doors, windows and most of the wooden furniture were rebuilt, reclaimed or salvaged from old teak, while the silk curtains and throws are locally made.
The Inn's philosophy goes beyond ecological chic. At check-in, you're invited to donate to one of four local community projects, with your cash matched by the hotel. Sensors switch off the energy-saving lights and appliances when rooms are empty, while glass roof-panels allow the sunshine to flood in, lighting the hallway and heating the hotel's water. Toilets are low-flush and showers low-flow, although the clay jars of unguents – lemongrass, jasmine, rose and wild rice, depending on your room – will encourage you to linger.
The lobby – ornate armoires, old pottery, dainty bird-cages – is the setting for breakfast, a concoction of exotic fruits and local delicacies, such as coconut pancakes. Afterwards, Nantiya and her son Joey are on hand to offer advice on where to go and how to get there.
Old Bangkok Inn, 609 Pra Sumen Road, Bangkok, Thailand (00 66 2 629 1797; www.oldbangkokinn.com). Sited in the Rattankosin quarter, off Rajadamnern Avenue, the Inn is opposite the Golden Mountain Temple and within walking distance of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo (home to the Emerald Buddha), the Queen Sirikit Gallery and the backpacker enclave of Khao San Road, with its shops and eateries.
Traffic in Bangkok is notoriously bad, so guests are urged to use river buses from nearby Phan Fah pier.
Time from international airport: outside rush hour, one hour from Suvarnabhumi airport. The Inn can arrange a transfer for 950 baht (£15). If you make your own way – about 400 baht (£6) – make sure you have the address and phone number; taxi drivers often can't find it.
There are 10 smallish, flower-themed bedrooms. The four room types are equally enchanting: Rice has twin beds with crisp white linen and sumptuous silk throws, while Lemongrass has a four-poster and a small garden. The four, loft-style Orchid and Jasmine rooms have a lounge and bathroom on the ground floor and steps up to a bedroom. The split-level suites – Lotus and Rose – are suitable for families and have plant-filled patios with large bathtubs. All feature antique lighting, hand-painted murals and heirloom furniture.
Freebies: mineral water, tea, lotions and potions, DVDs, internet access, pillow gifts.
Keeping in touch: Wi-Fi throughout; direct-dial telephones in each room.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at 3,190 baht (£50) and suites at 5,590 baht (£89), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: The Shambara Boutique Hostel (00 66 2 282 7968; www.shambarabangkok.com) is a sanctuary on the Khao San Road; doubles from 560 baht (£8.50), room only.
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