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Venice of the East

Bangkok is notoriously frenetic, and the serenity of the Chao Phraya River has long been swallowed by the rapid urban expansion. In a few places, however, the historic tranquillity of river life can still be glimpsed. Wynn A. Bay reports.

Loy La Long (literally “floats away”) is a seven-room residence-turned-hotel located in the back end of Bangkok’s historic Chinatown. The hotel features an interior space where a “sense of locality” can be genuinely absorbed, and rather than offering the standard river view from a high ground, it tells the story of traditional riverside living.

The journey to find the hotel creates a sense of rediscovering something lost, as guests wander through the small lanes inside Wat Pathumkongka, a historical temple that is even older than Bangkok, to discover a discreet 30 year old teak house hidden at the back. The two owners, known by their nicknames of ‘Sea’ and ‘Air’, both have creative backgrounds in advertising, and have kept the hotel small and intimate so as to offer guests the convivial atmosphere of visiting friends. For instance to access the hotel guests either enter through the front door with a household key, or simply knock. At the end of their stays, most guests have befriended the owners.     

The river is not immediately visible when entering the hotel; the long foyer to the common space acts as a transitional area where the city’s furore can be left behind, and then the view of the Chao Phraya River is revealed at the raised floor common area, where the dark teak sobriety of the original structure is lightened by lively, colourful floor cushions.

Contrasting the high-rise developments on the opposite side of the river, the view from the floor-seats in the lounge, framed by worn teak, offers a perspective of the river as it was once seen by the locals. It is a historical glimpse of the time when Bangkok was dubbed the Venice of the East, and the main river and small canals formed part of the daily lives of the people as the main communication and transport routes.

The seven available rooms are of different sizes, ranging from being able to accommodate single traveller to family with children. Each room is detailed in a single colour, and its pairing with the timber space and eclectic furnishings results in an ambience that can be both contemporary and playful and traditionally relaxing at the same time.

The surreal charm of Loy La Long is best encapsulated in the experience of entering on one side from the infamous traffic jams of Bangkok City, and passing through a portal into a sanctuary where water hyacinth calmly floats down a quiet river. 

Loy La Long