Billionaire

1. Bensley Design Studios was hired by The Sukosol Group to oversee all design aspects of The Siam. The result is a showpiece that oozes timeless elegance with strong art deco influences. Click the slideshow for a walkthrough of the stunning property.

The Siam, Bangkok: New Hotel, Old World Class

This fresh Bangkok property — presided over by a prominent Thai musical dynasty — oozes old-school Siamese elegance.

The Siam is a hotel of many firsts. It is the first hotel in the Thai capital to offer pool villa accommodation, the first in the world to feature a Muay Thai boxing ring, and Asia's first member of the exclusive Virtuoso Preview programme.

It also has a great view to boot, thanks to the fact that it is perched on three verdant acres lining the eastern shores of the Chao Phraya. The result is that the enthralling waterfront hotel overlooks the Krung Thon Bridge, offering front-row seats on the centuries' old bustle of boats criss-crossing the River of Kings.

Located in Bangkok’s historic Dusit district, The Siam is dotted with gilded residences of royalties past and present, including the golden teak architectural splendour of Vimanmek Mansion and the grand Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Unfortunately, a lack of mass transit to the area means the leafy avenues that surround the hotel are often gridlocked, an issue the hotel is bypassing with a shuttle-boat service to the nearest Skytrain station from the property's own private pier.

To complement The Siam’s stunning surroundings, The Sukosol Group hired Bensley Design Studios (whose client list includes Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Oberoi) to oversee all design aspects of The Siam. The result is a showpiece that oozes timeless elegance yet manages to sidestep the stifling trappings of class. The art deco influences are reminiscent of the European architectural styles adopted during the reign of King Rama V during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Siam
2. The family that works and plays together stays together. Business is a family affair in the Sukosol household — five individuals bonded by blood and their passion for hospitality and music.

Adding a touch of local heritage to the design are four traditional Thai teak houses that were transported from the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya and once belonged to Connie Mangskau, confidante to a man whose name has become synonymous with fine silk — Jim Thompson. It was at her invitation that the silk merchant joined the fated trip to the Cameron Highlands, the Malaysian town where he mysteriously disappeared on Easter Sunday 1967.

Three of the teak homes form a cluster that make up the hotel's signature restaurant ‘Chon’, while the remaining villa has been meticulously restored as the hotel's trophy pool villa, affectionately called ‘Connie's Cottage’.

Equally exquisite and in some aspects even more appealing are the hotel's 10 pool villas, some of them prime units close to the river with unobstructed panoramas from their rooftop terraces along the graceful curves of its banks. Heavy double doors open up onto a quaint inner courtyard with an open-air seating corner and private pool.

The smallest suites start at a spacious 80 sqm, while tastefully peppered throughout the hotel are antique furnishings and objets d’art from the owners' private collections.

Musical hoteliers

The sweat and soul poured into building The Siam can be accredited to a home-grown Thai hospitality company, Sukosol Group, which also manages Siam Bayshore, Siam Bayview, and Siam City Hotel, the latter recently rebranded as ‘The Sukosol’.

Business is a family affair in the Sukosol household — five individuals bonded by blood and their passion for hospitality and music.

"My two daughters have been working in the family business, but both my sons have had their own independent music careers," says matriarch Kamala Sukosol. "So when [my son] Krissada suggested we develop the land ourselves, and [my elder son] Sukie agreed, I was very happy to have them both on board."

Work aside, the president of Sukosol Group is also a celebrated purveyor of jazz and pop, quick with a genuine smile and even faster on the draw with witty jokes. Although a businesswoman by trade, she has long been giving her gift of a beautiful voice back to the needy. To date, she has raised money through album recordings and annual charity concerts in excess of THB60 million (S$2.41 million) to various causes ranging from breast cancer to tsunami and flood relief.

Kamala donated proceeds from two of her previous albums to charity, one of which is Support the Children Foundation, which assists HIV/AIDS-affected children. She is a major donor to the Thai Red Cross and the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer and, to date, she has raised money through album recordings and annual concerts (2012 being the 16th consecutive year) topping THB60 million (S$2.41 million) to various causes ranging from breast cancer, tsunami and flood relief, efforts that earned her a spot in Forbes Asia's ‘28 Heroes of Philanthropy’ in 2009.

Following in her mother's charitable footsteps, eldest daughter Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi is a spokesperson for UNICEF's breastfeeding campaign and ambassador for Ramathibodi Foundation's liver-transplant programme. She is a renowned vocalist and has worked with music-industry heavyweights and frequently accompanies the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra at charity concerts. The hospitality industry veteran is now the group's executive vice-president, heading up its marketing, management and development divisions. 

She reveals: "We have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, including another riverside hotel and dining venue located directly across the Temple of Dawn, an antique gallery and bistro that will be managed by The Siam, and a 1950s warehouse on Mahachai Road on which we're currently undertaking feasibility studies."

Another Sukosol daughter, Daranee Sukosol Clapp, takes up the post of vice-president finance of the group and puts her Wall Street experience to good use by overseeing all the financial aspects of the family business. She is often teased for being the least musical of her family but when she flexes her vocal chords on the annual Sukosol charity gala shows, Daranee proves she's well able to carry her own among her musical siblings.

"For years now, I've been working with my mother and running the trade and real-estate aspects of our business," says Daranee, before quipping with a laugh, "anything that deals with numbers!"

While the two musically inclined daughters split their passions between the corporate world and the arts, both sons have previously immersed themselves totally in the entertainment industry. Elder son Kamol Sukosol Clapp, better known as Sukie, co-founded Bakery Music (the successful Thai ‘indie’ label that was bought by recording giants Sony/BMG) at the age of 22. He currently produces and stars in the television show Dreamchaser, but still finds time to oversee construction of the family's hotel projects as project director.

The youngest of the siblings, Krissada ‘Noi’ Sukosol Clapp, is best known locally as the magnetic frontman of the indie-rock band Pru, and as a Thailand Academy Awards-winning actor. Off the stage and away from the camera, he is disarmingly passionate about art and design. As creative director of the group, Noi was responsible for all design aspects of The Siam, from architecture and interiors down to the nitty-gritty furnishings, a large number of which were borrowed from his personal antique collection. "Originally I envisioned a small charming hotel," explains Krissada, "but we soon saw the potential for the piece of land, and we found the right partners to help us realise the dream of the product that it is today."

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  • The Siam Hotel, Bangkok
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