Choosing a hotels in Bangkok is a hassle free job, as there are no dearths of good hotels in the city. There are wide ranges of Bangkok hotels in every corner of the city, at all popular locations. The hotels offer world-class hospitality and include both luxury and budget accommodation options.
Hotels in Sathon are Bangkok hotels in a location of prime residential and commercial properties consisting of 5 star hotels, serviced apartments, embassies, posh apartments, schools, churches and private hospitals. Of the few canals left in Bangkok, two of them are in Sathon, an area with a long and rich history.
A major road linking Thonburi on the west bank of the Chao Phraya to the city center, Sathon Road actually consists of two roads; North Sathon and South Sathon separated by a narrow canal that’s hardly noticeable in the heavy traffic. Our story begins with this canal.
Back in 1892, 24 years into the reign of King Rama V, Chao Sua Yom a wealthy Chinese immigrant was commissioned to dig a canal linking the Chao Phraya River near Wat Yannawa to Hua Lam Pong canal. The earth from the excavation was used to build a road running along each bank of the new canal. Locals called this canal Chao Sua Yom Canal and the road Phor Yom Road.
For his enterprise, Chao Sua Yom was granted to the rights to the land north and south of the canal. In recognition of his services, Chao Sua Yom was awarded the royal title Luang Sathon Rachayuk and the names of the road and canal were subsequently changed to Sathon, in his honor.
The land in Sathon was parceled off into smaller lots and sold to rich merchants, both foreign and Thai, who built European styled mansions. Immigrants flocked to the less fashionable areas to cultivate orchards and plantations.
In the following century however, Sathon went through a complete transformation. The mushrooming of hotels, condominiums, serviced apartments, banks and offices turned Sathon into a prime district in Bangkok. The main Sathon Road hosts some of Bangkok’s best; Banyan Tree, Metropolitan Hotel and Sukhothai Hotel, the pride of the hotels in Sathon.
The embassies caught the trend as well. Twenty countries have established their embassies in Sathon Road; Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak, Taiwan, the Vatican and the United Arab Emirates.
Many of the sois off Sathon Road, where some of the hotels in Sathon are located, have their stories too.
Would guests at Somerset Park Suan Plu, a serviced apartment is in Soi Suan Plu, have imagined that the area used to be betel plantations and orchards cultivated by Chinese immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Some of their descendants still live here in the shop houses that line the street. You can occasionally hear the strains of Teochew, a southern Chinese dialect, among the older residents.
Few visitors would have realized the significance of the road names; Soi Suan Plu (betel plantation) and the connecting Nang Linchi Road (Mrs Lychee).
In the seemingly endless sub-branching of sois, Soi Phra Pinit off Suan Plu is the site of M.R. Kukrit Pramoj’s House, a set of traditional Thai houses. Designated a national heritage, the house was the former home of the 13th Prime Minister of Thailand in the mid 1970s. It’s open to visitors on weekends and public holidays. The Yellow Ribbon Hills Executive Mansion, a comfortable hotel/apartment popular with the Japanese, is in this quiet residential lane.
Soi Saladaeng, off North Sathon Road, was part of a large tract of royal land that extended all the way to Lumphini Park and Siam Square. The area got its name from Sala Daeng, the red roofed railway station of the old Paknam line ran by a Danish company linking the city with the port at the mouth of the Chao Phraya.
Saladaeng, is now an up market area popular with cafes, restaurants, condominiums and serviced apartments. The Jim Thompson Saladaeng Café is here. So are three of the hotels in Sathon; Centre Point Saladaeng, Chin House Luxurious Residence and Siri Sathorn Hotel.
At the junction of Convent Road and North Sathon Road, there’s an old Anglican church, Christ Church, built in 1906 by the English residents in Bangkok from a land grant by King Rama V. Unico Grande Sathorn Boutique Service Residence in Soi Pipat off Convent Road is not far away from the walled convent of the Carmelite order of nuns who gave Convent Road its name.
Every hotel tries to establish a distinct signature. In the case of the Evergreen Laurel Hotel, at the junction of North Sathon and Soi 6, its Chinese restaurant serves one of the best Hong Kong tim sum in Bangkok.
The other canal in the area is the Chong Nonsi which runs in a north south direction perpendicular to the Sathon canal. When a road was built along the Chong Nonsi, its name was commonplace, Liap Khlong Chong Nonsi, literally the road skirting the Chong Nonsi canal.
In 1996, the prestige of this road was enhanced when it was renamed Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road, (na-ra-thi-wat ra-ja-na-ga-rin), after Kromma Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra, the royal title of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, the elder sister of HM the King.
To help non-Thais avoid tripping over their tongues, the name of this road is sometimes spelt as Narathiwat Rajanakarin. Oakwood City Residence, a member of the international apartment chain, is located further down Naradhiwas Road.
Overhead, the skytrain from Silom Road turns into Naradhiwas, stops at the Chong Nonsi station before it turns right into Sathon Road, passing the Ascott Sathorn, another of the hotels in Sathon.
The St Louis Hospital nearby is a non-profit hospital named after King Louis IX of France, the only French king to achieve sainthood. When Bishop Louis Vey founded the hospital in 1898, he provided land for a church in future. His wish was fulfilled much later when the St Louis Church was built in 1957.
Coincidentally the priest responsible for the construction of the church was Bishop Louis Chorin. So it’s no surprise that the soi nearby, though officially named Soi Sathon 13, is commonly known as Soi St Louis.
In 1982, the Taksin Bridge, named after King Taksin of Thonburi, spanning the Chao Phraya was completed, linking Sathon Road with Thonburi. Sathon Road was widened to take the extra traffic and Sathon canal reduced in width. Naradhiwas Road and the Chong Nonsi canal were similarly affected. Though considerably narrower, Sathon and Chong Nonsi are two of the remaining canals in Bangkok.
Few of the old mansions remain, their places taken by condominiums. The orchards and plantations are gone. The Hua Lam Pong canal was filled up to build Rama IV Road where Pinnacle Lumpinee Hotel, a budget hotel not far from the Lumphini subway station, keeps a respectful distance from her 5 star neighbors in the prime embassy row.
There’s an old photo in the Bangrak Museum of what Sathon Road was like in the early 1900s. It’s a scene of old Fords chugging down the road, boats being rowed in the canal and perhaps the occasional bullock cart.
Chao Sua Yom’s decision to dig a canal south of Silom more than a century ago has paid off handsomely. He couldn’t have foreseen then that the road he built would have some of the heaviest traffic in Bangkok a century later. Or that the area would be home to the hotels in Sathon, the crown jewels among Bangkok’s premium hotels.