Upon arriving at the Akyra Thonglor, two qualities are likely to stand out right away — one, the distinctive design of the stylish common spaces, and two, the location.
It’s notable because it’s right on Thonglor’s main drag of Sukhumvit Soi 55, and literally above trendy shopping destination Eight Thonglor.
General Manager Christian Zunk tells Coconuts that from what he sees, many visitors to Bangkok will choose the riverside — with its oft-photographed views and storied old-guard hotels — for their first few trips. It’s not until they become familiar with Bangkok that they move downtown, and the artsiest of those guests also eschew the seediness of Nana for the charms of Thonglor, where Thailand’s wealthy tend to come out to eat, drink, shop, and play.
“With this hotel, we want to reflect Thonglor. We see ourselves as a Thonglor hotel, not necessarily a brand hotel like a Marriott or Sheraton, that all look the same. We want to be very boutique.” He noted that some inspiration for the design comes from the 1920s, a detail apparent in the moldings, floors, and that old-timey music playing softly throughout the space.
The Akyra has also won a page in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World guide, alongside Swiss chateaus and English castles, and is one of only 20 properties in Thailand to be listed (though this might be due to the fact that it’s an Akaryn Group property, sister to the swanky, top-tier Aleenta resorts in Phuket and Hua Hin).
Akyra quietly took over this space (formerly the Pan Pacific serviced apartments) about two years ago, but its management says they decided to forego a big launch event so that they could focus on renovating the place instead. They are still in the process of finishing their lobby and new whisky bar, which will both be open this year — and that’s also when they plan to launch the 148-room hotel in true style.
Before that happens, here’s a look into the property…
As you check-in at the Presidente lounge, the hotel staff will offer you a tiny box with five wee pillows inside. This is their pillow menu, where, instead of choosing a pillow based on a written description, you can squeeze these tiny versions between your fingers and say which one works best for you. As someone who counts sleep among life’s greatest pleasures, I was very happy to learn about this.
There’s striking, neighborhood-related art on the walls as you walk to your room. Some of it features those beat-up red buses that ferry locals around Thonglor, as well as some notable area graffiti.
Once we reached our room, the Akyra Studio (starting at THB3,100/US$97 per night), we were pleased to see more great artwork, prominently displayed: Here, the large black-and-white streetscape that fills an entire wall is a photo of Thonglor itself.
The minibar contains local craft beer and high-end snacks from Jim Thompson Farm. The complimentary coffee is from DoiTung from Northern Thailand. On the table was a personalized note, alongside three Thai dishes served tapas-style under a glass dome: mee krop dried noodles; rice crackers with peanut, tamarind, and chicken dip; and mango sticky rice.
Upstairs at the Otto Pool Bar, the property’s Food & Beverage Manager, Thanes Krotsombut, showed us something he was quite proud of: The Akyra has the only Asahi-approved “extra cold” draft installation in Bangkok, which keeps the beer at exactly -2.2 degrees Celsius. It’s a feature that doesn’t go amiss with their large base of Japanese clientele.
Even better, the beers are only THB180 (US$6). Even better-er, they’ve got a “buy one, get one” deal on them from 5-7pm daily.
The 11th floor water recreation area features a pool on one end, a sun deck and the bar in the middle, and a jacuzzi on the other. The nest-shaped jacuzzi allows guests to bask in bubbles while overlooking the prime part of Thonglor below — pretty cool.
Next, dining — here, that’s Somtam & Chardonnay, the restaurant run by Akyra Thonglor.
Though the restaurant also offers western cuisine, its modern Thai dishes are where the kitchen really shines. The ginger-forward tom yum gai bai makham (THB240/US$7) featured free-range chicken chunks in a cream-free clear soup broth that was wonderful, with the sourness of tamarind and spiciness of ginger truly shining through.
The larb raw & spicy salmon (THB290/US$9) was described as an “East meets West” dish, and contains chunks of chilled, raw salmon that are tossed with a mixture of chili, lime, lemongrass and garlic. Larb is typically served simply tossed, but here, they serve it shaped into a small cake, tartare-style.
The penang pla krapong (THB390/US$12) was a modern dining take on an old-school Thai fish curry. Gone was the bowl of cream, rice, and guilt. In its place was a sleek seabass steak served with a pared-down sexy streak of concentrated penang paste, which you could smear the fish in as you ate. For those that like it saucy, a cup of the penang also comes alongside.
They manage to keep all the good things about Thai cuisine (the flavors, the textures, the fresh seafood) and tone down what can often be the less healthy aspects — the cream, coconut milk, sugar, and white rice.
Overall, The Akyra Thonglor offers a cool, downtown stay in the hip center of Thong Lor, the perfect place to browse Thai designers, try local street food or high-end eats, or grab a beer and watch the world go by.
Sukhumvit Soi 55
Photos: Coconuts Media, except where noted.