Nick Downing – General Manager, The Siam, Bangkok
The Siam is in a league of its own when it comes to exclusivity in Bangkok. Stay here and you will be treated as if you were a member of the neighbouring royal households as you enjoy the pampering and beautiful surroundings for which this hotel is renowned. We talked to Nick Downing, who, aside from having one of the best jobs in town, has a lot to recommend travellers to the region – from bustling markets to tranquil parks and more.
Apart from your hotel, what’s your favourite restaurant in town?
For Thai food (my favourite cuisine), I love spending an evening at Issaya Siamese Club. Light-hearted and fun, it’s casual yet sophisticated. The service is impressive, and the food, created by chef Ian Kittichai and his team, is a perfect combination of traditional and creative new Thai cuisine, with many elements of surprise.
What is your favourite shop, and why?
I am not sure I could say there is one specific shop that’s my favourite, as Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise and there are so many places to visit day and night. For pure energy and entertainment, head to Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s huge, hot, crowded and completely overwhelming for first-time visitors. However, you can get everything from pets to furniture, artwork to fashion here. My advice is…if you see something you want, buy it there and then, as you will probably not find the shop again once you move on.
What cultural pursuits would you recommend in your destination?
I love exploring the new creative spaces that are emerging around Bangkok. These are spaces that have been taken over and reinvented to combine dining, art and retail ventures. Places such as Chang Chui, Warehouse 30 and Lhong 1919, along the Chao Phraya river, are just a couple of examples of new districts bringing old parts of the city to life.
On a day off with nothing planned, where would you go, and why?
I live on the edge of Chinatown, not far from the Grand Palace and royal district (in fact, not far from The Siam itself), and I enjoy simply walking around and finding new alleyways and backstreets. My residence is opposite a small park (which used to house a small prison), and I love nothing better than taking a book and sitting on the grass to relax and read after a hectic week. It’s also fun people-watching too.
What is the hippest attraction near your hotel where you could take the family? And what would you recommend that couples shouldn’t miss?
The Siam is in the district of Dusit, home to the royal residences, palaces and many historical sights, so I’m not sure we would be classified as a hip neighbourhood. However, families staying with us usually enjoy the local Khao San Road area, famous for its street market and eclectic food. For couples there’s nothing better than taking a sunset cruise along the Chao Phraya river. It offers incredible views of local residences, royal roofs, river traffic and soaring skyscrapers.
What is the X factor of your city?
Having visited many Asian cities over the past 25 years (and lived in quite a few), I can honestly say that Bangkok is like no other. There’s an almost crazy energy that drives this place, and it’s the people who truly make the difference: Thailand is irresistible.
Name one thing your property offers, an added value that guests might not know about?
There is no doubt our world-class Opium Spa is a unique space. It’s utterly decadent for an urban resort our size (39 suites and private pool villas). And in addition to the usual treatments on offer at most spas, we have our very own tattoo studio. It’s here that tattoo master Ajarn Boo provides an almost spiritual setting where he creates sacred Sak Yant tattoos for guests who want the ultimate keepsake from their Asian adventures…and yes, they are permanent!
What is your most memorable moment (or day) spent at your property?
I love the fact that I get to know almost every guest who comes to experience The Siam. However, it’s true that some of the most memorable days (and nights) have been those where one guest has reserved the entire hotel for their private use. Whether it be a wedding or private birthday party, it’s these weekends that take on a life of their own as the hotel is transformed into a private party palace. There are not many hotels in Asia able to provide the setting we can for such a memorable event.
And finally, finish this sentence: ‘The best guest comment on the property I ever heard was…
Your team knew what we wanted even before we knew we wanted it!
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