A living green wall welcomes guests at the entrance of Hansar Bangkok, a recurring motif that softens the building’s scale. Nestled in one of Bangkok's few remaining central upmarket residential enclaves, this Ratchadamri haven is a pleasant surprise. Despite its size (94 rooms combined with serviced apartments), Hansar feels like a boutique urban hideaway, but with all the amenities of a larger hotel. Designed by acclaimed Singaporean practice WOHA, it marries ecologically oriented green features and modern architecture, its low-key, set-back presence fitting in comfortably in this quiet, tree-lined quarter. The two neighbouring stays are the Four Seasons and St. Regis, which already sets this area apart from Bangkok's better known ‘red light’ districts – a definite plus in my book.
A greeter immediately meets me, while a bellhop automatically takes care of the luggage. The next time I see my bags is in my room. Living in Hong Kong, I’m no stranger to chic, backpack-free Bangkok breaks (it’s my sixth visit this year). As a luxury traveller, the kind of service I expect from hotels in Asia is the kind I receive at Hansar; attentive, smooth, seamless, personal and safe. While it's always good to keep an eye on your bags, I trust the staff here. Check-in is smooth. There is no front-desk reception – instead all transactions take place in the privacy of the lounge with a cool, refreshing pomegranate juice and a moist towel dipped in eucalyptus water. I already feel like Hansar is a familiar second home!
1212 proves a lucky number for my spacious one-bedroom Edge Suite. While Hansar has larger Vertigo and Loft Suites, I find the Edge, the hotel's signature room in terms of contemporary design, the cosiest with just the right spatial lay-out. Every Edge boudoir has a beautiful green garden wall encased in a glass box, lush with local exotic plants and lit with artificial daylight, which is shut off at night. It’s a unique interior feature which makes me feel like my sky-high room sits solidly on the ground. The green wall wows me on entry, I can gaze at it while sitting in the living room, and see the shadows of the plants while in the bathroom, so it brings special effects to all the suite’s spaces.
What else did I love about my room? The inviting timber reading nook, the large comfortable desk and chairs, the nicely stocked complimentary pantry, and the bedroom which can be closed off from the lounge if I have visitors. I believe that the ‘devil is in the details’, so I’m delighted with the pillowy carpets under foot, the soft glow of the lighting and the smart bathroom (the designer clearly knows about usability, comfort and the luxury of contemporary materials). Mirrors are carefully positioned to maximise space and light. Another space-enhancing detail is that the bath and shower are in the same area, fitted out with tactile, soft timber and warm stone.
Seven friends join me for an amazing Euro-style ‘molecular gastronomy’ dinner at Eve, Hansar's destination restaurant. However, take note, guests and pals have complained time and again about the bar/restaurant’s ‘piano man’, essentially a live singer with a piano and laptop ploughing through his playlist of Thai and English karaoke hits. Though the service and food are superb – we all had the inspiring chef's tasting menu – news about this man's evening performances have kept the chic crowd at bay. So those who come to Eve enjoy quality food, but do not expect Bangkok's ‘It’ scene here.
If you fancy a dip the pool is generous, but due to the building's orientation, views and direct sunlight are limited, so the unheated water can feel cold. Additionally, since the hotel shares its public spaces with serviced apartments, you may find lots of families with kids swimming with you and your partner. Hansar’s spa services are very professional, and I have some of my best spa treatments here. Given the embarrassment of spa riches in Bangkok, though, I wonder if the price point is competitive enough contrasted with other establishments with a more amazing menu of therapies or theatrical atmosphere. Treatments at Hansar are very good, but do they transport me into another wonderful world of relaxation? For the prices they charge, they should, but the ambience just doesn't cut it.
Happily, overall Hansar proves a stylish urban getaway that allows you to avoid the urban extremes Bangkok is famous for. I don't mind trudging through ‘red light’ districts and markets when I’m out and about, but I'd prefer not to get hassled where I’m staying. I'd also rather bed down at the Hansar than its ritzy hotel neighbours because I'm such a design junkie, and I love its intimacy compared with the grandiosity of its rivals. My favourite Hansar moment? Breakfast outside on the wooden deck of Eve, surrounded by tropical greenery, chirping birds and alfresco tranquillity. It's great to be eating breakfast outside in Bangkok, while feeling like I'm having a very private, rural experience. Every city needs a sanctuary.