What we know so far.
Think Bangkok has enough fancy five-star hotels? Think again. 2019 is set to be a bumper year for luxury openings from Phloen Chit to the riverside. Though if past form is anything to go by, you can take some of these official opening dates with a pinch of salt.
It may finally be curtains for the classic old Dusit Thani on Silom, but the brand is forging ahead with a new, younger brand at other sites across Bangkok. ASAI hopes to draw young millennials who want style on a budget. Its first property is set to open in Mixt Chatuchak in the first quarter of 2019, followed by a second branch on Sathorn Soi 12. After that, ASAI plans on moving into the Philippines and Myanmar.
Four Seasons is set to make a 300-room return to Bangkok by the third quarter of 2019. Expect an urban resort-style property (low rise, lots of gardens and landscaping) that will sit next to a 73-story building with 366 corner-unit private residences. It’s part of a new riverside development collectively dubbed the Chao Phraya Estate (also including Capella hotel, see opposite, on the other side of the river). High-end hotel designer hotshots Denniston were brought in to work on the interiors and hard landscaping, while the architecture comes courtesy of London-based Hamiltons International.
Keep your sights trained on Phloen Chit’s latest skyscraper for the opening of the Rosewood Bangkok, which begins on its 33rd floor. With a total of 159 rooms, facilities include three restaurants and bars, Rosewood’s signature spa, a swimming pool and a fitness center.
After waiting what seems like forever and ever for The Bangkok Edition hotel, turns out we’re getting something altogether different. Mahanakhon Tower, now under the ownership of King Power, is set to welcome a hotel themed after the high-luxe passenger train that used to connect Paris and Istanbul. The Orient Express Mahanakhon Bangkok will feature 154 rooms, including nine suites and two penthouses, with France's Tristan Auer, the Maison&Objet 2017 Designer of the Year, having the task of applying Art Deco stylings to the interiors. Also expected to open in the final quarter of 2019 is Mahanathi, the new Thai fine-dining venture of David Thompson, modern Cantonese restaurant Mott 32 and a high-end spa by centuries-old cosmetics brand Guerlain.
The upscale hotel brand from Horst Schulze, former long-time president of Ritz-Carlton, is expected to arrive beside the Chao Phraya in early-to-mid 2019. The 101 suites come with sweeping river views, with Thai textiles and accents littered throughout the low-rise development. Within the property, you’ll find a fine-dining restaurant named Cote (see page 8).
The new-look Mandarin Oriental
From March 2019, the majority of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok will close to make way for seven months of renovation works. Before you freak out, the renowned “Asia’s 50 Best” Bamboo Bar and two-Michelin-starred Le Normandie will remain open—phew! The revamp will focus on enlarging the guest rooms on the River Wing, reducing the number from 338 to 301 rooms, while the number of suites will increase from 30 to 46, all of which will be decorated by Jeffrey Wilkes from boutique firm Design Wilkes.
Eat Here, Drink There
In-the-know diners spent the end of 2018 enjoying clandestine pop-ups from a pair of US chefs named Aisha Ibrahim (formerly of Aziamendi in Phang-Nga) and Samantha Beaird (of San Francisco’s Boulevard). “Currently we’re running pop-ups but we’re working on opening a restaurant,” Aisha tells us. “We want to open a small fine-dining space showcasing what I think hasn’t been expressed in Thailand: seasonality.” Aisha and Sam’s pop-ups can span anything from 12-20 courses that adjust depending on Thailand’s micro-seasons. Keep an eye on their IG @axisdining.th for their latest news.
1826 Mixology & Rooftop Bar
New year; new rooftop bar. Bangkok’s latest will sit atop the established Rembrandt hotel, where they’re transforming their 26th floor into a cocktail bar. While the fusion bar snacks will draw from the hotel’s well-established restaurants (Mexican from Mexicano, Indian from Rang Mahal, Italian from da Vinci), the cocktails will be all-new, with a signature inspired by the hilltop Indian tea town called Kurseong.
The folk at the “ultraluxury” Capella riverside property (see above) are still keeping heavy wraps on their flagship restaurant. What we do know: Antony Scholtmeyer (who was at the helm of Elements when it won its debut Michelin star in 2017) will act as executive chef, while Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco, of the rare vegetable-celebrating Mirazur restaurant in Menton, France, is on board as a “partner.”
Good news for those who miss sundowners on Hemingway’s breezy terrace: the bar-restaurant is about to make a comeback under a slightly different name—and parts of the teak house are coming along with it. General manager Damian Mackay says the team is painstakingly building a replica of their beloved venue that used to sit beside BTS Asoke, featuring parts reclaimed from the demolition. The same team are also touting a new communal rooftop drinking and dining venture. Both venues are slated to open on Sukhumvit Soi 11 in early ’19.
The ambitious project headed by Chris Foo (Brew Beer & Ciders, The Beer Cap) looks to rekindle the energy of Sukhumvit Soi 38 and other waning street-food hubs, only amid the hygienic surrounds of a vast warehouse space. Taking over a two-rai plot of land on Soi Thonglor, the so-called "street food shelter" will bring together 28 of the city's best street-food stalls, many of whom used to sell around the local neighborhood. Construction is on course for a February opening. Expect "street food prices" (B40-50), opening hours till “very late,” parking for over 60 cars and 100 motorbikes, and delivery.
The Commons Sala Daeng
The team which reinvented Thonglor’s eating habits are busy at work doing the same for Silom. The new Commons on Soi Sala Daeng, marketing manager Thidarat “Pam” Vivatsurakit tells us, will have a similar community focus and semi-outdoor structure. Like before, it’s been designed by the Department of Architecture, though we’ve been promised a distinct look this time around. As for vendors, we haven’t heard anything confirmed yet. Families can look forward to a kids’ space and workshops.
Credit Card at the Ready
From a massive factory outlet mall to Japanese duty-free shopping to Scandinavian furniture, shopping in Bangkok is about to get a whole lot better.
After rumors and reports started flying in 2017 that the tax-free Japanese discount megastore Don Quijote was set to open on Ekkamai Soi 5, we finally got a November 2018 announcement that it’s hiring in Thailand. Launched in 1989, the store commonly known as “Donki” now has more than 300 branches around Japan and three in Hawaii. Long on Thai tourists' shopping hitlist, the chain is known for its huge range of products, from basic electronics to clothing and all sorts of quirky, occasionally lewd Japanese accessories ("boobie towel," anyone?), as well as its pounding in-store soundtrack.
Thailand will soon get its own luxury outlet mall similar to Citygate Outlets in Hong Kong and Mitsui Outlet Park in Japan thanks to Thailand’s largest retail operator, Central Pattana (CPN). Set to open in August, the B5-billion development will occupy 100 rai 10 minutes away from Suvarnabhumi Airport, with a total retail space of 40,000-sq-meters. It will house more than 235 local and international retail stores—Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenzo, Vivienne Westwood and CK Jeans to name a few—complete with restaurants, tourist service center, a kids’ playground and a 200-room hotel operated by an international chain.
Norse Republics, the people who import Hay, Lightyears, Paper Collective and Republic of Fritz Hansen, will be bringing Gubi, another high-end, Danish furniture design company to Thailand in February. Founded in 1967, Gubi is well-known for its sophisticated designs that revive the style traditions of the past with a modern twist—think 1930s-style Robert Dudley Best’s “English Bestlite” lamp series, which was inspired by the Bauhaus movement.
OK, so two new cultural spaces—one of which is in a shopping mall—hardly prove that Bangkok’s on trajectory to become a culture capital, but 2019 spells good news for the former Lido cinema, at least.
Set to open in May, Siam Square’s much beloved former cinema will be reborn as a space for live performance, temporary exhibitions, performing arts and technology showcases. The three-story building will be divided into a “multi-use cultural hub,” including a theater-in-the-round called “Black Box,” with multiple performances scheduled each day. The newly rebranded Lido Connect is the work of record label Loveis Entertainment, which has collaborated with the Property Management of Chulalongkorn University (PMCU, which owns the land at Siam Square) on the refurbishment. Architecture firm PIA Interior has been drawn in to redesign the space.
IconSiam has teamed up with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports for a new museum set to open in July, where Thailand’s rare art pieces and cultural artifacts, as well as masterpieces from all around the world, will be showcased. The museum will occupy a total space of 6,500-sq-meters on the 8th floor.
Forget the crappy horror movies and keep your eyes trained on these Thai releases in 2019.
If Apichatpong’s fiery 2018 short, Blue, left you wanting more, then look out for the 2019 release date for Memoria, his new movie with Tilda Swinton. Don’t expect dreamy scenes of northern Thai rural life. This time the indie auteur moves the action (take the word loosely) to Colombia, where the nation’s violent past provides a springboard for the theme of collective memory. Back here in Thailand, the newly titled GDH 559 has a bumper year lined up, from rom-coms (Friend Zone, My Ambulance) to horror movies (The Lake) to Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s latest effort (Time Machine)—though we’ll be staying clear of Diary Tootsies 2. And it’s not just about film. Last year’s youth drama Bad Genius returns in October 2019 as the TV special Bad Genius the Series. Director Pat Boonnitipat takes the helm in this expose of school kid corruption. A lot’s still unknown (will exam cheat Lynn make a return? Will any of the seven new young leads capture our heart?) but with Project S creator Pat Boonnitipat advising, our hopes are high.