Two recently opened boutique guesthouses have breathed new life into a pair of derelict historic buildings
1905 Heritage Corner
It took close to four years of meticulous renovation before the endlessly charming 1905 Heritage Corner was finally ready to open in January of this year. But owners Mark and Nan—and their steady stream of satisfied guests—know it was all well worth the effort. And while this luxurious guesthouse may be small in size, as there are only three units in total, the rooms are large and elegantly appointed, with soft comfortable beds that you’ll sink into and never want to leave again.
The corner property is itself a century-old, colonial-style building located in the historic royal quarter of Bangkok, a short walk from the Grand Palace and many other civic landmarks. It’s one of a small number of protected crown properties that encircle Phuton Square, a historic yet still active Sino-Thai community of family merchants and restaurants. Evenings and weekends in this laidback enclave are amazingly quiet, despite being in the heart of the Old City. Taking a stroll around the surrounding streets at night feels miles removed from urbanized Bangkok, as the only sounds are those of men playing sepak takraw (a traditional Thai sport) and vendors selling khanom pang sod sai, a toasted buttered bun served with sweet fillings.
Not surprisingly, the moniker of the guesthouse indicates its age, as it is believed to have been built between 1904 and 1906 (the owners finally settling on 1905 as the date to use in the name). Within, the interior décor harkens back to an Edwardian era look, with polished wood floors, antique-style door locks and bathroom tap fittings, and stately wooden period furniture. Meanwhile, modern fittings and amenities are either hidden or discretely positioned, in both the rooms and common areas. And just to give visitors some sense of how much work went into the renovation, the rear walls on the upper floor—at the top of the steep and narrow wooden staircase—have been left untouched, complete with cracked concrete and crumbling plaster. Seeing this before and after makes the remodelling all the more impressive.
For overnight guests in the two upstairs rooms a sumptuous set menu breakfast is laid out in the front reception area, which in turn references the building’s history as a fashionable teahouse for the gentry in the early part of the 20th century. Meanwhile, a petite rear courtyard offers a second, naturally-lit private breakfast nook for the ground floor guests. Either way, the breakfast spread is truly a feast, featuring eggs cooked to order alongside bacon, grilled vegetables, toast, juice, coffee (or tea) and fruits. However, it’s the addition of delicious Thai snacks and sweets, which rotate on a daily basis depending on what local vendors are selling, that add a traditional touch to the morning meal. As an added bonus, Nan and Mark are usually both on hand and happy to point out the details of the neighbourhood and its street food traditions. It’s also worth noting that the pair run the ThaiCraft Fair Trade shop, which is located literally just around the corner from the hotel. As an active promoter of Thai village artisans, many handcrafted items and decorations from the shop—the cutlery, for instance—are used throughout the guesthouse.
Room prices start from B3,645. For more details, visit the website at: www.1905heritagecorner.com.
Prince Theatre Heritage Stay
Down a small alley in the heart of Bangkok’s Bang Rak district—441/1 Charoengkrung Rd, Siwiang, to be precise—a century-old building stood neglected for almost a decade. It was rundown, with a broken roof and piles of trash inside. The decrepit box office and torn film posters that remained were scant reminders of its former function. However, this past February, after almost a year of renovation, the building was reopened as Prince Theatre Heritage Stay, the city’s only ex-theatre boutique hotel.
The Bang Rak area itself has become something of a creative and artistic hub in the city over the last few years, and the proliferation of these sorts of cool and unique guesthouses definitely adds to the appeal for travellers looking for a mix of new and traditional culture. The Prince Theatre’s multi-million baht preservation project was carried out by owners Montara Hospitality Group under the ‘Heritage Stay’ concept, meaning all efforts are made to both preserve and restore the structure’s original identity as much as possible. For instance, the theatre’s giant movie screen—which was discovered in working condition—is still in use and now boasts high-tech 3D mapping projection technology. Meanwhile, the building’s iconic Art Deco coloured glass window remains intact.
As a nod to the building’s storied history, four of the 26 guest rooms are decorated under different cinematic themes, which also reflect the different eras in the cinema’s history. When it opened in 1912 it was a casino (until casinos were banned in 1917 by royal command), after which it became the Prince Rama movie theatre, originally showing silent films. The theatre soon became the heart and soul of the surrounding neighbourhood since the audiences often shopped in the area as well.
The property’s third incarnation began in 1975 when a triple projection Cinerama screen was added, although it wasn’t long before shopping mall multiplexes overtook these types of stand-alone cinemas. In its final years, from 1985 to 2010, it operated as a porno movie theatre, and even that seedy chapter is recounted in one of the room themes.
Guests visiting the hotel first get a feel for the overall movie motif at the check-in counter, which is styled like a classic cinema box office. Likewise, the lobby displays movie collectibles and memorabilia, including an old-style movie projector, photos, movie handbills, props, and more. There’s also common an area called the Box Office Bar, which serve the cocktails and mocktails named after movies, and as well as tea and coffee.
Shared room single bed units, with ensuite bathroom, start from B1,000 per night, while the more luxurious Master Suites and Duplex Suites start at B4,200 per night. Visit www.princeheritage.com for more details.
By Bruce Scott