SPECIAL REPORT

A River Rises

by Anton D. Javier
Photos courtesy of Country Group Development
01 Jun 2017

The Chao Phraya is the most revered river in Bangkok, and it has finally received the crown it deserves

Look beyond the gaudy tourist cruises and the hustle and bustle of everyday life along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River and you’ll see that it’s surrounded by greatness. On one side you’ll catch a glimpse of the Grand Palace’s swirling golden spires, on the other, the mystical Temple of Dawn, and further down, the imposing structure of the Rama VIII Bridge. Just add sunset and you’ve got yourself a postcard-worthy vision in front of you.

In addition to the iconic structures, renowned hotel brands also call the banks of the Chao Phraya River home, with prominent names like the Peninsula, Hilton, Sheraton, Shangri-La, and the grand dame, Mandarin Oriental, which has a long and rich 140-year history here. Meanwhile, newer developments like The Siam, a luxury boutique hotel with only 39 rooms, and The Jam Factory, a mixed use space that houses creative offices and lauded restaurants, injects contemporary soul to attract a younger, hipper demographic.

  • LUCK OF THE DRAW
  • LUXURY LIVING ON THE RISE
  • A CLOSER LOOK
  • THE LUXURY OF INTANGIBILITY

Luck of the Draw

While smaller developments regularly sprout along the river — a shopping arcade here, a cool café and bar there — a big scale luxury project was not really possible until about seven years ago when Country Group Development PCL (CGD) managed to take hold of 14.2 acres of land in a prime spot along the Chao Phraya, which is one of the largest waterfront plots of land in Bangkok’s congested CBD area.

“What was obvious from day one was that it was an amazing plot,” reveals Ben Taechaubol, Director and CEO of CGD. He tells us that as soon as they saw the site, they knew that it was destined for something majestic and luxurious. “You don’t easily get a plot of that size in that location — ever,” Ben excitedly says, and adds, “We knew we could come up with a wonderful waterfront concept. I grew up in Sydney and was inspired by my experiences with waterfront developments there and we wanted to introduce something world-class in Bangkok.”  

Ben goes on to reveal that the most recent luxury 5-star hotel built on the Chao Phraya River was the Shangri-La, which is already 30 years old. “To have this plot to work on in 2017, which is several times bigger than the incumbent players, is definitely something fantastic to start something on.”

“I think for super luxury living, people look beyond ticking the usual boxes... Beyond these, they expect a heightened level of lifestyle where it’s intangible." - Ben Taechaubol
  • LUCK OF THE DRAW
  • LUXURY LIVING ON THE RISE
  • A CLOSER LOOK
  • THE LUXURY OF INTANGIBILITY

Luxury Living on the Rise

With this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, CGD knew that it had to create a product that was going to be very different. “I think hotels in Thailand are great, but the market is quite saturated because their numbers are not regulated like they are elsewhere. It’s not that the hotels are operating badly, but with the economics of what the rooms can charge, it often reflects what the product could become,” says Ben. And so, the Chao Phraya Estate was born, comprised of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, Four Seasons Private Residences Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, and the Capella Hotel Bangkok.

Ben knew that the combination of unparalleled Thai hospitality and waterfront living at its finest would result in a service-rich lifestyle, so partnering with Four Seasons and Capella was a no-brainer. He says, “There was a great deal of restraint with the development, which is why the 73-storey private residence is flanked by the hotels that feature a sprawling, low-density design. We also never maximized our development ratio on a plot this size and felt that we would get more in return, as would our clients.”

These days, when travelers and homeowners look for a place to call home, they look for an authentic experience, which was also something CGD took into consideration. “I think for super luxury living, people look beyond ticking the usual boxes, which include location, neighborhood, design, and quality. Beyond these, they expect a heightened level of lifestyle where it’s intangible. Having said that, our project is going to be part of a larger community and we hope to develop it in a very tasteful manner. We can definitely say that it’s going to be a wonderful growth area of Bangkok to counterbalance the more famous, and often crowded, shopping districts,” reveals Ben.

  • LUCK OF THE DRAW
  • LUXURY LIVING ON THE RISE
  • A CLOSER LOOK
  • THE LUXURY OF INTANGIBILITY

A Closer Look

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To give us an idea of what to expect once the properties open towards the end of 2018, Ben and his team gave us some facts to digest: The Capella Hotel will have 101 suite-style rooms, while the Four Seasons Hotel will have 312 rooms, with both properties boasting lush green spaces, unparalleled luxury service, a host of F&B outlets (with participation from celebrity chefs, whose names are still kept secret for now), spas, and of course, impeccable Thai hospitality and service.

But what ultimately stands out is the Four Seasons Private Residence, the jewel in the crown that is Chao Phraya Estate. Besides towering over its neighbors, affording it unobstructed panoramic river and city views, the overall design of the property was brought to life by internationally acclaimed master plan and design consultants Hamiltons International and San Francisco-based interior design firm BAMO. Gerry Jue, co-founder of BAMO, explains that they were going for “timeless elegance” for the interiors, which will offer residents an “enhanced sense of grace”. 

What’s more, the residences will feature a mix of floor plans, starting from 115sqm for a 2-bedroom unit to 1,050sqm for a penthouse unit. Signature Four Seasons services are all part of the package too, with privileges that include 24-hour doorman, concierge, and security, valet parking, climate-controlled wine storage, and access to the Amenities Deck and the Four Seasons Club (housed on Level 64-66). Meanwhile, limousine and transportation services, housekeeping, and room service/in-residence dining are all part of the a la carte service offerings, while helipad access allows for grand entrances and exits.

Gerry Jue, co-founder of BAMO, explains that they were going for “timeless elegance” for the interiors, which will offer residents an “enhanced sense of grace”.
  • LUCK OF THE DRAW
  • LUXURY LIVING ON THE RISE
  • A CLOSER LOOK
  • THE LUXURY OF INTANGIBILITY

The Luxury of Intangibility

When I asked Ben if he had any special memories of the Chao Phraya River as a child, perhaps a memory that would foreshadow this grand project that he has set in motion, he gently shook his head and said no.

However, he goes on and says, “It has really been a privilege working on this once-in-a-lifetime project. While I grew up in Sydney and didn’t spend time around this area whenever I would go home for visits, I always knew that the Chao Phraya River was special because, unlike the waterfront districts in Hong Kong, Australia, or even San Francisco, it is so culturally rich here — it is really the cultural soul of the city. The oldest areas of town are here, culturally significant events take place here, and really, where else can you get that? You can’t fabricate these experiences and it is these intangibles that make the location so special."

For more information on the Chao Phraya Estate, click here