Kevin Flanagan stays in Bangkok’s latest 5-Star property and meets the owner Salilla Atikarnbodee
I’m standing in the magnificent space at the heart of Bangkok. Above me are the 274 rooms. Around me are bespoke shops, cafes and restaurants. Beside me is Salilla Atikarnbodee, the MD of Salil Hospitality.
Salilla is a remarkable woman. Her hotels include The Salil Sukhumvit 57 – Thonglor, The Salil Hotel Riverside-Bangkok on Charoen Krung Road, La Petite Salil, and a trio of properties at Sukhumvit Soi 8, Sukhumvit Soi Thonglor 1, and Sukhumvit Soi 11.
Not only does Salilla own the new 5-Star hotel we are standing in, she just about created everything in it. From the overall concept right down to the colour schemes. Even the designs on the pillows. I have been alerted to this new hotel by my friend Diamond – my guide and mentor on my many trips around Asia. When Diamond recommends something, it is well worth taking notice of. So when he suggested that I stay in this new hotel before departure for Europe, I did not hesitate.
Nestled in the heart of Bangkok, the Salil Hotel Riverside is an impressive property. Everything about it speaks to class. It only opened its door in October 2022, as part of the new Salil Journey Riverside, a new lifestyle space comprising accommodation, dining and lounging venues, relaxation facilities, and activity spaces, in addition to speciality shops and services by distinguished Thai brands including HARNN Heritage Spa and Karmakamet.
Set alongside the glistening Chao Phraya River in Bangkok’s upscale Charoen Krung Road neighbourhood, the hotel stands out amid the area’s several architectural gems with its own special design. Accommodation comprises 235 rooms and suites in nine configurations ranging from 30-square-metre Deluxe Rooms with city, pool or river views to lavish 157-square-metre two-bedroom Penthouse Suites. All accommodation types feature outstanding amenities such as smart TV, microwave, minibar/refrigerator, premium bedding with pillow menu, washlet and work table.
Along with indoor and outdoor restaurants serving Thai, Asian and Western fare day and night, guests can also choose from several speciality bars and cafés.
Salilla explains to me her approach to creating the hotel, as she shows me around.
Salil’s “Concept Living Space” combines six fundamentals – Stay, Eat, Play & Relax, Work and Shop – all in a single location.
Art is another important part of that experience and is close to Salilla’s heart. Throughout the hotel, highly regarded Thai artists and decorators have created unique design motifs – surreal, magical images of land animals and aquatic creatures both actual and mythical. I loved her artistic touch which went right down to the design of the pillows I found in my room!
The location is excellent too – just off Charoenkrung Road, approximately 1.5 km from BTS SkyTrain Saphan Taksin station. There is even a shuttle-boat service for guests and visitors to and from the station. The hotel itself is approximately 30 minutes by car or bus from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
I meet with Salilla after booking into my room overlooking the impressive courtyard and swimming pool, and I asked her how she got involved in building hotels in the first place.
“I always wanted to own a business since I was young,” she tells me. “After I got married, my husband and I discussed the idea of owning a hotel. So, we looked for land to develop our own property.”
Luckily, they found a small building in Sukhumvit 8. “We renovated the building to be a hotel with 30 rooms and named it Salil Hotel like my name. It was a success, so we later found the next buildings and renovated them to be hotels under the same brand.”
Salilla and her husband targeted the land near the BTS station in the Sukhumvit area and Pratunam. “We now have in our group 830 rooms!”
What I liked about Salilla Atikarnbodee’s new hotel is its unique look. It is quite different from the other massive 5-Star properties that hug Bangkok’s riverside, having a bespoke look and feel. I found it intimate and welcoming – the decor and furniture outstanding. Overall, this is a hotel that you can feel comfortable in – a home from home. And this comes as no surprise when I learn that all the hotels’ themes are inspired by Salilla and her husband.
“We travel a lot to see hotels around the world and put the idea of architecture, interior and functionality to use uniquely as Salil brand.”
As we tour her new property on a beautiful January afternoon, I ask Salilla how, in a challenging environment, a newly built hotel can survive and thrive in busy Bangkok?
“I got a lesson from Covid,” she tells me. “The hotel should not rely too much on foreign tourists. Hotels will need to survive with local business if the day ever comes again that foreign tourists are gone.”
Salilla also believes that hotels should not be dependent on room revenue. “We have to increase our proportion of the food and beverage revenue as much as possible. At our new hotel, which was built during Covid, we designed it to have a lot of outlets by bringing a variety of unique restaurants, coffee cafes, bars and shops to the project.” And these outlets will be able to attract business even if the hotel rooms were closed.
Salilla Atikarnbode is a very smart woman, and I ask her what she would tell other women just starting out in their careers.
“They must be confident in themselves. They must believe that they can accomplish things just like men can.”
Salilla Atikarnbodee believes that women should focus on their goals, and the process, to get the best results for their careers. “The most difficult step is the first step,” she adds, “but you have to take it and keep the ball rolling.”
As we come to the end of our tour and stand by the end of the property, enjoying the sunset over the river, with the backdrop of downtown Bangkok, I ask Salilla Atikarnbodee what she learnt about finding success in a world many consider run predominantly by men?
“Nowadays, women can be in the top position in many companies including the hotel business,” she answers, “You just have to do a good job and show what you can do, regardless of your gender!”
We leave and I go on to enjoy cocktails and dinner in one of the superb restaurants on the property. My only regret is that I have to leave the next morning at 5.30am for my Emirates flight back to Dublin. Ah well, at least I can come back. And next time, I will stay longer and enjoy the fabulous spa and hydrotherapy pools and the wine bar! And maybe even meet again one of Thailand’s leading hoteliers – Salilla Atikarnbodee, and learn from her vast and varied experiences.
For reservations at The Salil Hotel Riverside: +66 (0) 2 844 8787 or @saliljourney or visit thesalilriverside.com
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