Shanghai Mansion’s façade is at one with its bustling location, a busy street front bar that belies the peaceful and luxurious interior. Welcome to 1930s Shanghai, reinvented in Bangkok’s Chinatown.
Traveller: Deborah Dickson-Smith
Address: 79-481 Yaowaraj Road, Samphantawong, Bangkok 10100
Date: August 2018
Best for: A boutique city stay that transports you ever so slightly back in time to a more glamorous era.
The Signature factor
This is the 1930s speakeasy or opium den we all fantasise about: decadent luxury, hidden behind a busy street-front bar; a hidden, calm interior, with a pond on the second floor complete with lilies and carp; a day bed sits at the end of the pool for quiet reflection.
Shanghai Mansion began life in 1892 as a trading house, and in 1908, it was transformed into Bangkok’s first Chinese opera house. Renowned for its spectacular interiors, it was frequented by members of Thailand’s aristocracy, including the Royal Family. After several incarnations, including life as a trading house and department store, by 1998 the building fell into disrepair and in 2005, it was purchased by Burasari Group.
Inspired by the ongoing revival of Yaowarat Road, Burasari Group refurbished as Shanghai Mansion, falling in love with the building’s theatrical roots and original Art Deco flair that reflected the stylish mood of Shanghai, circa 1930.
Its street-front bar, a jazz lounge called the Shanghai Terrace, is populated by ex-pats and tourists drinking cocktails, listening to the funky live entertainment that I can almost hear above the chatter of the bar clientele and the cacophony of traffic on Yaowarat Road.
Step beyond the bar to the hotel’s reception desk, hidden behind an imposing portrait of a glamorous young Chinese aristocrat, and a sense of sophisticated luxury overtakes and the sounds from the bar and the street beyond are muted. I’m led up to my room through an atrium, the pond in its centre and colourful paper lanterns lighting the way.
I open the double doors (with an actual key) and enter my suite. The living room to my left is furnished with a plush velvet sofa and arm chair, with thick velvet drapes on the wall behind and a chandelier above. A carved lattice mahogany screen separates the bedroom, and within, a bed large enough to sleep a family, which tonight I have all to myself.
Another carved screen leads to the bathroom, the centrepiece of which is a large, free-standing bath that I fully intend to make use of before my long flight home.
The Mu Dan Suites and Family Suites are the largest rooms at 49 square metres, beautifully decorated with colourful fabrics, rich brocade and a king-sized bed.
On my plate
Lunch, dinner and high tea is offered in Red Rose Restaurant, where traditional Chinese dishes are served with contemporary flair and paired with daring Chinese whiskeys and crisp plum wine. Breakfast is served upstairs in ‘Cotton’, a large, airy restaurant on the third floor that has an air of ‘colonial country club’ about it.
Highlights from the mini-bar
The mini-bar has a free selection of soft drinks, beer, mineral water and snacks including a packet of Oreos and cheese & onion crisps.
I wish I could take home…
The framed portraits of 1930s Chinese movie stars, serious-looking Chinese noble women in traditional garb and old sepia photographs of urban scenes with rickshaws and medicine dispensaries.
Spa services are available on every level of the hotel, with signature treatments such as the Singing Bowls Ritual that promise to “awaken the body and spirit, preparing it for a soothing, therapeutic ritual ahead”.
And why wouldn’t you? Recline on your plush velvet sofa and read a book, step outside to the atrium and relax on the day bed contemplating the pond or saunter downstairs for a Dim Sum High Tea served with a choice of Oolong or Green Tea.
If you must step outside this oasis of calm, it’s definitely worth exploring the nearby streets and alleyways where you’ll find a great selection of street food, but be sure to leave early to secure yourself a street-side seat; Chinatown is heaving every night of the week. The hotel provides a free tuk-tuk shuttle service and a guided morning Chinatown tour.
Among several awards, Shanghai Mansion has picked up the gong for ‘Southeast Asia’s Best City Boutique Hotel’ and was a 2017 winner of the World Luxury Hotel Awards.
Room for improvement
Like most hotels these days, finding the light switches for the many lights in the suite proved a challenge.
I’d had a bit longer…