Pursuitist Q&A with Lubosh Barta, General Manager of Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River

Bringing back the glitz and glamor of the Chao Phraya River waterfront, the new Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River is more than just a hotel. It’s an urban resort. It features a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces that bring the exotic landscape inside without sacrificing the prized air conditioning of the Thai capital. And for those that do spend time indoors, the hotel’s public spaces are more art gallery than transient space, and all of this is intentional.

man smilingIt’s not just about art and style, the resort specializes in high-end epicurean delights, too, which is something that local Thais seek out when a new hotel opens. The Four Seasons name is not new to the city, but after a brief hiatus, this rebirth of the brand is something worth celebrating. Industry veteran and hospitality pro extraordinaire, General Manager Lubosh Barta explains.

What makes Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River different from other riverfront hotels?

hotel architectureDesigned by renowned architect Jean-Michel Gathy, this property is unique in its layout as well as its design. For starters, it stretches across nine acres and is spread out across multiple buildings, each connected via the main lobby. This means that guests feel as if there is more space to explore rather than being boxed into a high rise. All of the public areas are essentially art galleries graced with local design pieces and freshly tended gardens daily.

Exotic hotel lobbies are nothing new in Bangkok. The layout here is truly inviting with large-scale pieces of art from local designers. Our  enormous flower displays are refreshed daily, and the lobby has plenty of natural light.

woman in poolThe Urban Wellness Centre is an important feature of the resort, which is how we view the hotel. It’s like a beachfront resort, but in the heart of the city with the bustling river a main focal point. The lavish spa experience goes beyond the treatment menu to include movement studios, beauty salon, barber shop, vitality pools, steam rooms and relaxation areas. Arranged around the Palm Courtyard, the spa is an integral part of the resort environment. Among the signature services are a bamboo massage and LPG endermologie face and body contouring treatment.

Personal trainers are on hand, and guests can participate in Pilates, meditation, regular yoga and even aerial yoga classes. We also offer Tibetan singing bowl healing, reiki and “spirit House tour,” which takes guests on a journey inward towards a calmer body and quieter mind.

Many hotels have meeting space, but we take pride in offering something different. The Conservatory Floor is a private gathering space with both indoor and outdoor venues plus an open show kitchen where groups can prepare dishes together or simply enjoy it as a breakout space. Many of the venues have views of the river.

people lounging by poolThe riverfront pools, including a separate play pool for kids, are a lovely place to relax and escape the heat. A menu of food and drinks is available here. For parents who want to get out and explore, the resort has a complimentary kids club with daily activities to keep kids busy.

Art is a central theme for the hotel. Tell us about that.

art in restaurantFour Seasons, as a whole, is working toward attracting a younger demographic as the children of Four Seasons regulars begin to look for their favorite hotels to visit. Our partnership with Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art goes beyond the art pieces in public areas. We also have an entire gallery space that is free for guests to enjoy. The displays changes on a rotating basis and gives a space for budding artists to showcase their work. It’s also a wonderful spot to host special events or receptions.

city skylineThe hotel also offers a creative discovery tour that highlights all of the small streets and alleys that extend from historic Charoen Krung Road and are undergoing a renaissance. As part of the creative district, these tours are proving exceptionally popular with guests as they look to go a bit deeper into their Bangkok experience, especially after two years of not being able to travel. These were created by David Robinson, director of the Bangkok River Partners and member of the Creative District, who has been the impetus for these tours.

What are the rooms like?

guest roomDepending on the building, the rooms vary in layout and view. Among the most popular are those in the riverfront building with enchanting views of the river as it transitions from morning to night. It’s a working river with everything from dinner cruises and long tail boats to busy cargo ships exporting fruit, flowers and even soil to other countries. It’s a mesmerizing view that changes by the minute. Some of the suites have outdoor terraces overlooking the river.

Others prefer the rooms facing the interior courtyards and gardens for their peaceful setting. There are a lot of regional guests that visit the hotel, and an escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and many Thai cities is the priority.

living roomAll of the rooms are dramatically large with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows. The signature Four Seasons bed draped in soft linens, a comfy duvet, enormous pillows and a cloud-like mattress is in all rooms. Bedside power and USB outlets are standard, and in place of a desk, the hotel has opted for a large table with seating at either side. This gives it a dual purpose as desk or dining area with a built-in sofa on one end. Chaises longues are situated by the window, and sliding doors from bathrooms permit natural light into the enormous bathrooms. Suites add spacious living areas, and many have outdoor terraces.

For now, the toiletries the hotel is using are Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Paris and THANN from Bangkok. Soon, the property will be switching to Byredo Gypsy Water in large-format dispensers to be more eco-friendly.

What is the dining scene here?

restaurantThe best hotels in the city are known for their dining, and we want to be one step above that. For starters, we are home to Yu Ting Yuan, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy. This is the country’s only, Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant in a hotel. Led by Michelin-starred Chef Qui Xiaogui, the show kitchen gives guests a chance to watch the chefs in action. Plus, the central garden is a calming oasis away from the city’s bustle.

Brasserie Palmier is our approachable and popular French restaurant serving both lunch and dinner. It has proven quite popular with local guests. RIVA del Fiume is the authentic Italian restaurant where the pasta is made fresh daily. The Italian chef prepares meals in a setting inspired by the villas around Lake Como. It is also home to the breakfast buffet, which features numerous stations. These include freshly baked breakfast pizzas and eggs made to order. There are also salads and special sections with both Thai and Chinese fare. It’s a sight to behold, and many guests enjoy dining on the riverfront terrace.

Many of the restaurants here have outdoor space for diners. This was a focus for designers to connect the hotel with the river. There are many seamless outdoor-indoor spaces. The main outdoor lounge seems to float above the decorative ponds that separate the buildings. There are other interconnected courtyards like one near the adult’s exercise lap pool, which is a tranquil space to relax.

cocktail barInspired by the nightlife scene in Argentina, BKK Social Club is a beautifully designed cocktail bar with a light menu of South American fare. The cocktails here are incredible and created by our resident expert Philip Bischoff. He has held positions at Regent Singapore and Amano in Berlin. Café Madeleine is the hotel’s pastry shop and boutique. Visitors and guests can indulge in decadent viennoiserie, cakes or deli snacks.

The resort does a fantastic job catering to different dietary requirements without sacrificing creativity or flavor. Even the Michelin-starred chef of the Cantonese restaurant can craft a decadent menu without using meat or seafood.

How is the hotel changing the hospitality scene?

balcony poolThis will be the first hotel in the city to offer a solar-powered boat for transfers to area shopping and BTS stations. We are excited to bring this to the market.

Like other resorts, we want to offer guests the opportunity to sample regionally-inspired resort activities throughout their stay. These are available without a charge and change by the week. They include things like complimentary cocktail tastings at BKK Social Club and a drip coffee experience. The latter lets guests regional and international coffee flavors brewed right in front of their eyes.

woman working outOthers include aqua Muay Thai, Ashtanga or Hatha Vinyasa yoga, interval training, freestyle dance, spinning or even yoga classes. These are complimentary to guests, but require reservations. When people check in, they receive a weekly calendar of the resort activities.

What is on the horizon for the hotel?

Coming soon is an outpost of the Michelin star sushi restaurant, Sushi Saito. Also new will be a seasonal Thai dining spot on the riverfront terrace that will open next fall. We also have a residential tower that is next to the hotel is continuing to grow with new tenants. Residents there can use all of the hotel facilities. As part of Four Seasons Private Residences, it is the third-largest skyscraper in the city.

interior gardenThis is the fourth Four Seasons in Thailand, and many guests spend time at several Four Seasons properties on a visit to the country. We have also hosted guests traveling on the round-the-world Four Seasons plane as they visit different parts of the world. We look forward to having them back again soon.

Supporting local providers is a key focus of the property. For example, the hotel uses a lot of Thai chocolate in its desserts. Also, they use the juice from the cocoa fruit to ferment the pizza dough at Riva del Fiume. The organic and chemical-free snacks in the minibar are from local vendors.

All guests receive a complimentary pool bag. Designer Siriwan transformed recycled plastic bottles into felt material. These became chic bags, which would otherwise take more than 450 years to decompose. The bags also feature microfiber leather that has an environmentally friendly production process.