In Food + Drink

A 10-Room Bangkok Hotel Blending Thai Traditional With Trendy

Once a bank, then a hospital and even a multi-level massage parlour at one stage, the late 1800s building which houses this Bangkok boutique hotel has had many purposes over the last century. But in many ways, its newest fit-out might just be its oldest yet.

Just northeast of the small intersecting V – or majestic triangle, as some call it – where Chinatown means Talad Noi, the Mustang Blu calls home to a part of town which loves everything vintage.

In recent years, Bangkok’s old quarter has seen the opening of cocktail bars, cafes and a number of art spaces, all of which inside the area’s old shophouses and buildings. With its retro-chic styling, The Mustang Blu is anything but out of place.

In fact, the new space is an ode to the century-old colonial building it’s housed in. “The concept of [the] building renovation is to regain the originality by combining old ideas with new ones,” says its owner Ananda ‘Joy’ Chalatchareon. “Without forgetting to add the mystery and the weirdness, including elevating the prominence of original identity,” she says.

Inside, Mustang Blu sees 10 rooms split across three levels. Each fitted with its own clawfoot bathtub, an antique bed and vintage-styled desk. The hotel itselfs sports bare concrete walls, wooden furniture, vintage ceramics, marble tiles and old fashioned decor. Pets aren’t allowed but the space is frequented by the five cats which call it home.

Chalatchareon is by no means new to the accommodation market. In 2016 she was named one of Bangkok’s top AirBnB hosts by Thailand’s BK Magazine for her efforts in Phra Khanong. There she has renovated a commercial space that she turned into an animal-themed six-apartment boutique hotel.

Behind the name isn’t a great story or tale. Rather it’s a reflection of Chalatchareon’s first boutique accommodation Mustang Nero which she opened in 2015. Meanwhile “blu” comes the Italian word for blue. The Mustang Blu hotel opened in January 2020.

While both Mustang Nero and Mustang Blue are hers, she maintains that they are both separate and unique in their own way. Each tells a different story, she says. “These hotels are connected by the details in the decoration, plants, animal anatomies and some ancient books,” she says.

There’s a lot to love about Bangkok’s old town. On its history, Chalatchareon says, “In the past, most people from Chinatown lived around the river and had to work [in] trading business[es].”

But with limited transport and modern Thais favouring cars and taxis amid the sheer heat of the city, most people moved away to more convenient areas, she says.

In recent years more and more people have begun to realise its potential and designers like Chalatchareon have jumped on the opportunity to capitalise on that. In turn, a number of classic buildings around Chinatown – or Yaowarat as its known – area have been getting a little extra attention.

Once home to a conservative Thai-Chinese community, the area is now thriving among young, hip Thais in search of good coffee, great pictures and art. As a result, the nightlife and lifestyle scene in the area is world-class.

Mustang Blu

Just 150m down the road is Teens of Thailand, a Bangkok gin-themed bar which had a firm place on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 List. Nearby Asia Today Bar and Wallflower are also well worthy of a visit as is Nahim Cafe x Handcraft with its incredible coffee. Once a year, many nearby venues and galleries also participate in the Bangkok art Biennale, an annual art crawl.  “The new generation have changed it [into] restaurants or cafes by urbanization theory,” she says.

From the outside, the building doesn’t look like much, maintaining much of its old charm with a slightly unloved look and its flaking paint. Most of these buildings are a reference to the colonial style architecture of the 19th Century. But inside, the four-month renovation has seen breathe of new life back into walls with centuries of stories. In many ways, this adds to its charm.

Mustang Blu

“By the way,” Chalatchareon points out, “You would still be able to see the old culture of people in Chinatown through their living.”

At a five-minute walk from Hua Lampong Mass Rapid Transit station, it’s not too out of reach for the culture-seeking traveller or history buff looking to stay somewhere beyond a Holiday Inn. You could even go as far as to say it’s a beautiful trip back in time for the more business-class traveller looking to get a feel for an old Bangkok in a neighbourhood spilling in culture.

Most who visit say photos don’t truly express the character of the hotel, Chalatchareon says. “For that reason, experiencing marvelous moments for yourself in actuality is going to be definitely different. Moreover, feeling it with your heart is what we want to share with you.”

(All images: Mustang Blu / supplied)

Published 09 March, 2020