Stay No.29 Old World Charm and Hospitality Exudes at Cabochon Bangkok

Bangkok is exciting for its unchecked growth, its dynamic character, its ancient traditions played out on an ever-evolving modern stage. For most of a day’s 24 hours, the streets and sidewalks pulsate with activity. The only moderating influence, the relentless heat. Locals take it in stride navigating the weather and crowds with ease. Or on the streets surfing in and out of traffic with, what appears to the inexperienced eye, questionable regard for safety. That is until traffic density reaches a tipping point bringing everything to a standstill. If you find yourself stuck in traffic someone would likely have warned you to start your journey earlier, but you blithely ignored them thinking it could not be as bad as they say. It is.

These extremes make the rhythm of Bangkok “dash and retreat.” Like a city-sized game of Red Light, Green Light, you dash from one place to the next leaving ample time to recover before embarking on the next leg of your itinerary. More so than in slower cities, a stay in Bangkok requires a hotel that is more than just a place to lay your head at night. It is where you recharge and steel yourself for the next dash, the place you return to mid-morning and afternoon after realizing that you just don’t have the stamina you imagined. In Bangkok, you need an oasis.

Our arrival in Bangkok had a distinctly historical character, disembarking from a 3-day train trip from Singapore on the famed Eastern Oriental. The charming old world style Belmond train took us slowly up the Malay Peninsula; along rivers, through rice fields, and over the infamous River Kwai, all the while enjoying fabulous food and constant pampering from the attentive crew. On arrival, our fellow passengers all headed for Bangkok’s ultra-modern luxury accommodations. But we were after a more authentic experience opting instead for the comforts of the Cabochon (polished gem) hotel, our home-base for the next few days exploring the city.

Unable to find a suitable heritage property to turn into a hotel, celebrated interior designer Eugene Yeh opted to build from scratch. With nostalgia for the sophistication of 1920s Shanghai and adoration for the architectural legacy of the Indochina colonies, Eugene designed the Cabochon’s guest-centered boutique experience from the ground up to express all the romance and heritage of this bygone era in an authentic colonial building.

Sometimes it is just not worth fussing with the peculiarities of an old structure, and few are available in Bangkok where what’s “old” is sometimes not valued by the next generation and is readily torn down and replaced. Eugene found a rare space to build discretely hidden at the end of a small tranquil ally, Sukhumvit Soi, just off the popular Sukhumvit road.

Over the years, Eugene has amassed a beautiful collection of architectural features
; like old windows, french doors, antique wooden panels, and vintage furnishings. These cherished pieces form the core aesthetic character of the Cabochon.

The ground floor includes the restaurant Thai Lao Yeh, an award-winning purveyor of regional Thai cuisine. Adding to the restaurant’s authenticity, a painstakingly restored century-old building from a remote Thai village is installed to contain the restaurant. The open kitchen, set up to resemble a street food stall, adds to the to the night’s entertainment. I am a lover of spicy food, and when asked to choose my dish’s spiciness I thought “medium” would be a safe bet. Oh boy, that was hot! Be sure to step it down a notch when you order. A favorite with guests and locals alike, we had many of our best meals at Thai Lao Yeh making our stay all the more pleasant.

Hesitant to bring our Bangkok adventure to a close we took a dip in the rooftop pool and settled in for our last dinner before heading out for the long trip back to New York.


Bangkok is an excellent stop off point for an itinerary around Asia. For visits to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, a brief stay in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and/or Singapore are worth the side trip.

To round it out we decided to do all these in one loop starting in Singapore and then taking the train up to Kuala Lumpur and onto Bangkok. Regular train service on this route is quite reasonable, and the scenery in between these urban centers is impressive.

Opting the Eastern Oriental train makes the trip a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You can start in Singapore or, if space is available, join the journey in Kuala Lumpur. For those of you who love literature where the setting is a train, this is something you must do at least once in your life.

Once in Bangkok, getting around is easy using the goto app GRAB to book car transport. Learn from my mistake, download it before you leave and get your payment set up so that when you arrive you are not stuck doing it whilst navigating a crowded, aggressive taxi/pickup area.

For information about booking a stay at Cabochon, go to:

Photography: Daniela Stallinger

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