A Waterfront Wonder


CGD’s Chao Phraya Estate aims to bring waterfront living to Bangkok like never before

*As featured in Millionare Asia Magazine by Urvashi Raizada.

When the sun sets over Bangkok, the city is far from quieting down. With the spires of Wat Arun silhouetting against the sky, the roads packed with vehicles, hawkers bringing out their waves, and the river banks swelling with music from stilted wooden eateries, the majestic Chao Phraya River, aptly known as ‘the artery of Thailand’ is ever present, coursing its way through time immemorial.

She has witnessed the rise and falls of monarchs; cities raised and razed in her time. Having been a bedrock for kingdoms and trade, the river has become a cultural conservatory and more recently, a showcase for some of Bangkok’s finest luxury offerings.

Owning a piece of the river goes beyond being a matter of just prestige, as Ben Taechaubol, CEO of Country Group Development (CGD), understands too well. Having secured the river’s last remaining ‘golden site’, he has embarked on one of the city’s most ambitious projects yet – the ultra-luxury Chao Phraya Estate, which will host Asia’s first ever waterfront Four Seasons Private Residences flanked by two top tier hospitality names. By the time Ben is done with his opus, patrons from all over the world will have a chance to not just admire the Chao Phraya from afar, but to call it their home.

The Lay of the Land
“From day one, it was an amazing opportunity – you do not get a plot of this size in that location, ever,” says Ben, speaking of the L shaped 14.2 acres of prime land that will house CGD’s biggest development till date.

“The last luxury 5-star hotel built on the river’s Bangkok side was the Shangri-La, which is over 30 years old. So to get a plot in 2017, which is several times bigger than the incumbent players, is a fantastic way to start.”

With previous projects ranging from residences to student accommodations and data centres, Ben admits that CGD is not a “specialist hospitality player” but he knew this one would beget something different. “We considered a lot of mixed-use and waterfront developments from around the world and a lot of them included retail components, which is perhaps associated with a convenient lifestyle. We actually took a very different approach because we wanted Thailand to be recognized for its world-class hospitality and combine elements that truly reflect a comfortable, ultra-luxury lifestyle”.

Another important facet of ultra-luxury living is combining topline quality with low density, Ben notes. One of CGD’s greatest challenges was not going down the conventional path of overdeveloping the land, simply because they had the space to. “There was a great deal of restraint in the development concept. We did not try to maximize on our development ratio and left a lot on the table, but we feel our clients are getting back more in return”.

Designed to Impress
Due for completion in 2018, USD 1 billion Chao Phraya Estate will consist of Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residence Bangkok at Chao Phraya River and the city’s first all-suite Capella Bangkok. The Four Seasons hotel is positioned as a 300-keyed low rise urban resort, and will span nine acres on the southern side of the estate. Running across an unprecedented 200m of river frontage, the hotel will host a myriad of world-class F&B offerings along the waterfront promenade and will also boast the largest riverfront Grand Ballroom in Bangkok.

World renowned for its unparalleled personalized service, Capella Bangkok will also set precedent as the first of its kind in the city. Each of its 101 guest rooms and river villas will open to exceptional views of the river, accompanied by benchmark services like the internationally award-winning Auriga Spa.

The development’s tour de force, however will be the stunning 73-storey Four Seasons Private Residences Bangkok. Designed by the architecture firm Hamilton’s International, the building’s one-of-a-kind geometric design allows for a unique ‘all-corner units’ concept, meaning that all 355-residences will enjoy unobstructed panoramic views of both the river and city skyline.

Led by interior design firm BAMO, the units themselves are defined by clean lines, uncluttered aesthetics and seamless outdoor-indoor living. Starting from 115 sq. m. for a two-bedroom residence and 1,050 sq. m. for a penthouse, a mix of floor plans are available with each promising unfettered lavishness of space. The oversized master bedrooms are especially remarkable, replete with walk in closets and double vanity marble bathrooms.

Serviced Living
The residence will enjoy a significant edge over its competition, thanks to the inclusion of the impeccable services of Four Seasons. Trademark world-class facilities at this project include a River Lounge, Amenities Deck, and the Four Seasons’ Club.

The private River Lounge aims to create an intimate environment with privilege dining facilities, living room, gallery and more; allowing for exclusivity and a spot for residents to enjoy their privileged cabanas. The 1,300 sq. m. rooftop Four Seasons Club triplex is designed to be the ultimate club to relax or entertain, and consists of contemporary urban entertainment offerings like a glass-walled wine room with prized vintages, a private screening room and Bangkok’s tallest residential infinity pool on the 66th floor.

Apart from these exemplary hotel-style amenities, residents will also have access to a la carte services like a 24-hour room service in-residence dining, housekeeping, sommelier and chef services and personal fitness as well as round-the-clock maintenance and repairs on call.

Leading by Change
While luxury residences are quickly becoming a dime a dozen, CGD’s Chao Phraya Estate has managed to make its name as one of the most exciting upcoming developments in Bangkok.

A large reason for this is the vision and profile of its CEO. Representing a new age of leadership, Ben was raised and schooled in Australia but chose to return to Thailand and carry on his family trade of developing real estate.

Along with his exposure to and influence from Sydney’s renowned waterfront lifestyle, Ben has also contributed to unique sustainable elements in the project, such as the preservation of its land. “We are very serious about preservation. For this project, we actually preserved every single tree that was originially on the property and some of them were not small. There was even a tree that was nearly three stories high, and was sitting on a wall; so we had to move the tree and the wall with a tree crane. It was an arduous task but we still have the wall and the tree is still growing,” Ben notes.

His Western influence has also led to an unusual management style that eschews traditional hierarchy, falling in line with the new wave of Asian business leaders who are breaking the status quo. Known for working side-by-side with his team, Ben has gained a reputation for being approachable while maintaining a firm vision for where his company is going.

A large part of achieving this, he admits, is hiring the right people. “If you saw our management organizational chart, it is really just flat. I have always wanted to maintain a fairly small team so I really have to believe in the people I hire. That is one of my absolute philosophies – I make sure I hire good people,” shares Ben.

The Endless River
With a number of upcoming developments on its banks, the Chao Phraya is set to become a buzzing centre of luxury lifestyle. However, Ben is wary of mass development that could potentially destroy its rich heritage with commercialization.

“There is a lot of attention being given to our river right now because of several major developments; a lot of these are by private developers. What I would like to see more is the public aspect of development and especially spaces where locals can experience the river”, says Ben.

With Ben at its helm, CGD’s Chao Phraya Estate aims to play its part in this preservation. “We have done bits here and there but for the main project, we were always going to play a bigger part. It comes down to either an educational initiative or a major river CSR (corporate social responsibility) project. What I am looking at is how the river can be developed in a more culturally sensitive way”.