The Aesthete: Bill Bensley talks personal taste

The architect’s hotel designs are beacons of idiosyncratic glamour throughout southeast Asia, from Cambodia to Thailand

Bensley at home in Bangkok
Bensley at home in Bangkok | Image: Adam Birkan Photography

My personal style signifiers are a bespoke pair of shoes that I had made in Salzburg. I am 6’4” and wear a size 13½ EEEE shoe, so finding things to fit isn’t easy. I had them made in mismatched suede; the right shoe is a combination of blue and orange and the left is in blue and lilac. They make people laugh and that’s my greatest pleasure. Schuhwerk, Wiener Philharmoniker Gasse 3, 5020 Salzburg (+43662-840 524; schuhwerk.cc). 

Bensley’s bespoke Schuhwerk shoes
Bensley’s bespoke Schuhwerk shoes | Image: Adam Birkan Photography

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Ceský Krumlov in the south of the Czech Republic. It is a medieval town full of castles on the Vltava river. I was directed to this Unesco World Heritage site by a Czech friend and we weren’t disappointed. The views of the river and Ceský Krumlov castle from our room at the historic Hotel Dvorák made the stay even more special. Radnicní 101, 38101 Ceský Krumlov (+42038-071 1020; hoteldvorak.com). 

Advertisement

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a trip to Bolivia, Guatemala and Belize. Bolivia is one of the least visited countries in South America, and one I haven’t been to. The plan is to visit the dramatic salt flats and stay in an Airstream trailer. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the 16th- and 17th-century Jesuit churches; I think societies put their biggest design effort behind their churches and I am sure they will be stunning.

Bensley’s own drawing of Ceský Krumlov
Bensley’s own drawing of Ceský Krumlov

Next on my travel bucket list are Zambia and Madagascar, especially to see the chameleons and lemurs there.

The salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

A recent “find” is the Green Vault museum in Dresden. The city was, of course, decimated in the second world war, but many of its art treasures were sealed in a cave and spared the bombing. That collection has been beautifully reassembled and it’s the best museum I’ve ever been to. The lighting, the circulation through the spaces – just perfection. Residenzschloss, Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden (gruenes-gewoelbe.skd.museum). 

The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
The Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

If I didn’t live in Bangkok, the place I would live is Chiang Rai, close to the Myanmar and Laotian borders in northern Thailand. It’s very rural, with beautiful temples and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve a local delicacy of bamboo shoots with white grubs. The excellent Hall of Opium museum traces the area’s history of poppy cultivation and trade, and I like Singha Park for its hiking and cycling trails, tea plantations and orchards. And I might be biased, but the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is very special. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, 499 MOO1 T Vieng, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai 57150 (+6653-910 200; fourseasons.com/goldentriangle). Hall of Opium, Golden Triangle Park, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai 57150 (+6653-784 4446; doitung.org/tourism_other_hall_opium.php). 

The dish Bensley enjoyed in Cambodia
The dish Bensley enjoyed in Cambodia

The last meal that truly impressed me was with four friends at the top of a waterfall in Cambodia and prepared by chef Patricia Yeo using 15 different herbs, mushrooms and leaves from the surrounding jungle. I’ve never had such a rich, flavourful dish – nor have I have ever learnt so much about nature and ecology from a chef. 

Bensley’s embroidered-patch backpack
Bensley’s embroidered-patch backpack | Image: Adam Birkan Photography

The best souvenirs I’ve brought home from travelling are the embroidery patches I’ve collected from all over the world for the past decade. I’ve just celebrated my 60th birthday and every inch of my backpack, even the straps, is covered in them. I need a new bag to fill with more patches for my next decade of travelling.

Advertisement

My favourite websites are LorfordsAntiques.com for all kinds of wonderful antiques, and EspaceNordOuest.com, a great resource for furniture, decorative objects, lighting and art.

See also

Advertisement
Loading