Bangkok is a city brimming with talented and fascinating people. In 27 Questions, we interview notable Bangkok personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, important life moments and their hopes and dreams, all revealed in about the same amount of time it takes to sit through a round of speed dating.

You may know him from the bedroom.

High ceilings, monochrome tiles, and a bright apricot boudoir pillow for vibrant accent. A seductive scented swirl of forty-two fresh jasmine buds, and a soundtrack that lulls somewhere between contemporary rooftop hideout and jazzy speakeasy beach soiree. It’s true; if you have snoozed and swooned in some of Asia’s most extravagant hotels (and the occasional palace) before, you may know Bill Bensley.

Recognised as the region’s most extraordinary hotel architect and landscape designer, Bill “the odder, the better” Bensley boasts a repertoire that is unquestionably impressive. The man behind (and we’re just going to name a sprinkling here) The Siam, the Capella Ubud, the Intercontinental Danang, Four Seasons Tented Camp Chiang Rai, Dorado Beach Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott Phu Quoc, and the Rosewood Luang Prabang boasts an avalanche of some of the world’s most beautiful and beloved properties.

Bill Bensley

Millennials dig his work for utter Instagramability, whilst those with a fine eye for design will appreciate the smaller details, the bigger and bolder statements, and the incredible sense of story and underlying message of natural conservationism. Bill’s design philosophy is very much one of respect for mother nature, as well as a spelling of the ‘wow’ factor in full caps lock. On creation, he notes, “designing a hotel is akin to producing a Hollywood movie… they both need a strong, compelling storyline. The best movies and the best hotels can be experienced many times, and both are fated by opening night.”

Yet Bill’s credits extend from architecture and design into much more than that. The Harvard graduate is the author of multiple coffee-table-worthy books, the passionate philanthropist behind the Shinta Mani Foundation, and the proud owner of a pawsome party of jack russell terriers. From fears to favourites, here we gather a glimpse into the brilliant mind of Bill, wind in his hair aboard a 1972 Volkswagen convertible et al.

Bill Bensley and dogs

Name: Bill Bensley

Neighbourhood: Bangkok

Occupation: Hospitality designer, architect, interior designer, landscape architect, artist, lover of dogs and all things wild, conservationist

What is your life motto?

More is never enough. Dance first, think later.

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Bangkok?

Tom Yum Pla at home, made by Tuk.

Who is your role model?

Frank Lloyd Wright.

What was your first job?

Gardener.

What is your drink of choice?

Red wine.

When was the last time you drove a car?

Last month in Bali I drove my 1972 Volkswagen convertible that I have owned for 30 years.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Morning for sure; when my brain works better.

Bill Bensley

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Thai cuisine.

What is your biggest regret in life?

Punching a great friend in the face.

What do you hate most about living in Bangkok?

The lack of public parks and dog-friendly places.

How often do you prepare your own meals?

Once every thirty-two years.

What is your greatest fear?

Skydiving.

What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Chocolate anything!

What is one TV show everyone should see?

Game of Thrones.

What is your typical Sunday like?

I am on a hotel site working through the problems of construction.

Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

The day I met Jirachai.

What makes someone a real Bangkokian?    

This is an important answer in that it also embodies the psyche of all Thai people.  It is the understanding of Mai Pen Rai, or “never mind”; the ability of the Bangkokian to let go of a heated situation like water off a duck’s back is legendary, and something the whole world should learn. To be seen as losing one’s cool is a great embarrassment.

Bill Bensley

What is one song your know all the lyrics to?

The Thai national anthem.

If you could banish someone from Bangkok forever, who would it be?

Trump.

Where do you go when you want to be alone?

I go running with my five jack russells every day out by the airport by myself but with fab canine company.

What is one thing you've never revealed to your parents?

I am certainly not telling you!

What is your favourite scent in the whole world?

Hyacinth.

Who is the best teacher you've ever had, and what is one important lesson they taught you?

Architect Lek Bunnag, and the power of form.

Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life?

I’d rather never be alone.

What is the last dream you remember waking up to?

My dogs and I were running in Mongolia and chasing the wild marmots having a wild time.

How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? Which do you wear the most often?

Ten. I wear running shoes most often. Size 13.5 EEEE shoes are really hard to find… so I tend to wear out shoes as they fall apart and I throw them out. I can’t hoard shoes.

What was the best moment of your life?

My wedding day to Jirachai.

Lisa Gries
Managing Editor, Bangkok
Lisa loves to travel, and is always on the lookout for the world’s best nap spots. She’s a serious Asian art history nerd, and has a knack for languages and coffee table books. She hopes to publish her own novels one day, one of which will likely be called ‘All The Great Conversations I Had In A Bangkok Speakeasy.’ It’s a work in progress.