Just one night in Bangkok?
Plan on longer. The red carpet is out as hotels renovate and new brands launch. A Bangkok business hotels review. From boutique stays to corporate meetings.
SEE ALSO Bangkok shopping | Phuket resorts review | Koh Samui resorts | Chiang Mai guide | Thai spas | Singapore hotel guide | Luang Prabang guide | Hong Kong hotels | Kuala Lumpur hotels | Jakarta business hotels | Hua Hin guide | Isan, Khao Yai | Small meetings in Asia | Krabi resorts | Pattaya fun guide
BANGKOK’s No.1 rank as our readers’ Best Holiday Destination in Asia for 2015 is a resounding vote of confidence in a city that has teetered on the edge for some years, plagued by perverse politics, insurance-crimping travel advisories, conference cancellations, highwayman taxi drivers, and then, the August 2015 Erawan shrine blast.
The attack on the Brahma statue – which escaped almost entirely unscathed – was put down as a miracle and further evidence of its protective powers. It was said to have helped end worker deaths at the construction site of the erstwhile Erawan Hotel. The adjoining Grand Hyatt Erawan threw open his hushed marble lobby for the injured in full view of startled guests. It is this spirit of compassion and caring, often trumping commercial practicalities, that has helped the city bounce back, repeatedly, from the brink of disaster. And it is what keeps business travellers and leisure trippers returning despite the coy reticence of the meetings and MICE fraternity.
Bangkok, the 'City of Angels', epitomises the old adage – in picking a hotel, what matters is “location, location, location”. The city is every traveller’s dream – and nightmare. Daytime gridlock and the occasional Red exuberance ensures that despite all the khop khun kraps that you can muster, chasing appointments around this city can be a white-knuckle affair.
The new Plaza Athenee 4th floor pool and meeting area is sumptuous and green/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The SkyTrain, or BTS, as it is known, has changed all that. Along its snaking corridors, foreign businessmen and trendy tourists now travel with aplomb and speed, in comfort and airconditioning, high above the madding crowd. It costs Bt140 for a one-day BTS pass. Underground, the whisper-smooth comforts, and speed, of the Metro await. The enormous space-age Suvarnabhumi Airport (www.bangkokairportonline.com) on the Pattaya highway 30km east of the capital, Bangkok has launched itself firmly into the new millennium albeit with snaking security queues and occasional taxi trauma. Still, its a bright Thai welcome with a huge amount of duty-free shopping.
Bangkok's airport rail link (August 2010) has tickets at Bt150 for the 15-minute ride into the City Terminal (Makkasan) in town. The city line trains with multiple stops to the airport offer tickets from Bt15 to Bt145. Both run 6am to midnight at 15-minute intervals. Bear in mind that from the City Terminal it may still be a long taxi ride to anywhere.
Taxis to or from downtown to the airport (if not too much traffic) are roughly Bt260-Bt300 on the meter plus Bt70 in total for two tollway charges. On the way to town from the airport there is an additional Bt50 surcharge. 'Package' rates from town may be offered at Bt400 or more all in. Try and stick with the meter where possible though I have had one fantastic meter readout at Bt1,271. I laughed. The cabbie laughed and he accepted Bt300 and all was well.
The bulk of business still tends to be conducted along the broad "L" of Sukhumvit Road and Silom Road, though development is spreading farther afield. Let's run through the city systematically to get an idea of hotel locations.
Sukhumvit Hotels, Asoke, Rachadapisek
Sukhumvit Road is home to a clutch of fine properties. The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok, is quite a mouthful but it does serve up some jaw-dropping service and attention to detail with the added convenience of covered step-in access to the BTS Asoke station. This is an underground Metro station interchange stop too.
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit new Luxury Room/ photo: Vijay Verghese
This is a plush address that has set the bar high since inception. A two-and-a-half-year refurbishment programme saw a new line-up of rooms complete by November 2015. Gone are the bright blond woods and ship-cabin feel of the old rooms. A new Luxury room is decked out in goldy hues with dark-wood trim and cabinets. Thoughtful touches include an elevated mini-bar that eliminates the need to crouch low on the carpet at 2am fumbling around for a can of Singha (Bt240).
A plump starched white bed sits against the pale gold head wall facing a 56-inch flat-screen TV with DVD player. Lamps at either side of the bed have easy-to-reach individual switches and room control switches are tactile and finger-friendly.
Best of all are the two USB ports at either side of the bed for fast charging of multiple gadgets. Expect a digital clock, a white marble-top desk with data-port and two three-pin universal electric sockets, large mirrors that create a roomy feel, a small walk-in closet with the old vertical monster safe - big enough for your mother-in-law - iron and ironing board and more. The bathroom features Thann amenities with the old turquoise tiles in place with a soaking tub, one wash basin, a hairdryer, and a power-shower cubicle.
Grand Suites offer 70sq m of stretch space with the same design touches and darkwood furniture and easy chairs with ottomans for tired feet. The only evidence of the old blond wood is in the lobby and public areas where it is matched with beige marble and hints of polished brass to create an airy and bright welcome for guests. Like fine wine, the public spaces have aged well and a series of restaurant revamps have set the place abuzz.
Check out the late 2014 entrant, 'Dine in the Dark' for a touchie-feelie experience in total darkness served by blind staff as part of an interesting CSR initiative. Expect a four course Bt1,450 menu (Asian, vegetarian, Western, or just a 'surprise'). This is right behind street-level Barsu with its retro music and wine. Pop into the chic, Basil restaurant for Thai, now with just four-region nine-course set meals for lunch and dinner for a minimum of two. Sample Italian at Rossini's, or pop up to The Sala, poolside for light menus and alfresco breezes.
Westin Deluxe/ photo: hotel
The Grande Spa & Fitness Club continues to offer its sophisticated arsenal of wellness menus and massage. Try the two-hour herbal compress 'Luk Pra Kob'. All in, this is a fine address for small corporate meetings in Bangkok and business travellers on the go, as well as for luxe leisure trippers - with the Terminal 21 shopping mall beckoning from across the road.
Bang next to the BTS and MRTA stations is the Westin Grande Sukhumvit with its signature "heavenly bed". You'll be queueing up to purchase it after just one "heavenly" night in Bangkok enveloped in quality down and feathers. Not a bad investment if a good night's sleep is top of your priority list. The Westin has done a complete makeover of the property with some stylish touches and expansive mood lighting that blends from hot oranges to cool purples in the blink of an eyelash. Disconcertingly, the lobby is on the seventh floor, but that little niggle aside, it is a crisp executive choice. Rooms offer high-speed Internet access (Bt642 a day), a smart work station with two-line speaker telephone, voicemail, three-pin square plug sockets, and a 25-inch flat-screen TV.
Executive Club Floor guests at the Westin Grande Sukhumvit enjoy complimentary breakfast, cocktails and tea. The latest addition to the Westin armoury are the WestinWORKOUT Rooms that come with indoor cycle, treadmill, dumbells and health DVDs. The inroom safe won't hold a laptop but a steam iron and ironing board are handy extras after the airport scrum. Wind-down options include the Vareena Spa where facials, exfoliations, scrubs and wraps await.
Of an evening, the Zest Bar is a relaxing watering hole with views of the SkyTrain whooshing past. There are a few outdoor seats too, weather permitting. The remodelled Seasonal Tastes, the main restaurant, is light years from the previous iteration with bright whites, light woods and large double-height glass panes maximising light. Expect an excellent breakfast buffet spread. The Westin has good service with attentive staff and offers a generally brisk atmosphere.
Four Points/ photo: hotel
For meetings with fizz try Altitude, the rooftop function space with indoor and outdoor options. There is 1,725sq m of conference or event space including a swish remodelled Grand Ballroom that can hold up to 600 theatre style.
Just around the corner on Soi 15 (soi means street) is the new Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok (opened December 2010), a welcoming, unfussy, and startlingly colourful midrise with mixed appeal for those pinstripers hunting for value in this prime stretch of Sukhumvit, as well as for holidaymakers.
This is a funky offering from the Starwood stable with two buildings joined at the hip, a bright business centre with purple and yellow carpets, eye-catching colours assailing all comers in the lobby and public spaces. Grab a soft cupcake from the street-fronting Wrapped amd head up to your room.
Expect 28sq m to 32sq m of space, flat-screen TV, WiFi, a small iron and ironing board, a game or work keyboard linked to the television, a sliding panel leading to the bathing area, a laptop safe with thoughtfully placed electric socket, patterned carpets and leather headboard. Interiors, while simple, are plusher than the lobby might suggest.
The bathrooms offer a separate bathtub and shower, and the ample work desk has two multi-pin sockets and a dataport with a USB link to the TV, s-video and audio jacks. WiFi is free in public areas (with a password for registered guests) and Bt450 for a day in-room.
The 64sq m Terrace Suites are generous with a patio for a post-prandial romp (albeit not entirely private). There are three LCD TV screens and a Jacuzzi with pale wood srrounds. And for small meetings in Bangkok, there are two function spaces that can host 160 people combined.
Aloft Bangkok's funky WXYZ bar with Saturday Night Fever vibes/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Deep in Soi 11 off Sukhumvit (opened October 2011) is the slim and smart Aloft Bangkok - Sukhumvit 11. It is walking distance from the Nana BTS station through throngs of street hawkers and food stalls. This sliver of a hotel waves the brand flag with pride being one of the first in this part of Asia. It offers a hip and happening alternative to boring has-been establishments without undue pinch on the wallet. This is definitely a lively stomping ground for metrosexuals and the young and restless. A host of restaurants and street stalls lining the road outside add to the buzz.
Check out the bustling lobby with its playful graffiti, video games, pool table, and three iMacs set up for guest use. WiFi is free and up one floor is the throbbing WXYZ bar with its Saturday Night Fever illuminated floor tiles and imaginative drinks. Expect live music ranging from blues to percussion featuring local musicians as part of the hotel's 'untapped Thailand' exploration. Later in the evening Levels, the music and dance bar, gets going. Or enjoy the views from the slim outdoor high-floor pool and its timber deck.
Think stripes in all shades and hues. The corridors have striped carpets and the rooms feature bold stripes underfoot in cobalt blue, yellow, brown, green, orange… you name it. The shower cubicles have bright vertical stripes on the tiles – a great idea. After that long night out partying you’ll need help to figure out which way is up. Rooms are fairly compact, simple and unfussy, with pale wood head boards, coloured paper screens, nine-foot ceilings, iPod docks, free WiFi, iron and ironing board, coffee maker, data-port, a small working “ledge”, and a flat laptop-size safe with a power socket inside. The cushions on the bed have a pattern too – stripes. If you’re a hip thirty-something, take a closer look at this address.
Soi 11 is fast becoming a Bangkok budget hotels Mecca with a welter of developments continuing on past Aloft to the Holiday Inn Express across the road, and beyond. This is an area with cheap restaurants, some fancy cafes, drug stores and handy shops.
S15 is a convenient Sukhumvit option/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Still on Sukhumvit 11, for more space in a sumptuous executive serviced apartment there’s the President Solitaire and the Grand President. The group has properties in other downtown locations too. At the President Solitaire you’ll get to enjoy free WiFi, modern amenities and a large 42-inch plasma TV.
Chic and hip, is the 147-room Le Fenix Sukhumvit by Accor, on Sukhumvit Soi 11, not far from the Q Bar and a short walk from the BTS Nana station. This is a modern and compact offering with all the clean geometric lines and bold splashes of colour one would expect of a contemporary cubist habitat. Rooms offer WiFi access at Broadband speeds, LCD TVs and in-room safes. Somehow the designers have managed to squeeze in an indoor pool. So cooling down at this cool hotel is still an option.
The S15 on Soi 15 close by the Westin is a small, funky hotel with boutique flair and dark wood corporate interiors with a catch-all appeal for many tastes. Located not far from the BTS SkyStation for Sukhumvit/Asoke, the hotel is close to shopping and business and well located for a reasonably speedy airport exit. Expect simple, but friendly, scaled down service and WiFi that is free but a tad slow, especially if trying to send larger attachments.
The 30sq m Deluxe rooms come with a laptop-size safe, hairdryer, bathtub and shower, dark woody tones and flatscreen TV with DVD player. A large full-size mirror leans against a wall producing a suitably flattering reflection.
Junior Suites offer an in-room divan near the bed and louvred window slats while the larger Suites offer four-poster beds and a sound system to crank up the volume. There is one restaurant and no pool. The work desk is rather narrow with Thai-style electrick sockets and no universal plug points.
In a Deluxe there are only two free plug points of the local variety, one by the bed and one against the bathroom wall out of arm's reach. The hairdryer is attached to the wall and is noisy but not very powerful. A big plus is the rainshower with instant and powerful jets of hot water. The bathroom is well lit and reasonably spacious. Service is polite and friendly and the hotel has one restaurant on the second floor where a reasonable breakfast is served with made-to-order eggs. This address is pretty quiet though it is on a busy street and the small Asia Books outlet nextdoor is an added plus.
Well Hotel Sukhumvit 20/ photo: hotel
Larger and newer sibling S31 on Soi 31 also offers free WiFi and has an alfresco swimming pool on the eighth floor where the lobby is located. The 90-room hotel opened September, 2010. The 30sq m Deluxe is dark but a lot brighter than at the S15, and features an oversize bed that touches eight feet. Invite the whole family. Expect a flatscreen TV, work desk, a large digital clock, iPod dock, laptop-size safe, and a see-through glass partition for the bath.
There are two restaurants here and an added attraction of the raised pool is its peek-a-boo glass sides so you can show off your dolphin kick. The hotel is not close to a BTS SkyStation and the noise level, especially with larger Chinese groups are, may be disconcerting for some.
This holds true at other S Group budget hotels in the city like S Box at Sukhumvit Soi 31 and S 33 Compact at Soi 33. The group's S Ratchada Leisure Hotel sports an open-air swimming pool with pool access rooms and smart Italian designs.
A neat 235-key property on Soi 20 is the Well Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 (which pretty much sums it up). Deluxe rooms serve up free WiFi (this is a complimentary service throughout the hotel), 46-inch flat-screen televisions, electronic safes, pale stressed wood floors that provide a Nordic touch to balance out the grey-pastel earth tones. Rooms are welcoming of light and offer business or leisure trippers a hairdryer, coffee/tea making facilities, and a work desk by the window.
The Executive Rooms are a touch blond and airy with a homey feel accentuated by arrays of wall mounted photographs and prints. A few books leaning on a mantlepiece complete the home-away-from-home illusion. The wall and floor textures are attractive and contemporary. This self-style 'lifestyle' address comes with the de rigueur fitness centre, a rooftop saline pool - no red-eye chlorine here - and the Well Spa to knead muscles apres-work or to dish out a quick aromatic oil massage.
Superior Room at Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit20/ photo: hotel
The hotel also manages to accommodate small meetings of between 20 and 70 guests in a range of compact function rooms, the biggest at 65sq m. Of an evening grab a bit or tipple at the Eat Well Cafe or Twist Bar, both mixing it up with buttoned faux-classic chairs, long cream diner sofas, checked walls and bookshelves. Worth a look-in.
Farther down Soi 20 Sukhumvit is the aptly named Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit20 (June 2016), a mid-rise reflective glass building with a woody touch. Walk into a bright and cheerful lobby with low bookshelves and a grey marble floor offset by bright carpets mimicing a 'riverine' theme, cream sofas, puckered brown leather divans, and seating clusters with the occasional yellow cushion. Rooms have rich wooden floors, see-through bathrooms and calming grey pastels with flashes of colour.
A Superior starts at 30sq m with a 42-inch flatscreen television, complimentary WiFi and a curving sofa. A high floor Executive Deluxe squeezes out a little more space at 33sq m while the Executive Suite offers 45sq m of stretch space. The style is modern. For small meetings there are 11 function spaces with 636sq m for events. Also expect twin outdoor pools, a fitness centre, and a focus on healthy meals. If you don't want to hike to Sukhumvit grab the hotel's tuk-tuk shuttle to the Asoke SkyTrain station.
Farther along a Sukhumvit 33 side soi near Benjasiri Park is sister affiliate ACCOR property Bangkok Hotel Lotus Sukhumvit (this is not a Novotel anymore).
The wild and wilder Dream Hotel Bangkok on Sukhumvit Soi 15 offers a somewhat surreal escape into blue-light fantasy. Funky bedrooms offer 42-inch flatscreen TV, Broadband access, Egyptian cotton linen, and iPod docks and that all pervasive blue glow. For more space try a Dream Nirvana Suite. Enjoy the spa, dine in style, or rock. It's all here. A short walk from Sukhumvit, this is not a hotel for all tastes but it certainly exudes a sense of fun. The glass-bead-curtained Flava Bar & Lounge is a popular hangout for young city folk craving an apres-work tipple.
Party time at Dream Hotel, Flava Bar/ photo: hotel
For a Bangkok hip hotels pick, this is a strong contender close to nightlife and a good place to start or end your evening. The hotel can manage small meetings (up to 70 theatre style) but is strongest as a fun events venue.
Located deep in quiet Sukhumvit Soi 31, The Eugenia, a stately 12-suite presence housed in a 19th century colonial bungalow, has morphed into the Asia Herb Association Spa Auberge Eugenia targeted at luxe travellers and the Japanese market. It closed in early 2016 for a renovation with no time frame announced for a reopening. The spa and restaurant remain functioning. Step back in time with creaking timber floorboards, high ceilings, darkened interiors with splendid artefacts. The old Eugenia stuffed animal heads have gone.
This is a customised spa hotel and not for executive trippers or pin-stripers. Spa treatments are surprisingly inexpensive and range from Bt500 to Bt2,000 (for a 180-minute massage). Herbal presses and other treatments available.
The two floors of the villa embrace a small green-tile pool and patio at the back with a small complement of sun loungers. Deer heads observe guests checking in at the small intimate lobby redolent of the past, more like your grandmother’s informal living room than a hotel entrance. Everywhere you turn there is novelty and breathless expectation. And this is the secret of Spa Auberge Eugenia’s homey appeal.
Expect a library (with a stuffed peacock), deep-seating chairs, a hotel tuk-tuk to get you to the main street (though the BTS SkyTrain is still a stretch from here), and a cosy restaurant with a growing following, decked out in a faux-European setting. The non-smoking rooms, some with four-poster beds, are simple colonial classic with small flat-screen TVs, antique electrical switches, wooden almirah, floral floor tiles and old bathtub.
Remodelled Avani Atrium Deluxe/ photo: hotel
There are ancient metal standing fans in the rooms and aircon. The largest room is 42sq m. This is a top Bangkok spa hotels choice for purists as it offers intimacy and a highly personalised feel quite far removed from a big hotel spa service.
The remodelled Amari Atrium re-emerged late 2014 after a US$8m top-to-toe refit as the Avani Atrium Bangkok, part of a feisty new brand from Minor Group, with its signature 12-storey atrium. On New Phetchburi Road somewhat distant from the BTS SkyTrain and Metro (though there is a regular shuttle every 30 minutes to the underground), the 568-room hotel nevertheless serves up modern surrounds with a new-look lobby featuring amber back-lit ‘onyx’ pillar and lift frames. Space is minimalist and welcoming of light.
Neat new rooms (30sq m in a Deluxe) feature purple herringbone carpets, deep purple cushions, large 40-inch flatscreen TV with HDMI socket, and curved pale-wood desks and furniture. Gone is the dull Amari grey and rust. Expect a cream stone foyer, see-through glass corner bathroom with large wooden Venetian blinds, WiFi, long blonde wood table with two three-pin multi-plug sockets, a black leather chair, concealed top-loading laptop safe, window-side divan with purple cushions and a smart grey metallic headboard holding up a large bed. A further set of two three-pin multi-socket plug points are featured either side of the bed so there’s no dearth of gadget recharging options.
Also find a good old-fashioned cord phone, an iron and ironing board, tea and coffee-making facilities, rain shower (no tub), bright bathroom mirror, and old-fashioned bedside lamps. It is homey and easy to fathom for leisure trippers as well as suits in search of value. An Avani Executive Room is the same size with ramped up design and dark wood corporate touches.
Cabochon, old world/ photo: hotel
There are meeting facilities too, the largest holding 350 persons cocktail style. On the fourth floor are an aerobics and yoga studio, and fitness area that will also undergo a change during 2015. While the ‘Avani’ name will befuddle cabbies, fresh lunchbox promotions to entice and educate taxi drivers may make things easier for guests. This is an interesting value hotel off the well travelled track.
At the end of a short cul-de-sac that is Soi 45 (on Sukhumvit Road) is another nostalgia throwback, the Cabochon Hotel & Residence (April 2012), a tiny four suite, four studio affair in virginal white that attempts to punch above its class. This is a vintage construct, a colonial-style mansion with aged doors and creaking floorboards and dimly-lit interiors peppered with musty memorabilia from ox jawbones and giant stuffed turtles to gramophones and typewriters. The bric-a-brac is served up as ordered chaos much as you might find in your grandmother's attic. It is touchie-feelie fun. But looks can be deceptive. Designed and built by the former creator of the wonderful Eugenia, this is an entirely "new" place that has somehow succeeded at stage-managing a nineteenth century show.
Check in is in-room. This is a good idea as the staff office at the tiny foyer is more like a railway station clerk's window with a rustic wooden bench for guest impedimenta. Smiles are aplenty but it may be fun or infuriating depending on your point of view. Come here to chill out and throw away your watch. Fall in love, read, and laze. The BTS is a modest stroll away and during rainy weather it is hard to find a cab. Fortunately Soi 45 is a stump of a street so emerging into the 21st century is not a particularly grave problem.
Pullman Grande, brisk, functional/ photo: hotel
A Corner Suite serves up 47sq m of space with aged wood floors, a living room, and a plain, unadorned bedroom. The decor is simple with cabinets and artefacts to make you feel at home. Some rooms have balconies. Find an iPod dock, a small toilet with mosaic floor in the shower cubicle, an antique potty for discerning bottoms and old world brass flick switches.
WiFi is complimentary as are local and international calls and the soft drinks in the minibar. A flat LCD television is housed discretely in the living room almirah and an old tin trunk serves as the coffee table. Expect to fork out Bt4,000 for a Studio and about Bt6,700 for a Suite. All in, Cabochon serves up atmosphere in spades but don't expect it to run like a clockwork modern hotel.
The Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit Hotel (formerly the Grand Millennium Sukhumvit Bangkok) sits on the central business artery of Asoke Road, Sukhumvit Soi 21. This address is aimed at not just the executive traveller but hip holidaymakers too, with a raft of personalised services and design flourishes including concept floors, Thai-style throughout, fast Internet and WiFi access in-room with flat-screen LCD TV and the luxury – if you have time – of a separate soaking bath and shower.
Rooms are in dark earth tones with square lines and a businesslike feel. Glass partitions separate rooms from the bedroom opening up visual space. Expect an iron for tousled trousers, work desks, coffee and tea making facilities, and good soundproofing to keep out Soi Asoke traffic noise. Interestingly, some windows can be opened.
There are several meeting rooms catering for small to medium size corporate meetings and the 500sq m ballroom can host up to 500 persons in a theatre style arrangement. The hotel offers several snazzy restaurants and bars (including a tapas and wine pit-stop) and for those who overindulge there’s always the sweat, steam, and conscience-salving rigour of both an outdoor pool (with a children's area) and sauna and massage service.
Sofitel Sukhumvit Bangkok's, new Le Macaron bakery at street level/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Babysitting is available on request for harried parents. The hotel is a short stroll to the BTS Asoke station and compares well vs the older Westin (which is right next to the BTS station).
A short hop from the bustling Nana BTS SkyTrain station, the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit rises up above the hurly-burly of t-shirt commerce and street food stalls, an essay in corporate grey-brown elegance and discretion yet with a refreshing hint of mischief and whimsy, much of this on the high-floor L’Appart that brings Paris to the City of Angels in a happening rooftop bar and restaurant. This is a stately 345-room affair that will delight corporate travellers with its tan-grey tones and deep woody textures. It has a clubby yet contemporary feel.
Even bog-standard entry-level Luxury Rooms are stylish, compact and refined with wall mirrors and look-in partitions for the bathing area with its L’Occitane toiletries. Hermes products are reserved for the suites. These Luxury rooms set the bar high and many may need hunt no further. Yet you could move up a few notches to the 121sq m Opera Suite with its two flat-screen televisions, parquet floors, iPod docks, pillow menu and free Wi-Fi. Internet access is complimentary throughout the hotel so flip open that laptop and start tapping. Or splash out on the Imperial Suite. Club Millesime on the 31st floor caters for executive travellers with a much-needed intravenous drip of refreshments, snacks, evening cocktails and breakfast.
Parked on the commercial artery of Sukhumvit, the hotel makes its MICE intentions clear at the outset, positioning itself as one of the top Bangkok conference hotels, serving up stylish function space married with the latest in hi-tech gadgetry. The Grand Ballroom can host up to 800 persons for cocktails and 450 for banquets. Smart Salons cater for small Bangkok corporate meetings of up to 30 people or so. This is a well located and well run establishment with corporate flair and an unexpected dash of whimsy to keep a broad spectrum of travellers entertained.
Landmark Premium Corner, corporate charcoal pastels/ photo: hotel
The lobby was enlivened by late 2015 with splashes of 'art' and large floral displays to welcome guests. The red awning street-facing Le Macaron is the latest F&B hangout for gourmets. This is a French-style bakery with rare Parisian treats and an afternoon tea set with, of course, macarons.
Also close to the Nana station, on the 'wrong' or right side of the tracks around the corner from the neon and nightlife buzz of Nana Plaza and its girlie bars, The Landmark Bangkok has long been a popular choice, with women and male executives alike. The doormen at one time were actually doorwomen, dressed in crisply laundered white. Service is good, and the colourful lobby level Atrium café does good lunch buffet while the streetside Landmark Terrace and Huntsman Pub are popular draws with visitors and locals alike.
The Premier Club Lounge on the 27th floor is open 24 hours with two hours complimentary boardroom usage for Plemier Club Floor guests. The Landmark has reinvented itself and is considerably spruced up from its public areas to fine dining venues with new-look rooms replacing the ageing inventory. The new look 35sq m Premium Corner is the room of choice with a split 'suite-style' arrangement. Expect plenty of light and open views across the city on higher floors. There's a see-through glass partition bathroom, now slathered in beige or grey marble and fancy trim.
While dark metallic hues adorn the walls in neat rectangles, dark wood furniture and smart black-and-white striped carpets make for a corporate mix. Hanging silk lamps spotlighting a flash of bedside green offer a nice touch and the generous bed faces a large flatscreen television. A Deluxe Suite throws in 51sq m of stretch room with Club benefits and access. The Landmark Bangkok is equipped with conference venues and meeting rooms on several floors and can manage events and parties for up to 1,000 people.
JW Marriott lobby, executive choice/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Across Sukhumvit on Soi 5 is the no-fuss Amari Boulevard Hotel with comfortable rooms, business centre and pool.
The swish JW Marriott Hotel on Soi 2 is reassuringly classic in an old-school kind of way with black-marble interiors, silk and delicate gold painted panels. While it looks elderly in a statesmanlike fashion, it is no plodder and service runs on rails here from the F&B outlets to the lobby lounge and front office. This is very much an executive traveller choice with good facilities, outdoor café (BBCo, which does nice Eggs Benedict), Japanese, and reasonably easy access to the airport expressway. It does fall between two BTS stations (Ploenchit and Nana) but this is by no means a disadvantage. Both are fairly close. Fast WiFi and Internet is available inroom and in public areas.
A 66sq m JW One Bedroom Suite is the pick for corporates with free WiFi, complimentary pressing of three garments each day, and free soft drinks. Expect an old fashioned set-up with dark wood living/bedroom partition, rust and tan sofas and a bright ochre headwall. A 33sq m Premier Room is bright with blond wood floors matched with carpets underneath the beds. Find steam irons for razor sharp creases, and a safe that's on the small size. Executive Floor benefits include breakfast, complimentary pressing of two garments per day, two hour use of a meeting room and refreshments throughout the day. There is free WiFi at the Executive Lounge too. Need newspaper? Opt for NewspaperDirect for a compact print version of anything from the Sydney Morning Herald or Yomiuri Shimbum to Times of India. The hotel is considering a complete overhaul of the rooms for a 2017 unveiling. It is a stately address with poise and polish. Ageing a tad yes, but the neighbouring nightlife will keep you nimble.
Heading up Sukhumvit, a quick motorcycle or taxi ride from a BTS stop, on Soi 24, is the intriguing The Davis, a mix of old and new. This interesting property features sumptuous Thai-style salas (pavilions) and villas (with wooden parquet flooring, washing machine and kitchen) and hotel-style rooms ranging from pseudo Arab and Indian (with archways, and Taj Mahal motifs) to European and Thai.
Davis, traditional villa/ photo: hotel
It's quite a heady cocktail and some of it works. Service is good, staff are on the ball and, in places, the hotel has a chic feel to it. The Thai version rooms and villas are perhaps the most tasteful. There are 10 villas, 164 rooms and a spa.
On Soi 18 is the boutique-style Rembrandt Hotel (a member of Warwick International Hotels) with two popular outlets, the rooftop Rang Mahal (Indian) and the buzzing Mexicano with its fun atmosphere and huge selection of tequilas. It is an unfussy place with colour and a relaxed vibe perhaps best summed up by its inclusion of a Family Room product featuring a double bunk bed with ladder for the kids in a timber-floor room with an orange headboard. Ten minutes from the Asoke BTS station, the hotel offers an outdoor pool, a spa and free WiFi.
On Sukhumvit 26, a quick stroll from the BTS station at the Emporium shopping complex, the St James Hotel’s modern reflective glass façade houses a trendy business address. Renovated rooms are bright and functional. A business centre provides Internet access, while elsewhere guests may avail of WiFi or Broadband connections. There is a pool too.
The somewhat impersonal and monstrous Imperial Queen's Park Hotel on Soi 22 was a mega-hotel-in-hotel choice with large conference facilities that is getting a complete makeover as the Bangkok Marriott Queen's Park Sukhumvit later in 2016. There are almost 1,400 rooms in two towers.
On Soi 26 is the bright and beckoning Doubletree by Hilton that arrived early 2013 - a short hike from the Phrom Pong BTS SkyTrain station or Asoke - with a jaunty stride bristling with textures and touchy-feely features somewhat reminiscent of So Bangkok. The place has a strong leisure focus (with a Hilton for business next door). Start with antique radios mounted on the wall, gawp at gleaming old gramophones, pootle past giant wall mosaics of pouting ladies with crimson lips, run your fingers along the backs of golden fleece rams or dive into the striped tile open-air pool on the seventh floor. This is also where you'll find an air-conditioned gym and a bar.
Hilton Sukhumvit drops old DNA for a more playful feel/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The lifts are small. Getting up and down is a contact sport so look out for the right sort of company. A 28sq m Deluxe room is in simple grey tones with white marble floors and pastel candy stripes on the wall. Find a three-pin multi-plug socket on either side of the bed and a sliding silk-glass door that reveals the bathing area with rain shower and tall mirror.
Find an iron and ironing board, a laptop friendly safe, open-plan hangar "wardrobe", flat screen TV, and free WiFi in public areas (though the inroom charge is Bt450 per day for three devices). Two floors (11th and 12th) ar
e for smokers. The rest of the place is smoke free. There are two F&B outlets, one for all day dining and a small function room will manage a 30-person gathering.
Right next door and joined at the hip so to speak (connected, in plain English) is the 280-room Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok (September 2013) a sleek businessman's hangout with a wonderful 26th floor alfresco infinity pool (7am-9pm) where the large and delightfully rotund resident couple Jay and Daisy dangle their feet in the water. The lovers Jay and Daisy offer a playful design leitmotif that runs through this 1920s Italian-American hotel, which marries corporate chic with whimsy without any Goodfellas menace. Still, you would not be out of place in a crisp Borsalino and white dinner jacket in your very contemporary 40sq m Deluxe with its toned down pastel finish and glass walls with rich wood cabinets. The textured wood lends a classic elegance to the bedroom that will engage any well travelled suit.
Also expect a burnt-wood desk with two three-pin multi-plug sockets (there is a multi-plug socket on either side of the invitingly plump bed), laptop-friendly safe, iPod dock, chrome desk lamp, simple push-button room controls, pipe reading lights, and a partially glassed peek-in bathroom. The slim glass partition can be sealed off with a blackout blind and there’s not enough of it to alarm corporate travellers who may find themselves rooming together.
Hilton Sukhumvit rooms are smart with rich woods/ photo: Vijay Verghese
This is a sensible touch at a sensible hotel aimed at small corporate meetings and business travellers. Modern hotel design seems overly fond of look-at-me nude spaces that work brilliantly for romantics but less so for the privacy inclined. The bathroom serves up a smart bathtub and a rain shower to one side, a stylishly square vanity mirror, and a large nozzle hairdryer (with additional add-ons for women) that plugs in next to a well-lit mirror.
A total of 4,320sq ft of space in the largest function area offers versatile choices for meeting planners. The 25th floor Summit meeting area is done in attractive black and white with a living room feel and cosy breakfast or coffee corners. This is a solid business hotel choice mid-Sukhumvit close by the Phrom Phong BTS SkyTrain station and a host of restaurants. Despite its distinctly non-Hilton DNA (a rose swirl lobby ceiling with signature scent and dyed violet roses) and simple chrome and glass execution, this is a brisk yet homey address that compares very well vs the Westin, JW, or Thonglor Marriott. Being right next to the remodelled Emporium shopping mall doesn’t hurt either. And the new Emporium 2 is on its way. One minor niggle - the charge for WiFi.
The Holiday Inn Bangkok Sukhumvit 22 (opened early 2013) is a mouthful but its easy-to-spot gleaming reflective black glass building with some of the best value rates on Sukhumvit will appeal to many. This 300-room hotel is closest to the Phrom Pong BTS station but a taxi or tuk-tuk would be advisable. The lobby is on the 9th floor and everything is in simple grey tones from here on. A pool and cafe are on the 8th floor. A 28sq m Deluxe is an all-grey arrangement that is actually quite easy on the eye. Expect iron and ironing board, a laptop safe, grey striped carpet, grey silk bed runners and some dark wood panels. All this is offset by a single oil painting in rust or blue tones.
Holiday Inn Sukhumvit greys/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The desk offers two three-pin multi plug electric sockets and WiFi is free. There is a small flat screen TV (though thoroughly adequate for the room size). There are also 51 Executive rooms weighing in at 42sq m with stretch space, and stylish rain showers (some with a bathtub). Downstairs look forward to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a Domino's Pizza.
A smart and simple budget option close to the Asoke BTS SkyTrain station is the Red Planet Hotel Asoke (formerly a Tune hotel). The Bel Aire Princess (by the Dusit group) offers a four-star facility on Soi 5.
Dominating the Thonglor intersection farther down at Soi 57 on Sukhumvit are the glinting curved steel grey lines of the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit (March 2013), a big boy for this otherwise leisurely residential neighbourhood. Despite being the lone five-star in the area it offers great value and spectacular views on a clear night. The multi-level Octave rooftop bar is the swing thing with a panoramic sweep of the city lights below. Pop by to see and be seen. It has a friendly unhurried vibe and many prefer this spot to other more industrial panorama restaurants. Octave has two upper decks with flop down seating and a restaurant on the first level. Long stays are a doddle at the residential wing, which serves up 74 serviced apartments. Walk into a high ceiling lobby with white marble floors and a catchy flower arrangement. The decor is sparse and uncomplicated. At one end CCCo (the Chocolate Cake Company) entices with wake-up aromas.
Rooms are aimed squarely at suits with modern minimalism with white marble floors, red-grey floral carpets, stained black wood accents for cabinets, large but muted Thai prints along the head wall, burgundy chairs, narrow glass table with two three-pin multi sockets and internet cable and large grey tactile light switches that are sensibly idiot - and CEO - proof. Three pin recharging plug points are by the bed as well. The marble bathrooms are bright, with tubs with a view (Corner rooms looking over the cityscape), rain shower, and free WiFi along with a flat laptop-friendly safe. In the drawer is small leather-bound New testament Bible. Eat, pray, love, it's all here.
Bangkok Marriott Thonglor's rooftop Octave is a stunning bar with grand views/ photo: hotel
At the other end of the scale is the ageing no-frills The Atlanta, deep in Soi 2, a throwback to the colonial era. Peeling, musty, derelict, but oddly appealing in an old European kind of way, the property has a firm "No Sex Tourists" policy and a sign to this effect hangs outside the entrance. The hotel says it has a "zero-tolerance policy towards troublemakers". Our view entirely.
Between Soi 6 and Soi 4 is the new residence-cum-hotel the Grand Sukhumvit by Sofitel. The hotel is a short stroll from the BTS Nana Station on Sukhumvit. With the focus very much on long-stays an in-room benefit is the microwave and kitchenette. This hotel may not be for everyone. but it is conveniently located and is a useful option for longstay guests.
There's a nice hideaway garden courtyard inside with pool (one of the first in the country) and hammocks. The interior is cosy with lots of wooden cabinets, chequered floors and red chairs in the lobby. The hotel lobby is said to be the oldest unaltered hotel foyer in Thailand. The Atlanta was started by Dr Max Henn, a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1952. An aircon room starts at Bt664 and fan-cooled room at Bt482. There is no credit card service and payment in cash is required on a daily basis in advance. No Internet. The place is popular with journalists and artists.
On Rachadapisek Road are the 402-room Chaophya Park Hotel with over 2,100sq m of function space for conferences and meetings, a raft of dining choices from Cantonese to Japanese, a driving range, pool, fitness centre and the Bali Spa; and the more boutique-style sister property Veronica Residence with complimentary high-speed Internet, small corporate meeting facilities and bright accents. The Veronica is within walking distance of the Metro subway.
Sacha’s Hotel UNO is a convenient mid-range hotel, offering neat stylish rooms with signature Hotel UNO beds, WiFi, flat screen TV, iron and ironing board, tea and coffee-making facilities, and bathroom amenities like robes, slippers and hair dryers. The bathroom is compact but bright and even features that top-hotel stalwart, a rainshower. This is a good example of a mid-range with all the hi-tech extras.
The Park Plaza Sukhumvit Bangkok is a 150m stroll from the BTS SkyTrain at Asoke Station where you'll also spot the underground MRT entrance. This modern hotel is a 95-room boutique-style construction with gym, swimming pool, 24-hour restaurant, and business facilities. Bangkok serviced apartment options along Sukhumvit could include several Citadines (see Ascott Bangkok Sathorn) and Somersets.
Central Bangkok business hotels
Stately Okura/ photo: Vijay Verghese
With a walkway to the Ploenchit BTS SkyTrain station, stately The Okura Prestige Bangkok (opened May 2012), is a corporate confection that manages to tick all the right boxes, keeping fussy international travellers plugged in, all the while ensuring the smiles of its largely Japanese clientele stay unbroken. It is not an easy act. The demands of Japanese travellers are very specific and this has necessitated a two-in-one approach that appears to have paid off. Okura Tokyo's signature Yamazato restaurant is replicated on the 24th floor lobby level, serving light, aromatic Japanese breakfasts, while at the opposite end of the same floor Up & Above Restaurant caters for European and Asian palates. There is also a preponderance of twin bedrooms in the inventory, a format favoured by the Japanese.
The high-ceiling lobby is spacious, uncluttered, and elegant, with a minimalist Zen-meets-classic-Europe feel, in dark earth tones, grey and black. A 47sq m Deluxe twin bed room serves up tan-grey walls, textures and simplified surrounds with free Wi-Fi. A patterned white cotton sheet on the bed is adorned with invitingly plump pillows and an origami bird (with a kit and instructions for making one yourself). Expect an oval wooden work desk, data-port with two three-pin electric sockets, a flat-screen TV with an internet keyboard, sofa, and sliding doors that reveal a large soaking tub and rain shower cubicle and the de rigueur electronic Japanese potty that will attend to the most irate of bottoms starting with a friendly warm up. Get to know the control pad before embarking on your exploration. The 55sq m Deluxe Corner King will delight guests with bright, airy interiors, and stretch space. A bedside tablet controls most things from temperature to lighting. It is surprisingly friendly and easy to manage.
Okura bird's-eye view pool/ photo: hotel
The Club floors run from the 32nd to 34th floors. Sniff the heady orange chocolate aroma in the corridors. Or pop by the 97sq m Prestige Suite with its large onsen-style terrazzo tub, shower cubicle with a view, twin vanities, large living room, two flat-screen TVs, and much more.
The Okura Spa offers five treatment rooms. Close by is the generously proportioned fitness studio. Also on the 25th floor is a 25m cantilevered pool with stunning views and plenty of sunlight. At one far end is the Elements restaurant with outdoor and indoor seating.
Shoehorned in between the monstrous Plaza Athenee complex and All Seasons Place (Conrad), the smart but diminutive Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road (January 2015) has managed to carve out sufficient stretch space to fashion an upscale lifestyle offering from IHG with a focus on local surrounds – and some refreshingly leafy views. This is a mid-rise building that welcomes and warms from the start as you approach the simple, high set wooden porte co-chere. Set back from the road but not rudely separated from the insistent thrum of the street by any view-blocking wall, this is an integrated setting with a resort feel. And it holds its own against the big boys.
You are greeted by hotel staff in casual-chic livery - think parrot greens and, of course, indigo. These are ‘neighbourhood hosts’ who all function as independent concierges with local knowhow. Ask them what’s up. Interact with Bangkok artists Thursdays or line up early morning on Wednesdays or Fridays for a Lumphini Park jog with the general manager. The glass-fronted lobby, with its double height ceiling is welcoming of light and perky, with a distracting collection of oddities, like a gramophone, a typewriter, a yellow cycle rickshaw, and a vintage TV sculpture that does a wacky leaning tower impersonation.
Smart Indigo corner Executive King room/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The large brown leather sofa and lavender settee are comfy, a far cry from the knee-knocking furniture at twee wannabe boutique establishments. Walk into the lift lobby to find an array of vintage radios right across the wall. On some floors featuring a mini atrium, find more Bangkok memorabilia like a Jim Thompson silk-weaving loom or a gleaming tuk-tuk. And that’s just the beginning. Lift lobbies and corridors are not air-conditioned and the elements - wind, rain, and occasional critters - may greet you en route to your room.
Rooms, at 37sq m, are bright and welcoming of light with local art motifs on the walls, black-and-white photographs of rickshaws with a daub of yellow perhaps, gleaming timber floors, plump white beds, velvet purple settees, floral cobalt blue carpets and eye-popping, but compact, bathing areas with gold-hued faucets and basins, all fashionably square. The effect is playful and homey rather than corporate or cookie-cutter. You will not miss the bathtub (absent here, but available in some larger ‘corner’ rooms (with the attendant yellow rubber ducky), and the two power showers will adequately pummel your back. Expect a wooden desk with dataport (two multi-plug sockets) and a top loading laptop-friendly safe. WiFi is free in-room and cabinets are constructed like cabin trunks of yore with strap handles. The white brick wall behind the bed is a nice touch and the weighing scale is satisfyingly large. The minibar resides in a beaten tin cabinet by the door and holds wine glasses, cutlery and colourful coffee mugs.
Call downstairs for 24-hour ‘home delivery’ or room service. Best of all are the small balconies. Most rooms offer these and, despite the seeming squeeze, there’s a surprising amount of visual space and green in all directions as you look out over grand manicured consulate lawns and the tree-lined Wireless Road. An Executive King corner room may stretch to 48sq m and is the pick of the array with plenty of light, adequate elbow room, a window divan, pipe lights for reading, and two three-pin multi-plug sockets on either side of the bed. Marble bathrooms include a stone slab for sitting while showering. A thoughtful touch. Expect coffee machines too. Rooms ending in 00, 01 and 02 serve up the best views from floors 10 and up. Our pick is '02', where views open out over the city and green parks.
Funky high ceiling Indigo lobby/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Lifts offer wood floors with puckered brown leather walls to lean against gracefully after a late night binge. Enjoy the views and cool breezes at the 24th floor with its outdoor pool, exercise room and small 15-person meeting room. The new three-in-one nightlife and dining venue (late May 2016) includes the CHAR grill restaurant with a contemporary feel, a 26th floor rooftop bar and a private dining venue. The pool area is set for remodelling too. The second-floor Metro on Wireless does scrumptious breakfasts with a stick-your-hands-in approach and waffles groaning with all manner of goodies. The alfresco sofa setting outside also runs till late for drinks. Insiders will of course opt for the 11am-11pm ‘dessert bar’. This is a well-designed hotel with inviting menus and intriguing artefacts to pique your interest. Rates are attractive in this superb downtown location a short stroll from the Ploenchit BTS SkyTrain. Cheerful staff are the hotel's brightest asset.
The Conrad Bangkok, in the All Season's Place business and residence and shopping complex, is a chic address with style, functionality, broad-spectrum appeal and regular innovation. It has been a trend-setter in more ways than one with stylish silk uniforms and contemporary décor, the extensive Season's Spa, and sumptuous rooms with see-through glass-wall toilets. The Executive Rooms offer more space, with smart flat-screen TVs with a small, if stylish, footprint. Subtle hi-tech accompaniment is provided by a DVD player and an iPod dock. Plug in and play.
These rooms feature steam irons with ironing board, complimentary Broadband, and a smart working area with an ergonomic chair. Pick up an "Oxia" pressurised oxygen canister from the minibar and head out for a jog. Well travelled executives will spot another familiar toy – a yellow rubber elephant (not duck) – in the bathtub. Need a different pillow? Try a Shogun Pillow (made from Japanese igusa grass) or the Contour Pillow. The Apple-friendly touches now extend to the new and expanded Executive Lounge which sports iMac workstations all hooked up to Broadband. Surf free during breakfast or while popping by for evening refreshments and canapes.
Conrad Executive Room/ photo: hotel
Just in case you happen to be a PC clod, some iMacs are set up to work on the familiar Windows platform. Smart and brisk service by attentive staff who are on the ball - and not just on executive floors - makes this award-winning property a top Bangkok business hotel choice.
While main access to the hotel is from Wireless Rd (Wuthayu), there's easy access through less crowded Soi Ruam Rudee as well. A shuttle bus takes guests to the Ploenchit BTS station which is just a short walk away. Elsewhere in the hotel there's complimentary shoeshine, the popular Diplomat Bar and the trendy dance-and-dine 87 PLUS. Regular rooms feature the same distinctive silk and glass touches and access to Broadband at Bt750 per day.
Up Soi 2 Ruam Rudee near the Conrad is the small but modern TENFACE, inspired by the mythical 10-faced giant Tosakan. This is a hard-to-find place as it is easy to miss the soi turnoff. The mid-rise chocolate building is at the end of the dead end lane with transport a tad problematic as there are no roving taxis or motorcycles here but the hotel chips in with a free tuk-tuk shuttle to the BTS train station and cabs can be called. You won't get stuck heading to the airport.
Its 79 rooms, suites actually, which start at 61sq m, come with breezy balconies, LCD TVs, free Wi-Fi Internet access, safes and minibar. The rooms feature all-black interiors with hanging wire mobiles, dark carpets and navy blue sofas. The foyer is separated from the living area by hospital style folding screens. Venetian blinds cover the scenic windows in the spacious living room.
Expect an LCD TV here (as well as in the bedroom), a long black desk, coffee and tea facilities, and plenty of natural sunlight. The balcony affords nice open green views of Bangkok though the highway cuts right through it. The traffic noise is largely kept out. And in the morning you might wake to birdsong.
Rain Tree Cafe at Plaza Athenee/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The bedroom features dark brown carpets and cleverly hanging bed-corner drapes that create the illusion of a four-poster arrangement. It is attractive and you won't bump into any hard corners either. Expect a notebook safe, four bottles of water, a small hairdryer, and a somewhat compact bathroom with tub, hand shower and toiletries. It is functional and fine for short visits or longer stays where you're keeping tight watch on your wallet. Rates may start at a comfortable US$65 a night so the mild inconvenience of location is worth it.
And, if you wish, you can walk down the kilometre or so stretch to Ruam Rudee. There are few plug sockets and these are in the old Thai style with three pins. You will need an adapter. Two-bedroom suites have kitchen facilities (as well as glass and chinaware) for serving up your own culinary creations.
On check-in, you’ll get a “Tosakan Heart Box” that includes a prepaid BTS card, a prepaid Sim card for local calls, Thai herbal bath amenities, and a handy taxi card for easy communication with taxi drivers. Boot leather will gleam with the hotel’s free shoe-shining service. A DJ spins nightly at Sita Bar though this remains a quiet venue, and there’s also a dipping pool for relief from the Bangkok heat. The best thing about TENFACE is the friendly reception staff who beam at every request. The tuk-tuk operators smile less but get the job done.
Close by on Ruam Rudee are the comfortable serviced apartments of the Chateau de Bangkok (managed by Accor). This is a central location if you're hunting for Bangkok long stay hotels and residences.
Adjacent to the Conrad is the gleaming Plaza Athénée Bangkok, A Royal Méridien Hotel which, as its double-barrelled name suggests, is a hotel with two sometimes conflicting identities. As a Starwood brand it still retains its original flavour under Méridien – not quite New York or Paris but decidedly upmarket Thai – but it needs business travellers and conferences and spa enthusiasts to get on familiar first-name terms with it. And it is going about this in brisk fashion.
Plaza Athenee new look room/ photo: hotel
The 374-room product exudes quality and service is attentive and welcoming. A short stroll from the BTS Ploenchit SkyTrain station the hotel is well positioned for those on the go. By late 2015 the hotel sported a completely revamped lobby that is now smart and contemporary with a Thai neo-colonial twist at the elegant and bustling Rain Tree Cafe (plazaatheneebangkok.com) a brisk metrosexual hangout with a bar, and a more private street-facing Secret Garden area for secluded dining. Expect colonial white touches and wood frame glass doors creating an old-world feel. The lobby continues to be transformed. Nowhere is the transformation more keenly apparent than on the fourth floor where an event space for about 60 (sit down dinner) opens onto the alfresco pool and its manicured surrounds and breezy sala. This is a swimming pool that actually catches the sun for a leisurely tan. While green astroturf rings the pool, there is actual grass in an adjoining topiary.
New look rooms arrived mid 2015. It is a substantial leap across to a sumptuous 'royal' feel with grey metallic walls, huge window-length divans (Thai tangs) with the de rigueur silk upholstery, Sukhothai-style bowl lamps, cable-chargers for guest convenience, and recycled furniture with a dark stained finish. The look is contemporary and neat and the grey puckered leather headboard will appeal to suits.
Expect Thai design motifs on walls (check the white filigree work panels) and in the carpets. A crisp black trim runs around the walls, past the small working desk with its two three-pin multi-plug sockets. WiFi is charged alas though it is free in public areas. One three-pin socket is beside the bed along with easy-touch switches for the lights. The yellow marble bathroom features a tub, a hand shower and rain shower ensemble, scales, and toiletries. Regular rooms weigh in at 38sq m with Club rooms at 44sq m with an elegant deep blue floral carpet and curved divan plus an oval glass work desk.
There is an iron and ironing board and a small safe that will secure jewellery but not your laptop. The 26th floor Club Lounge is spacious and deep with enough elbow room for all. Sink into a sofa and get working. Spa Athénée on Level Five serves up seven treatment rooms with all manner of wellness goodies and squash courts are on hand for those serious about working off calories.
Oriental Residence/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Just across Wireless Road facing the Conrad turn-off and a quick walk from the Ploenchit BTS SkyTrain station, is the quietly unassuming Oriental Residence Bangkok (not to be confused with the historic hotel by the river, though there is a connection through the owning company Italthai, in case you are intrigued by the hotel's oddly familiar logo).
Sandwiched between the American and Dutch embassies on a tree-lined street, this is a stately 145-room address that draws in a discerning set who relish the luxurious understatement of the place. Walk in to a small high ceiling cream marble lobby with clean straight lines and a minimal uncluttered feel. Comfy pastel-tone sofas are spaced apart under small hanging chandeliers. Nothing overly in-your-face here, but just enough to underline an elegant European accent that blends contemporary with classic. Staff is attentive, smiling and responsive. And teas as well as meal menus at the black-and-white diner Cafe Claire are exceptional. Or try the gourmet French Savelberg Thailand. Also expect in 2016 the clubby Oriental Bar, a lounge on the second floor.
The higher floors (22-29) are occupied by private residences with a separate access and their own pool. Oriental Residence serves up a breezy fourth-floor rooftop pool for hotel guests (with gauze-draped cabanas and swing chairs). This floor hosts a versatile 172sq m events space called Play Room with wraparound green views as well as 'panoramic' toilets for him and her. It's worth a visit with your camera. Functions can be held indoors and outdoors. Corporate meets can also be hosted at the Board Room, Garden Room, and the 145sq m West Wing. All meeting space is flooded with natural light and serves up soothing green views. On the second floor a new intimate Bangkok weddings venue and events space, the Oriental Room, will in late 2016 serve up to 200 persons in colonial elegance.
Oriental Residence pool/ photo: hotel
In a spacious 70sq m One Bedroom Suite expect generous living space with kitchenettes (stocked with large fridge, microwave and electric cooking range) and, occasionally, sun-drenched balconies with sweeping views of the verdant Bangkok heartlands. It is an endangered sight and one to savour, cup in hand. Dark wood floors are cool underfoot with light grey skirting, pale pearl-green drapes, beige matte wallpaper and pastel tones to serve up a calm, homey, environ.
A large flat-screen TV faces a sofa ensemble behind which a cream work desk offers WiFi as well as two multi-plug charging sockets and a somewhat fiddly iPod dock. The bedroom offers similar light colour touches with virginal white wardrobes housing a top loading laptop-friendly safe, iron and ironing board and another flat-screen television. The marble bathroom is a delight with plenty of room, a separate dressing table with chair, a soaking tub and rain shower. At nightly turndown expect small touches like a handwritten note perhaps, quoting the Talmud - "A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read."
Pick a 45sq m Grand Deluxe or move up to a Two or Three Bedroom Suite, all adequately equipped for long stay visitors. There is plenty of storage space begging to be used for suits, dresses, shopping impedimenta and kids' stuff, some of this in appealing cabin trunk-style cabinets with leather trim and large buckle handles. Pick a suitable headrest from the pillow menu - from Tatami to Buckwheat to Memory Foam. There is no spa on the premises but the hotel can link you up with wellness options that abound in the city.
Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Around the corner from here, right at the entrance of a BTS station, is the new Novotel Bangkok Ploenchit Sukhumvit (opened December 2010). The name is quite a mouthful but if you can get your tongue around that, this is a superbly located address that offers good value for money and, from higher floors, open views of the city. With its launch rate touching US$82, you couldn't really ask for more. But there is more. The 370 rooms, all flavoured with lemongrass scent, offer Superiors staring at 28sq m. These are bright, surprisingly roomy, in grey pastel tones with green-blue cushions, a short, slim work desk with multi-pin plug and Internet access at around Bt400 per day.
The Junior Suites are a spacious 40sq m, again with broad, open views, 42-inch flatscreen TVs, data-port, slim working desk, a divan and an extra long bed that stretches six feet six inches for those long Scandinavian legs. The large in-room safe can house a computer comfortably and a see-through glass wall separates the bedroom from the bathing area. Flick a switch to turn this sheet opaque. Neat. Expect a bathtub, rainshower, fixed hairdryer, and a mirror with a thoughtful face-light rim. No struggling shaves or make-up fumbles here. Premier rooms also serve up the see-through toilet (without the bathtub) in a functional space with pipe reading lights, complimentary WiFi, a dataport by the small and narrow working desk and two sets of multi-pin plug points (one by the desk and one by the bed). Expect an iron and ironing board, a laptop-friendly safe, a coffee machine, a hooked-in hairdryer and rain shower.
There is an open air pool, fitness centre, sauna, and meeting room, but no spa. Staff are quick with smiles in the small high-ceiling lobby with a small bar set to one side. The single restaurant can manage 100 covers at one time. For a few-frills hotel, this Novotel serves up a more than decent welcome with light grey pastels (in contrast to the Courtyard's vivid colours). Take your pick. At the corner of Ruam Rudee Soi and Ploenchit, this is a super location that will not tax the wallet unduly.
Sivatel pool/ photo: hotel
Just a hop and skip down from the Ploenchit BTS station intersection is the small, unassuming, and delightful Sivatel Bangkok. This 75-room property opened in 2011 with 31 floors (the top three are serviced residences with kitchenettes and washing machines). The all-suite establishment is neat and smart in a homey way. It neither too clever or too mod yet serves up nice friendly touches with good service to match. Suites run from 64sq m to a whopping 194sq m. A 160sq m Grand Royal Duplex two-floor escape offers free WiFi, Apple TVs, iPod docks, pillow menu, leather-top business desks, ergonomic chairs and blonde wood walls. Bedroom switches are large and tactile and brilliantly easy to use. Also find a wireless keyboard for TV surfing, flat laptop safe, a triangular bathtub set against a glass bedroom wall partition, hairdryer affixed to the wall and a power shower in a mosaic wall cubicle. The lower floor is a living and dining space with fridge, microwave, spacious sofa seating and yet more flat screen TVs and one more safe. There is a spare loo and a balcony. Expect a nice open air infinity pool by the cafe and an inviting cream tone lobby with plenty of comfy sofas and reassuring singalong tracks like "Killing me softly with his song". Close by the British and Swiss embassies, this is a spot for savvy travellers in the know. Be warned of the one-way traffic on Soi Nai Lert (stroll to the BTS or catch a cab on Ploenchit). And the industrial rubber carpeting in the bedrooms is dowdy and a tad hard on the soles. Minor niggles these for the price (around Bt3,500).
On Ploenchit, smack next to a BTS station, the InterContinental Bangkok is a large, business property with a reassuringly measured stride, a far cry from the beseeching, come-hither commerce elsewhere. With the latest revamp in 2010, this is now a swankier address with its customary brisk service.
InterCon Grand Deluxe/ photo: hotel
Expect location, location, and location. Step out and you’re in the heart of some of the best shopping east of the Suez, from streetside bargains to luxury threads (the hotel is directly connected to Gaysorn mall). The only fly in the ointment is the bus lane that runs past the entrance making swift turns in a tad slower than you might expect. Step inside the “new” lobby and things are hushed, if no less attentive. Soaring ceilings and an ample glass frontage allow light to stream in relentlessly, bouncing off gleaming floors and lighting up a dark-wood lounge.
In-room find easy-on-the-eye grey-brown pastel tones, iPod docks, DVD players, laptop-size safes and flat LCD TVs with satellite channel hook-up. Your partner for the night is a well-sprung Sealy mattress, a splendid pairing after a hard day’s toil. The living area is spacious, far more say than the compact, if stylish, Conrad offering. High-speed Internet is a doddle and fax machines can be called in at any time. Find a HUGE TV screen on which you could watch reruns of Gone With The Wind interminably, a digital clock that you can position as you wish, a data-port by the desk and lots of multi-pin sockets thoughtfully arrayed by the desk and luggage rack, in the toilet, hallway and on either side of the bed. Power up just about every gadget without batting an eye. Light switches are large and tactile and well placed lamps throw pools of light for quiet reading. The Braun hairdryer can be plugged in - in the bathroom so you don't need to lug it around looking for a socket. There is an iron and ironing board and also a laptop-size safe. Higher up in the executive eyrie on the 37th floor, Club rooms and suites serve up a steam iron and ironing board. Furnishings are rich and textured but understated. Look forward to Cinemascope views across the city from these rooms as well as from the spacious Club InterContinental Lounge on the same level. The rooftop pool is accompanied by a bar, and a spa is on hand for leisurely evening unwinds.
Conference facilities have been upgraded and extended with 22 function rooms and a 1,000-pax ballroom for cocktails. The hotel has a springy, airy feel to it and hums along efficiently, catering for its mix of business travellers, conventioneers and holidaymakers. Among the top Bangkok business hotels, this is certainly one for your diary.
Siam @ Siam/ photo: hotel
Across from the InterCon, the old President Hotel was reborn as the swish Holiday Inn Bangkok. This is a vastly improved renovated product - contemporary, well designed with lots of space, less fuss, clean lines and concealed lighting, all of which combine to make this a strong business or leisure choice. This is a Holiday Inn with a difference, a far cry from what this brand represents in other parts of Asia or the USA. Shopping is a convenient stroll in any direction. Bright rooms feature glass-wall bathrooms and high-speed Internet at Bt642 for a 24 hour spin.
Wireless Internet is accessible - and chargeable - in most of the building including the swimming pool area. There are two dedicated Executive Club floors with a separate lounge, and roomy family suites cater for those holidays when the entire brood is abroad. This hotel should not be confused with the Holiday Inn Silom, an older property that is not the easiest to recommend.
Around the corner, replacing the Hilton a while back is the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Bangkok. The one-way Soi Nai Lert can get tedious at times with traffic but the compound is a genuine garden hideaway with a fresh away-from-it-all feel. With the demise of the sprawling Siam InterCon, Nai Lert Park Bangkok is perhaps the only green venue in town. The hotel closes shop 31 December 2016 having been bought by hospital group BDMS, which plans to turn it into a wellness and recuperation centre.
The Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square is right next to the BTS Siam Square interchange and shopping. This makes for extraordinarily convenient commutes. The hotel is smart with good facilities but it can get a tad overrun when large groups check in.
Almost opposite the National Stadium (one of the last stops on the BTS SkyTrain line) near Siam Square, is the newly soft-opened Siam @ Siam Design Hotel with 203 rooms and free WiFi throughout. Room types at this Bangkok boutique hotel include doubles, trendy triples (one per floor), an executive product for businessmen on the go and a penthouse executive lounge with terrific views in all directions as there are no adjoining buildings currently. Take in a football match if one's on. The designers clearly pulled out all the stops with this converted office block.
LIT Bangkok/ photo: hotel
It blends - if not always successfully - minimalist Zen, Thai flourishes, and hip-hop grunge with original grey cement walls smeared with bright casual daubs of orange and red oil paint. This is factory-floor-art-gallery chic.
Throw in timber railway sleepers, cement floors mixed with wooden parquet, colourful furniture and bright rugs tossed here and there and you have something approaching a trendy advertising office rather than a hotel. The effect is pleasing however, and refreshing. Staff are eager to please and on the ground floor is the owner's metal-blue classic Figarro car.
And just beyond are the elevator doors smeared with thick oil paint taking you up to the 11th floor lobby and rooms with laptop-size safes, angular work tables, and bright orange rugs. Some toilets come with bathtubs, some with showers and a few with both. Guests may wish to catch the sunset at the alfresco pool with its fish fountains and breezy views. There is a dedicated wellness spa, Spa Ten, with a fitness area and gym.
Newer in the MBK area and close to the National Stadium is the designer-chic LIT Bangkok (open mid 2011) hotel on Soi Kasemsan. The entire 79-room construct from the exterior to the mood-lit interiors - with Extra Radiance rooms bathed in surreal purple, orange and green hues - is a pleasurable assault on the senses. Walk into living space where glass shower bubbles look on to the bedroom and where timber flooring mixes with cool tiles. Lines are neat and the soothing lighting underlines the clean, contemporary style. Business travellers can expect versatile small meeting areas, Wi-Fi and plug-in Broadband, fitness centre, and a spa.
Across a busy intersection from Siam Square is the Pathumwan Princess MBK Centre (run by the Dusit group) which, as its name suggests, is linked to the bustling discount shopping Ma Boon Krong mall. Also in this area is the budget stay Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Siam.
Hip Renaissance/ photo: hotel
Set just off Ploenchit Road a stroll from the Grand Hyatt and the Chidlom BTS SkyTrain station is the blue-glass curving facade of the flagship Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel that arrived quietly in the neighbourhood early 2010. Expect a lot more noise from this new contender. Why? It is different, vibrant, colourful, almost over-embellished you might say, nothing at all like some dreary cookie-cutter Renaissance properties you may have come across. It hopes to set the benchmark for the brand. Well located (with a skybridge to the station via Maneeya Building in the pipeline), this is a brash teen-going-on-forty-something establishment with a proposition for everyone. Yet, surprisingly, it remains a somewhat slower and less well known contender.
The darkly muted lobby features a cluster of optical light wires hanging down the length of the atrium, dimly glinting green then blue while ornate patterned panels cast a red glow all around the lower lobby walls. The lift is an exercise in indulgence with intricate floral cutouts, silver patterns, and black faux-crocodile leather along one side. It will then come as no surprise that on the the fifth floor BYTES meetings and ballroom level, about-to-wed couples, CEOs and hard-pressed automobile manufacturers can all make a grand entrance by a car elevator and drive right into the vast sparkly 800-pax conference hall. A tiered outdoor garden patio can accommodate a further 500 celebrants.
There's more "wow" factor on the 22nd floor where a timbered pool deck, open on two sides to the breezes, stretches into the horizon with sunken lounge chairs and a bar. Here the hotel is at its minimalist best with clean understatement that will reassure business travellers. There is a gym at this level too. Deluxe Rooms are 37sq m with lots of light, blond-wood parquet floors, bright purple padded silk wall boards set off by the plump white beds with tiger-stripe cushions.
Find a 40-inch flat-screen TV, data port with two multi-pin sockets, faux-leather table top, leather work chair, large lamps and the de rigueur see-through bathroom wall. There's a large safe, iron and ironing board for kill-that-crease junkies, digital clock, dimmer lights and handy plug sockets everywhere. In Suites you will find a DVD player too. The Studio Suite is a spacious 64sq m with huge views that, in some rooms, can be enjoyed from the bathtub as well.
Imposing Grand Hyatt columns and orchids/ photo:Vijay Verghese
Expect twin vanities in this category. There's Broadband in rooms as well as WiFi throughout (at Bt642 per day). The product comes across variously as a chic bar-cum-bellydance club on a grand scale or an upscale sensory lifestyle experience. Take your pick. There are exciting details in abundance and the designers have tossed everthing plus the kitchen sink into the kitty. Now, having seemingly raised the bar, the hotel will have to measure up.
With crowds of worshippers and dancers regularly thronging the Erawan shrine devoted to the Hindu god Brahma at the Ploenchit and Rajdamri intersection - for many, the heart of Bangkok - the iconic 380-room Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok rises up, an imposing and stately backdrop with soaring white obelisk columns and hushed marble interiors. Expect service on rails here. This is a well oiled smoothly humming business address where smiling brisk-stepping staff, clad in immaculate black, will intuit your needs before you can get your tongue around that "Sawasdee-krap". Meet and greet is at another level entirely.
The Grand Hyatt went through a serious midlife makeover and emerged late 2014 with fewer wrinkles and a lot more elan, nowhere more evident than in the supremely adventurous tartan theme for the new-look rooms - this, in Krungthep, the City of Angles, where rich silks and burnished wood are very much the norm. A Club Floor room on the 17th floor - where you'll find the intimate Club Lounge - is, however, an essay in simplicity. Enter through a small dark-wood foyer with signature cream and charcoal patterned Travertine tiles on the floor. The tiles extend into the compact bathroom with its bright wall mirror, tub, June Jacobs toiletries, hairdryer, and rain shower with a saucy partially see-through partition for the potty, which sensibly does not get up to devilish automated tricks.
Grand Hyatt Deluxe King/ photo:hotel
The tub is by a 'window' to the bedroom that can be sealed off by closing a heavy wooden door. The rooms use tactile pull-push doors, rather than sliding ensembles and the heft is reassuringly solid and old world.
Also expect an iron and ironing board, flat laptop-friendly safe, and stylish retro brown stitched-leather boxes for laundry and shoes. You can smell the leather but can't see the horses. The tartan carpet covers the entire bedroom atop which sits a plump white bed. The design has made the most of the available space - 40sq m in a Grand Deluxe King - employing pastel tones and mirrors at every turn that cleverly extend visual space. You may be alarmed or entertained as you encounter yourself in the remotest nooks and crannies, depending on whether you are a neoclassical recluse or a modern selfie fiend.
For road warriors on the fly, there's free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen television, and three three-pin multi-plug sockets by a somewhat awkward, but brave, octagonal transparent glass desk squeezed into the corner almost as an afterthought, pinching the curtains, and perhaps the knees, if ensconced on the long divan that runs along one side. A chair is set near the window and close to the data sockets. Find a three-pin socket as well on either side of the bed. Expect lots of lamps with dimming controls that make the space homey and welcoming. Turn off the master switch and the lights turn off in orderly synchronization, one by one, leaving the display cabinet illuminated just long enough for you to get your bearings and tuck yourself into bed. There's a digital clock at either side of the bed (a nice touch) and a classical Seiko in the bathroom for purists. These are small touches but well thought out.
Soaring lobby columns at Grand Hyatt Erawan/ photo:Vijay Verghese
The new Grand Hyatt Erawan rooms are understated and functional, part hacienda, part classic residence, and perfect for a business or leisure romp. Food outlets include the rocking Spasso for Italian (graced by the well-gelled set and ladies with legs going up to heaven) and the trendy street-cafe-style You & Mee with intimate but spectacular Thai buffets and Asian noodles, much of the menu hard to find at other establishments.
The i.sawan Residential Spa & Club is a nice touch. Add to this a spoiling nail bar and hair salon. Expect a 25m freeform swimming pool with a teakwood deck and decent workouts at the fitness centre. The Residence is a hi-tech home-style meeting area most unlike the usual fare. This is a Muscle MICE hotel of choice and has been a Bangkok conference hotels favourite for long years. The 3,300sq m of function and ballroom space certainly helps, as does the central location close to two SkyTrain Stations - Chidlom, and Rajdamri. The Grand Ballroom can accommodate 1,500 persons. And The Campus, at the lower lobby level, offers 891sq m of function space. Bangkok weddings, banquets, corporate meetings or CEO chinwags - it's all possible at this well managed versatile address.
A hundred yards up the road is the elegant Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel (formerly Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok) close to the Rajadamri BTS SkyTrain station. The resemblance to the Peninsula Hong Kong is no coincidence. The property was originally built as a Peninsula complete with sweeping staircase and high ceiling lobby. Here, instead of the gilded ceiling, find intricate lobby murals, Thai motifs and swathes of rich fabric, all set off by signature bursts of long-stem flowers.
Classic Anantara Siam lobby, a riot of floral colours/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The lobby goes firmly for contemporary chic, sporting mood lights, mirrors, and flashes of electric silk. The afternoon tea tradition continues and those who wish to see and be seen casually wander in or can be spotted elegantly draped over the furnitur
This flagship Anantara that announced itself mid 2014, and rather quietly so, has been sprucing up its 354 spacious rooms, suites, and 'Garden Terrace' cabanas set to one side of the expansive lap pool, a splendid and lush in-city escape, though more overlooked now by adjoining highrises. Service is warm and welcoming.
In a new-look 42sq m Premier Room set around one of the open-top atrium courtyards to either side of the lobby, find a freshly minted pastel set-up in pale grey with a garnish of blue, silver, or gold. Expect flat tones, fabric walls and plain grey or cream headboards. Gone are the colourful Thai murals of yore, replaced by a contemporary look that is comfortable, functional, and roomy, if a tad bland. Expect a plump bed, perhaps a long navy blue sofa along the window with muted-tone cushions, purple orchids, small Thai prints of paintings and photographs that lend the space a homey feel, and a classic wood desk with glass top and a wicker chair.
WiFi is free and your laptop will fit comfortably into the electronic safe. By the desk are three local-style three-pin sockets (not multi-plug, so an adaptor will be necessary), and around the room are large cream lampshades with sensible dimmers. The colours may have been toned down but the 'gold' rooms (ask for the Premier Kasara) are more vibrant with ochre hues and cheerful yellows.
Anantara Siam new-look Premier Room/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Find the usual smorgasbord of goodies: flat screen TV with DVD player, down or hypoallergenic pillows, fluffy bathrobes, a marble toilet with power shower (hand held), a soaking tub, and bright mirror for all-hour preening. Irons are available upon request. The white ceiling cornice is a residual and appealing classic touch. A handy addition for business travellers is the introduction of HANDY smartphones in-room that guests can take out and make free local calls on.
The Kasara Lounge on the seventh floor serves guests on the executive floor with three private meetings rooms, canapes, evening drinks and refreshments. The lounge is open from 6am to 11pm daily with regular cocktail interludes. The Anantara Spa revives tired bodies with exotic unguents and potions while restaurants like Madison (steaks), Biscotti (Italian), and Spice Market take care of your calorie intake, in style.
Enjoy a drink at the hugely popular Aqua from where you can look up past the foliage and atrium courtyard to see real sky. It can get wet here when it rains, but it’s all part of the 'natural' charm. Don't forget the excellent sushi at the tatami-style Japanese restaurant, Shintaro.
The Anantara Siam is no slouch when it comes to top Bangkok conferences and meetings, and the ballroom can accommodate 1,000 cocktail style and 400 for a banquet. Several meeting rooms are available to manage events for 20 to 60 persons. This is a popular events venue with local Thai khunyings and royalty gracing this address periodically. In all, Anantara Siam offers a gracious slice of old Siam served up in a contemporary platter with crisp service. For Bangkok shoppers and art boffins, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mini store will satisfy esoteric cravings from Egyptian relics to silk scarves. The main store is on Wireless Road.
St Regis lobby with birdcage cheescakes/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Located nextdoor conveniently opposite the BTS SkyTrain station (and with a connecting covered bridge soon), the St Regis Bangkok (opened April 2011) soars upwards, a glinting, contemporary, grey, steel-and-glass tower. Walk in to find soaring ceilings, a quiet lobby on the 12th floor, darkly sleek interiors and, everywhere, stunning views from the bar, restaurants and swimming pool. Step through hushed corridors with grey carpets and white floral patterns past tall dark-wood doors. The tone is quiet, welcoming and understated, with none of the flash in-your-face mood-light distraction sweeping the city. The ensemble is regal and inviting.
In Late 2014 the newlook ground floor lobby got humming with the de rigueur marble floors, opened up visual space, and rich textured fabrics creating a cosy residential feel. This is a stylish yet informal area with an array of well thought out furniture for all sizes and shapes. There is better access to the restaurants and the highlight here is the fine teas menu - including the playful bubble tea from Taiwan - martinis, champagne, should you be in need of other bubbles, and a classic high tea with the added attraction of a selection of seven cheescakes served in an elegant birdcage. In all, it creates a stylish sense of arrival that was earlier missing.
On offer are 227 rooms and suites all with flat-screen LCD TVs, DVD players, signature St Regis beds, WiFi and wraparound city views through floor-to-ceiling windows that are splendidly welcoming of light. Butlers assigned to each floor manage everything from unpacking luggage to delivering the newspaper and drawing the shades. Now that’s service. Long-stay guests can check out the adjacent St Regis Residences.
St Regis suite with a view/ photo: hotel
The 50sq m Grand Deluxe Rooms serve up cool white marble flooring interspersed with dark wood in the bedroom area. The room is somewhat open plan with wooden sliding doors leading in to the bathing area. Expect twin vanities, classic work desk, flat laptop-friendly safe, a rain shower for those perk-me-up mornings, but no cumbersome iron and ironing board or coffee machine. That’s what butlers are for. But you can always ask for a set-up should you be independently inclined. Light switches are large and tactile and easy to figure out unlike at many other posh establishments.
Or splash out on a 250sq m Royal Suite with an unimpeded view of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and Lumpini Park. Find surround sound and a HUGE bathroom with a standalone pod bathtub for languorous après-shopping. A large vertical safe can house laptop, cameras and the in-laws at a pinch. The hotel will get three items of clothing pressed without the burden of fresh zeroes on your bill. Ubiquitous are the greys, blacks, copper and browns. The alfresco pool is breezy – and fittingly black, while the Elemis Spa offers a brighter space with virginal white treatment rooms for couples, rattan snuggle pods, and Jacuzzi and vitality pools on separate floors.
Just behind the Anantara Siam, admirably placed on 1 Soi Mahadlekluang off Rajdamri Road close by the BTS Station, is the new, easier-on-the-wallet Courtyard Bangkok (by Marriott). This is a smart stand-alone building with clean lines, and bright splashes of colour from the lobby to rooms. There is a single cafe MOMO on the groundfloor that doubles as breakfast (till 10.30am) and dinner venue and a mini mart for those 24-hour cravings. Rooms are chic and compact yet spacious enough, with bright bed-runners and flashes of pink and purple. WiFi is free. Staff is young, eager and attentive from front office to the cafe where loud cries of 'Good morning' will assail you as you enter and 'Bye bye kap' as you leave. Everyone seems hard at work from the ubiquitous general manager down to the doorman and this is what a hotel should be like, even at a lower price point. Full marks for staff training.
Courtyard Bangkok / photo: hotel
Expect a flat-screen TV with satellite hook-up, two multi-pin universal adaptor sockets (set sensibly upside down for Apple plugs), one more two-pin plug point, a safe that will manage a small notebook, a glass panel bath-and-bed divider, iron and ironing board, hair-drier with four settings and quite a punch, and a range of quality toiletries with cling-wrap soap usefully offering a tear-away strip. There is no rainshower but the power shower does a great job of scouring the back and a stone bench in the cubicle is a handy addition for the elderly or those suffering the effects of a Singha Beer meltdown. The Courtyard is a scaled down business hotel with friendly staff and handy flourishes like the tuk-tuk transfer to the BTS SkyTrain at Ratchadamri station next to St Regis. The Chidlom station close to the Grand Hyatt is a short stroll away too.
Just opposite on the same soi is the gleaming highrise of the Grande Centre Point Hotel & Residence, Ratchadamri. This is on a grander scale with larger rooms and more classical ornamentation. There's a swimming pool, fitness centre, spa, sauna, children's room, conference facilities and WiFi.
On the very next soi off Rajadamri around the corner from Anantara Siam Bangkok and well positioned for the BTS SkyTrain station is the Hansar Bangkok (opened late 2010). This is an interesting hotel with boutique flourishes and several design elements. Staff are friendly and the general ambience welcoming. The 18-floor building includes a hotel (floors 11-18) and residences. Walk up an imposing wooden staircase to the hotel lobby. Adorned with just overhanging creepers in the lower reaches, the grey building makes a simple statement and rises up around an open central atrium that lets in light, wind and, perhaps, rain if the Gods are unkind.
The chic, breezy pool, long enough for a workout, clings to the edge of the timbered patio on the eighth floor where you'll also find the fitness room and a spa.
Hansar suite/ photo: Verghese
The open corridors permit cool breezes to pass through unobstructed and you can peer down the vertiginous atrium as you proceed to your room walking on a simple rough chipped-stone corridor. In-room the decor is ramped up without losing sight of the simple design plan.
Expect timber and carpet underfoot, spoilingly large bathrooms with twin vanities, square terrazzo tubs, large plump beds, huge flatscreen TV with DVD player, mini-bar, electric cooking range (in some units), washing machine, kitchen sink, a large fridge and freezer, coffee facilities and free WiFi. The safe is laptop size. Studio Suites are 59sq m while Vertigo Suites offer 82sq m of stretch space, comfortable enough for longstays in Bangkok. Some rooms have balconies with sweeping views of the Polo Club. Ask for rooms ending in 07 and 05 for the best panoramas.
The cream 303-room Siam Kempinski Hotel opened mid-2010 in a quiet area right behind the throbbing Siam Paragon mall. Walk into a spacious high-ceiling lobby with tall glass windows, water features and soaring pillars in light cream tones. The gleaming lobby is welcoming of light. Expect crisp, discreet service and enough distraction on all sides – both human and art. This is a hotel on royal land and the srrounds are nothing less than royal.
The two wings – Garden, a resort-style block going up eighth floors, and the 17-floor Royal in a city-hotel style – enclose open manicured gardens and swimming pools that meander through the central area creating several private spaces within the generous commons. The hotel is grand and boasts art and artefacts but it is studiously understated with a friendly resort feel, heightened by the central lawns and water features.
The 80sq m Executive Suite is done up with contemporary décor. Expect a beige-wood floor with carpet, 42-inch flatscreen TV, WiFi, Internet keyboard for doodling on the TV screen, ordering food, or settling your bill; a Bose sound system, a large glass-top work desk, and lots of touchy-feely texture as in the faux-leather-clad cupboard.
Siam Kempinski's airy high ceiling lobby/ photo: Vijay Verghese
There are lots of plug points (two-pin) and a see-through glass wall leading the eye into the bathroom with its soaking tub. The Deluxe is 40sq m with similar facilities. Internet usage is free. Hurrah!
But you may have to cough up for seriously large downloads or faster speeds. The hotel has a 900sq m pillar-free ballroom and is well positioned to take a firm spot among the best Bangkok conference hotels despite some location niggles as it is hidden in the rear of the Siam Paragon shopping mall and exit is via car parks. The convenience of a mall next door cannot be overstated. This is a hotel for everything from small corporate meetings to lavish Bangkok weddings with several venues to pick from. While business services are excellent, this address works brilliantly for luxe leisure trippers, and the expanded 300sq m Kids' Club (early 2016) with wraparound views of the central pool courtyard, stuffed toys, games, karaoke, and even a cooking school for children, is a huge plus for families in search of a child-friendly retreat downtown. Also expect a gym, and spa treatments galore. Take your pick. This is a top Bangkok hotel that compares very well vs The St Regis or the The Oriental with much to recommend it. Its average room rates too are among the highest in the city.
The Amari Watergate Hotel is smack in the shopping district of Pratunam across the road from the World Trade Centre. It offers high-speed Internet in the rooms, a Clark Hatch fitness centre with squash courts and a good Executive Floor. The property is not walking distance from a SkyTrain stop but you can reach the Ratchathewi BTS Station by tuk-tuk or taxi in 10 minutes if the traffic is moving. And for geeks, there's the cut-price Pantip Plaza with all manner of computer gadgetry, nearby. The hotel has recently been bumped up to five stars.
From Accor, a member of the MGallery collection, is the VIE Hotel Bangkok with mod architecture and a chic contemporary style. The hotel accents European design flourishes aimed at a discerning set. Close by the Ratchathewi BTS station, VIE offers a spa, meeting facilities, and rooms starting at 38sq m with flat-screen TV, work desk, comfy chairs and bright silk bed-runners. It is not far from the shopping areas like MBK, Central World and Siam Paragon.
Sukosol Family Room/ photo: hotel
The Sukosol Bangkok (formerly the Siam City Hotel) is run by the indefatigable Sukosol singing family. The family has quite a colourful history and some of this has spilled over into the remake of this old address. The Sukosol is close to the Ratchathewi BTS station. It has been jazzed up considerably to offer a stylish getaway in a reasonably convenient location for business travellers as well as leisure travellers with spacious family rooms (in ochre or lavender hues) for those travelling with kids, a spa, expanded F&B outlets, and a ballroom for meetings, weddings or cocktails. This is a family-friendly hotel with a Mini VIP programme for children with welcome gifts, babysitters, and access to DVDs, baby tubs and bottle warmers. Family Rooms house two adults and two kids, comfortably, with room to spare. The BTS is within easy reach but taxis will take longer to trundle through these parts.
Near Victory Monument, the Pullman Bangkok King Power is an entertaining combine of business amenities, hi-tech and duty-free shopping all tossed into one chic hotel for New Age executives on the go. The King Power group runs a duty-free city outlet next door as well as the concessions at the airport. The 386-room Pullman Bangkok King Power offers a contemporary setting with four classes of room, all at one price, but with differing amenities. Expect interactive TVs, high-speed Broadband, and satellite channels by the yard in compact rooms with glassed bathrooms, as well as detailed meetings facilities.
The Pullman is very much a Bangkok MICE hotel. This, for the uninitiated, stands for “Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions”. The main ballroom can host over 1,000 people with several techie features to keep you connected. Guests on the Executive Floor get special use of the King Power Executive Lounge at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Centara CentralWorld, Globe/ photo: hotel
The imposing Centara Grand at CentralWorld – atop the gigantic shopping complex in the heart of Bangkok – is twinned with the Bangkok Convention Centre offering 10,000sq m of meeting space. The benefits of this for conference planners and those with corporate meetings on their diaries is obvious. The Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld combine creates one of the best Bangkok conference hotel options with quality facilities and ease of access with walkways to the BTS SkyTrain though the escalators can be a tad mischievous when plotting your route through the labyrinthine mall.
The Centara Grand offers 505 rooms, several luxury suites, a fitness centre with sauna, tennis, an open-air pool and of course, easy access to acres of shopping as well as cinemas. Of an evening pop up to enjoy stunning views from the rooftop urban-bistro Red Sky or from the late-night lounge Globe with its wraparound alfresco deck
Jaunty newcomer Hotel Muse Bangkok Lansuan (open September 2011) is on a quiet one-way street, a modestly daunting half kilometre walk from the Chidlom BTS station on Ploenchit Road. It is worth the stroll. The neat and functional exterior is modern and unobtrusive. A tall carved wooden door leads into a dark surreal world of whimsy and Euro-Baroque classical escape where the senses quicken under the relentless assault of oil paintings, elaborate frames, wrought iron balustrades and grilles, mosaic grey-tile floors, elegant lampshades and bursts of floral colour set off by laser-precise spotlights.
Despite the Dali-esque touches, it is actually a hushed and muted escape, the dark colours - predominantly black and brown - soothing the ensemble, and encouraging a perch on a comfortable brown leather sofa adorned with black cushions with silver thread weave. The low vaulted ceiling at the lobby will transport you to a Florentine wine cellar. There's Italian nibbles in the basement at Medici, a smart contemporary all-black Thai restaurant (Su Tha Ros) at the higher pool level, a Speakeasy bar, and a rooftop chill-out space featuring decadent but welcome alfresco air-conditioning.
Hotel Muse, lush Baroque/ photo: Verghese
Rooms start at 39sq m with dark wood parquet flooring in an attractive herringbone weave. It's not just a floor but part of the overall design statement. And it is this attention to detail that distinguishes Muse from other wannabe hipsters. The Muse Deluxe (also "Jatu", the first of seven levels of Heaven) serves up a flat-screen TV, set atop a tan leather wooden chest that mimics a travel suitcase of yore. Expect a see through glass bathroom with a signature white claw-foot bathtub, rain-shower cubicle, hairdryer, and oval mirror set in an ornate black frame. In-room there is a work desk, an iPod dock, digital clock, a comfortable divan, a Broadband cable, and multipin electric sockets.
A dark cherrywood headboard contrasts with the grey floral wallpaper and in the midst of this confection is an invitingly plump white bed. There is elbow room galore and in the wardrobe are a flat laptop safe, and an iron, and ironing board. The pool is small but attractive, set on a timbered patio that catches the rays and looks onto the city. Next door is the fitness centre.
With 174 rooms and suites, this hotel from Accor's M Gallery, has surprising heft despite the sense of intimacy. Like an over-talented, talkative, and attractive young lady, Muse - with its intriguing boutique flourishes and texture - will overwhelm some, but will appeal hugely to romantics who enjoy comfort, personalised service and something completely different.
The Bangkok boutique LUXX XL with 50 studios and suites, is minimalist in style with teak wood, slate and steel finishes. Floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies are standard, along with flatscreen TV, DVD, free WiFi, kitchenette and a “fun bathroom” concept, with open partitions. This is a popular choice among Bangkok boutique hotels and is also located on Langsuan road, which connects you to Central Chidlom/BTS Skytrain Chidlom Station on one end and to Lumpini Park/BTS Silom Station at the other. That said, it is still quite a hike from here to either spot so you'll need to flag a cab or motorcycle.
Luxx XL spaces/ photo: Vijay Verghese
Tucked away off the main road, a gravelled mini "drive" leads to a towering wooden door that leads to a cosy lobby with a small library. Walk through to a raised grey-stone pool that catches the sun in the back courtyard garden. In-room find timber floors and a plain but appealing Swedish-style set-up. Corner rooms have simple full-length grey drapes that pull away to let in a tsunami of light. Some offer the added lure of a small balcony. Expect a laptop-size safe, two lounging robes, and a work desk with just one two-pin socket. The Studio L is 47sq m while the regular Studio is a pleasant and well organised 33sq m.
A newer option near CentralWorld is the iCheck Inn Mayfair Pratunam (formerly Best Western Mayfair Suites). With only eight floors and 49 rooms, this hotel is a cosy choice, but offers all the amenities needed for business people on the go. Rooms come with high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TVs, dataports, mini-bar, trouser press, plus balconies. There is a restaurant, one bar, a small fitness centre, and a meeting room that holds up to eight people. Breakfast is included in the room rate, and there is a courtesy airport shuttle available.
Other mid-range options in the general area include the Indra Regent (in a particularly traffic-choked part of town), the busy tour-group Asia Hotel, the Arnoma Hotel Bangkok, and the 88-storey Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest building in Bangkok and boasting great rooftop views, and with rates that are creeping upwards. The former Sol Twin Towers has been renamed The Twin Towers Hotel Bangkok and is managed by the Spanish Sol Melia group. Its location, unfortunately, is neither here nor there and Siam Square, the nearest distraction, would be a good 20 minutes' walk.
Long and short-term stays are on offer at Anantara Baan Rajprasong. Its 97 serviced apartments are half an hour from the airport and mere footsteps away from the Ratchadamri Skytrain station and a 24-hour supermarket.
Silom and Sathorn Road Area
Dusit Thani Club room, bright and airy/ photo: hotel
The junction of Silom and Rama IV Roads is dominated by the spire of the 517-room Dusit Thani Bangkok, the grand dame of the "City of Angels". The flagship of the Thai-owned Dusit International group, the Dusit Thani is all polished marble and hushed interiors with good service and restaurants. The entrance is right next to the Sala Daeng BTS station as well as the underground, and the nightlife and restaurants of Convent Road and the throbbing Silom Road area are in the strolling neighbourhood.
The smartly refurbished hotel features a bright lobby (doing away with the all-pervasive black), luxurious Dusit Rooms, and an array of new dining and drinking venues including the top-floor 22 Kitchen & Bar for imaginative Pacific coastal menus with style and views to match. Need a chic all-glass loo with a view for a who-cares post-Singha unwind? This is the place. Elsewhere, sample Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese. For tired executives there's always the aromatic the Devarana Spa with its host of wellness treatments and back-soothing massage.
Deluxe Rooms weigh in at 30sq m, all with balconies - a rarity not just in Bangkok but anywhere - set against full-length sliding glass doors. You may even get in a view of Lumpini Park. Decor is classical with silk cushions and lots of beige and gold. A contemporary touch is the see-through glass partition leading to the washroom with Venetian blinds for privacy. A long wooden work desk is accompanied by a leather chair. The good news is fast in-room broadband and free hotel-wide WiFi for inhouse guests. Expect a not-too-large LCD TV (placed atop the long desk lintel), a classic clock, a laptop safe with electric socket, compact toilet with tub and weighing scales.
Opt for the bright and airy 60sq m Dusit Rooms in the main wing near the lobby. These are spacious and well kitted out with a living room section. The bathrooms are large and the decor is again classical in tan pastels and blond wood with a living room for entertaining. Find a larger flatscreen TV with a JBL sound system. Dusit Club rooms offer club amenities, butler services, private check-in and late checkout.
More upscale are the 80sq m Thai Heritage Suites with rich wooden parquet flooring, a four-seater table for dining, a large flat-screen TV, wood-panel walls and a large "window" looking into the master bath with its free-standing tub and bidet. Expect lots of carved wood and a sense of, well, the country's design heritage. The 35sq m Superior rooms are in a separate East Wing.
So Sofitel rooftop Park Society/ photo: hotel
Sofitel So Bangkok (opened May 2012) is an ultra-modern 30-storey touchy-feely themed hotel at the corner of Sathorn and Rama IV roads overlooking the broad and refreshing green swathe of Lumpini Park. The hotel serves up 238 rooms each with an Apple Mac Mini with entertainment and service functions, free mini-bar (no alcohol), and complimentary WiFi. In suites get an iPad too. A standard So Cosy room has absolutely nothing "standard" about it, from the stunning city skylines to the themed designs and sensual textures.
Pick cool water themes or woody tones. The So Comfy offers four theme designs - Water, Earth, Wood, Metal - while a So Club room ratchets up the pampering with access to the Club Signature.
Each room category is set around a small atrium with a convivial "meeting" point. A typical EARTH room comes in striking cobalt blue with primitive patterns on the wall including tribal motifs and playful monkeys. Round mirrors are set in the wall at various levels while a sliding door reveals a standalone bathtub set on a smart black-and-white chequered floor. The walls and tables flow in curves. This will please many and perhaps disorient some. Yet everything is inviting to the touch. You will find yourself reaching out to feel the various textures. The floor is black wood and an internet keyboard is paired with a large flat-screen television. The white desk undulates in a curve and a small Illy coffee machine is on hand for that red-eye awakening. There is a flat laptop-friendly safe as well. It is a playful ensemble. Tech-warriors be warned though, electric sockets are limited.
The WOOD rooms are angular, with clean straight lines and a strip-wood parquet flooring. Find black-and-white sketches on the walls and a rust-red sofa for a lie-down. The wooden walls add to the corporate feel in this contemporary space. METAL rooms on the other hand are served up in startling white with swirling metal clouds on the walls, a glass partition leading to the bathtub and a simple, inviting, airy feel. This is a room category that will appeal to almost all tastes with a clean design reminiscent of a home anywhere.
The pale-wood lobby is on the ninth floor and this is where the sensory touches begin. High ceilings, a mix of hip sofas, and beaming staff in short skirts and floral pattern blouses all racing to greet guests. Service is brisk and attentive. It's fun from the go. On the seventh floor Red Oven serves up a splendid buffet on rough-hewn wooden tables with signature crushed red ceramic drinking cups.
U Sathorn Deluxe, elegant/ photo: hotel
Dine indoors or outdoors. Sample Thai, Italian cold cuts or sizzling teppanyaki. The walk to the washroom is an adventure leading through darkened spaces where black-tile pools invite you to step in - a luxury denied by the carefully placed furniture. Spot golden sheep, pie-eyed chocolate dogs and assorted bric-a-brac. It will get your smile back for sure.
Sofitel So Bangkok also has stylish hi-tech meeting spaces with the ballroom hosting up to 250 persons. Eat, play, or meet, it's all there in this Bangkok hip hotels contender that is making its mark as urban lifestyle space with a difference. The latest buzz is in its 2016 relaunched 29th floor Park Society rooftop restaurant and bar where fab views and western palate ticklers await.
A surprise addition to the Sathorn area crowd is the quiet and alluring U Sathorn Bangkok (20 December, 2014), with 86 rooms parked down a residential side soi off Ngam Duphli. This promises to be a quiet colonial getaway with a starched white lowrise three-floor construct in a courtyard design with the 'arms' enclosing a garden and sun-dappled pool. In-room expect lots of clean white, pale charcoal walls, tan timber floors, and neat white furniture redolent of Bangkok's stately days of yore. The pool runs the length of the main building with its sloping shingle roof.
A Superior starts at 32sq m with Suites at 72sq m. Expect WiFi, flat-screen TV, coffee and tea-making facilities, minibar and all calls - local and international - at cost. This last item is a signature of the U brand along with the guarantee that you can enjoy your room a full 24 hours. Guests may also pre-order their choice of pillow, soap and tea for their stay. The plump white bed provides a quiet centrepiece for a classy room with its touches of Americana and Europe. The opening deal of Bt3,399 won't hurt either. Mark this down for a look-see if the neighbourhood works for your business or leisure trawl. Set in the South Sathorn zone but away from the main road traffic, there's access to Rama IV Road too for an airport escape via the highway.
Halfway up Silom heading towards the river, is the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G (formerly Sofitel Bangkok Silom). The 469-room hotel had a complete makeover and stormed back April 2012 with a hip new stride and immense lifestyle appeal that compensates in great measure for a location just a tad far from a BTS SkyTrain station (though Sala Daeng on Silom is a short hop down the road). Walk in past the New-York-red diner-style 25 Degrees burger bar, to a high ceiling virginal white lobby with a white brick wall behind reception and long gauze drapes on the other. Of an evening, candles glow and chill-out music plays, creating an intimate feel for slick metrosexuals on the move. Park on a white sofa, or a metal swing. It's a perfect spot for a vampire moment or a twirl across the floor. This trendy address will appeal to both holidaymakers and business travellers alike.
Pullman G white room/ photo: Verghese
The Executive Rooms have had a partial upgrade and sport wooden parquet flooring, corporate earth tones, pipe reading lights, a glass partition bathing area, and Wi-Fi. Others have been transformed completely into 36sq m "white" rooms with stressed white-wood flooring, white lamps, a plump white bed and, as a counterpoint, a black-and-white zebra painting and a grey snakeskin-pattern throw-rug. Expect free Wi-Fi, iPod dock, a white work table with a bowl of bright green apples, and an eye-catching textured champagne polka-dot bathroom with a bathtub and a separate hand-shower cubicle. The in-room safe can handle a small laptop comfortably.
Top-of-the-line are the Pullman G Suites with more rumpus room (also in white) with comfy sofas, stretch space galore, homey white-brick walls, plenty of texture to explore, and the GBox - a playful collection of oddities for women ranging from eye shadow and nail polish to condoms. There is a price tag for these items of course. Also find the customary bright green apples on stark white desks. The hotel offers a small pool, a fitness centre and a spa. More remarkable is the top-floor Scarlett wine bar and restaurant with a fine wraparound balcony, terrace seating alcoves and snuggeries and good views over the river and city. This is a happening spot. Stay for fine Italian. Or wander down to the mezzanine floor to Playground, the mixology bar. Corporate meetings can be handled in style at Ballroom 38 (for up to 350 people), cool and funky The Gallery (with 3D flooring), and smaller function spaces. Silom is of course a major city artery with shopping and offices and there is much within striding reach.
A very pleasant surprise on Silom is the new boutique hotel, Triple Two Silom. This 75-room place is intimate and bright, with funky décor and a garden courtyard area inside. Windows have slim wooden slats that enhance the appeal and the lifts feature large black-and-white photos. The rooms sport bright colours – cobalt blue sofas, crimson cushions – and come with a nice toilet. There's DVD, an inroom safe, and high-speed Internet in all rooms. A pleasant distraction is the splash of modern art along the corridors, which creates a residential, rather than hotel, atmosphere.
Glow Trinity Silom suite/ photo: hotel
Close by is an ageing Silom stalwart, the Narai Hotel. The place has a gleaming lobby, a bit out of place with the general musty atmosphere. The Narai is past its prime but works hard to please at the mid-range level and runs a packed ballroom. Bear in mind that accessing the airport expressway from the central Silom hotels involves negotiating traffic all the way to the head of the road before turning off on Mahesak Road.
A reincarnated budget establishment off Silom Soi 3 (50m from the Chong Nonsi BTS SkyTrain station albeit along a narrow one-way dug-up lane), is the Glow Trinity Hotel Silom. There are 104 rooms on seven floors at this "boutique-style" establishment. Walk into a small and somewhat haphazard lobby with a cluttered oddities shop in the middle but, usefully, a free PC Internet station in one corner. There are two restaurants at this level, Japanese, and the informal Foodie that serves an unusual menu of offbeat Thai along with the usual must-have mouth-on-fire fare.
Take a tiny lift up to your floor, exit a bright orange lift lobby and walk down dim grey corridors – Prison Break or modern advertising agency zen, take your pick – to your digs. Room numbers are marked in bold red on the carpet in front of your door so you can't miss the turn off no matter how fortified with Singha you may be. Step into your space and it is here that the hotel starts to really show its class.
Rooms are spacious, with the Deluxe starting at 32sq m. Find grey textured walls sharply offset by a large comfy white-linen bed. Daliesque wall-leaning giant black picture frames hold up one end of the room where you'll spot a black writing table and a TV. Also find a white chair, a lounging divan with orange cushions and bright white lamps. The contrast is striking and pleasing. A sliding panel will reveal a laptop safe and minibar. The toilet is compact but bright. The addition of a DVD player and iPod dock is a nice touch as is the free WiFi throughout the hotel. There are also two Junior Suites and two Executive Suites (the former perhaps outshining the exec setup).
Novotel Fenix Silom/ photo: hotel
The young and restless or the old and listless can step across to the street to the sister Trinity Complex to enjoy a vast outdoor pool, gym and beauty salon. The Trinity Complex also houses longstay residences. Glow is a useful address for leisure trippers or in-area businessmen travelling light.
Also check out the relatively cosy and stylish Luxx hotel close by the Silom intersection on Decho Road. The place has just 13 rooms and claims to be Bangkok's "best kept secret", a nice marketing line. Sister property Luxx XL is in Langsuan near Lumpini Park. More on this in the preceding "Central Bangkok" hotels section.
At the start of Silom, on Rama IV near the Sala Daeng BTS station is the new (1 January 2010) Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park. Formerly the Pan Pacific, this is a quietly confident 241-room property that will be positioned as a corporate hotel. The rooms run from the 21st floor up to the 32nd floor and this elevation moves guests away from the traffic and honks while at the same time prising open some generous views.
Towards the top of Silom is the evergreen Holiday Inn Silom (formerly a Crowne Plaza). The exterior has been painted a bright yellow. You can't miss it. The hotel is a short walk from the Surasak Station on Sathorn Road and is almost instantly accessible from the airport expressway. There is a Tower wing as well as a renovated old wing.
The safe is just about notebook size. Bear in mind the property can be quirky at times – the morning call may not arrive, the safe might jam, and the lobby will be milling with tour groups. While the hardware has upgraded considerably, much ground has been lost in the service and staff department. This is not entirely the hotel's fault. Large group dependent hotels tend to get overwhelmed from time to time and the Holiday Inn Silom is no exception.
Celadon Thai restaurant at The Sukhothai/ photo: hotel
Located in Surawongse Road not far from bustling Patpong is small 69-room The Siam Heritage boutique hotel furnished in the old Thai Lanna style. Internet is charged per day. There is no WiFi in the room. After hours try the Heritage Spa.
Farther up SIlom Road, the towering Le Bua at State Tower offers huge vistas over the Chao Phraya River and the city with enough room to swing a horse by the tail in its spacious suites that start at 66sq m. The decor is chic and minimalist and the Silom Road location offers quick access to the tollway and the airport. A BTS station is walking distance from here at Saphan Taksin. Inroom there's DVD, two flatscreen TVs, three-pin international plug sockets, a sitting room and bedroom, a large bright toilet, iron and ironing board, and a well-equipped kitchenette with toaster, microwave, coffee percolator and a "superbar" in a giant fridge. Disconcertingly, balconies tend to look onto one another but corner suites (two and three bedroom) enjoy greater privacy. Check out the alfresco rooftop Mediterranean Sirocco restaurant but hold on tight to the railings.
Opened late 2010, the 216-room Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom offers fairly quick access to the expressway as well as to offices and shopping, including some in the hotel’s retail area. It is just about walking distance to the BTS SkyTrain station at Surasak (on Sathorn Road) or Saphan Taksin. Expect bright décor with flashes of colour, flat-screen TV, data-port, in-room safe, espresso machine and Internet access (for a fee). The Premier Executive rooms are on the 19th and 20th floors offering open city views, breakfast, iPod dock, late checkout, and access to the seventh-floor executive lounge (close by the gym, spa centre and swimming pool).
A good slumming option in the vicinity is the clean but basic Silom Village Inn (part of the popular Silom Village cultural and restaurant complex). There's aircon, TV and a safe for around Bt1,300 a night. A steal. For Internet use the lobby computers. Around the corner on Suriwongse are two old mid-range chuggers, Manohra Hotel and New Trocadero Hotel.
Set a little away from the road, the Manohra Hotel is surprisingly clean, tidy and respectable. Reception is brisk and efficient. This is still a popular local haunt. The New Trocadero Hotel sports a great colonial grey-and-white exterior.
Hip Le Meridien lobby reflections/ photo: Vijay Verghese
It is however smack on the road, surrounded by coils of the ubiquitous black Bangkok electric cables, and can get a tad noisy. Inside is spartan with one sofa in the tiny lobby. Don't expect much by way of service or style but the rooms (ask for a "Small Room") start at just Bt800 – with aircon and TV.
Conveniently across the road from the nightlife hubbub of Patpong, The Montien Hotel Bangkok is always a good option. Service is occasionally efficient and rooms can be quite large depending on the wing. Ask for deluxe in the North Wing. This is BIG. There's a safe in the room and high-speed Internet is available. Staff are courteous and welcoming if a tad abstracted at times. Things chug along in a traditional manner. The hotel plans a major overhaul late 2016 on.
A hop and a step from here is the sparky, minimalist, Le Meridien Bangkok, a modern glass edifice sprouting from the roadside buzz looking over open city views to one side, and the nightlife district of Patpong on the other. Opened December 2008, this 282-room hostelry is uncompromisingly mod with an eye on art. There's no clutter, design lines are clean and straight, if stark, and dark corporate wood tones dominate punctuated by playful art and splashes of light. Walk into an open lobby under the nonchalant gaze of eternal rebel James Dean etched on the floor-to-ceiling glass window. Unsurprisingly, the hotel has proved popular with Japanese travellers looking for beds close to Thaniya, as well as Southeast Asians. This is a business hotel served straight up with a twist. Rooms range in size from 36sq m for a Standard to a tad more for a Vista Plus. Suites are generously portioned. Expect touchscreen phones, laptop-size safes, 32-inch flatscreen LCD TVs (42 inches in a suite), audiovisual dataport to hook up a computer or video, a long and somewhat slim work desk with two multi-pin three-hole sockets, electronically controlled blinds and curtains, and iron and compact ironing board.
Toilets feature black marble floors, sliding partitions that open onto the bedroom directly and rain showers plus bathtubs. Stand, sing, soak or plug into WiFi or cabled Broadband. The rooms are welcoming and well lit if sparse. The sixth floor hosts an outdoor pool that catches a healthy bit of sun, a 24-hour fitness centre, and a spa. This is a useful and very central address for corporates, shoppers and holiday trippers. While not directly on the BTS line, it is a short stroll through PAtpong to the Sala Daeng Station on Silom Road.
Stately Sukhothai Deluxe/ photo: hotel
Parallel to Silom, the major artery of Sathorn hosts a couple of top addresses. The Sukhothai Bangkok has long been our favourite on this strip, its brooding statues and minimalist silk, mirror and woody interiors attracting the discerning set. Expect excellent service all around with ready smiles. Staff is alert and attentive. Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Colonnade with a high quality selection of dishes from Thai to Japanese, sausage by the mile, fresh waffles, and some fantastic freshly-baked farm breads with that disappearing staple of any civilized wake-up call - creamy butter, served not in tiny plastic throwaways but in giant dollops to satisfyingly stick your knife into. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, at the lobby-fronting Salon sample the popular Chocolate Buffet from 2pm-5.30pm (Bt900) for what is an excellent high tea with innovative finger foods and a chocolate bar where you can mix and melt your favourite dark stuff into a steaming gooey cuppa. The afternoon spread is a bit light on chocolate but it's a treat by any reckoning. Still not sated? Pop by Thimian for some melt-in-the-mouth chocolate truffles.
Rooms in this low-rise retreat are set around green courtyards with lotus ponds, inviting walkways with benches set under shade trees amidst bursts of orange Ixora. Expect plain understated wooden doors opened by proximity sensors, leading into woody interiors that are at once hushed, calming and rich in texture. Timber floors are overlaid in part by rustic rugs. Silk fabric walls in tan and pale olive are interspersed with diamond-pattern wood panels and generous slabs of mirror. Lighting is subdued and, in place of the obligatory piped reading lights, find reassuringly old-fashioned bedside lamps (with lampshades). The pools of light help fashion an ambience that is classy, yet homey.
The large flat-screen television is set flush in a chic black glass wall with no protruding edges and this feature provides a contemporary tweak in an otherwise classic setting. Bathrooms are in black granite with a virginal white soaking tub, a Japanese warm-bottom potty to do your bidding at the press of a button, a large rain shower and a high pressure hand jet set in a dark black cubicle with thoughtfully ribbed slate underfoot to prevent any awkward soapy slip.
Banyan Tree, Vertigo/ photo: hotel
The bathing area is slathered in marble so you can check yourself out from just about every angle. Before sinking into your soft bed, pick from a pillow menu that includes memory foam, goosedown and herbal mixes. This is a hotel where design has been thought through and presented with a minimum of fuss.
Also find manicured gardens, water pools with ancient statuary, jazz, good Italian, excellent Thai food at the pond-setting Celadon, ample fitness facilities (with the Spa Botanica sanctuary for wellness escapes) and a swish alfresco pool area that is partially overlooked, alas. For a definitive, luxurious Thai statement, The Sukhothai is hard to beat. Mark it down as a heritage hotel for corporate meetings. There is thrumming gridlocked traffic peak times on Sathorn Road - separated by a tranquil green driveway - but for something truly Thai, you need get off the tourist track and dive into the real Bangkok.
Next door is the towering matchstick-slim Banyan Tree Bangkok which offers a terrific signature spa and the sweeping vistas of the 60th floor Chinese Bai Yun restaurant. Atop the entire edifice is the breezy rooftop eyrie, Vertigo bar and grill - and the younger Vertigo TOO, a chic indoor bar - all dishing out splendid views of the Bangkok skyline and the meandering sweeps of the Chao Phraya River. Just don't look down. The hotel gobbled up a few more floors from the host office block to increase its room inventory from 215 to 327. Rooms were smarly refurbished with additional categories like the one and two-bedroom Banyan Suites in their dark woods, silks and regal decor. Joining them by 2016 were the redesigned Serenity Club rooms in lighter contemporary pastels.
Turn off busy Sathorn into an easy-to-miss driveway right after Sukhothai to find the hotel set behind an office block. With no BTS Station nearby it is fitting the hotel bills itself as an urban resort, and it lives up to the moniker. A small low-ceiling lobby leads on to two banks of quiet elevators whisking guests up to their rooms with a view, for some, the single biggest reason to stay at this hotel, with the service on rails and friendly smiles, the icing on the cake.
Banyan Tree, new look Serenity Club/ photo: hotel
The new look Serenity Club Rooms between the 50th and 58th floors, offer a major departure from the otherwise sombre tones heavily favoured by Banyan Tree. Gone are the dark woods, to be replaced by pale woods, cream furniture, and deep comfy sofas. An etched tan carpet softens things underfoot while bright light streams in through white gauze curtains framed by heavier dark olive drapes. The work desk is in glass with an ergonomic chair. You'll find two three-pin multi-plug sockets by the side of the desk on the floor (but, unusually, not in a desktop data-port). There are two more three-pin sockets on one side of the bed with a digital clock, pipe reading lights, and dimmers for wall-mounted lamps. An attractive Thai painting holds the head wall offering a sense of place.
Continue through a pale wood dresser with light-on-the-eye wardrobes into a beige-white bathroom with tile walls, a soaking tub, vanity mirror, one long basin abd a power-shower cubicle. Also expect a weighing scale, iron and board, a smallish flat safe for a notebook or jewellery, and invitingly large sink-in metallic-olive cushions. It is an elegant, contemporary ensemble, that encourages guests to dip in (like at home) with a strong feminine touch. There are 50 Serenity Club rooms with access to the 19th floor black-and-cream lounge and business centre. This Club Lounge is truly vast. No cheek-by-jowl breakfast conversations here. On this floor are board rooms, meetings rooms and a business centre along with complimentary Internet access on hotel computers.WiFi is free at Banyan Tree Bangkok and an outdoor pool on the 21st floor awaits those in search of a good stretch apres-work.
This is a smart Bangkok business hotels choice though it is not convivially close to a BTS SkyTrain station and Sathorn traffic can stack up at peak times.
The third, and latest entrant, here is the chic Metropolitan Bangkok that has made waves since its opening. The reconverted YMCA looks nothing like its former backpack self and is now all minimalist colonial cream with crisp rectangular lines, dark wood panelling, sudden splashes of colour and funky bric-a-brac. Rooms are mod but comfortable with laptop-friendly safes. The suites offer free high-speed Internet, split-level accommodation and even a huggable white iMac computer with swivel screen.
Anantara Bangkok Riverside/ photo: hotel
There is a large, flat-screen Philips TV, a DVD player (in all rooms), a radio alarm clock, a twisty tube for piped light, and a yoga mat. Thoughtful! The business centre is claustrophobically small but funky with the obligatory 17-inch-screen iMacs. Yes, if you need a laptop, the hotel can provide iBooks at a small charge per day (with a deposit). For after-hours there's the Shambala Spa, plenty of organic food, and the trendy black-and-red Met bar with its myriad martinis. Plug-points are square three-pin.
None of these hotels is particularly close to the SkyTrain. On the opposite side of Sathorn is the Evergreen Laurel. This property is often billed as a five-star but tends to offer mid-range prices and service. The ibis Sathorn opened in September 2008 and is located in Soi Ngam Duphli, just off Sathorn Road in downtown Bangkok. It’s the third ibis hotel for the city, and its 213 basic rooms offer small work desks, flatscreen televisions, and separate bathrooms. Wireless (as well as wired) Internet access is available in rooms and public areas for Bt500 per day. There is a restaurant offering Thai-style tapas, as well as one bar. The hotel accepts pets.
Sleek and stylish, W Bangkok (soft opened late 2012) is a gleaming high-rise in the Sathorn area. A brief but convoluted stroll from the BTS Skytrain, this hyper modern, 407-room address is aimed at relatively young, well-heeled leisure and business travellers. Each room is outfitted with neon colours, tinted-glass wall separators, iPod docks, rain showers, deep soaking bathtubs and modern furniture, but WiFi will cost you Bt400 per day. A typical "Wonderful" room serves up upwards of 41sq m in muted pastels. Texture is abundant. Expect flat-screen TV, faux crocodile-skin black wall corners, dragon print bed covers and two large centre-piece gold "muay Thai" boxing glove cushions. A tablet console manages all electricals and a data-port is on hand for other plug-ins.
W Bangkok "Wonderful"/ photo: Verghese
Several thoughtfully arrayed electric sockets are to be found (three-pin multi) around the work desk and on either side of the bed. Charge all your gadgets in one go. A brown suede curtain shields the bathing area with its black-tile walls, rain shower, bathtub, and sensibly large mirror with framed lighting (that alas may prove a bit dim for close shaves and make-up). There is a top-loading laptop-friendly safe, an iron and ironing board and more.
The lively design continues into the striped corridors and the fluorescent Woobar at the ground floor lobby level, where the young and restless - and well dressed - sip hallucinogenic cocktails. The gym and outdoor pool are on the sixth floor. The pool is in the shape of an eye and from far above the illusion is exaggerated by use of lights to replicate a retina. This is a small fun pool and not your garden variety fast-lap calorie burner.
The colonial former Russian Embassy outside the hotel entrance is a heritage add-on to the otherwise unabashed bling design cocktail in the main tower featuring mood lights (lots of purple) and a flashing wall panel with blinking tuk-tuk lights. With an entrance on Sathorn Road, which gets hugely crowded at office peak times, taxis may be an occasional worry but the BTS access is a godsend. All in this is a fun playground for suits on steroids smack in the middle of a busy - and growing - office district.
Making its mark on the city skyline with two towers is Anantara Bangkok Sathorn, the group’s first city hotel. Open March 2011, this contemporary property is a short walk from Sathorn Road and has 425 rooms with balconies overlooking the city or river. For business or pleasure there’s a spa, kids’ club, infinity pool, conference facilities and free WiFi in public areas. The closest BTS SkyTrain Station is Chong Nonsi.
W Spectacular room/ photo: hotel
At the upper end of Sathorn Road is the Ascott Bangkok, a stately presence with roomy serviced apartments for those in search of a stretch-out Bangkok long stay hotel. There are 177 residences from studio to three-bedroom apartments all with modern kitchens, WiFi and more. Expect a fitness centre, pool, business centre and a playroom for kids. The same group also runs Somersets and affordable Citadines in various locations like Sukhumvit and Suanplu. The Somerset Lake Point offers private Bangkok serviced apartments on Soi 16 Sukhumvit, and the Thonglor property in a residential part of town, will offer access to Sukhumvit. Find Citadines along Sukhumvit in sois 8, 11, 16, and 23. Citadines Bangkok Sukhumvit 8 is a hi-tech retreat with a high-floor pool with open views. A complimentary tuk-tuk ride will get you to the nearest BTS SkyTrain Station at Nana.
Bangkok River Hotels
The svelte 32-storey 533-room Millennium Hilton Bangkok just across the river from the Royal Orchid Sheraton is a hip contender. It has to be, parked as it is farthest among the new crowd from the Saphan Taksin BTS SkyTrain station, on the once unfashionable "other" side of the Chao Phraya River. Chug upriver, and 10 minutes on the hotel's tiny boat will bring you to a pretty happening place. Head past the riverfront Flow restaurant straight up a glass lift, enjoying Cinemascope views of the river scene, to the 31st floor Executive Lounge with tightish seating but expansive views, and the informal alfresco "Rooftop Picnic" for a romantic sundowner with chillout music. Walk up one floor to more panoramas, from indoor this time, at the Three Sixty nightclub and jazz lounge. Public WiFi is free but it's charged in the rooms.
Millennium Hilton Bangkok/ photo: hotel
Deluxe Rooms at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok start at 34sq m with simple lines and muted earth-and-gold tones. The line of sight runs from the bath through a glass partition to the bedroom and on. Hit a button to lower the blinds though the less reticent may enjoy the view. All rooms look onto the river. The bathroom is neat and compact with a separate tub and a shower cubicle. In-room find a laptop-size safe, iron and ironing board, a small round-top dining table that doubles as a somewhat awkward work space, Broadband, a boxy TV and a one-touch "magic" button on the phone for all services. No more fiddling around to find housekeeping.
Sixteen new Delux Plus rooms have space for three persons. This came about by combining rooms to extend stretch space. Executive Rooms are similar in size and scheme but with the useful addition of a long work table set behind the bed's headrest and, of course, access to the Executive Lounge. Find a flat-screen TV, large wooden slats covering the bathroom glass partition, a high-back executive leather chair and a Jacuzzi bathtub.
A spa takes care of post-work stress while the health club and its arsenal of equipment helps work up a pretty decent sweat. The 30th floor is a hi-tech meetings area with meeting rooms. Two ballrooms cater for up to 900 guests while gourmets can enjoy speciality restaurants like the contemporary Thai "Maya" with performances by the Patravadi cultural group. This is a modern restaurant serving 13-course meals with a show from 7.30pm to 9.30pm (except Sundays).
At the farthest edge of the city beyond a great loop of the Chao Phraya River (yet just 30 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes by ferry to a BTS station) the Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa (formerly the Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa) is a splendid retreat. The resort is constructed around a riverfront pool set in an extensive garden area with 11 acres of stretch space and 10 restaurants and bars.
Shangri-La Deluxe/ photo: hotel
For pinstripers who wish to stay connected, there's high-speed Internet access and the lobby and public areas are wireless enabled. The rooms are airy and bright in earth tones and feature gleaming parquet flooring and balconies with nice open views. A nice touch here are the dinner cruises aboard the converted rice barge Manohra. For city introductions talk to the resident Streetwise Guru.
Right next to the Saphan Taksin BTS station is the twin ensemble of the Shangri-La Bangkok and its luxury Krungthep Wing that remains a popular business traveller preserve. The Krungthep Wing has its own pool and provides butlers for those unskilled in the art of unpacking. Need a bath menu? No problem. The Shangri-La was one of the first properties to truly exploit Bangkok’s riverside location with a tall glass-front lobby, and an extensive perky revamp has introduced fresh shine to the place. The new CHI spa offers river views and plenty of stretch-room and style (the Garden Suite is 107sq m) for the pursuit of holistic wellbeing. For those work inclined, in-room high-speed Internet costs around Bt642 per day. The pool area is attractive with gardens and a rejuvenated river promenade. NEXT2 is the next-gen riverside café at the Shang and it sets the place alight. Modern, chic, and happening, it is one of the new features catapulting this hotel into the new century.
Grab a longtail boat at the jetty and scream off down the river for a sunset cruise. The Krungthep Wing is for all intents a stand-alone hotel with hushed, darker, corporate interiors, deep red pillars in the lobby, and subdued lighting. The atrium lobby rises up fringed by greenery. Suites here have a steam iron and ironing board, DVD and river views. The old Shangri-La wing rooms offer a box TV, Thai-style wall mural, a curving glass wall separating the bed from bathroom, iPod connection, several three-pin plug sockets, and a HUGE safe. Expect an iron and ironing board. The new version of room unveiled in October 2009 and gradually rolling out, represents a sea change – modern and contemporary in dark pastel hues. The murals are gone, replaced by wood textures and fabric. And yes, the widescreen TVs are in. Shangri-La Apartments is a serviced executive-stay offering, a minute's walk from the SkyTrain.
Mandarin Oriental old and new/ photo: Verghese
In this area is where you'll find a discreet and historic address, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok. This top Bangkok riverside hotel has won more accolades than you can shake a stick at. It offers a charming colonial-style old wing as well as a tower section and a smartly refurbished lobby that reeks of understatement. It's all classic Thai silk. If your purse is up to it, splash out at the Joseph Conrad Suite. A succession of writers and assorted movers and shakers have passed through, some honoured with a hideaway named after them.
The corner John Le Carre Suite is accessed, as are all rooms, with a civilised non-beeping brass key, leading into an ornately classical living room featuring a glass cabinet with gleaming room-use chinaware and an innocuous but twinkling letter to the general manager from no less a personage than Le Carre who found himself a guest here in the mid-seventies while researching The Honourable Schoolboy. Through happenstance he found himself occupying the Somerset Maugham Suite and later at the bar, in the company of a friend, proceeded to entertain himself, aided by generous pourings of champagne, at the expense of an unfortunate British correspondent from a "lofty London newspaper". That correspondent turned vengeful book critic as Le Carre ruefully found out later. "How sobering to reflect that the Oriental can dispense correction to the overbearing as well as champagne to the thirsty," a chastened Le Carre concludes.
Despite the burden of heritage, with rooms spread out in three wings, Main (1976), Garden (1946) and the historic Author's enclave (1876), the hotel manages to maintain an intimate unsnobbish feel, equally welcoming of celebrities, pin-striped businessmen, and swooning couples. Suites serve up large living rooms with spacious sofas, silk bathrobes, Hermes products in gleaming loos, and cosy corner balconies to peruse the quotidian bustle along the snaking river.
Royal Orchid Sheraton/ photo: hotel
There are butler buttons in all rooms just in case you cannot pop open your latest designer LV suitcase and all rooms feature splendid idiot-proof metal aviator switches to operate lights and more. No irksome hi-tech wizardry here to keep you up into the wee hours trying to turn on the "do-not-disturb" light. No iron and ironing boards. That's so do-it-yourself plebian. And should you wish to light up, you can.
Superior and Deluxe Rooms offer similar if less lavish silken luxury with gold and beige colour tones, extraordinarily plump beds, classic round-dial clocks and deep-seating chairs meant to be actually sat in – large book in hand – rather than perched upon. Expect a DVD player and B&O sound system, multi-pin plugs at the work table, a huge vertical safe that will house a circus midget, twin vanities and a lavish marbled bath area with tub.
The Oriental Spa (across the river in an old Thai-style house) will handle any lingering post-conference stress while F&B options include Le Normandie, an old-world French Restaurant, the Sala Rim Nam (Thai) in a traditional pavilion across the river, Lord Jim's for seafood, the old-world Author's Lounge for daintily-sipped English afternoon tea and a riverfront cafe. If you must stay plugged, high-speed Internet costs around Bt642 per day. That scent by the way, is lemongrass ginger.
The Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers is another stalwart, excellently located for shopping. This robust and long-enduring property has a smart Executive Lounge with services to match, two outdoor pools and some quality restaurants including the popular Giorgio's for Italian. Need quick tailoring? Antiques? It's all there, close at hand. Rooms have been upgraded with pastel silks - and the obligatory panoramic river views. Suites feature giant safes which will hold a small bag, a notebook computer and the kitchen sink. A safe this size is a delightful exception in this age of nouvelle and micro.
Peninsula pool/ photo: hotel
Last but not least, across the river, opposite The Oriental, is the stately highrise of The Peninsula Bangkok. The hotel features dark wood panelling and muted tones. Rooms have spectacular river views and the top-line Theme Suites are equipped with brass telescopes enabling a closer peek at The Oriental and its occupants. There's drama, distraction and, everywhere, the hum of the river as commerce follows its course. Grand Deluxe rooms (on higher floors than the Deluxe category) offer a large flatscreen TV, DVD player, a media port with USB and iPod dock, and an elegant wooden work desk with an array of electric sockets, cables, and complimentary Internet access. A comprehensive control panel by the bed operates everything from curtains to the TV and the AC. There are fax machines in all the rooms so you're never that far away from the familiar whir of your boss's latest gripe or that stock market windfall.
Find twin vanities in the cream bathing area with his and her's washbasins in green marble, a small LCD screen at the foot of the bathtub, ample mirrors and a dressing table in the changing-room alcove with a powerful hairdrier affixed to the cabinet. Knock a grown man at 20 paces with this device or dry your hair, post spa, in seconds. Shoes can be placed in a small compartment at night and the butler will pick them up from the outside (without disturbing your beauty rest), returning them to the same location, brushed and shining by morning.
If there is a quibble, the in-room safe is on the small side. Park cameras and videos here or a really small notebook. However, in these rarefied environs, your laptop should be safe without a Fort Knox guarantee. An iron and ironing board can be requested at any time to battle wrinkles. Rooms average 46sq m so there is plenty of stretch space in addition to the well-thought-out design.
Balcony rooms are a tad smaller but offer similar grand views and a small step-out balcony. You will be overlooked from both sides but, once clad, this is a breezy eyrie. Grand Deluxe Suites offer huge river panoramas with comfy sofas and more stretch space. Laze by the pool that runs in steps along one side of the grounds all the way to the river. Spend time at the spectacular Peninsula Spa by ESPA set in an old reassembled teak house imported from the north, or enjoy water views fromt the River Cafe, the River Bar, or Thiptara that serves Thai cuisine.
The Siam River View Suite/ photo: Vijay Verghese
As a Bangkok conference hotels pick, The Pen scores high with over 7,500sq ft of meeting space and a good range of AV equipment. While The Peninsula Bangkok is a hedonist's dream with its fleet of Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz cars, and attracts a fair share of leisure trippers clutching Dior and Gucci, it is also an excellent Bangkok business hotel especially if you ensure your clients come to you on, well, the "other" side of the river.
Check-in can be conducted at The Peninsula Pier (close to The Shangri-La) before a ferry chugs you across the river. This is a hotel with a celebrity cachet where things are understated yet opulent.
Across the Chao Phraya River in not-too-far Nonthaburi is the garden-setting Ban Ing Nam Health Resort and Spa with a small selection of bungalows and herbal rooms. Expect a balcony, ceiling fans (there’s aircon too), satellite TV and DVD. On the fitness side choose from a broad menu of wellness, relaxation, fitness, diabetes reduction and cholesterol management. Also available are yoga, kayaking, fishing and walks.
The Siam (opened June 2012) is a stunningly tasteful creation from the Sukosol family that traces a long pedigree in both hoteliering and music. It has a creative old world diva DNA that runs throughout the establishment never quite interrupting the starched white low-rise colonial flow of the place, set in symmetrical art deco arrays (and layers). It is at once grand yet reticent, bold yet bashful. At very least it will take your breath away as you wander through the clean straight lines cast in elemental black and white, the minimalism highlighting the elegance of the decor, the soft lighting encouraging a wondrous exploration that will take you from a young Thai prince's vintage toy car and photographic memorabilia adorning walls and rooms, to exuberant collector poster art, stuffed crocodiles, and a tuba "cloud" (forming the ceiling of the bistro's upper floor). Walk along echoing white corridors with cool marble floors, around black rectangular ponds with flowing water, and through leafy arbours of frangipani, traveller's palm, heliconia, and other neatly arrayed fronds.
At the riverfront is the stately Chon Thai Restaurant set in three black stilted teakwood mansions which, in a different era, entertained the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Henry Ford. A small garden area faces the Chao Phya River and private pier, the verdant green offsetting the black trim of boardwalk and walkway. Also set in neighbouring gardens is a narrow, deep cobalt pool next to the Bathers' Bar.
The Siam, colonial charm/ photo: hotel
There are three room categories here starting with the "entry level" Siam Suites that weigh in with 80sq m of stretch space to accommodate all the Louis Vuitton luggage you could throw at it. View the historic family photos at the entrance and step back in time to a gracious foyer cum living room (remember those?) with two elegant arm chairs facing a flat-screen television. The floor is dark teak and cool to the touch. The bedroom serves up an invitingly plump white bed as a centerpiece (with silver chequered cushions) inviting guests to walk around past the desk along its rear (with a dataport and three three-pin multi-plug sockets) to a spacious and bright bathing area with twin silver washbasins, a classic black-seat potty, rain shower, and bathtub set next to scenic windows. Expect high bedroom ceilings and long white drapes with black trim. WiFi is complimentary, though it would be a trifle with prices starting around Bt12,000. The 100sq m River View Suites are brighter and set higher in the building with rich-wood floors, deep purple settees, large switches and the same working desk and dataport array.
Set farther down towards the riverside are the 230sq m Pool Villas with a small alfresco courtyard and black-stone plunge pool leading into the split-level bedroom bedecked in immaculate black and white. You could have fallen into a Dior model's handbag. You'll find flat top-loading laptop-friendly safes in all rooms and complimentary Nancy Chandler hand-drawn maps of Bangkok. A nice touch this. Enjoy music memorabilia, watch old Siam clips in the Screening Room, pamper yourself at the spa, or sip sundowners splayed out on a dentist chair.
The Siam is a place for whimsy and sheer escape, far from the thrum of the city and, indeed, far from any quick way in or out. This could be more than a minor niggle for some. It is a hard to find place and with good reason.
Sala Rattanakosin Bangkok/ photo: hotel
It strives to recreate the essence of old Bangkok, the antithesis of Sukhumvit gridlock. You'll be snug as a honeymooner but you would struggle as a pinstriper.
Yet, for a CEO chinwag, this is an admirable location with a 22-seat boardroom for that special confab or small corporate meeting. Asian taipans will, and regularly do, check in. The boat shuttle to Saphan Taksin Bridge and the BTS station is a 40 minute ride while a taxi ride to the Piyathai BTS SkyTrain station is around 15 minutes.
Launched May 2013 with just 17 rooms, the Sala Rattanakosin Bangkok offers a great many water views from the less ruffled eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River. It is a quixotic construct, rather like a doll's house with several seemingly throw-together bits that eventually fall into place - once you find the place. The unmarked and minimally signposted hotel is a short walk from the Grand Palace pier, which is partially submerged during monsoon months, but fear not. The planks will hold. Take a tuk-tuk or stroll, map in hand, through warehouses stacked with rice and beer to find the spot in a modest side alley. It is easy to miss.
Step in and it's an altogether different experience with scuffed wood floors, rough brick walls, tall glass windows and charcoal black walls that beckon you into the gloom, lit up by pinpricks of light. Sample the breeze and roar of long-tail boats riverside facing Wat Arun, grab a bite at the second-floor cafe, or luxuriate in rooftop views from the fifth-floor rooftop bar. Spot both the Grand Palace and Wat Po from your perch as well as a collection of television aerials.
This is Bangkok at its most rustic and serene. It's worth the disorienting climb up three sets of corkscrew staircases, pretty much in the dark. This Bangkok boutique hotel serves up spartan chic without in-your-face fuss. In-room expect a metal washbasin as soon as you enter and a shower with a wraparound curtain. Charcoal rooms run long past a raised plinth (and the bed) that faces a large flat screen TV, DVD and more.
Best Western Plus Wanda suite/ photo: hotel
Expect iPod docks, rain showers, king-size beds and the usual toilet impedimenta from hairdryers to aromatic body wash. Sala Rattanakosin is for a younger set set with strong nerves, good maps, and a sense of mischief. The hotel experience is thoroughly homegrown and organic. It will delight many and dismay a simpering few.
Not far from here, also on the river, is Riva Surya with its signature wooden-shutter windows in neat rows like a picture out of a schoolgirl's drawing book. Expect mod interiors with flat-screen TVs, silk lampshades, rocking chairs, BIG river views and faux antique bathrooms. Some rooms have balconies and the hotel provides a swimming pool.
Chatuchak, Chaengwattana, Don Muang area, Chinatown, Airport ...
At Chaengwattana in North Bangkok 11km from Don Muang and right across from a Central department store, is the Best Western Plus Wanda Grand Hotel (not to be confused with the Wanda chain from China) that opened May 2016. This brisk 183-room high-rise offers access to conference and MICE centres and pitches not only business travellers and the meetings-bound but also guests shopping for Bangkok longstay hotels with products like its spacious 88sq m Two Bedroom Suite. With a few silken touches and wooden floors, the design is modern Thai, minimal, simple, uncluttered, and with clean visual lines.
Expect large flatscreen televisions, complimentary WiFi, international electric sockets, cream marble bathrooms, pale beige wall panels, and red and blue cushions and bright art splashes to complete the ensemble. A Superior King room weighs in at 30sq m. The overall feel is neat and contemporary. The hotel serves up eight meeting rooms and the 926sq m Wanda Grand Ballroom that can host up to 900 for a cocktail at a pinch. Apres-work there is an outdoor pool area, a spacious fitness centre, and all-day dining at the ground-floor Vivanda. This is not a downtown hotel by any means but is well positioned for out-of-town business and conferences.
Centara Lad Prao suite/ photo: Vijay Verghese
The Centara Grand at Central Plaza Lad Prao Bangkok (formerly Sofitel Centara Grand Bangkok), is farther out on the old airport highway near Lad Prao (Chatuchak) with good convention facilities and a huge spread of shopping right at its doorstep. The latest iteration of this long-serving property is mod, cubist and Zen with clean lines and a brisk corporate feel. Walk into the lobby to spot lots of black marble, dark wood, and mirror inlay pillars.
The location close to Chatuchak market is always a draw and nearby parks afford the luxury of bike tours on well marked trails. Big spenders might opt for the spacious Plaza Suite with three separate chambers starting with a living room equipped with sofas, light-wood floors, and a wall-mounted flat-screen TV. Next comes the dining hall followed by a carpeted bedroom with an open plan bathing area (there is a sliding door), flat-screen television, laptop safe, in muted dark olive-grey surrounds. Expect a round bathtub, a rain shower, twin vanities and weighing scale. Do consider this address for a value corporate meeting or general MICE event.
Meanwhile back in town at 479 Yaowaraj in Chinatown you'll stumble upon the charming Shanghai Mansion (formerly Shanghai Inn) run by the trendy Burasari group. This is a bright Susie-Wong-Goes-To-Paris sort of place in an original period building with lots of flair and colour. The inn is a 15 minute walk from Hua Lampong train station. Shanghai Inn offers 55 delightful "Chinoise" rooms, all with aircon, free Wireless Internet, mini-bar and cable TV. This is a four-star Bangkok boutique hotel that is definitely worth a look if a Silom-Sukhumvit location is not a prime concern.
Off Phaholyothin Road and near a BTS SkyTrain station is the re-established "art hotel" Reflections where no two rooms look the same. Opt for nutty rabbit kiddy decor, trendy grafitti, or something contemporary. Or opt for the LOVE room. Various designers have worked on the interiors of each room and the hotel website offers a quaint "walk-in" concept with each clickable door image leading into that particular room with details about the designer and concept. A fun place and with a quirky and colourful spa to boot.
Bright Shanghai Mansion room/ photo: hotel
With the departure of the international airport to Suvarnabhumi, the Amari Don Muang Bangkok has positioned itself as a conference and meetings venue far enough out of the city for that getaway feel, yet close enough to access with ease. This is an old 'block' of a hotel that cannot change the extrior but it runs briskly and cheerfully enough inside.
Right across from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport is the 612-room Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport. This is a four-star property with all the advantanges of youth and vigour. Add to that two bars, four restaurants and conferencing facilities for those in a rush and you have a reasonable bag of surprises. In-room expect startling whites and bright cushions. A good pit-stop for the family and kids. And that's the long and short of Bangkok hotles.
FAST FACTS / Hotel Contact List
The exchange rate is roughly, US$1= 35.19 baht. The worst rates are at five-star hotels, the best at bank exchange counters in tourist areas. Service charge is 10 percent and government tax will apply. Any prices listed here are a rough online guide to the Best Available Rates (BAR) for comparison purposes. Rates from travel agents or from hotel websites, will vary. Prices also change depending on the season and room occupancies. If you need a detailed map to delve into the streets and alleys, buy a Periplus Bangkok Street Atlas that zooms into metro areas with an easy to follow grid. It's a hefty companion but useful.
Low season boutique budget rates could start from Bt2,000 (or lower) rising to Bt3,500 at mid-level four-stars and climbing to Bt7,000+ rates at the luxury end of the scale.
Sukhumvit Road Area, Asoke, Rachadapisek
Rembrandt Family Room/ photo: hotel
Aloft Bangkok - Sukhumvit 11. Tel: [66-2] 207-7000, (www.starwoodhotels.com/alofthotels).
Central Bangkok Hotels
Anantara Baan Rajprasong Bangkok. Tel: [66-2] 264-6464, fax: 2264-6465, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.rajprasong-bangkok.anantara.com).
Central Bangkok Mid Range
Arnoma Hotel Bangkok. (e-mail: email@example.com or www.arnoma.com).
Silom, Suriwongse and Sathorn
Anantara Bangkok Sathorn. Tel: [66-2] 210-9000, fax: 210-9001 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or bangkok-sathorn.anantara.com).
Bangkok River Hotels
Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa. Tel: [66-2] 476-0022, fax: 476-1120, (e-mail: email@example.com or bangkok-riverside.anantara.com/).
Chatuchak, Lad Prao, Chaengwattana, Don Muang old airport
Amari Don Muang Bangkok. Tel: [66-2] 566-1020, fax: 566-1941, (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.amari.com).
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