Bangkok Travel Guide
Riverside room in the Krungthep Wing
Like Los Angeles, Bangkok is a city that seems to go on forever, sprawling out over a total area of over 600 square miles. This means that there’s no shortage of hotels and no shortage of neighborhoods. But if you’re looking for the finest lodging in the city, it doesn’t get much better than the Shangri-La.
Although its location puts you well outside the city center and quite far from many of the attractions (such as the Grand Palace), cheap taxis, nearby river taxi and public transit stops allow guests to maintain their mobility while indulging in the five-star comfort of the Shangri-La. We don’t need to say much more in that sense – the Shangri-La’s reputation for luxury definitely precedes it – but given that the property in Bangkok has two separate wings with two separate entrances, you might be wondering which is the best room to book.
It’s no secret Thailand’s tourism industry is suffering from the events of the past few months, with one of our last visits showing hotels noticeably quieter than we’re used to. One hotel seems to be doing fine though, thank you very much: the Novotel Bangkok Airport.
While we’ve appreciated its 24-hour flexi policy (meaning no matter the time you check in, you have your room for 24 hours), and have overlooked somewhat high rates for Bangkok in the past for both this and its convenience being next to Suvarnabhumi’s terminal, the hotel’s rates now really seem from a completely different city.
We recently paid around 7,000THB ($225) for a night in the hotel, booking well in advance, and saw rates creeping towards $250 and up later on – more than a room in town at hotels like the The Peninsula, the St. Regis, or Sofitel So.
Back in January, we got in a cab in front of our hotel and took it across town. A few minutes after arriving at our destination, we realized that our phone was no longer in our pocket and had fallen out in the cab. What ensued next was about an hour of panic and scrambling, calling the cab company and trying to get in contact with the driver. Because we didn't have the cab number, we were completely out of luck, never able to get in touch with the driver to see if the phone was still there in the back seat.
It was an experience that happens to the best of us when traveling, and it was obviously not something to blame on anyone else. But this week, a simple gesture by a hotel helped to make sure it didn't happen again. We bunked up at the Shangri-La in Bangkok, and every time we hopped in a cab, the bellman handed us a little card with all our cab's information on it. Luckily, we never had to use it, but we thought it was a really solid move, and one that would be a lifesaver if we forgot something in a cab. It would have certainly helped us back in January.
A lot has happened since we last wrote about the situation in Bangkok. Back in January, we looked at how hotels were impacted by the anti-government protests; fast forward five months and one regime change later and the headlines about whether it is safe or not to visit Thailand continue.
We just had a brief stop in the city last week and here’s what we found:
- Hotels continue to operate as normal, though it was much quieter than we’re used to – official figures aren’t available, but visitor numbers and occupancy are down.
- Life seems to continue as normal as well; if you hadn’t known about the events of the past few months, you probably wouldn’t notice anything at all in most places.
Hotel Club Lounges / Hotel Renovations / Grand Hyatt Hotels / Hyatt Hotels / Luxury Hotels / Bangkok Hotels / Thailand Hotels / → All Tags
Over on Jaunted, you can get our inside looks at some of the world’s best airline lounges, so we thought we’d do something similar here and start talking about some of the hotel lounges we’ve frequented for our series on Hotel Club Lounges. Today, we're having a look inside the recently renovated Grand Club Lounge at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, Thailand.
While the mixed-use complex that will eventually house the Park Hyatt Bangkok is still going up, the Tony Chi-led renovations at sister hotel Grand Hyatt Erawan are now complete, including the 17th floor Grand Club lounge facing Radjadamri Road.
A small number of rooms are located on the same floor, but if you have access to the Grand Club, it’s worth seeing whether you can get one – if not there – on floors 16 or 18. These are connected to the 17th by a staircase, which beats taking the elevator up and down. We loved some of the artwork on display, like the sculpture above at the entrance.
If that headline implies hope of an opening date for The Bangkok Edition itself being around the corner, we’re going to ruin it for you straight away: looking at the state of construction at the Mahanakhon Tower – see below for further photos – we’ll say it will be at the very least the 2016 that Edition Hotels itself currently lists on its website before that happens, if not a bit closer to a decade after we first looked at the crazy-cool development (Jenga!).
That hasn’t stopped Dean & Deluca from opening in early March though, and if the crowd we saw here this past weekend is anything to go by, the urban Bangkok set is all over the barista-crafted lattes and $11 ham & cheese sandwiches. If you’re looking for the affordable Bangkok, you certainly won’t find it here.
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Having had such major openings recently as Sofitel So and W, Bangkok continues apace with new hotels over the next few years, from a Rosewood and a Capella to no less than three Hyatts (Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Hyatt Place).
The Park Hyatt will arrive first, scheduled to open next year in a mixed-use building on Ploenchit Road. While completion is still a while away, you can just about start to make out the “twisted coil” architecture that will give the building its distinctive shape. The white skeleton you see peeking out above the exterior cladding on the left swoops up into the tower element that will eventually house 173 rooms and 49 suites. Check out the rendering below to get a better sense of the end result.
Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok
You will have likely seen the recent news coverage of ongoing unrest and anti-government protests in Bangkok, including the state of emergency declared last week. The Thai capital is one of the coolest cities in Asia, and a crazy good destination for awesome hotels at great prices, so it's always been on our list of places we recommend going to.
But what about now? How does the current situation impact Bangkok hotels and how are they dealing with it? We reached out to a few to see what’s what.
First of all, both Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Muang Airport (DMK) are open as normal, and the government has opened Tourist’s Friend Centers at both and key places in town to offer support to travelers.
The airport rail link, BTS Skytrain and MTR public transport are up and running; they will also be less impacted by traffic and potential road closures. All major tourist attractions (the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Temple of Dawn) are also open.
Thailand may be famous for its gorgeous silk (among many other things), but a key figure that is credited with saving the silk industry from extinction is actually from the good ol’ USA: Jim Thompson, an American businessman with a rather interesting life story, complete with a still unsolved disappearance in 1967.
His Bangkok home is an enduring tourist attraction, and you’ll find references to his life and eponymous company around the city. One such place is the Four Seasons Bangkok, where – aside from beautiful silk murals anyone can admire in the lobby – there is the swanky Jim Thompson Explorer Suite, spreading over 2,000 square feet with head-on views of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club across the street.
Sweet Suites / Hotel Spas / Bangkok Hotels / Hyatt Hotels / Grand Hyatt Hotels / Thailand Hotels / Hotel Renovations / → All Tags
Bangkok has many fantastic hotels, both historic and brand-spanking new, that are reasonably affordable by many other cities’ standards. We’ve told you Hyatt is showing the city some love the next few years, with a Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Hyatt Place all popping up to give the existing Grand Hyatt Erawan some company.
All that hotel newness nearby (the Park Hyatt is literally around the corner) means the Erawan has been getting busy redoing its 380 rooms and suites to keep up. The second phase of the revamp will be done later this year (more on that in a second), but make your way up to the 5th floor i.sawan spa, wander outside past the pool and you will find something unexpected: a small garden courtyard with a cluster of resort-like spa cottages in the middle of the frenetic city.
HotelChatter Reviews / Thailand Hotels / Bangkok Hotels / Sofitel So Hotels / Hotel Bars / Sofitel Hotels / → All Tags
So Worth It? A HotelChatter Review
After giving you a peek at the hotel couture the Sofitel So Bangkok serves up with their uniforms, now we can reveal the full details of the property, and we have to say, this Sofitel is a doozy. Allow us to break it down for you:
Lobby Layout: The main lobby is located on the ninth floor and after being a bit confused how everything worked, we finally walked into a large room with a giant wooden slab reception desk and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lumphini Park. With plenty of cozy seating, the lobby doubled as the bar featuring bespoke cocktails in a super chic lounge setting.
Check-in: Keeping up with current trend of having a seat while checking-in, we settled into one of the plush sofas and sipped our welcome drink of lemongrass and cucumber while handing over our passport and credit card for incidentals. The process was speedy and efficient and still warm and welcoming.
There's no question we were enamored with all of the shiny objects the W Bangkok had to offer us from the moment we stepped foot into gem-toned guest room. The one thing that managed to take us away from the glitz and glam trance was on the bedside table. No, it wasn't the notepad and pen, it was their high-tech wireless tablet that's like a little handheld butler.
The tablet, tempting us with the message, "Do what you want, I'm yours" couldn't get into our hands fast enough. After a few minutes we were trying out all the different settings from the do-not-disturb sign to the climate control and even the preset lighting option; all right from the comfort of our dragon-emblazoned bed.