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Tuesday 3 April 2012

Beds in Bangkok

It all started one Sunday evening in June 2008.  London was in the throes of a heat wave, and we'd taken full advantage of that by spending all day drinking Pimms in a little suntrap of a beer garden in Clapham.  I'd met some people that day who, like me were lawyers, but unlike me, worked in Hong Kong.  They'd decided to swap the Tube and Tescos for Dim Sum and weekends on boats and they hadn't looked back.  They were back in London visiting family and friends but they were shortly jetting back off to Asia to drink jelly shots in Lang Kwai Fong and spend the next day recovering on Southbay Beach.  I liked the sound of this.  After a couple more Pimms soaked hours and a tray of Tequilas at 1am I liked the sound of it even more.

So when the next day (well, technically the same day as the tequilas were consumed) I rolled into the weekly Monday morning meeting at work and it was announced that the Hong Kong office were recruiting, it seemed that fate had taken over.  Within a few hours, it was all decided, I was off to Hong Kong on a two year secondment.  It was definitely still the tequila talking but who could argue with a coincidence like that?

The thing is, I'd never been to Hong Kong.  I hadn't actually been to Asia.  But it would be fine.  Wouldn't it...?

Well three and a bit years on and yes, I can confirm, it's more than fine.  It's fantastic.  I love Hong Kong and I I'll be eternally grateful to Tequila for giving me the push that I needed.

But what's all of that got to do with Bangkok?  Well, after the big move and getting myself settled and sorted in my new home, my first foray into the world of adventuring around Asia was to pack up a suitcase and head off on an island hopping trip around Thailand.  And of course the gateway to Thailand is Bangkok.  So it was in Bangkok that I began and ended my first real holiday in Asia.  And since those two weeks of beaches and full moon parties sandwiched between two weekend slices of Bangkok, I've been a little obsessed with the Thai Capital.  I've been back five times and definitely plan to spend many future happy weekends there eating pad thai and snapping up bargains at the weekend market.

So, I thought I'd give you the lowdown on my favourite places to sleep in Bangkok.  My favourite places to eat, drink and shop will follow when I've next had a dull day and am feeling in particular need of a bit of Siam reminiscing...

The Metropolitan
The Metropolitan is where I stayed that very first weekend in Bangkok and for that reason alone would always be a favourite.  Having said that, with its sleek, cool, minimalist design, impeccable service and to die for breakfasts, there are lots of reasons for everyone to make this a favourite.  With room rates for the City Room regularly coming in at under HKD1,000/ GBP 80, this is a bit of a bargain option too.

Situated in Sathorn, it's just a short taxi journey (even in the legendary Bangkok traffic) from most of my top Bangkok restaurants, bars and clubs. It's also just round the corner from the Skytrain which can be a great way to navigate the busy city for sightseeing and shopping in the day as you avoid that nightmare traffic.

We opted for a City Room which has everything you need but is fairly compact (if you're a couple and here for longer than a night, I'd suggest opting for a higher grade of room to give yourself a bit more space).  The room, like the rest of the hotel, is decorated in a neutral palette of taupes and creams with teak wood furniture; very zen and calming.  Elements of the rooms are a little dated and the view from our room was of the backs of ugly buildings but let's face it, you're not in Bangkok to sit in your room looking out of the window and I'm sure both of these things would be cured by shelling out a little bit more for a slightly better room.

The service is excellent.  The staff are clad in sleek, black uniforms and glide around catering to your every whim and need.  Want a club sandwich and a chick flick at 4am after you get in from a particularly raucous girls' night?  They'll sort it.  Want to know whether your sightseeing itinerary is realistic?  They'll go through it with you and suggest a couple of non-guidebook options.

And if you're not really feeling like exploring the city, the Met has a small rectangular pool with a few comfy sunbeds scattered around the edge that was never busy during the whole of our stay - the perfect place to catch a bit of sun while devouring the mandatory Thailand reading matter, The Beach.

Last but not least, the Met breakfast deserves a very special mention.  Nab a table outside by the pool and make sure that you come hungry.  The breakfast buffet is laden with pastries, exotic fruits, yoghurt studded with passion fruit and blueberries, freshly baked breads and every jam imaginable.  And then you order your hot dish which is cooked to order and huge.  After gobbling up every last delicious mouthful we were rendered good for nothing but lying like beached whales around the pool for a couple of hours.  You have been warned...

Metropolitan Bangkok
27 South Sathorn Road
Bangkok 10120

+66 (0)2 625 3333

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The Sukhothai
Sandwiched between the Metropolitan and the Banyan Tree, the Sukhothai is also in Sathorn in a great location for enjoying all of Bangkok's top night spots.  The hotel combines traditional Thai decor with sleek, modern touches creating a general feeling of opulence and luxury.  The Sukhothai's pool is stellar and is reason enough to have me checking in time and time again (or dare I say it, sneaking in for the afternoon if I'm staying somewhere else).

Rooms here are around twice the price of the Metropolitan but they're also twice the size (or at least feel that way).  If the Metropolitan's Kate Moss, the Sukhothai's Dita von Teese; all seductive Thai silks in rich, warm tones with curves and cushions.  Again, there are elements of the Sukhothai which feel ever so slightly dated, in particular the bathrooms which are a little bit Dynasty with an abundance of black marble and mirrored surfaces.

I was too lazy during my stay at the Sukhothai to make it down to breakfast but having eaten at the poolside restaurant a couple of times and having brunched at the Colonnade (an experience which will no doubt receive its very own blog post in the future) I can confirm that the food here is outstanding (there's also a fine dining Italian restaurant, La Scala, and a widely praised Thai restaurant, Celadon).

The pool is the real star of the show here though.  Huge and flanked by plenty of loungers, beanbags, arm chairs and day beds, the pool is not only a suntrap (which can be rare in the skyscrapered city) but also a place to see and be seen.  Indulge in some hardcore people watching while the staff scurry to lay out your towel at your chosen spot, bring you a water spritzer in a little ice-bucket (for cooling of when the Bangkok sun gets too much) and delicious slush puppy style mango cocktails.  A true oasis right in the centre of an urban jungle.

The Sukhothai Bangkok
13/3 South Sathorn Road, 
Bangkok 10120, 
Tel: +66 (0) 2344 8888

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The Eugenia
As you may gather from the number of photos that follow, I'm a bit of a fan of the Eugenia... in fact I'd go so far as to say that this is my top pick of all the hotels that I've stayed at in Bangkok.  Their tagline, "it's not a hotel, it's a home" may sound like a gimmick but as you pass the Rolls Royces parked on the forecourt and step into the quirky lobby complete with a zebra skin rug, chesterfield armchairs and wall-mounted deer heads, you can't help but feel as though you're entering a crazy but cosy old Colonial home.

You're welcomed by leisurely being shown out to the fenced courtyard at the back of the late-19th Century house where you're seated in a wooden Thai sala by the small emerald swimming pool and served fresh coconuts to sip on while you check-in.

While still in Sukhamvit, the Eugenia is tucked away in a much quieter area than the Metropolitan and the Sukhothai in a neighbourhood packed with boutiques and little coffee shops.  And although it feels like a much calmer pocket of the city it's still just a hop, skip and a jump from the bright lights and chic eateries.

A true boutique hotel, the Eugenia has just twelve suites which each have wrought iron, four poster beds, hand-beaten copper bathtubs and various antique furnishings.  Stripped floorboards, old trunks and scattered knick knacks give a very quaint, old world feel but large windows and lots of white stave off a museum atmosphere and keep the rooms airy and bright. Reviews that I read before arriving complained about the rooms being shabby and pokey.  Let's be clear, the Eugenia isn't a large, modern hotel with state of the art facilities and 24 hour room service.  It's a little slice of beautifully designed, characterful history.  And what it lacks in huge plasma screened televisions, high-tech gym facilities and a luxury spa, it makes up for in charm, elegance and impeccable service.

The staff know your name, catch you for a chat on your way in after a day out to see what you've been up to and even kept the bar open until the early hours of Sunday morning when we returned home just after midnight still thirsty for a cocktail or two (and while we're on the topic, the cocktails are delicious but deadly).

The pool area is tiny but was perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping strong coffee and flicking through stacks of magazines and interior design books from the hotel's small but well-stocked library (which has its very own resident peacock...ok it's a stuffed peacock, but a libarary with a peacock is still pretty cool in my book).

The breakfasts are also incredible.  Served up in the drawing room beside the bar, there are fresh croissants, strong coffee and freshly squeezed juices followed by your usual breakfast favourites with a Eugenia twist.  Guaranteed to set you up for for a hectic day of exploring (but just as good for fueling a lazy day of massages and lying by the pool).

For a flavour of the old-world Orient with a quirky edge accompanied by perfect service in a calm enclave of Bangkok I'm really not sure that the Eugenia can be beaten.   

The Eugenia
267, Soi Sukhumvit 31, 

North Klongtan,
Bangkok Thailand 10110Tel: +66-2-259-9011-7 

Ma Du Zi
A real gem, I stayed here on my most recent trip to Bangkok.  Pretty easy to miss, Maduzi is hidden away behind high white walls and even when you do find it, if you don't have a reservation, you won't be allowed in.  The hotel has a strict no walk-ins policy and the guards at the gates may look friendly but they look after the hotel as though it were filled with A-listers.

Made it past the front gates?  As you walk through the front door, you're straight into the sleek, white bar... A hotel lobby that serves wine.  My type of lobby.  The staff don't all speak the best English (but then my Thai's not up to much) but what they lack in language skills they more than make up for in helpfulness.  As soon as we arrived we were whisked straight up to our room.  And what a room.

We opted for the Studio 53 so named because it is 53 metres squared (if only it was an extra square metre bigger...but doesn't it still conjure up images of Bianca Jagger on a white horse and Andy Warhol drinking champagne with Diane von Furstenberg?!  We digress...).  You enter into a little lobby area complete with minibar, espresso machine and a plate of welcome macaroons.  Through a little doorway and into your huge, bright room complete with little desk area, comfiest reclining, leather reading chair ever and a bed that your whole family could sleep in (we're talking all your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents and couple of cousins).  The decor's sleek and modern with unusual art and antiques keeping things cosy and cool.  The room's decked out with all the latest hi-tech gadgets including a huge flatscreen almost rivalling the bed for size and a bose home cinema system.  

My absolute favourite feature of the room though? The incredible bathroom.  The wet room boasts a separate shower and a jacuzzi infinty bath big enough to swim lengths in which fills from the ceiling so that drawing a bath creates an ear-splitting, thundering noise.  Step out of the wet room and you're in your dressing area.  Next to a Carrie Bradshaw-esque walk in wardrobe is a huge vanity area with a big, well lit mirror and a cowhide stool to sit atop as you make yourself up for cocktail hour.

The two drawbacks?

One, the breakfasts here aren't great.  They're not awful, they're just nothing to write home about.  But just round the corner is my favourite Bangkok cafe, Kuppa.  So our top tip is to plump for room only and each morning stroll two minutes from the hotel's front gates to the airy, bright Kuppa where you'll be served amazing coffee and a big, hearty breakfast surrounded by Bangkok ladies who brunch and the expat crowd.

And two, there's no pool.  Although there's endless things to keep you entertained in Bangkok, in a city this bustling I think a pool's a must have if only to give you a place to nurse your sore head the morning after the night before.  Having said that, the Sukhothai is just a short trot/taxi ride away and if you're brazen enough, it's very easy to wander in and spend the day pretending you're a Sukothai resident.  You didn't hear it from us though...

Ma Du Zi
9/1 Corner of Shukhumvit Soi 16, 
Bangkok 10110, 
Tel: +66 (0)2165 6400

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