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TPG Foreign Correspondent Lori Zaino is off on a whirlwind trip to Southeast Asia. She recently stayed at the W Bangkok. Here’s her review of the hotel
Bangkok, Thailand is a city of six million. For my two day stopover en route to other destinations in Asia, I simply wanted a hotel where I could escape from the crowded city to recover from my jet lag and chill out after touring the temples in the summer heat. I chose the W Bangkok.
The hotel is located in a commercial area of Bangkok, near the BTS stop Chong Nonsi. It’s conveniently set next to a Starbucks, for all the American coffee you might ever desire, as well as a short walk from several street food vendors, a 711 convenience store and a variety of restaurants.
The location of the hotel could be perfect or really out of the way, depending on what you are looking for. It’s a bit far from the main tourist attractions, such as Khao San Road, the temples and Chinatown. However, it was perfect for me because I didn’t want to be right in the middle of the backpacker, party action (sorry, officially too old to be a backpacker). Instead, I preferred to pop over to the busy tourist spots, and then head back out to my hotel haven following. I loved that you could take the BTS two stops to the river, and then take the ferry up the river to all of the tourist spots. In fact, this was really useful, because we realized that especially during rush hour, no taxis want to take you back to the area where the hotel is located because of heavy traffic, not to mention they try to cheat you on the price. The ferry/train combo was a sure bet, easy and quick, and no haggling necessary. So, if you don’t mind a further trek to the tourist attractions, or if you’re a business traveler the location is excellent. If you are hoping to have a crazy nonstop party vacation Hangover 2 style, it’s probably best if you choose a place in a more touristy location of the city.
The Hotel: Check In and Lobby/Lounge
This Starwood property is a Category 4, and the building is a tall high rise with 31 floors, featuring 403 guest rooms and 34 suites.The huge metal doors that open as you walk in are mildly reminiscent of a New York Night club. Upon entering, the ambient music and pink mood lighting continue to contribute to the night club feel. However, as the bell hops outside bow to you and pleasantly offer greetings as you enter, you realize that yes, you are in Asia, and yes, this is a hotel. (I never know whether to bow back?)
Upon entering we were greeted by several employees (more bowing). After passing a large “W” statue piece in the middle, you can head straight on for check in, right for the W shop and elevators, or left towards the bar/lounge to the left. The W store features items for sale such as the Bliss amenities, pillows, jewelry and other items.
The lobby and bar, in typical W fashion, are both sexy, dark and ambient. I checked in on a Wednesday and checked out on a Friday evening, and the bar never seemed to be full, but was most happening as we left (bummer!) on Friday. The patrons seemed to be mostly locals from nearby office buildings, probably enjoying what seemed to be an after-work happy hour. A neat touch was the Jenga blocks on some of the bar tables. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to play.
The people at the check in counter were friendly and immediately informed us of our upgrade from the Wow Room we had booked to a Studio Suite (the person I was traveling with has Platinum benefits). However, the catch was: it was a Smoking Room. The lady politely informed us that she could not provide us with an upgrade if we did not accept the smoking room, as there were no non-smoking suites left. However, she did call the housekeeping to “refresh” the room. Although I have a major aversion to the smell of cigarette smoke, as does my travel companion, we both decided to forgo our respiratory health for the promise of an upgrade (hey, priorities).
The total cost of the WOW room that we booked for two nights including tax was 11,487.52 Thai Bhats, which comes out to about $361 for two nights, $180.50 per night, though technically we ended up in the Studio Suite. It’s also possible to reserve those rooms for 10,000 Starpoints per award night. My companion paid with his Chase Sapphire Preferred Card in order to get double points on travel, plus no foreign transaction fees.
One of the bellhops accompanied us to the suite, located on the 30th floor (which to my surprise did not smell of smoke at all—sweet!) and showed us how to work the safe and the tablet. The room was large and well designed, with plenty of space for large suitcases.
The tablet was located on one of the bedside tables and through it, we were able to control the lighting in both the bathroom and bedroom area, select our “do not disturb” preference, control the AC, set an alarm and send messages to the front desk. There were several lighting options, including dim, reading lights, all on, and all off. I found this to be fun and modern, especially the lighting part, although occasionally the light switches seemed to get overwhelmed and you had to “start over”. It seemed to work fine for all the other aspects we used it for, like the AC.
In addition to the tablet and the safe, there was also an ironing board and iron, two bathrobes, two pairs of slippers, a coffee maker, an expresso maker, an iPOD dock with Bose sound system, a large desk with chair, a large flat screen TV, an L-shaped sofa, a fully stocked mini bar, a king sized bed and armchair. The room was beautiful and fun, with trendy touches like sequined boxing glove pillows and a Thai dragon bedspread (the sequined boxing gloves are available to purchase in a variety of colors at the W Store downstairs ).
The window was enormous and the view was great. It was a typical city view, buildings and lights, and if you looked straight down (mildly frightening) you could see the pool which was on the 6th floor. In any case the view was great and during daylight hours the room was filled with light, minus the several storms that darkened the natural daylight.
The Bathroom (and ahem, the Bathtub)
The bathroom was large, with a separate toilet area and a double sink area with long mirrors. In typical W fashion, the Bliss amenities were there, and not just the small mini bottles—they had large bottles available.
I found out when talking to a few male friends recently that they despise the Bliss amenities at the W hotel. I thought this was rather surprising, as I actually love the face wash and have being using it for years, purchasing it at the Bliss store in New York well before they partnered with the W (all you ladies and gents out there with combination skin—just give it a try!). Anyway, the big bottles were interesting, although for my two night stay, rather unnecessary…how much conditioner can two people really use in two days!
There was also a separate shower area with an amazing freestanding bathtub. Now, having lived in big cities for most of my adult life, I am used to having very small bathrooms and in my current apartment in Madrid I have only a shower stall. When I saw this large-and-in-charge bathtub, my heart swooned a little, visions of relaxing bubble baths clouded all judgement in my jet lagged haze. The tub and rainfall shower were located next to the window, so you could bathe or shower while overlooking the city (same view as the bedroom offered). The shower was one similar to ones I have seen all over Asia, no real “doors.” Somtimes I end up basically flooding the bathroom when using these particular types of showers will no doors, but this one had good drainage so it was fine. Not bad W, not bad at all. (Might I add that the bathtub was everything I had dreamed it might be).
All in the all, the suite was pretty gorgeous and I had very few negative thoughts in general on the experience (see the misses section below).
Deciding to do a five week trip through southeast Asia in summer…whose crazy idea was that? Although heat typically doesn’t really bother me, I must admit, the humidity combined with the long pants and shirt I had to wear to visit the temples left me LITERALLY melting and I was dying to spend the remainder of the afternoon by the WET pool. The pool is rather small but creatively designed and was shockingly empty. The amount of tourists roaming Bangkok craving sun combined with the 100 degree temps ensured a packed pool in my mind, but apparently not.
That’s fine with me, as we got a perfect spot in the sun with two chairs. The pool is designed in a rather different style, with a sparking curved wall behind it. Chairs are available on the bottom level (mostly shade) and the higher level (sun), and there are also a few cabanas on the higher level. Next to the pool is the WET Deck, where you can sit to order food and drinks or they will bring you drinks and snacks to your pool chairs. Lounge music plays softly in the background and it really would be a great party spot, but as I mentioned before, no one was there! So I promptly sprawled out on a lounge chair and fell asleep. After I made the below video, of course.
The gym is inside next to the pool, and was fairly large for a hotel gym. I didn’t use it (I prefer to let my Pad Thai rest comfortably on my hips) but my travel companion did and found it to be well equipped with free weights, ellipticals, bikes, treadmills and some weight machines. There is a monitor there that will bring you water and help you if you need anything.
I didn’t get a chance to try any treatments at the spa. The spa menu in the room didn’t have prices, which I always find rather irritating, so I am not sure of the price range, but I am certain you could find a great (or awful, for that matter) massage or spa treatment for cheaper at one of the many spas or massage parlors in Bangkok. The spa menu had the typical services available, such as nails, face and body treatments and massage–nothing out of the ordinary. I did see the spa in passing to get to the pool and it did look peaceful, or at least the reception area did.
We didn’t try either of the restaurants while there. Unfortunately due to jet lag, we didn’t wake up in time for breakfast, and usually when I am in a new city I try to aim for local, hole in the wall spots so I didn’t manage to eat lunch or dinner there either. The Kitchen Table and the Kitchen Pantry are the two main restaurants which offer a variety of Western and Thai dishes. You can also order some light bites in the lounge or on the WET deck by the pool.
All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to stay at the W Bangkok again. Normally, I prefer boutique hotels (I will be staying in plenty of those for the remainder of my five week Asia trip), but I think if you are looking for a larger, luxurious hotel experience, the W Bangkok would be a good choice. Next time, I will be sure to play Jenga at the lounge!
Has anyone ever stayed at the W Bangkok? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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