A Palace, a Princess and a Proposal: A Review of The Athenee Hotel in Bangkok
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To The Point
Conveniently located in a higher-end neighborhood in Bangkok, The Athenee proved to be the perfect place for a marriage proposal. Pros: outstanding surface, great and plentiful food and drink and gorgeous grounds. Cons: We had an issue with our plumbing that took too long to resolve, and there was an error in our bill.
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There are a whopping 10 Starwood Preferred Guest hotels around Bangkok for all budgets and styles. The Luxury Collection is far and away my favorite SPG brand, as its properties feature a great combination of elegance and local flavor.
Having previously stayed at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, the other Luxury Collection property, we decided to check out The Athenee on this trip. This hotel was built on the land that once held the palace of Princess Valaya Alongkorn (1884-1938), and the aesthetics are a nod to her blend of European and Thai style. We had meant to spend the majority of our time on this trip in the Thai islands, but because of poor weather, we came back to Bangkok and spent six nights over the course of two separate stays. And the trip included a twist that the hotel managed perfectly: A marriage proposal.
I booked four nights for an Athenee Room using points directly through the SPG app at a rate of 10,000 points a night. For the additional two nights, I paid cash using my company’s corporate rate, which totaled $175 including taxes and fees. I applied Suite Night upgrades to all of my nights there, though none of them ended up clearing. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for this stay to avoid foreign-transaction fees and earn 3x points. For the nights I used points, I wasn’t squeezing the most value out of my SPG points, according to TPG‘s latest valuations, but you can’t win them all.
The hotel was in Lumpini, named after the leafy park down the road. It was one of the more upscale areas of Bangkok with wide roads, designer shops, international embassies, fine dining (Michelin-rated Gaggan was right down the road) and five-star hotels.
In a taxi, it cost ฿300 to ฿400 ($10 to $13) from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). (Don’t let taxis drivers negotiate a higher price and turn off their meter!) Normally, the ride should take about half an hour, though in our case it took much longer. Uber does work in the city, but I found them difficult to find and somewhat unreliable. The Phloen Chit BTS skytrain station was a three-minute walk from the hotel and cost ฿16 to ฿44 (50 cents to $1.50), depending on the destination.
Check-In and Lobby
Our flight arrived at 10:40am, and we arrived at the hotel around 1:00pm, thanks to traffic. The grand staircase stood out as the centerpiece of the lobby, which was vast and imposing.
The concierge and check-in desks were on the left wall.
After the agent checked our documents and found our reservations, she asked if she could walk us to to the 26th floor to complete check-in upstairs in the lounge.
I had requested early check-in, and our room was ready. Our SPG benefits included breakfast at the Rain Tree Café or the lounge, four hours of free-flow cocktails in the lounge from 4:00pm to 8:00pm and two items pressed daily. The agent said we had been upgraded to a Royal Club Room on the 27th floor. While not a suite, it was slightly larger and on a higher floor than the Athenee Room we had originally booked.
The king bed was comfortable, with plush pillows and crisp white sheets. There was an intricate design on the wall above the end tables on either side. Each side had a plethora of charging cables.
A small desk, minibar and TV were opposite the bed.
The windows had views of the city.
Each room came with an illy coffeemaker and six glass water bottles that were replenished in the morning.
We were delivered a small fruit basket that was replenished daily, nuts, candied fruit and beautifully presented chocolates on a chessboard, a tribute to Princess Valaya’s chess skills. There was also a handwritten note from the manager on duty.
The bathroom was luxuriously appointed and spacious, with a bathtub and rainfall shower.
The Thann toiletries smelled great and were nicely presented in a wooden box, along with other bathroom amenities.
We did have issues with getting hot water two mornings, and the toilet stopped flushing properly toward the end of our stay. Three separate maintenance teams came to fix the issue, though none of them succeeded. We were eventually offered another room to use the bathroom in on our last day.
Food and Beverage
SPG Platinum members had breakfast in the lounge, but guests also had the option of dining from the buffet at the Rain Tree Café in the lobby. The spread was one of the best I’ve experienced in Asia. It started with a wide range of breads, pastries and bread pudding and an ice cream station.
Opposite the bakery was a juice station and a cooler full of fresh coconuts chopped and ready to drink.
There was plenty of fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, cold cuts and even a large leg of Black Forest ham you could shave yourself.
The hot food was in the back. There was a selection of Indian food, dim sum, Chinese, Japanese and Western selections like baked beans, hash browns, tomatoes and mushrooms. Against the wall were three made-to-order stations for noodle soup, eggs, pancakes and waffles.
At some of these massive buffets, I’ve noticed that sometimes the quality diminishes with volume, but almost everything at this buffet was excellent. We were always seated quickly, and the staff was accommodating.
The lounge on the 26th floor served free-flowing drinks from 4 to 8 pm, with small bites starting at 6. It usually consisted of four hot dishes, a soup, finger sandwiches, fruit, salad, cheese and a small table of desserts. All the food was thoughtfully assembled and didn’t seem like leftovers or heated from frozen.
There were four additional restaurants at The Athenee, including the highly rated Smooth Curry (upscale Thai) and The Reflexions (French). Our beautifully curated five-course seafood tasting menu at The Reflexions included lobster, salmon and Dover sole, and each was wonderfully complex. The lobster, for example, had a frozen dome that you cracked to find lobster soup to complement the lobster chunks and lobster granita. Everything was presented beautifully.
On the fourth floor of the hotel was the pool deck, garden and bar called The View that overlooked Bangkok’s skyline.
The pool was beautiful, and it was always easy to find a chair to lounge on.
The gym looked out over the pool and was equipped with cardio machines, weight machines and free weights. A couple of mornings it was quite full, but the attendants did a great job of keeping it clean, and they were always on hand to replenish towels and provide fresh sugar bananas.
The lounge on the 26th floor was spacious and spread out with a buffet and seating area on one side of the floor and a larger seating area and bar across the hall. There was also a public bathroom and a shower up there for guests checking out late or arriving early.
Overall, service from the management team at the hotel was excellent. They remembered drink orders, and took the time to speak with each guest, offering advice on sights and dining around Bangkok.
I had been planning on proposing to my girlfriend in the Thai Islands, but bad weather nixed those plans. The hotel staff stepped up and created a magical venue in the princess’s garden, where I popped the question. They were able to put the whole thing together in 48 hours, especially remarkable as we were the first couple to ever get engaged at the hotel.
The Athenee will always hold a special place in our hearts, for reasons you will have guessed — but our unique experience notwithstanding, the hotel lives up to the hype. The property’s grounds are tastefully appointed, the rooms are spacious and the service is incredible. As a Platinum member you could theoretically not spend a dime on food or booze if you ate your fill at the breakfast buffet and evening lounge.
There were some problems, like the issue with our bathroom and a mistaken charge on my account that they couldn’t clarify without a lot of forms. I believe truly five-star service would have dealt with those situations better. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and I’m already looking at my calendar to figure when we can return!
Images by the author.
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