Thai Delight: A Review of The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok
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To The Point
The 171-room Waldorf Astoria is Bangkok’s newest luxury hotel. Pros: big, beautiful rooms, cool bars, delightful staff. Cons: Nothing feels especially Thai about this hotel.
Bangkok is in the midst of a luxury-hotel boom at the moment. The Park Hyatt Bangkok opened in May 2017, the Waldorf Astoria opened in August 2018, and the Four Seasons Bangkok is expected to open this year. On my own recent two-day stop in the Thai capital, I decided to check out the Waldorf, and it turned out to be a great choice.
When I was in Bangkok, room rates at luxury hotels I looked at throughout the city were reasonable at $200 to $300, though the Park Hyatt had rooms for $500. The Waldorf Astoria, which opened recently in May 2018, had rooms starting at $230 per night.
I took a few days to think about my choices, and when I went back to book a room, the lowest rate I could find was $254 for a king deluxe room on a high floor. This was only about $20 more than a regular king deluxe room had been a few days earlier, so I decided just to go ahead and book it.
Award rates tend to range between 65,000 to 80,000 points, but because I was low on Hilton Honors points at the moment, I booked a paid rate. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x points per dollar.
I landed in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) at 2pm and was out of immigration and customs within 30 minutes. I caught a taxi from the public stand outside the terminal, but we hit the start of rush hour, so it took over an hour to get to the hotel and the ride ended up costing around 500 baht ($15).
The hotel was in the upscale Ratchaprasong district, near the Erawan Shrine (and the Grand Hyatt of the same name), up the street from The St. Regis Bangkok and around the corner from several of the city’s biggest luxury malls. It was also just a couple blocks from the Ratchadamri and Siam BTS Skytrain stations.
During my one full day in the city, I walked over to the Jim Thompson House museum and checked out the malls and little neighborhoods and food stalls along the way.
The hotel occupied the bottom 17 floors and levels 55 through 57 of a soaring 60-story high-rise called Magnolias Ratchadamri Boulevard, which had luxury condominiums on the other floors. All the taxi drivers I had were confused about the hotel entrance, since there were separate lobbies for the hotel and residences, but it wasn’t too hard to follow the signage.
As soon as my taxi pulled up, a doorman and a reception agent were at the door, ready to take my luggage and show me to check-in. The ground-floor lobby was spacious but empty, since it was really just to receive guests before sending them up to the upper lobby or their room.
There were two sets of elevator banks, one with express service to the lobby on the 16th floor and another that you could take directly to the floors with guest rooms using your keycard for access.
I headed up to the main lobby and was checked in by a friendly desk agent who explained the hotel’s amenities and then personally showed me to my room on the 15th floor, one level below reception.
The lobby was airy and bright thanks to marble floors and walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, bronze screens and colorful furniture. This was also where the hotel’s two main restaurants and bar were. Like the guest rooms, the lobby was designed by Hong Kong-based architect André Fu, whose other projects include the Upper House in Hong Kong and The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore.
Rooms were on floors six through 15, so mine was on the top level for accommodations.
The hotel advertised the room I booked as being 50 square meters (538 square feet), and it certainly felt that big.
There was a small foyer with a bronze screen separating it from the main room.
It also contained an enormous cabinet with the minibar that included a Nespresso machine and an electric kettle.
The fridge was stocked with water, soda and Thai beers.
Unlike many other hotels that are getting rid of plastic straws and claiming to be ecofriendly because of it, the Waldorf went an extra step and used boxes for its water instead of bottles. It was part of an initiative called the Green Roof Project, where used containers are converted into roof tiles for the underprivileged.
The bedroom was bright thanks to huge windows. I found the palette to be bland — just beige and white. The one splash of color (and culture) was from the traditional triangular pillow on the bed.
I did, however, like that the wall just behind the bed was upholstered in muted gold textiles in a nod to Thailand’s silk-weaving industry.
Nightstands to either side of the bed held buttons controlling the lights.
One of them included a tablet with which you could control the lighting, temperature, curtains, alarm clock and housekeeping buttons at the front door.
There was a loveseat and small table with fruit between the bed and the windows.
My view was mainly of the Grand Hyatt Erawan next door.
Across from that was another table with chairs and a variety of outlets including universal adapters, USB ports and A/V ports for screening things on the television.
The 49-inch TV was set into the wall opposite the bed.
The marble bathroom was enormous. It contained two closet areas, one of which held a safe and ironing board.
There was a separate WC with a smart toilet/bidet combo.
The dramatically lit marble bathtub felt downright extravagant.
There were two sinks at the vanity and a television set into the wall.
An amenity box contained goodies like vanity and dental kits and mouthwash.
The bath products were from the Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul line.
The shower, meanwhile, was a spacious walk-in room of its own with overhead and handheld shower heads and electronic blinds that could be controlled by a button out in the main bathroom.
Wi-Fi was free and speedy.
There were two cleanings per day, one in the morning and one for turndown while I was out at dinner. The full day I was there, I left the hotel between 10am and 2:30pm, and housekeeping had not made it to my room in that time. I called guest services, however, and they finished my room within 20 minutes while I sat in the lobby and sent a few emails.
Overall, I thought the room was spacious, elegant and luxurious, though nothing in it made me feel like I was specifically in Bangkok or Thailand.
Food and Beverage
The hotel had six restaurants and bars. If I’d had another evening in town, I would have dined at Front Room on the ground floor, open for dinner from 5:30pm to 10:30pm daily. As it was, it was booked out by a corporate group for one of the nights of my stay, and I had plans already the other evening.
The chef there was Rungthiwa Chummongkhon, who spent over a decade in Denmark working at famous restaurants including Noma. Her menu at Front Room was Thai-Nordic fusion and featured dishes I’d love to try, including crab salad with yellow-curry hollandaise in a celery cup. À la carte dishes range from 300 to 1,200 baht ($10 to $35), while the 10-course set menu was 3,200 baht ($100).
Up on the lobby level, The Brasserie was the hotel’s all-day restaurant, open from 6:30am to 10pm daily. When I checked in, I was informed that I could get breakfast there for 1,050 baht ($30), but I skipped it and just ate out. The menu here included oysters and charcuterie, soups and salads, steak tartare, Maine lobster, burgers, grilled meats and fish and heavier French dishes like coq au vin and beef bourguignon.
On the other side of reception from The Brasserie was Peacock Alley, which you’ll find in other Waldorf Astorias around the world. The views from here over the Royal Bangkok Sports Club grounds were beautiful, and the décor felt like a playful take on Gilded Age New York. You could get light bites throughout the day from 9am to 10pm and afternoon tea from 1pm to 5pm.
There was also a small café and bar up on the pool deck on the 17th floor.
Now for the exciting bit: Accessible by another elevator bank from the lobby, the hotel had two bars and a restaurant on levels 55 to 57. All three were designed by New York firm AvroKO, whose other projects include the restaurants at The Temple House in Chengdu, China, and the Arlo Nomad in New York.
Bull & Bear was a classic chophouse seating 80 people and open from 5:30pm to 10:30pm. The menu was mostly what you’d expect, such as Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, chilled seafood and a variety of beef cuts cooked to order with accompaniments and sauces. Prices were expensive (about $15 to $30 for starters and $80 to $200 for steak). Still, if you’re in town for business, this is a good choice, thanks to the reliable menu and the beautiful city views.
More interesting, however, were the two bars. One floor up from Bull & Bear, The Loft was an Art Nouveau-inspired space with a gorgeous main bar, wraparound windows and a menu of drinks based on “The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book.”
I had a Manhattan-like Waldorf cocktail with Michter’s bourbon, Thai basil, sweet vermouth, chocolate bitters and coriander-maple syrup. It cost 450 baht (just under $15) and was phenomenal.
On my way out, I chatted with the hostess and asked where the other bar was. I had gone up the gilt double staircase only to come face-to-face with an ornate wall.
Smiling, she led me back upstairs and told me to press the huge gold button in the middle of the wall.
When I did, a door popped open, leading into the Champagne Bar. This space was more intimate, with space for just 34 guests at a time. There was a large main bar up here, too, as well as booths and a glassed-in cigar lounge.
The menu focused on, you guessed it, Champagne, but you could also grab a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a Negroni. I’m definitely stopping here first next time.
The hotel’s other main amenities were on the 17th floor. The most dramatic was the outdoor infinity pool, which overlooked the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. There weren’t too many places to sit, which was exacerbated by an enormous geometrically tiled column right in the middle of the deck, but some of the loungers were in the water, which was nice considering how bright and hot it was outside.
The hotel’s fitness center was up here and included the usual selection of cardio and weight equipment.
Finally, the Waldorf Astoria Spa was small, with just three treatment rooms, but had a relaxing waiting room, separate locker rooms for men and women that included saunas and steam rooms, and a menu of Thai-inspired treatments.
Therapists used Gaylia Kristensen skincare products from Australia for the facial treatments and Panpuri Thai products for body and massage treatments. Facials started at 4,000 baht ($120), while massages were 2,700 THB ($80) and up.
Everyone I interacted with was so friendly and helpful it set a bright, cheerful tone for my entire stay. As I mentioned, there was one snafu with housekeeping. However, they came and did my room so quickly that I couldn’t help but be impressed. Not only that, but as I walked around exploring the hotel on my own, it was like I was handed off from one person to another as they were happy to show me around the restaurants and other facilities when they saw that I was interested in learning more. I had a fantastic stay, thanks to the staff.
The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is a beautiful addition to the city’s luxury-hotel scene. It’s in a convenient area for business and sightseeing and has an interesting mix of restaurants and especially bars. The guest room was beautiful and elegant, though not particularly Thai in ambience. Still, for $250 a night, it was worth it. I only wish that I’d had more time to try the Front Room and the Champagne Bar.
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