Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong
What is it? Only two years old and apparently the hippest hotel in Bangkok, the venue being the only one in the Thai capital to make TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice 2011 'Top 10 Trendiest Hotels in Asia' list. The interior of 'The R', as it calls itself, is enrobed in warm shades - dark woods, burgundies, purples - with subdued lighting enhancing the intimate atmosphere. Undeniably, this Marriott hotel has drawn inspiration from the W (but with original touches) to refresh the previously tired Renaissance brand. The ubiquitous motif of the Cassia fistula flower makes for a decor that both captivates and calms.
Is it really that cool? The interior of this boutique-style hotel is cool, yes; as is the clientele. The R is patronised by businessmen, executives, the young and fabulous from across the region, and the occasional travel writer.
How close is it to Bangkok's 'action'? One of the R's most obvious draws is its location: somewhat secluded and a reassuring distance east of the heart of the beast and associated bacchanalia. It's also set back from the teeming masses of Ploenchit Road by a 200-metre driveway. The R is just around the corner from Chit Lom BTS Station, and close to six shrines, including the Erawan Shrine, a landmark that features the four-faced Lord Brahma. Retail therapy is close at hand, with CentralWorld and Siam Paragon within strolling distance.
Are the guestrooms any good? The guestrooms - there are 333 in total - are imaginatively luxurious, with a different surprise 'turn-down' gift on your bed every day. The hotel's keyword is 'discovery' and the drawers and various nooks and crannies contain goodies such as raw-silk sarongs and gift-wrapped traditional confectionery, as well as weird-but-wonderful snacks such as tom yum-flavoured cashews.
And the food? The R is home to Chinese restaurant Fei Ya. The house speciality is Peking duck, but with a difference: it is prepared with a lychee-red-wine sauce. The dim sum here is of a high standard and Fei Ya offers a selection of no less than 30 rare teas, with six of them available exclusively in Thailand. The Flavours restaurant covers all the bases, from sushi to Caesar salad, while La Tavola serves some of the best Italian food in Thailand.
There's got to be a spa, right? Quan Spa is big on water treatments. In addition to all the usual high-end spa treatments, Quan offers three marine-bath treatments, called Slim, Revitalise and Relax. The coconut polish with banana moisturising treatment not only sounds delicious, it will leave your skin feeling and looking delectable, too.
Any other highlights? The Club Lounge, which provides free-flowing alcohol and limitless elaborately prepared snacks between 4.30pm and 8pm for 'club members' (the hotel makes it pretty easy to become one) is where the trendy people head to when the mercury drops (ever so slightly). The R Bar, though, appears eerily deserted at all hours. From this comfy lounge, pleasant views of the Chit Lom neighbourhood give you the feeling of being on top of the world. One more thing: the R has a jewelled 'car lift' in the lobby - for vehicles showcased at the R's frequent automobile events.
What's the bottom line? Nightly room rates start at 4,600 baht (HK$1,140) but promotions can be found online.
The Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong is at 518/8 Ploenchit Road, Bangkok, Thailand, tel: 66 2125 5000; www.marriott.com.