Trends in Thai places
Bangkok is one of Asia's easiest cities to visit. The street food is fresh, authentic and cheap, and there's a solid range of high- and low-end shopping. There are bars, and some more questionable nightlife. Unlike many cities, it's rarely a trial to find a hotel at most budgets. That makes it difficult for hotels to stand out - why choose one over the other if the price range is comparable?
The obvious answer is service - another competitive hurdle in Asia, where properties such as the Mandarin Oriental are renowned for attention to detail. It means new players have to be at the top of their game. Newcomer St Regis Bangkok is going straight for the jugular, offering all guests a personal butler service. The 227-room hotel says staff undertake training to qualify as so-called white glove butlers, and are available to help with everything from unpacking and pressing to reservations and trip-planning.
On our visit, it seemed more like glorified room service at times - our butler was very friendly, but missed the mark early by not returning pressed clothes in time for a meeting. It took several calls to have the clothes delivered. But the service came to the fore when we asked about the availability of a new book mentioned in a newspaper. A note was quickly delivered in response, saying it wasn't in book stores yet.
Another tipping point in choosing a hotel is location. The St Regis is in an ideal tourist hub on Rajadamri Road. It's a few minutes walk to the Skytrain and one stop to the chain of mega-malls such as the Siam Discovery Centre, only a few more stops to the Chao Phraya River and, notably, overlooks the exclusive Royal Bangkok Sports Club's 18-hole golf course and racecourse.
Many of the rooms have views of the grounds, particularly the Astor suite on the 20th floor that might possibly have the best view from a bathtub in Asia. The rooms are clubby chic, with lots of hardwood and comfortable couches offset by a touch of masculine in the black leather accessories. The bathrooms are particularly inviting, with the requisite deep tubs and generous supplies of Remede products.
One of St Regis' standouts is the spa design. Large rattan lounge pods are scattered on two levels, creating an inviting Oriental space-age vibe. The theme extends to the spa's showers, where there's an iPod docking station for those must-have musical moments. It's an Elemis spa, a smart alignment for the hotel for product and service quality.
For more relaxation, there are a couple of ideal spots for a drink, including the intimate pool bar and the Drawing Room, with more of those open, dramatic views. Try the signature Bloody Mary, with the usual base fired up with Thai chillis and wasabi.
Most Bangkok hotels are wise enough to avoid trying to recreate the outstanding local food in a more formal (and expensive) setting, and the St Regis chose well with the Italian restaurant Jojo on the ground floor. The food at Jojo's is simple and elegant - the pasta carbonara has just the right amount of egg and cheese and the wood-fired pizzas have a slightly chewy texture and a good smattering of quality toppings.
Another positive for the Bangkok culinary scene is the pricy but fabulous Japanese restaurant Zuma, serving a contemporary take on traditional Japanese cuisine from its sushi bar and robata grill.
Despite having been beset with both natural disaster and political strife in the past, Bangkok is a city where locals will always reach out to tourists. That is reason enough to make another visit soon.
St Regis Bangkok
159 Rajadamri Rd, Bangkok, Thailand
Tel: +66 2207 7777
Rates start from 7,500 baht (HK$1,890) for a deluxe and 11,000 baht for a grand deluxe room