sojourneys


The Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok
January 2, 2015, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Bangkok, hotels, reviews, Thailand | Tags: , ,

The Radisson Blu brand draws its lineage from Scandinavian Airlines System, and is positioned at the upper end of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. The Radisson Blu Bangkok, opened less than a year ago, did not disappoint.

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Rooms are spacious and well-appointed. Like many contemporary upscale hotels, a glass panel separates the bathroom from the bedroom, and there is a generous writing desk as well as a comfortable lounge chair. It would have been nice if the water pressure in the shower was stronger, but otherwise, the spaciousness of the bathroom and large mirror provide much respite from the hustle and bustle of the Bangkok streets.

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The fitness center, while not as equipped as commercial gyms or for that matter, the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, is adequate for a getting a decent overall workout. The all-day dinning restaurant serves a delicious breakfast, and service was excellent. All-in-all, the Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok presents a compelling value proposition for visitors making a sojourn to the Thai capital.

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The Beat Hotel Bangkok is minimal rather than minimalistic, and not in a good way
November 26, 2014, 2:09 pm
Filed under: holiday, hotels, reviews | Tags: , , ,

I enjoy most of my hotel experiences in many parts of the world, and usually try to highlight the positive traits of each. But at Beat Hotel, I found this a Herculean task. The hotel management must believe that less is more:

  • No air conditioning in common corridors
  • No hairdryer in rooms
  • Little product knowledge among staff at reception (they could not distinguish a junior suite from a regular room, and had no idea that their website hawked free minibar for junior suite guests)
  • Minibar was literally mini with just a few cans of soda
  • Safe was even more mini; barely enough room for a tablet, much less a laptop
  • Breakfast was abysmal; the most substantive item was a plain white bread (nope, I’m not kidding)
  • No juice at breakfast “buffet” either — just plain water, coffee, or tea
  • No reading lights in room
  • No nightstand
  • Light switches are on the opposite side of the room across from the bed (if you like groping in darkness, this could be fun)
  • No soap dish and no place to place the tiny slice of soap given
  • Terrible, cheap pillows
  • Queen sized bed is really two single sized mattresses pushed together
  • Glacial internet speed
  • Poor drainage in bathroom shower
  • Tiny TV with poor resolution
  • Very few international channels
  • No international news channel
  • If you request for late checkout, the reply is a petty 1-hour, even though the hotel is practically empty

The only plus point of the Beat Hotel Bangkok is that it’s near the Phra Khanong BTS. But, there are numerous properties that can lay claim to BTS propinquity too. Hence, avoid Beat Hotel Bangkok.

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The Refreshed Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
February 11, 2014, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Bangkok, Erawan, hotels, Hyatt, reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

The Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok is my favorite hotel in Bangkok. The property boasts an excellent location in the heart of the Ratchaprasong shopping district, direct connection to the skywalk linking two BTS stations, and probably the best facilities among hotels in Bangkok including a Technogym-equipped fitness center on par or even better than high-end commercial gyms.

A stay at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok just became more compelling as the property emerges from a renovation of the guestrooms–which were looking rather dated–with New-York based designer Tony Chi helming the projects.

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The result is guestrooms that look fresh, contemporary, while retaining the comfort and ease of a residence.

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Coupled with a fine array of restaurants and the Erawan Bakery–where delectable creations go at half-price starting 6pm every evening–there is little reason not to make the Grand Hyatt Erawan a home away from home in the City of Angles.

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The Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa
January 11, 2014, 2:58 pm
Filed under: hotels, Phuket, Renaissance, Thailand | Tags: , , ,

Located on the picturesque Mai Khao beach far from the maddening crowd yet mere minutes from the airport, the Renaissance Phuket Resort and Spa is everything that its neighboring JW Marriott Phuket is not. The Renaissance Phuket is boutique with less than 200 rooms exuding tranquility and intimacy, while its sister property bearing the seemingly more glamorous JW Marriott badge is a sprawling complex replete with omnipresent sales staff selling timeshare units that screams mass.

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Guestrooms are spacious, and are decked in neutral palettes promoting relaxation. Its large, comfortable bed with pillow options and adjacent divan are perfect for that much needed postprandial siesta.

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But why spend too much time in the room when other stars of the property include two beautiful pools including one with direct access to the magnificent Mai Khao beach?

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Dining is great, and one of the more interesting options is Sand Box, which besides being literally next to the beach has soft white sand as its flooring. The Lounge, a pub adjacent to the lobby that also serves light fare during the day takes on a different vibe at night with the hanging seagulls creating surreal silhouettes against projected colored lights.

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For the health conscious, breakfast includes a juicing bar with a wide variety of local and imported fruits and vegetables, as well as a small fitness room with hot jacuzzi facilities in the shower room.

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All-in-all, the Renaissance Phuket with its warm and friendly service, boutique vibe, contemporary decor, and direct beach access, makes for a relaxing getaway.



The Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit

The Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is Marriott’s latest property in Bangkok, having been only officially opened sometime in the middle of March (just in time for the Songkran, or Thai New Year holidays in April).

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Its best asset is its propinquity to the Bangkok sky train system (the Thonglor station on the Sukhumvit line).  Check-in was smooth, and the hotel fuses contemporary decor with traditional Thai motifs.  The elevators are a highlight, with touch-sensitive LCD screens that advertises various features of the hotels (including “Thailand’s color for the day” which varies with each day) where buttons are.

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Guestrooms are comfortable with all the amenities one would expect of a five-star property, except for one important feature.  There is no full-length mirror.  Did the decorators forget this essential item?  Whether as a business or tourist hotel, most guests would want to do  quick check of their attire before going out to their appointments of the day.  Yet, this feature was sorely missing.  The bathroom was curiously capacious, taking up almost a third of the room.

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Service wise, as perhaps can be expected with a new hotel, staff knowledge was inconsistent.  During breakfast in the all-day dinning restaurant, the breakfast menu never materialized despite repeated requests.  At the third request, a menu was delivered, but it was the lunch and dinner menu.  It was only then that the wait staff said that they did not have a menu dedicated to breakfast fare.  Again, strangely lacking in a deluxe property.  And for the fitness enthusiast, the gym–which while serviceable, would benefit from more weight resistance equipment–is shut tight by 10pm despite it being advertised as a 24-hour facility.  Guests have to go to the lobby on the ground floor (no phone was in sight to allow guests to call the front desk) to ask a staff to open the door to the gym.  And when I did, one front desk staff exclaimed that I could have just used my key card to open the door, only to be corrected by her colleague that a key card reader has not been installed at the gym.  Hopefully this was part of a teething process that will soon be sorted out.

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Refreshed Tony Chi-designed Rooms at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
November 21, 2012, 7:28 am
Filed under: Bangkok, hotels, Hyatt | Tags: , , , ,

The Grand Hyatt Erawan is my hotel of choice whenever I visit Bangkok, and I’ve previously noted that despite the spaciousness, the decor of the rooms is looking rather dated.

I was hence excited to be upgraded to a newly renovated guestroom by celebrated designer Tony Chi during my recent stay in October.  Having stayed there for a weekend, my verdict is that the refresh is incremental rather than quantum.

The layout is essentially the same as the old rooms–entrance foyer with bathroom to the side, bed, and finally study–expect that the furnishings are updated with designs that emphasize clean-lines, non-intrusiveness, and functionality.

So while the net effect is not jaw-dropping, perhaps the brief was for Tony Chi–whose projects include the Andaz Fifth Avenue, Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou, and Grand Hyatt Chengdu–to design a theme that is contemporary without being avant garde, comfortable without being boring, and modern without loosing the distinct Thai identity.  These, especially the surfeit of the in-room amenities such as fine teabags with an Asian-accented tea set, fruit basket that was replenished daily, June Jacobs toiletries, as well as various objet d’art exuded a plush yet residential vibe.



Indigo Pearl Phuket, Thailand
October 12, 2012, 9:04 am
Filed under: Phuket, reviews, Thailand, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

The Indigo Pearl, nestled against Nai Yang Beach–a small beach-side enclave on the northwestern shores of Phuket–is part of the larger Nai Yang National Marine Park.  The hotel, owned by the local Na-Ranong family, was founded on tin money, and the owners have clearly decided to pay homage by infusing the metal (at one time called “black gold”) into the design motifs of the resort that permeates the entire property from the installation art to the cutlery in its restaurants.

The Indigo Pearl is a fine gem in many ways.  It’s a mere 10-minute taxi ride from the airport in a location that is quiet, pristine, with easy access to the beautiful Nai Yang Beach. The premium pearl bed suite I stayed in was spacious, well-appointed, and conveniently comes with an in-room power adaptor.  Wi-fi is free throughout the resort.  The bed is comfortable, and the shower area is huge (in fact, it is “integrated” into the room without any barrier).  There is a modern-Thai-industrial feel to the decor.

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There are three pools dispersed around the property, of which two are off-limits to children below 14.  Great idea.  The gym was under renovation, but the equipments remained accessible in the back room, although they were tightly placed.  The property is generally well-kept and the grounds verdant with native flora, but the array and dispersion of the wide variety of accommodation blocks can be disorienting.

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The co-located Coqoon Spa is worth a trip, if only to see the crown jewel of its spa suite, which clearly takes its inspiration from a cocoon to provide that surreal, enveloping sensory experience.  Treatments in that room come with a mark-up of 10%, by the way.

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There are six dining options on the property, but the best deals and most uplifting ambience are found just outside the resort along the beach where you can feast on seafood with your feet literally resting on the sand, the waves lapping up the shore, and the Andaman breeze gently caressing your soul.

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