Friday, March 12, 2010

How to choose a hotel in Bangkok

When I'm choosing a hotel, I'm usually trying to find the most "real" neighborhood—I like to stay where I'd live, if I lived in the city I'm visiting. That means out of the tourist ghetto, not as close as possible to the local Gucci store, away from anything labeled Marriot, and so on.

Except in Bangkok. In Bangkok I—and you, if you are taking my advice—want to stay in one of the insane luxury towers on the Chao Phraya River. The towers are close to some major temples, the little streets surrounding them are stuffed with Thai Silk stores, jewelers, one-hour photos, tailors copying clothes, and every other tourist amenity. Any taxi that picks you up around here can take you to Kao San Road, no problem. (That's the backpacker mecca immortalized in the movie The Beach; more on how difficult it is to communicate with cab drivers and get around Bangkok, later). When I was in my 20s, these hotels—The Oriental, the Shangri-La, among others—were the most luxurious places I'd ever been able to afford to stay. Rooms these days are around $350 a night, maybe less depending on how/when you book. These are perfect, gleaming, travel-magazine-porn-shot hotels. Silk carpets and enormous air-conditioned lobbies and uniformed porters and people in livery handing you orchids when you walk in, rooms with marble shower stalls and beds with bolsters and a concierge on every floor to greet you and hustle down the hall to open your room door for you. They're really, really nice. And the view—of the slow, gray, churning river far below, of boat traffic and bridge traffic and other luxury hotel-high rises, and the enormous city all around you—is probably not what you'd be looking at every day if you lived in Bangkok, but it's so wonderful, I don't care.

Also, I find arriving Bangkok from NYC to be overwhelming, and I like to hide out in an oasis like the Oriental and acclimatize to the heat and humidity and time difference for a little while.

Still, people who want the same level of luxury for less $$ could try any of the big hotels that aren't on the river. My brother once got a great deal at Le Meridian, and he felt that it compared favorably to the Oriental and didn't cost as much. At some point, it's all so luxurious, what's one orchid or view or slightly more favorable location for a pool more, or less?

1 comment:

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