Stepping out of the spanking clean Bangkok airport you are welcomed by the frantic pace of the city with its small mopeds, tricycles, and those colourful Bangkok taxies. It’s a hard fact to swallow that in the middle of this rush is a place where you will be welcomed by tranquil surroundings- a place where you can reach out to the highest limits of luxury offered in this world, yet be located right bang smack in the sidelines of a teeming Bangkok road. That place is the flamboyant 37-story Peninsula Bangkok where he feel of former colonial elegance meets 21st century modernity right in the heart of the most happening city in South-East Asia. The beautiful attention to detail allows every guest to relax in calm and comfort surroundings, away from the bustle of the city, especially on a hot summer’s day.
All of the 370 rooms (including 60 one bedroom suites) at the Peninsula Bangkok are generously proportioned, enriched with warm fabrics. The W-shaped building has an imaginative design that allows all the rooms and corridors to have stunning views of the city from all angles. The ultra-comfortable guest rooms are furnished with luxurious tailored bed sheets and goose down pillows, and equipped with deluxe amenities including skilfully designed task lights that makes each visit to each room rather distinctive.
The highlight of the in-room experience is the master switch with which you can just simply switch off everything at night. Very much modern and contemporary compared to, say the Beijing Peninsula and the original Peninsula Hong Kong because the Peninsula Bangkok was opened only in 2006. Another nice touch is the shoe shining service where one can place the shoes in a two sided cupboard- where the room service can collect the shoes from the outside and deliver them back without having to disturb you.
Toiletries are provided, as with the other Peninsula Hotels around the world, by Davi. The hotel distinguishes itself from others by offering the best views in the city. Indeed, on a clear day one can catch a clear glimpse of the downtown Bangkok even with the naked eye. The main Peninsula Suite is the jewel of the Peninsula Bangkok- coming complete with a private rooftop temperature controlled Jacuzzi that provides fine splendid views right across the whole of this fascinating metropolis, a private butler, and added luxuries such as a marble bathroom; Moet Champagne; chocolates to die for; in-room telescope and fully automated technology to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
If you are yearning to travel in style than why not try one of those legendary Rolls-Royce Silver Spurs? While for those who desire to commence their stay with a high flying entrance, the convenient helipad located on the top of the building allows guests to come in from the main airport by a pre-booked hired helicopter in around 15 minutes providing spectacular views of the bustling metropolis on the way. The aviation lounge itself is an adventure and a definite place to be for aviation enthusiasts. There are cut-outs from the cockpit of a real Boeing 747-400 aircraft belonging to Thai Airways International, including the throttles, the foot pedals and the CRT displays. Even the toilets have the design based on an aircraft toilet seat! Once passengers disembark the helicopter, they are welcomed at the lounge with refreshment towels and drinks before being led to their rooms. The check-in process for their hotel stay is also carried out at the aviation lounge, which comes fully equipped with a mini control tower and a meeting room that provides stunning aerial views of the city and the river below.
The hotel is also the place for the best afternoon tea experience in Bangkok. Nothing beats the feeling of eating delicious hand-made pastries and cakes while relaxing on a swede leather sofa and in the company of a live Jazz band. The culinary highlights’ not only include the hotel’s Chinese (Mei Jiang) and Thai Restaurants (Thiptara), but also the experience of drinking a fine cocktail at The River Bar that comes alive after dusk. Three of the highly recommended drinks include:
Bangkok Sling – a fashionable combination of Bombay's gin, Apricot brandy, Lime juice, Grenadine syrup & Soda water gives it an energetic blend of Red and Pink.
Thaijito – an authentic and ingenious flavour that neatly blends in Thai rum, Peach Schnapps, Lime, Pineapple, Mint & Chilli. Gives it a whole new meaning to being a sweet and sour drink!
Peninsula Sunrise – Certainly a surprise when it comes to an interesting mishmash of Bacardi lemon, Lychee liqueur, Pineapple & Lime juice. Very sweet and tender to the tongue.
The Peninsula Bangkok’s Executive Chef Philip Sedgwick has ensured that no stone is left unturned when it comes to presenting the crème de la crème of fine dining at any one of the eateries. In line with this gastronomical passion, perhaps one of the best experiences is provided by the breakfast service offered every morning at the River Cafe and Terrace. It’s a gastronomical adventure where over 100 staff members’ provide a high quality food service ranging from authentic western and eastern cooked breakfast to traditional Thai treats. And what’s more is that nothing beats the feeling of having a breakfast in the open river front. Try indulging in exotic delicacy such as fresh passion fruit, or original homemade fruit preservatives along with the homemade delicious thick fruit flavoured yogurt. Now, that’s priceless in a place such as Bangkok.
The Peninsula Bangkok is well aquatinted to promoting special packages such as the Golf or Medical package. The latter forms part of a "Health and Holiday" package is a new vacation alternative that combines health benefits and a holiday retreat. It includes the annual health check from your choice from two international hospitals - BNH and Bumrungrad Hospitals. It goes nicely well with the growing trend of “Medical Tourism”. While on the other hand for Golf lovers, there is a special package called the "The Ultimate Golf Vacation Package" where golf players can enjoy an exclusive golfing experience at the Thai Country Club combined with impeccable hospitality from The Peninsula Bangkok.
The Peninsula Bangkok academy is very much popular in Bangkok as it is in the other Peninsula hotels around the world. The "Siam Journey" is the latest academy programme that was created by the Spa team to share the Thai heritage of wellness with international guests, enabling them to take the experience home and practice it in their daily lives. It is one of the principals of The Peninsula Spa by ESPA to offer an educational experience, and this programme was designed to help guests learn how to balance their body and mind with a variety of Thai massage techniques, including Thai acupressure, herbal compression and basic meditation.
The vast majority of the luxury spa therapy offered at the Peninsula Spa, known as the ESPA, derives from the Ayurveda and from Thai elements’. A treatise that is believed to have originated some 5,000 years ago. The core principle of Ayurvedic is the smooth maintenance and promotion of health, the prevention of disease- as well as its cure. It works for both the healthy and those not so-sprightly. When the body gets disturbed, morbid matter appear and they need to be removed. This is done in a combination of various therapies that include herbal tonics, massages and dietary regimens (herbal Chinese after a massage is offered to sooth down the heels and emotions).
The Manohra Cruise is a special evening boat dinner where you can indulge in scrumptious dishes while watching the beautiful Bangkok scenery pass-by. 9 courses for Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for Manohra silver menu are served on this two and a half hour cruise along the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River. During the 2 hour cruise you will be passing by 21 hot touristy spots of the city including the famous East Asiatic Company, Assumption Cathedral, Portuguese Embassy, the unmistakable Santa Cruz Church, the Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn), the majestic Grand Palace and the famous Wat Po (the temple of the reclining Buddha). These introductions to the scenic spots are what really make this trip so magical and romantic. You actually get to experience the sounds, the smells, the ambience, and the lovely atmosphere of Bangkok’s past and present in this cruise.
This cruise might assist to better understand Bangkok’s and indeed Thailand’s history and the growth of its amazing capital Bangkok, city of angels. The Chaophraya River itself has a long history associated with the city, its royal family and with the great temples that adore the shores of this fascinating river. The river system stretches more than a hundred thousand square kilometres within a region representing 35 percent of Thailand’s total land area. 265 kilometres long, the Chaophraya River is also known by the locals’ as the “Maenam” river. “Maenam” stands for “mother of waters”, while the word “Nam” stands for water. Therefore, no visit to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the legendary “River of Kings”. What better way to do it in than just eat luxurious Thai food and just admire the views (or each other if you are on a romantic getaway) on board a well restored 50-year old rice barges, known as the “Manohra” and the “Manohra Moon”. The cruise is both a great culinary experience and while comfortably seated on board, a perfect opportunity to learn more about the Chaophraya River, its wildlife and its various landscapes.
The first of the barges were introduced in the summer of 1992 for lunch or dining cruises. Due to popular demand, a second barge was introduced in year-2000 for the dining experience. Further more in 2005, another ship was introduced called the “Manohra Star” which can seat up to 70 people, along with an open-air main deck that also accommodates a large bar section.
If you prefer then you can also choose to do an overnight cruise where you have your own double bed with an en-suite toilet, and with a waiter to serve you food as and when you need it. There is also a shower as well! The overnight cruise is the ultimate experience in cruising and is highly recommended for honeymooners’ or those who just want to try something new with a twist of luxury- add elegance to this ancient way of travelling.
Passengers meet the crew at the Longtail Bar in front of the Marriott Resort & Spa pier, and are then taken to the Manohra Cruise to set sail on the River of Kings.
Drinks, including a selection of cocktails and fresh exotic juices such as passion fruit with mango and papaya are served just prior to departure. Around 15 minutes into the cruise, the boat passes the 25-year old King Taksin Bridge which is also known as the Sathorn Bridge. Guests are firstly treated to a selection of typical Thai appetisers including “Miang Som” and “Mieng Kham”. Miang Som is a crispy cake filled with prawns and pomelo (P.S.. Pomelo in Thai is known as “Som O”, so this is why the dish is known as Miiang Som).
The square shaped cake is best enjoyed when taken with one full bite because then you can experience its rich adapted sweet and sour taste. This was followed by the “Mieng Kham” that has a selection of traditional condiments along with Thai chapu leaves. If this is your first time to experience a boat dinner in Bangkok then you’ll definitely find it irresistible because not only does it make you absorb the flavour of the mouth-watering Thai dishes but it leaves a memorable picture in your mind of Bangkok from a different angle.
Mind you, there are lot of “party boats” that run along the Chaophraya River in the evening, which is equally stunning in terms of the beauty and the style of the food they offer. However if you prefer the quieter, and more elegant way to enjoy Bangkok’s picturesque views while indulging in luxury food then the Manohra cruise is most certainly catered for you.
The menu includes other authentic Thai dishes as the “Tom Yam Goong” (Traditional spicy prawn soup with lemongrass and lime leaf flavored), and the “Gaeng Garee Gai”. The former is a clear spicy beef consume offered in a true Thai style (and yes, it’s ridiculously spicy!), while the latter is a slowly cooked marinated spring chicken breast drowned in a generous helping of delicious yellow spiced curry. I always find that Thai food is a neat fusion of Chinese and Indian cookery because it’s got the spicy food, as well as the sweetness and sour taste of Chinese cookery as well.
The favourite dish arrived just at the right time. As we passed the beautiful royal barges housed at the boat and shed museum located near the Somdej Phra Pin Klao Bridge, we were treated to a scrumptious dish of “Goong Sauce Makam”. A fabulously presented dish that contained a roasted tiger prawn (largest prawns’ I have ever seen- I thought it was a lobster!) surrounded by a munificent helping of tamarind sauce. Exceedingly delicious when taken with either red or white rice (“Khao Song See”). You may want to try both the brown and white rice just to compare the two varieties. Thailand is famous the world over for its delicious rice.
The concluding main dish of the evening came in the name of “Pla Krapong Rad Prik”, which is a seared sea-bass fillet accompanied by a sweet chilli dressing.
For dessert there was the traditional Thai dessert of Khao Niew Mamaung(mango with Thai sticky rice). Generous amounts of freshly cut mango slices are accompanied by a brash of tempting sticky white rice topped with soya seeds’. It’s perhaps one of the healthiest desserts one can imagine to have. The Manohra cruise Thai set menu has 9 courses for the Manohra gold menu and 7 courses for the Manohra silver menu. The Manohra Gold Menu is priced at Baht 1,990 per person and the Manohra Silver Menu is priced at Baht 1,400 per person (Prices are subject to 10% service charge and applicable government tax)
Ideally located near the beautiful and historical Chaophraya River, the gorgeous Marriott Resort and Spa is the perfect place to while away those tired arms and legs during a vacation. It provides the ultimate in luxury starting from the highest quality of food provided right the way through to the smile from any one of the staff members that greet you upon your arrival. They know very well that you may have come from half way around the world and what it means to you to have a nice hot relaxing shower or a good night sleep after a long haul flight. After all, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression on the customer service and the hotel’s quality in the customer’s eyes’.
By all means it is perhaps not easy to locate however when you arrive at the resort it provides a feeling of sheer joy and relaxation. Effectively it can be described as an oasis within the city. The Marriott Spa and resort with 319 rooms and 94 suites is considered to be the only true resort located within the vicinity of Bangkok’s CBD area. The nearest metro (Sky train) is Silom (about 12 KM away), and is easily accessible by the free boat shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes from the resort to the sky train pier (takes around 5 minutes to get there).
The resort is located on the rather busy (though not so much for tourists), Charoennakorn road. If one was to take a walk on this road, they would not imagine or believe that such a luxury resort and Spa hotel as the Marriott is located here. Though it is hard to believe, but nevertheless, once you are firmly inside the hotel you’ll be greeted with an atmosphere of sheer tranquillity and an aromatic ambiance. I found myself thinking how hard it is to believe that only around 100 meters away from the hotel’s foyer is the loud hustle and bustle of everyday Bangkok. The hotel does not posses such a high rise as some of the newer hotels in the city. Though it has to be said quite rightly it should be a low rise building because it is, after all, a resort and not a full on glass house in the middle of the CBD. While the beautiful swimming pool is active during the daytime with avid swimmers and sun bathers, during the evening it turns into a place where you can just relax and while away your free time. It’s good to be lazy once in a while- and why not? After all you are on holiday!
Like the vast majority of the hotels’ in Bangkok (and indeed in Thailand as well), you’ll not need to go far to find a painting, statue or even a wallpaper dedicated to the Thai Elephant. Indeed, a beautiful painting of the Thai Elephant was the first thing that greeted me when I entered my room. Because this hotel is a resort and meant to resemble something like a colonial outpost in the middle of Bangkok, the floors have no carpets but are laid with strong posh mahogany. The furniture is also all wooden rather than being of a contemporary design. Each room comes with a balcony from where you can get fabulous views of the rest of the resort and the river in the background. In room tea is provided by the Sri Lankan company Dilmah. Visitors can choose the city view (perhaps’ you like to look at lovely buildings in Bangkok), Chaopraya river view (highly recommended!) or the resort view.
The splendid Suan Luang suite is located on the 7th floor in a lovely position that allows the guests to enjoy a full 2 sided balcony from where stunning views of the river can be captured to the heart’s content. There are some fabulous touches to the suite that include original costumes from the film “The King and I”, and also a partial sculpture from a Cambodian temple. You have to see it to believe it.
Nothing beats the feeling of just sitting down by the poolside in the late evening or at night-time and chatting to your friends or family while sipping a lovely drink. It would be so pleasant that even the full moon in the sky would shy away behind the passing clouds- that enchanting cool breeze from the river’s swishing currents’ is a welcoming refreshment after a long hot day in Bangkok. The only sound that will perhaps interrupt your talk is that of a cricket in the background or a boat passing by in the river behind you.
The resort has to be proud in many of its feats that include the period furniture in the rooms, the spacious foyer with the signature club lounge on the first floor and of course the amazing swimming pool area. However the main highlight of the hotel has to be the huge dining room known as the “market”, which usually comes alive in the morning when breakfast is served. With over 5 live kitchens and an area that projects nothing but sheer culinary delight in every possible way.
The staff all speak good levels of English. While having your breakfast you can get a decent idea of the type of people that stay at this fascinating resort. The vast majority of the guests are from Europe, North America and Australia, and would ideally fall into either the “Honeymooners” or “Luxury globe trotters” bracket. The “market” also transforms into a multi-ethnic buffet and provides a widely popular a la carte menu with scrumptious dishes from award winning chefs.
The Spa itself (known as the Mandara Spa), is around a 2 minute walk from the foyer of the hotel, and is a hidden gem. Even before you set foot inside the Spa itself, the garden path that leads you to the Spa’s entrance is surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil atmosphere that gives the impression of a remote rural area and not that one of a city. Yet that’s the beauty of this wonderful resort- despite being in a loud and brash city, the resort is very much quite and peaceful. Bangkok is by all means not a tranquil city. If anything in actual fact it is metropolis that never sleeps- even if you do. With over 44 different types of treatments available you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice. Highly recommended is the “Honey and Milk bath” (950 Baht for 30 minutes) and the “Mandara Signature Massage” (4,400 Baht for 60 minutes).
There is something for everybody when it comes to the subject of food. Authentic Italian (Brio restaurant) and Japanese (Benihana restaurant) cuisine is provided. Both of these restaurants usually come alive during lunchtime and dinnertime- though both are even more lively and (romantic as well) in the evening. The joy of having a signature “Bangkok Sling” drink comes into practice when one is dining at the lovely “Loy Nam Bar” which is a poolside bar and restaurant that, as with all other restaurants and bars’, comes alive in the evening. If you want to round off a perfect stay at the Marriott Spa and Resort than highly recommended that you go on a Manohra Cruise with your loved ones’ on a truly magical dining experience that you will never forget.
Doubles start from: 4,500 Baht with the City View Room or from 5,300 Baht for the Chaopraya River View.
One of the key hallmarks of a top five star hotel is its ability to make available a truly five star gastronomical extravaganza located within its premises. This means that guests have no need to venture into the hustle and bustle of the city centre, especially in the after hours when they are tired and just want to relax and while away their evening in the quiet surroundings of their hotel. Here the menu has an international feel, as one may expect from a French Modern restaurant that is located right in the heart of a metropolis in Asia, with the chef having the pick of the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
I happened to be chatting with a good friend of mine, veteran Boeing 747-400 Chief Test Pilot, Captain S. Rajan, in the lobby of the Le Meridien Hotel in Bangkok over a glass of fine Red Wine. We were both attending the renowned IT&CMA and CTW (Corporate Travel World) event for the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and exhibitions). It was there that Captain Rajan bumped into Monsieur Simon Cote, the Food and Beverage Manager at the Plaza Athenne Bangkok at the Royal Meridien. Monsieur Cote presented the showcase eatery at the Le Meridien, the Reflexions restaurant that offers contemporary European cuisine located at the 3rd floor of this fine gem of a hotel.
From my experience as a travel writer, the difference between an average quality restaurant and an outstanding quality restaurant is that the outstanding quality restaurant provides an experience that leaves a lasting good impression on the customer’s mind.
After all, in life, it only takes one chance to make a lasting impression.
Sometimes, you get a restaurant that has the quality food but the environment is gloomy, or perhaps the background music goes totally against the ethos of the cuisine, or even worse if the colors’ of the walls are totally unmatchable to the environment- or a combination of all of these factors. Though a bit quiet during the weekdays, the Reflexions has a neat blend of soothing background music, lovely ambiance, and a smooth creation of colors’ that do not put you off your food.
Music is an important part of a restaurant’s existence- if you have it too loud, you may create an uncomfortable environment, and equally well if it is too quiet it will seem rather dull. Not only that but also the type of music. The worst case scenario is to have lovely food, and it’s all spoiled by music that’s perhaps suited for something else! Well, of course if the food is what matters more than the décor than that has to be a good thing.
Nevertheless, after spending around three hours to experience the full seven course meal, I can say with confidence that one cannot be disappointed with Reflexions. The fact that the Reflexions are located in the La Meridien, ahead of all the over-sexed gastro- places, is a breath of fresh air in itself. Its not exactly plush high in its prices, yet it presents fabulous food and is not over-rated at all.
I asked the Chef De Cuisine, Monsieur Thibault Chiumenti, to present us with a surprise dinner, and he did not disappoint. The meal commenced with a healthy portion of Tartare de saumon et petits légumes en crudités (Salmon tartar with baby raw sliced végétales). The Salmon blends in well with the crunchiness of the vegetables which is good because the flavor of the fish is not too strong then. The presentation was immaculate- one cannot go wrong when both Monsieur Chiumenti and Monsieur Cote are on show in the house.
The detail to attention is a key to the success of the Reflexions restaurant- and this was perfectly portrayed with the next dish, the Trio de foie gras Terrine avec échalotes confit au vin rouge, poêlé avec mangue et fumé avec une chutney de fruit (Terrine with shallot confit in red wine, pan seared with mango, smoked with exotic fruit chutney). Chef Thibault Chiumenti changes the dishes every two or three months, however visitors can guarantee that they will try some of the best European cuisine that can be found in this part of the world. His dishes are delicate and well balanced.
With a well planned layout that includes an open-plan kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs at work, the gastro result of the Reflexions is one that combines theatre with an interactive atmosphere. This should let the diner be fooled because the food is indeed a trademark as were about to see with the third course- Noix de St - Jacques à la truffe noire, endive au jambon blanc de Paris rôti, petite salade printanière et émulsion d’amande (Pan seared scallops with black truffle, endive wrap with Paris ham, spring salad and almond emulsion). All I can say about this wonderful dish is that it is brilliant, rich, full of flavor and color; and with no end to luxury. You can’t go wrong with a dish that has a perfect blend of design and gastro architecture all in one.
If you ever wanted to try one of the divine créations to grace a restaurant table, the nit has to be the Velouté d’asperges vertes et petit champignons, gnocchi de ricotta et huile de truffe blanche (Green asparagus veloute with baby mushroom,ricotta gnocchi veloute and white truffle oil). The restaurant’s modern style certainly matches the food. This creative and experimental approach to presenting food in a picturesque way must be one of the finest inspirations provided by any chef.
In my opinion the most extraordinary, thought provoking dish to grace the table that night must have been the Filet de daurade royale piqué d’olives rôties, coulis de poivron jaune, légumes au goût provençal et ail confit (Filet of sea bream pick with olives Yellow capsicum coulis, vegetables with Provencal flavor and confit garlic). If you ever wanted to write a book simply based on the color, the flavor, the smell and the gorgeous presentation of a dish, this it has to be this one. It goes without saying that this dish was simply refined and perfected to minute detail. It really was so impressive that I cannot find anything wrong to write about it.
It’s difficult to resist temptations such as the uniquely created Caviar de mangue épicé (Spicy Mango Caviar). The Caviar was presented complete with a rectangular slab of ice so as to keep it fresh and kind to the tongue!
I usually find Lamb meat highly unattractive- not just because of the chewy taste but also its harsh smell- and I usually try to refrain myself from even going anywhere near Lamb meat. However, I was in for a wonderful surprise when Chef Thibault Chiumenti presented the rather colorful Filet d’agneau aux herbes fraichespanier de petits légumes du marché et courgette farci (Fresh herbs coated lamb loin,basket of baby vegetables from the market and stuffed zucchini). He definitely gave the dish a complete “Wow!” factor. The brightly colored lamb, complete with the red tender meat, and the surrounding Green fresh herbs, is worth indulging into. If only I could find lamb meat presented to me like this on every occasion I was to eat this meat, then I think I would not have such a hurtful feeling towards it. I loved this dish. The meat was tender, slightly, and not too bland either. It just simply designed to make you smile every time you take a bite- and that’s what makes a perfect experience at the Reflexions in Bangkok.
Having seen at first hand the original splendor of the Grand Hyatt hotels’ design and decor in places such as Dubai and Shanghai, I was in for a surprise when I got to Bangkok. Located right in the heart of the centre of Bangkok’s booming CBD, the 380 room Grand Hyatt Erawan impresses in every aspect that a five star business hotel should do, however the main difference between this Grand Hyatt and the others is in the design. Every Grand Hyatt has a signature quality of style that differentiates it from the other Grand Hyatts’ as well as other five star hotels’ in the capital city. The Hyatt is part of the signature Hyatt hotels’ that were started in 1957 with an entrepreneur named Mr. Hyatt R. von Dehn.
During the recent troubles in Bangkok, the hotel was closed, and this temporarily hit the corporate and leisure business of the hotel. With the vast majority of the visitors coming in from European countries, the hotel has seen a steady growth in recent months’, and continues to enjoy playing host to a number of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions’), related events as well as for the leisure travelers.
There’s one thing that does stick out in the Grand Hyatt is the authenticity of the Thai environment. Every Hyatt around the world is renowned for offering an original authentic touch of the local culture, the food and the local customs. The Grand Hyatt is known as the Erawan because it located right next to the Erawan Shine (Than Tao Mahaprom), which generates an aura of benevolence that can be immediately felt across the atmosphere of the hotel. The hotel’s history goes all the way back to the mid-1950s when the government decided to construct the five star Erawan Hotel on the same site as the Grand Hyatt. However, much to the disappointment of the management, many construction elements of the hotel were met with complex problems, which eventually led to superstitious workers refusing to carry on working unless the land was blessed by astrologers. Therefore, only after the consultations with astrologers’, in November 1956 a shrine was erected to honor the four faced Hindu god Brahma (Than Tao Mahaprom). Than Tao Mahaprom is believed to be the god full of Kindness, mercy, sympathy and Impartiality, with each of its virtue represented in the four faces of the image that radiates serene grace. For the next 30 years the Erawan Hotel enjoyed global fame, never having any problems and hence remaining loyal to the superstition that the Erawan Shrine is indeed something special for both the people of Bangkok and for the hotel.
In 1999, the Grand Hyatt Erawan, a private sector-owned group of the Grand Hyatt Hotels’ replaced the old hotel because of modernization plans by the management. Indeed, the Erawan Shrine has become a focal point for locals and visitors alike, and it is a true blessing for anyone who resides at the hotel because of its auspicious location. Many thoughts went through my mind as we took the limo from the airport to the hotel. Will it look like the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai or Dubai, or in other cities? How will it differ? I thought. When I arrived at 1am from the airport, my first impressions surpassed my expectations of the place. The place looked more like a Thai palace or a resort inside the city with its mahogany décor and period furniture than a five star hotel. Then there is that authentic Thai service. All the staff are wearing local traditional dress. Phraratchathan for the men and Thai Boromphiman or Thai Siwalai for the women.
Erawan is the name of the mythical three headed elephant. To his honour, there are two beautiful statues of six-foot high three headed bronze Thai Elephants’ located at the grand entrance at Rajsamri Road. For sure, this being the Grand Hyatt, therefore in line with those words, everything is quiet simply put “Grand”. The three headed Thai Elephant has become the logo on all the interior décor that blends in ancient art and culture with the modern chic surroundings of the five star hotel. An aroma of incense sticks could be felt everywhere. Imagine being heavily jet-lagged and you are taken straight to this place from the airport- don’t worry. You won’t feel that you are in any other five star hotel that could resemble any destination in the world- you will actually feel as if you are in Thailand!
There are a few things about the rooms which distinguish the Grand Hyatt Erawan. The first is the Grand Club rooms located between the 16th and the 18th floors’. These are the exclusive executive floors with express check in/check-out at the level 17 reception (which also houses the Grand Club. While the interior décor is very much a blend of ancient antique style furniture, there is also the all-marble bathroom that features all the relevant amenities that come standard with a Hyatt room. Toiletries are, as always with the Hyatt, standard from either Molton Brown or from the hotels’ personal brand collection. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try on those Thai Silk Slippers and Silk bathrobes as well. Just don’t wear them to the Club Lounge (I did see one person do that!).
The beauty of staying at any of the Grand Club rooms is that if you are holding a corporate meeting, then there is complimentary access to the meeting room that houses around people. With the MICE industry set to grow in Thailand in the next few years, there is no better place to mix leisure with pleasure. The Hyatt is very close to the golf Course- though on a rainy Bangkok day it may not be that useful, however it still can provide the perfect MICE experience for any corporation.
The Club lounge is worth checking out at the Grand Hyatt, though you have to be a paid member or be accommodated in one of the Club house rooms to be able to use its complimentary service. Nothing beats the feeling of getting up in the morning a sipping a fine cup of tea while overlooking towards the Bangkok racecourse. The Club lounge is highly active during the happy hours (5.30-7.30pm) and in between that and after those hours it goes reasonably quiet. Which is good, because the idea of a club is to while away your evening with a nice wine and some nuts, and maybe catch up on some business chit-chat.
Another beautiful aspect of the hotel is that the Grand Hyatt is the only hotel that has 6 Spa Cottages inside a modern hotel. These are 6 cottages set around a private courtyard that feature a separate bathroom, steam room, massage table, a grand double bed, a rain shower, grand living room, and even a private patio set in landscaped gardens for outdoor relaxing. It’s meant to be a retreat in the city- complete with the close proximity of a swimming pool. The Spa Cottage comes complete with an automatic electric toilet- with a heated seat. It was a bit strange trying that!
There is even a complimentary mosquito cream and a sun cream provided so that you stay healthy. The uniqueness of the Spa Cottages is that they have become a signature residence for those who perhaps have no time to go to the beach and can while away their time right in the heart of the city but feel as if they are at the beach or at a tropical resort. You can say that the i.sawan (the Spa Treatment and Gym area on the 5th floor) is a true “Garden in the sky”!
As a travel writer I am always asking the question of why should a paid customer has no access to complimentary in room mini-bar? Well, I believe it would make sense if hotels’ have an agreement that says that some rooms that are classed in the “Executive or Business level” sector should have a complimentary mini-bar. The good news is that the Grand Hyatt Erawan does have a complimentary mini-bar; however that is reserved for those who can afford to live in the Spa Cottage or one of the Grand Executive Suites or the Presidential Suite. However that said the alcohol is not free- well, that does make good sense. Can you imagine all the guests in the Spa Cottage being intoxicated on complimentary alcohol next to a swimming pool?
The Spa Cottage has one of the best looking mini-bars I have seen. Fully stocked with freshly made Carrot, Orange and Cranberry Juice along with scrumptious ice-cream are provided. To top it all up there are some monster sized cookies that come complimentary with the Lavazza coffee machine. Mr. Philippe Frey, the Director of Food & Beverage has left nothing to chance even outside of the kitchens.
With 10 restaurants, bars and cafes to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice. I would highly recommend the “Tables”. A classical European dining experience is offered to those with a tongue for the culinary delight. Sit on the 5th floor at any one of the 150 seats and feel like a king. Have a chef come over to your table and cook food for you live while you choose the dishes. The only other similar experience I can compare this to is the one at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai.
It only takes one opportunity to make a lasting impression and I must say that the highlight of my stay at the Grand Hyatt Erawan has to be the magical Spa Cottage. Where in the world can you get a top five star hotel complete with a “tropical resort” style accommodation right in heart of a city that is known for its heavy traffic congestion, pollution and rainy weather? It’s only the 5th floor and yet it’s so easy to forget that you are actually in the middle of a metropolis! Remarkably there is no outside traffic noise, and you are surrounded by greenery. The Grand Hyatt is a perfect blend for those who want to while away their time away from the city (but live in the city!), and for those who perhaps may want to treat their employees to a break and combine a work and pleasure to make the perfect MICE trip!
The long running doublebill MICE event, IT&CMA (Incentives Travel and Conventions, Meetings Asia) and CTW Asia Pacific (Corporate Travel World) was held from the 5th to the 7th of October in flamboyant style in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. The popular MICE event was held at the prestigious Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld. Bangkok can be descried as a lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan and a glittering city. The capital city of Thailand itself is a pot pourrie of entertainment. Teeming with a rich cultural past, it has transformed seamlessly into a modern dynamic city. However, the most crucial thing about Bangkok is that it has in recent years it has emerged as a premier destination for MICE activities (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events).
Why is MICE in Asia so important?
MICE is a growing market globally, however in Asia it is even more important. Why? Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent with over 4 billion people. The continent is already set to rise into the 21st century as one of fastest growing economies. Both China and India have proven to be global super-powers and the MICE industry would just be fool-hardy to ignore this fact. Asia-Pacific as a region is expected to receive more than 100 million MICE visitors’ by 2015, up from 40 million in 2002. Corporate travel in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to make up about a third of a global market worth US$900 billion.
With emerging economics such as India, China, Vietnam and Thailand, it is becoming apparent that more and more multinationals are looking to forge some kind of working presence in these highly tempting markets. While Tourism is also on a high level of growth, there is an increasingly high demand for MICE activities in Asia. Many European and American based companies are beginning to observe the growing benefit of holding meetings and arranging business trips to exotic destinations in Asia while at the same time they can blend their business with pleasure by arranging tours in the host cities.
The term "incentive" in MICE strongly indicates that the trips that are catered to specifically motivate the participants and to increase the team's competence through the common knowledge. Its there to provide a refreshing experience for the employee and those in the MICE industry are there to provide that “dream” experience to those in the business world. Multinationals know that travel adventures are the ideal lure for motivating employees to reach new heights and the perfect remuneration for those who accomplish them. For example a British company recently rewarded their entire Sales staff of 20 people with an all expenses paid business cum leisure trip to Hawaii because they had met their individual sales targets’ for the whole year. The company was able to make a special deal with all the ingredients involved, including Conference rooms, surfing in Hawaii, hotels, food and so on. Its perks like these that are a win-win situation for many in the MICE industry and the corporate world.
IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok 2010
This year marked the 18th and 13th instalment of the IT&CMA respectively. Exhibitors had revealed that in addition to wooing the MICE sector, corporate travel and association networks were essential. Therefore, the focus this year was to ensure that the show delivered and catered for more of these participants. The IT&CMA and CTW 2010 have always been reputed for its track record to supply for and accept only bona-fide delegates, and the event in Bangkok did not disappoint.
The IT&CMA and CTW Bangkok generated more than 13,000 IT&CMA business appointments for exhibitors, buyers and corporate travel managers on the 6 and 7 October.What’s more is that 50% of buyers and corporate travel managers were new to the show this year, and the event was bigger than the IT&CMA China held in Shanghai earlier this year. New buyer and corporate travel manager markets included Egypt, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine. Therefore this confirmed that there is a great interest in the Asia Pacific MICE in markets that have traditionally been slightly quieter for the MICE industry in the Asia Pacific region.
The IT&CMA was not just an excellent opportunistic platform for Buyers and Sellers, but also a key event for industry leaders and decision makers to announce major initiatives in the MICE industry throughout the Asia Pacific Region.
The IT&CMA and CTW had some of the most engaging, stimulating and humorous speakers around, including Mr. Andrew Grant (MD of Tirian), Mr. Bert Van Walbeck (CEO of “The Winning Edge”), Mr. Ian Quartermaine (CEO & Founder of Meetingsin) and many others. These sensational motivational and inspiring speakers blended in their wit and charm with relevant and intelligent content. There were also a few interesting and exciting activities, such as the “You Say, I Say”, which was an interactive discussion where a distinguished panel of industry leaders shared their views, and audiences were provided with the opportunity to stake their opinion on issues ranging from the future of Air Travel to how MICE will be affected by certain changes in various industry demographics. The “You Say, I Say” event was moderated by David Barrett, Executive Manager at Diethelm Events. Mr. Barrett is well known for his creative approach to events and he certainly illustrated that fact with his bright red and green shiny tuxedo!
So what was new in Bangkok 2010?
The opening session of ITCMA & CTW 2010 commenced with Mr. Hank Roeder, Vice-President, Chapter Relations for US-based National Business Travel Association (NBTA) announcing that it is changing its name to Global Travel Business Travel Association (GBTA). The reason behind this is because the organization has got to a stage where it has decided to globalize its brand and make it more accessible to a wider audience. Major changes include the recent appointment of Mr. Mark Rizzuto as Managing Director for Asia-Pacific is one of the key steps that have been taken by the GBTA (Formerly the NBTA). Mr. Rizzuto confirmed that the progress of a strong business plan for GBTA’s presence in Asia is in the works and he expects that the opening of a new office in the region next year would assist GBTA to accomplish its worldwide objectives. Mr. Rizzuto’s appointment was formally introduced to the industry audience at the “I Say, You Say” event during the IT&CMA and CTW. The Keynote speaker at the “I Say, You Say” event was Professor Irene ChengNg, Professor of Marketing Science, University of Exeter and Senior Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK.
Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB) announced at the ITCMA & CTW 2010 press conference on the 6th of October that TCEB has recently completed a White Paper highlighting plans to promote lesser-known destinations around Thailand such as those in the north-eastern region. TCEB will work with local authorities to support their marketing of such venues to local MNCs. Mr. Akapol went on to comment, “To encourage an increased Thai presence at this exhibition, TCEB had funded a total of 57 local suppliers and destination management companies to be at the event. These companies occupied over 300 sqm of the IT&CMA exhibition hall.”
Another key recommendation in the White Paper is the creation of a bidding fund that organisations can tap into in order for Thailand to bid for bigger events. TCEB will be presenting these recommendations the government.
To accelerate the recovery of the MICE and travel sector Mr Akapol further went on to confirm that there has been a revival plan within the MICE Industry in cooperation with the private sector. This comprises of three components:
1. Thailand marketing campaign (“Thailand Extra Value”, under the Thailand Maximize Campaign in 2010)
2. Marketing promotion (tradeshows and road-shows for the short haul Asian market and the long haul European market)
The host city, Bangkok, as we are all aware, has suffered earlier this year because of the political situation. From my hotel room in the Rajdamri Road area I could see some buildings that had been damaged due to the troubles which the world witnessed in the summer off 2010. Throughout the city there are slogans of peace and companionship. “Live in harmony together” says one poster, while another says “Fighting solves nothing” and so on. Therefore the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 was vital tool for Thailand’s Tourism Authority to get the message across to the wider global audience that the city is indeed a safe place to be in. “Believe in Thailand” is the simple message that was portrayed across to the delegates, and this was introduced to the world’s media at the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 luncheon. The message was simple- Thailand, and indeed Bangkok is actively open for the MICE industry and it is safe, clean and has world class facilities to be able to cater for the worldwide MICE industry.
“No doubt that the Grand Hyatt suffered in terms of the number of MICE activities during the troubles that were in Bangkok in the summer. However, now things are beginning to pick up gradually. The Grand Hyatt Erawan is open for business to corporate and other MICE activities” Commented Mr. Sammy Carolus of the Grand Hyatt Erawan at the IT&CMA and CTW. Just as Mr. Carolus was talking to me about this, there was a formal MICE event being held by a Middle Eastern Airline at the Grand Hyatt, and the previous day the hotel played host to the “South Korea National Day” Celebrations’ with various global dignitaries’.
Meanwhile, Bangkok-based tour operator, Asia World Enterprise (AWE) launched a dedicated MICE division, Asia World Destination Management (AWDM) at IT&CMA and CTW 2010. Mr. Max Juntasuwan, Director of AWDM commented: “Eighty-five percent of the sales volume from the UK, Germany, Russia and Asia-Pacific were for Thailand, demand for other South-east Asian destinations, particularly Indonesia (Bali) and Vietnam, was coming up strong. Thailand would nevertheless continue to be the focus of AWDM at 70% to 80% of business.” AWDM’s demand for Thailand leverages on the influx of IT&CMA and CTW delegates into the country.
Buyers found the event useful. “I was very much impressed by the hospitality provided by some of the major host hotels’, and I would not hesitate to bring my company delegates for future business meetings’ to Bangkok”. Commented Captain S. Rajan, CEO of Air Safety International.
Destination bureau, Seoul Tourism Organization, presented a “new face” at a special South Korea themed hosted dinner for buyers, corporate travel managers, media and invited guests. Seoul Tourism Organization was also sponsors of the official bags for the media. This year’s theme Seoul on the Move: Sounds and Flavor was aimed at showcasing Seoul as an upbeat, trendy and elegant destination. The dinner’s entertainment line-up included Korean celebrity entertainers Expressions Crew (World famous b-boy group) and Marionette (internationally acclaimed mime performance). It would not have been a proper Korean night had the delegates not enjoyed a popular Korean barbecue. The MICE industry in Seoul is set to improve and get much more attention than ever before.
Fewer Airlines present?
While the event was a success for many of the Hotels’, Conference Venues and Tourism Boards that participate in the MICE industry, there was not much representation from the airline industry. Yes, Thai Airways International, which was the official airline of the event, had a shining presence. Thai Airways is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year so it was a good time for the airline to present its brand at the event- complete with a colourful booth too!
Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal, the Acting Executive Vice President Commercial of Thai Airways International said that with the 50th Anniversary of Thai Airways was a very important step in the development of Thailand as a premier destination for MICE activities and that the airline is constantly seeking partnerships to work with within the corporate world. Joining Mr. Chotichanapibal in the press conference were Mr. Darren Ng (Managing Director of TTG Asia Media) and Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the event’s strategic partner, the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau (TCEB).
Inthe exhibition hall, there were a few other airlines present including Royal Brunei Airlines, Vietnam Airlines and Philippine Airlines. Airlines are, without a doubt, an essential part of the MICE industry because corporations (and airlines) can benefit by working together to offer incentives to their employees and it would be a win-win situation for both the airline companies as well as the MICE industry as a whole.
During the “I Say, You Say” interactive session, one of the key questions that was posed to Mr. Anindam Choudhury, Regional Manager (Thailand and Malaysia) of India’s Jet Airways was how the airline industry would be affected if the MICE industry held conferences and forums through the internet or even if there was a shift towards the low cost carriers. Mr. Choudhury was stern in his response, as would any Manager of a major schedule global airline, and commented that the MICE industry would benefit from extra given perks by scheduled airlines such as Jet Airways. These perks include high quality complimentary in-flight food and in-flight entertainment. Plus the added benefit of meeting people face to face rather than on the internet or through social networking websites. The same reasons were highlighted by Professor Irene Ng that it is in human nature to have a much clearer communication when have a face-face conversation than to speak to people on the internet. Though she did not rule out a day when people can control their car or fridge using the mobile phone!
Darren Ng, the Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, formally closed the event with an inspiring speech which highlighted the success of the 19th IT&CMA and CTW in Bangkok 2010. The event saw many positive points including the exposure of opening new destinations within Thailand for the MICE industry (Phuket being one of them). The event also highlighted the success of Bangkok and Thailand as a country that fully open and safe for MICE operations. The positive attitude and great support from major Thai officials such as Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart of the TCEB and Mr. Teerapol Chotichanapibal from Thai Airways strongly highlights that Thailand is without a doubt a premier destination for MICE events. All the participating host hotels, including Conrad Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Erawan and the Plaza Athèneè Bangkok A Royal Mèridien, have also shown their strength in the face of the troubles that this wonderful city saw earlier this year. Thankfully, everything is back to normality and Thailand is once again a booming MICE destination.
The IT&CMA now moves onto Shanghai 2011 for its next event, and in 2011 October Bangkok will once again play host to this wonderful event that brings in the best of the MICE industry.
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