Tag Archives: Bangkok

There are many wonderful hotels in the Thai capital city, but IHG’s five-star Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park in the heart of the CBD can justifiably claim to be something special – attractive in price and aesthetically pleasing to boot.

When they step into the street-level entry a short way from the roaring traffic of the “Rama IV” thoroughfare, an elevator whisks arriving guests to the lobby and reception area on level 23. This is a peaceful, tastefully lit space of mirrors, sombre panelling and comfy chairs and sofas.

Crowne-Plaza-Bangkok-Lumpini-Park_Sathorn-Meeting-Room-01_Low-Res_RETOUCHNearby, glass-walled elevators glide up and down a soaring atrium whose walkways provide access to all of the 243 guest rooms. A few steps away, also on the 23rd floor, the Panorama all-day-dining eatery has a terrific bird’s-eye view of the city.

The Crowne Plaza Lumpini Park has a selection of meeting venues at good prices. For example, a full-day meeting package starts at around AUD 75 per person per day, including the notorious Thai taxes and services charges. It allows for room rental from 8am to 5 pm, complimentary coffee and tea throughout the meeting, morning and afternoon coffee breaks with two kinds of snacks and fruit juices, a lunch buffet of grilled meats and fish, prawns, sushi and sashimi at the Panorama on the 23rd floor, or a Chinese set lunch at the (outstanding) Xin Tian Di restaurant a floor below.

Twelve meeting rooms, 145 square metres in total, are set over the entirety of the 21st floor, and the largest of these, when fully opened-up, can accommodate 400. Its best-known venue is “The White Room” with sweeping walkways and staircase and much in use for parties after weddings. “[It’s] more like an art gallery than a function room,” says a hotel spokesperson. “So your product or service is ‘framed’ to be the focus of attention at all times. The White Room has been designed to promote and flatter any event, whether it’s a product launch, press conference, wedding or mini-exhibition. It’s also ideal for company events as well as private parties and receptions.”

The guest rooms themselves are adorned in bright, jazzy and engaging colours, with rack rates starting at around AUD 210 a night, which is competitive, to say the least, for a five-star property.

But the facilities are what you’d expect – five restaurants and bars, a spa, outdoor pool overlooking the city on Level 24, outdoor jacuzzi and a well-equipped fitness centre.

The hotel “guarantees” PCOs that it’ll respond to enquiries within two hours and provide a full proposal by the next business day. At the end of meetings each day a Crowne meetings director will proivide an itemised account of that day’s expenditures, gather feedback and handle further requests.

There are also club floors with lounge benefits like free breakfasts and cocktails, all-day snacks, late check-outs at 4pm and complimentary laundry and local calls.

More info: Call +66 (0) 2632 9000 or click here.

Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park_Crowne Ballroom 10_Lo Res copy

Sala Daeng

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From a pillared forecourt I step from Bangkok’s heat and humidity through glass doors, and into the cool, subtly-lit lobby of the 137 Pillars hotel. The omni-present traffic noise is suddenly hushed.

All around me smiling staff clasp their hands in the prayer-like Thai gesture of welcome, Sawasdee. The lobby, illuminated by recessed lighting in a vaulted ceiling, is decorated by banks of fresh flowers with dark, well-padded sofas and low tables. On one side is a giant Picasso-esque mural.

IMG_1687Like its name, the 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok is unusual – and for this tired traveller on this day, something genuinely special. The classy, muted design themes are continued when I’m shown to my room – a bright, welcoming suite that is a miracle of compression. The compact space contains a fully equipped kitchen, marble bathroom with tub, comfy sofa and bed with invitingly fluffy white linen. The employee who’s accompanied me opens a cupboard door to reveal a washing machine and tumble dryer. “Hopefully you’ll find everything you need here for a comfortable stay,” he says.

 

Set in Bangkok’s Emquartier district, close to major shopping precincts, the luxury five-star hotel and serviced apartment complex 137 Pillars Suites and Residences is a sister property to the 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai about 600 kilometres to the north. The latter was so named by its owners because of the number of pillars in the original house around which that hotel was constructed.

City centre location

The Bangkok property comprises 34 hotel suites and 176 serviced one- and two-bedroomed residences, set in a chic building on Sukhumvit Soi 39. “We’re right in the middle of the city, close to public transport, with many high-end shopping areas and dining places close by,” says Nuengruethai Sa-Nguansakpakdee (pictured above), group director of sales and marketing. (She smilingly invites me to pronounce it, and is referred to as K. Nueng by her colleagues).

“The great thing about this hotel is that people can stay from anything from one night to a year and our two hundred staff do their best to make sure they feel at home and pampered,” she adds.

08 The Pillars Executive Studio Residences1In addition to incentive groups, 137 Pillars seeks to attract small companies for its meetings offering, explains K. Nueng. There’s a cosy, well-equipped meeting room for twenty to thirty people, overlooking a lush garden, with events clients coming from the region and, increasingly, from all over Asia, Europe and the US.

“Not just for conferences, but for wellness retreats and groups coming to Thailand for golf excursions and so on,” she says. “As you know, Bangkok is an exotic place with such a variety of things to do – dining, exploring the culture, enjoying the riverside life.”

 

The hotel offers guests a free regular shuttle service every 30 minutes to local shopping areas, as well as having a London cab on standby. It has two restaurants, the Nimitr – a specialty eatery featuring Asian dishes created by well-known local chef Nanang Prasetya Aditama – and the Bangkok Trading Post, an all-day bistro and deli. There are two bars, a spa and a fitness centre.

Suites range in size from 70 to 127 square metres and are located on the top floors, with 24-hour exclusive access to the rooftop and a 360-degree infinity pool. They offer a butler service, in-room private wine cellars, mood lighting, high ceilings, large walk-in wardrobes and Posturepedic “ultra plush” beds with Egyptian cotton linen, as I disovered after a good night’s sleep. Other sweeteners include a personal mobile phone with 4G data and complimentary unlimited overseas and domestic calls, breakfast from 6am to 11pm, a la carte afternoon tea from 2 to 5pm and sundown cocktails at Jack Bain’s Bar from 5 to 7pm.

From USD 180

How much would all this set you back? One of the great advantages of Bangkok as a MICE destination, as many PCOs know, is the value for money it represents. Many organisers seeking to arrange an event in cities like New York or Hong Kong would expect to pay perhaps USD 400 or more a night for facilities of this quality. Yet the rate for a conference package here is USD 80 for a full day, including coffee breaks and lunch and staff on hand constantly to trouble-shoot, says K. Nueng. The rack rate for a studio room starts at about USD 180.

“I do think that’s good value,” she says.

This traveller would agree.

More information, click here. Email: contact@137pillarsbangkok.com

27 Jamjuree Lawn on ground level

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“Why choose our meetings facilities?” says Gregory Preslier reflectively. “Without sounding selfish, look at the destination. Bangkok gets 37 million visitors a year, but in a way it’s the best-hidden secret in the world.”

The urbane, immaculately attired Area Director of Sales and Marketing for the InterContinental Hotels Group in Thailand is chatting over coffee in the vaulted lobby of the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, Bangkok. IMG_1505

Events organisers at the 381-room hotel have 22 meeting rooms, all on the same level, to choose from, Gregory observes. Yet the bustling urban precinct in which it sits is probably just an important consideration as venue flexibility and price.

It’s no cliché, he adds. Bangkok is a dynamic mega-city with wonderful attributes, for Gregory a mix between Casablanca and London, and it has two tiers. One involves the Thai culture which is manifest in the restaurant scene and food variety and quality. The other relates to what you can do for fun.

 

“The tourist places, shrines and cultural areas convention people can visit in Bangkok are extraordinary. There’s so much to do. The hotel is fantastic, sure, but you don’t need to stay in it all the time. You can’t be a hypocrite and deny what’s around here. Clients [we talk to] like this aspect because we’re not selling anything. We’re introducing a product but at the same time there’s so much more the destination itself can give.”

Located adjacent to a big Holiday Inn, the InterContinental Bangkok itself has one of the largest hotel banqueting, meeting and convention facilities in the city. Its main ballroom takes 800, theatre-style, and caters for many weddings – especially at weekends – of up to 1,200 guests. “You can come here for a conference, exhibition, seminar, product launch or fashion show and do everything on the same floor,” says Gregory. “They’re purpose-built facilities so we’re never improvising; I have fifteen people in my events team alone.”

Moreover it’s easy to get to. The two good airports have great connections. In addition investors from round the world – and Asia especially – are investing in Thailand and Bangkok, whose infrastructure grows all the time. “There are a lot of positives here and people like going to positive places,” says Gregory. “Wherever you are as an events planner in your industry, things are happening here. Medical, association, sport, education, welfare and so on; there’s really a mix of everything.”

Premier Suite BedroomImportantly, it also represents good value. A hotel in New York comparable to InterContinental Bangkok would cost three times as much, Gregory says, so the tagline “affordable luxury” here means what it says. “For a hundred and sixty US dollars you can get outstanding bed and breakfast at the Intercontinental Bangkok. I hear sometimes from clients that we’re expensive when they’re talking in baht, and sometimes hear ‘five thousand baht, that’s a lot of money!’ It is, to some people, don’t get me wrong, but for many typical international congress or conference organisers, I’d like to see them do an event for that price somewhere else in the world in a hotel of this calibre.”

The staff, 99 per cent of whom are Thai, are continually trained and participate, too, in a variety of charitable and team-building work on an ongoing basis that helps them connect, also, with guests. “Our people go directly to hospitals and schools to help out; it’s not just about giving, it’s about connecting, caring about something other than yourself.”

Gregory, 43, born in England and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria, speaks from considerable experience. He’s worked in London, Morocco, Dubai, France, (his father’s French and his mother English), and Monte Carlo. He was involved in the opening of Le Grand in Paris, a beautiful 500-room hotel on the Opera square, and the Atlantis, Dubai, which has 1,500 bedrooms, and One&Only Resorts.

intercon-11Few of the properties he’s worked in have matched the InterContinental Bangkok for position. With a BTS station, Chit Lom, on its doorstep, the hotel offers easy access to the city’s major business precincts along with shopping destinations and dining, in addition to the hotel’s plethora of eateries. These include Theo Mio, an Italian restaurant with open-to-view kitchen on site named after famed London chef Theo Randall, who was on hand to meet staff, clients and media when The Siteseer visited recently.

IHG has recently also opened in front of the complex a new beer house and brasserie, Beer Republic.

Offering seventy beers, twenty of them local, alongside delicious Thai and European bar food, it’s due to open mid-December as an independent, chilling-out venue, accessible from outside the hotel.

What’s the best time to organise a conference at the InterContinental? It’s pretty busy all year round, says Gregory, but some times may best be avoided, like Chinese new year and other occasions when there are lots of leisure guests. Otherwise January-February, just before Chinese new year, are good, then April to June. “Because we’re so close to China, Singapore and Hong Kong, our market and calendar of availability is not just about Thailand, it’s about the region. For example when Australia Or India have holidays it impacts Thailand as a destination.”

Meanwhile the IHG group is expanding. It has 24 hotels in Thailand including IHG brand, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Indigo properties.

Online rates start at around US160 a night. More info at http://bangkok.intercontinental.com/

Siteseer says: I loved the airy feel of the hotel and its meetings room. Especially liked the muted-ochre colours of the guest rooms and the fantastically comfortable bed, which has a choice of sink-into-and-sleep pillows. The sounds of the busy city are well muffled by the windows.

The pool on the thirty-seventh floor is of generous size considering how far it is above street level, with a pint-size bar and good bar menu. Other minor much-appreciated attributes include plenty of drinking water in the room.

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If you line up 20 boxes that Bangkok ticks that places like Singapore, KL and Sydney don’t, it wins on price, food, service, luxury and setting, says this hotelier. And the City of Angels has one other, matchless attribute.

“If you’re bringing eighty or a hundred people to a conference and you tell them it’s in Bangkok or Thailand, they’ll be excited,” says Paul Counihan, Cluster Director of Sales and Marketing for the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort and Spa.

“On the other hand if you say it’s in Bhutan or KL, they might decide to give it a miss. That’s because Thailand has an allure that makes it a wonderful choice for MICE decision-makers.”

IMG_0777Paul Counihan (pictured) should know. The engaging, effervescent 36-year-old is a career hotelier who admits to having started pulling pints when he was 14 years old in his native Ireland.

He’s lived and worked in Bangkok for the past nine years, and in his current post has helped make the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort – a sprawling, leafy resort on the banks of the Chao Phraya River – a five-star property that challenges brands like Peninsula and Shangri-la for luxury and service.

Thanks in part to Bangkok’s growing international appeal, the Anantara Riverside is attracting unprecedented levels of business and enquiries, Paul says. “The number of events we’ve hosted recently or that we have booked in is extraordinary.”

Recently a global pharmaceutical company had their annual conference at the hotel. It’s also hosted a German car manufacturer’s Asia-Pacific team, an airline’s internal meeting and launch, and a clean energy organisation among others.

Anan 1Another key reason for his property’s – and Thailand’s – success as a MICE destination is price, Paul observes. The feedback he and colleagues are getting from clients in Australia, Singapore and elsewhere is that with the current economic and political uncertainty in the world, organisers are seeking to cut costs, while wanting to reward their people with great incentives at the same time.

‘Cheap as chips’

Room rates at Anantara Riverside Bangkok including all taxes, services and gourmet breakfast served on the hotel’s serene riverside terrace start at 5,000 Thai baht (about USD 140). Day conference rates range from USD 50 per person and delegates can upgrade up to USD 100 per person per day if they want to tailor-make the experience with, for example, additional servies like in-room baristas.

“In a city like Sydney you’d be paying $450 per night at a minimum to get into a place anything like this, with all additions on top of that,” says Paul. “We do fantastic private gala dinners for clients with over 20 live stations and 30 chefs serving, for around USD 50 per head; that’s cheap as chips.

“I’ve been in Bangkok for almost ten years and I want to cry sometimes at the prices I confirm for our premises, because it’s such good value! If I go to a meeting in Singapore and pay three times in a four-star hotel that I’m paying for a five-star suite on the river at Anantara, I’m reminded again that Bangkok is a winner.”

This may all help explain why the Anantara Riverside, a pleasant shuttleboat jaunt away from the centre of Bangkok, is seeing growth in events business that would normally have gone to Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and other such destinations.

Hi_ARIV_43418935_Tropical_garden“We’re seeing more quoting up against other international cities than ever before,” Paul says.

The hotel is the flagship of the Anantara brand (owned by the Minor International group), which now operates 35 resorts in 11 countries.

With 408 bedrooms, which recently benefited from a USD $20 million upgrade, it’s set on 11 acres with 1,200 trees and 283 plant varieties growing on site. From the walkways of the lavish gardens and rooms, the Chao Phraya River and its teeming boat traffic are invariably visible.

The 12 meeting venues, spanning more than 3,000 square metres, all have natural light and include a grand ballroom that can comfortably seat 600 and which recently also underwent a million-dollar upgrade.

Avani opening next door

These spaces will be complemented by the addition of Avani Riverside, a new hotel, events and shopping precinct (opening scheduled April 2016) located adjacent to Anantara Riverside Bangkok. The $90 million Avani complex has 26 storeys, and when entirely complete will have 68 bars, restaurants and shops, and meeting facilities of 4,500 square metres (the new ballroom is pictured below). Each of the 248 Avani guest rooms and suites will have uninterrupted river and city views, Paul says.

IMG_0795Avani hotels, also owned by the Minor group, are what Paul describes as lifestyle, contemporary and international-style properties while Anantara represents more of a retreat and an experience – “luxury, relaxation and cultural experience of the location”. Avani is the first purpose-built hotel that Minor’s created worldwide.

“Meanwhile we’re developing an Avani in Perth, on Australia’s Gold Coast, and we’ve got 12 in Africa, having taken over half the Sun hotel group last year.”

Paul recognises that, now more than ever in the MICE market, corporate people are making big budgetary decisions when opting where to put their key people together for four or five days for an event. “Corporations see it as an opportunity to get two, a hundred or a thousand people in a room because that helps drive their business for the next year and beyond.

“We take the product we offer seriously, to create the right environment in which to conduct business and reward people, entertaining delegates and giving them a fantastic experience.”

For example at Anantara Riverside Bangkok the outdoor terrace has its own purpose-built stage and a light show, and executives can arrange to have private breakfasts on the river for up to 80 colleagues, he adds. Helping to ensure the success of tailor-made events are 630 staff. “It’s their dedication and service, which comes from the heart, that defines their work and our reputation. Their welcome is authentic and it’s what international guests expect.”

bangkokriverside@anantara.com

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The Millennium Hilton Bangkok looks directly over the Chao Phraya River, which snakes through the heart of the Thai capital. From all its 533 rooms, especially those on the upper floors of the 32 storeys, guests have spectacular views of the teeming life of the waterway.

There are plenty of hotels in Bangkok, and some are located near the Chao Phraya. So what’s special about this one? The resort-like attributes of the property are a big drawcard, explains General Manager Heidi Kleine-Möller, pictured below left.

Flow-Terrace“Staying in this kind of atmosphere, with a view of the river and its life is something visitors don’t usually find in other hotels in the city,” says Heidi. “European MICE clients coming to Bangkok tell me they prefer this kind of experience to the shopping-mall set-up they see elsewhere. That may be on reason our occupancies are so good.”

Though it’s not set precisely in the centre of Bangkok, the hotel is well connected to all parts of the city via the waterway and skytrain, and close to many local points of interest, shopping places and a bustling night market. It operates its own shuttle boats.

Another drawcard is splendid meetings facilities – high-ceilinged ballrooms (the Grand and Junior) which can seat over 700 guests and spacious pre function spaces. The hotel has 13 breakout rooms, ten of which are on the thirtieth floor with natural light and river views, says Assistant Director Marketing Communications Suteera (“Pui”) Chalermkarnchana, pictured below right.

Meetings clients have several choices of dinner venues. The ThreeSixty Lounge is an indoor- outdoor place that works well for welcome receptions. Delegates can dine here while taking in spectacular views of the Bangkok skyline. The Flow restaurant, an airy eatery looking directly out onto the river, serves a vast buffet and is flanked by an adjacent cheese room.

IMG_0610THB 1,500 meetings package

Yet another drawcard is price. The rack rate for rooms online (depending on dates) starts at around USD 125. A recent full-day meetings package offer for THB 1,500 (about USD 40) included two coffee breaks and lunch, all AV gear, water, mints and Internet access.

Of particular benefit to events guests, says Pui, is HiltonLink, a free service that makes it easy for individual clients to control their arrangements, enabling them to book online using the group rate they’ve secured.

“They have the option of building a custom web page or we can provide them with a booking link in up to 23 languages,” says Pui. “Then they simply share their link with their guests – send it in an email or post on other sites to spread the word.”

Many of the hotel’s MICE business these days comes from government and embassy clients, the IT industry medical and pharmaceutical companies and bridal parties, says Heidi. The hard-working staff spend much of their time “making the impossible possible,” as when they worked overnight recently to set up an Oktoberfest function, or when 400 people arrived for a dinner when fewer than that had been catered for.

Executive Suite“It’s about flexibility and how willing you are to make the impossible happen,” Heidi says. “Our attitude is of course we can do it. How we’ll do it is our problem.”

As a result the hotel is on the “TripAdvisor Hall of Fame” for consistently achieving good traveller reviews. “The five-day event was professionally slick and ran seamlessly and, most importantly, we received very positive feedback from our internal and external guests,” wrote one client. “We are pleased to share that our guests had had only good comments and positive feedback regarding the Hilton Millennium Bangkok.”

 

Siteseer says:

This is an elegant, comfortable good-value hotel in a spectacular location with excellent food, facilities and staff. But Hilton should review its irksome policy of charging guests for Internet access in rooms.

For more information, click here, or email bangkok.reservations@hilton.com.

The Siteseer was a paying guest of the Millennium Hilton Bangkok.

Millenium Hilton Bangkok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia’s a better deal than ever. It’s the only region in the world where the prices of hotel rooms dropped for Australian travellers in 2014. Admittedly, some of the falls can likely be attributed to the weakening of the Aussie dollar, which has hit a six-year low, but the results will doubtless be of interest to most organisers seeking to run an event offshore – and not just Australians.

The latest hotels.com index, which compares Asian prices, shows that they were in fact only slightly higher than they were 10 years ago, and fell for a second consecutive year.

In Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka prices paid for hotel accommodation in cities like Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok all fell – some quite substantially – in 2014. These ranked among the best-value cities in the world for hotel stays. The only exceptions to the slump were China, Hong Kong and Japan, where prices rose modestly last year.

20150220_Hotels.com_ACCESS Resort & Villas_Phuket  (2)Conversely, says Regional Director for hotels.com, Katherine Cole, hotel rooms in Rio, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Paris were all subject to double-digit price rises. Prices rose by 15% in New Zealand, 12% in Fiji and 11% in New Caledonia. The city where Australian travellers paid the most for a hotel room in 2014 was New York, where the average price was $317.

In Australia prices increased on average by only 1% in the past year. They rose slightly in Sydney (1%), Brisbane (2%) and Melbourne (1%). They fell in Darwin (-4%) and Perth (-3%).

Best-value hotel destinations for Australian travellers in 2014:

 

Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD)
Cambodia $73
Vietnam $91
Thailand $113
Poland $116
Egypt $117

 

Countries where hotel prices fell the most for Australians:

Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD)
Oman -18%
Russia -7%
Sri Lanka -5%
Croatia -5%
Taiwan -4%

 

Top five international destinations where Australian travellers paid the most for hotels in 2014:

Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD) % change on 2013
New York $317 7%
Rio de Janeiro $299 14%
Cancun/Riviera Maya $282 19%
Honolulu $281 10%
Boston $272 10%

 

Top five international destinations with the highest growth in hotel prices for Australian travellers in 2014:

Destination Average price paid in 2014 (AUD) % change on 2013
Morocco  $169 41%
Mauritius  $277 25%
Greece  $196 18%
Qatar  $197 17%
New Zealand  $162 15%

 

Change in Australian hotel prices for domestic travellers in 2014: 

Destination Average price paid in 2014(AUD) % change on 2013 
Hobart $176 6%
Adelaide $153 6%
Canberra $185 4%
Brisbane $172 2%
Sydney $200 1%
Melbourne $177 1%
Perth $184 -3%
Darwin $200 -4%

 

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In the Ratchaprasong shopping district of the Thai capital, my wife and I once stopped to cross a busy intersection when she felt someone rummaging in her handbag. “Hey!” She swung round to confront the thief.

She found herself facing an elephant, accompanied by its human handler, digging its trunk into her bag, looking for something to eat.

On my most recent visit I realised there’s usually something in Bangkok that surprises or confronts, and it’s not always the traffic. But the residents are used to it. Every day its 14.5 million people do battle with serious urban overcrowding, not to mention pockets of shouty, occasionally violent demonstrators – who for the time being are kept quiet by the imposition of martial law.

Hotel-Lobby1Yet with a smile and a shrug, the vast majority carry on working, making a buck, eating, drinking and having fun. To the Thais the country’s cultural, political, diplomatic, commercial, financial and religious epicentre is known as Krung Thep, City of Angels. It welcomed more visitors (16 million) in 2013 than any other city in the world, according to Time magazine.

The Ratchaprasong district lies in the hyperactive heart of the city. One of the buzziest shopping, entertainment and restaurant precincts, it’s also home to a clutch of beautiful hotels. When you consider the quality of the accommodation, meetings facilities, service, food and entertainment on offer, these are ridiculously cheap.

For me one of the most remarkable is the Marriott-owned Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong, with 322 rooms and suites, where local glitterati are routinely photographed at functions, and which has nearly 20,000 square feet of meeting and events facilities – as well as a special car lift to carry automobiles up to exhibition space on the first floor.

The five-year-old hotel is a balm for the senses. The lobby is a spectacular place of shimmering marble and glass-and-chrome fittings, with muted lighting and dark teak alternating with pink to create a welcoming, unusual space. As you’d expect in a five-star property, there’s a fine spa, a state-of-the-art gym, full-service business centre and bunch of dining options, including high-end Italian and Chinese. If you choose you can laze in the indoor pool high up in the hotel, overlooking the city.

IMG_8249The ballroom can accommodate 600 and there are dedicated event planners onsite. It’s close to the Chit Lom Skytrain station (the super-efficient transit system) and upscale shopping at Gaysorn, Zen, Central World, Siam Paragon and the new futuristic Central Embassy mall. “The location is perfect,” says Wanpen Chanthariyab (pictured, left), Director of Marketing Communications.

“In many hotels you have to get a cab to get anywhere; here everything’s where you want it.” And importantly for Bangkok, there are four parking levels on site, according to Soo Oftana (pictured, centre), Director of Sales and Marketing.

From USD108 per night

How much will a room set you back here? An online check reveals Internet specials starting from 3,500 baht (USD108, AUD120) per night, a terrific deal considering what’s on offer. “The rooms were outstanding . . . the location is great . . . the staff is very friendly . . . and the best thing was [the] price,” writes one online reviewer. “Excellent value for money. I’ll certainly be back.”

The marketing folks are reluctant to publicise meeting or conference rates, saying they’re subject to negotiation. But one of the best times for good events deals is the last two weeks of December, holiday season in Thailand, according to Sukhum Trongcharoen (above, right), Director of Sales.

Email: wanpen.c@renaissancehotels.com

Studio-Suite-1 Royal-Maneeya-Ballroom

Dusk falls over the Chao Phraya river, the broad waterway that snakes through Bangkok city and surrounding countryside. Against the darkening horizon, barges and small craft churn the surface of the river into glittering points of light. On the open deck of the teak river boat Mekhala, moored beside a temple, guests are enjoying drinks before sitting down to a Thai meal.

feature_1_image_1 It’s an experience that more and more incentive groups are enjoying as they savour the delights of a Bangkok river cruise. Adventure tour company Asian Oasis operates three converted rice barges on the river, for a one-night, two-day trip that alternates upstream and downstream to and from Bangkok and the former capital of Ayutthaya.

The three boats have eighteen air-conditioned cabins in total, each a marvel of compact design, with en-suites. The overnight stop is at Wat Kai Tia, a Buddhist shrine in a tranquil rural village, where obliging staff serve central Thailand specialty dishes by candlelight on deck. The boats stop at a traditional market as well as an ethnic Mon village; for the rest of the time guests can marvel at life on the teeming waterway on which half of Thailand’s population depends.

feature_1_image_2The clientele is mostly Australian and European, says Chananya Phataraprasit (pictured), the company’s Executive Director and pioneer of eco-tourism in southeast Asia, and all meals are included. Guests pay for their own booze, or can buy a package that includes drinks.

From $110 per person per day

The cost: from around USD110 per person per day. “That’s good value for money,” says Ms Phataraprasit, with some understatement. “It’s a vibrant, unusual way for many inbound visitors to see Thailand.” As I can attest.

See www.asian-oasis.com or www.mekhala.com
Email: info@asian-oasis.com

Mekhala image

Mekhala cabin

Mekhala barges 2 (2)Mekhala dinner