W Hotel Bangkok
Words by Paul Oswell
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
Long story short: Thai imagery comes out swinging
Short story long: One of the first things you notice when you travel to Asian cities is how the Western corporations appropriate the local traditions to fit in. Usually it’s about as culturally comfortable as your dad trying out his bar Spanish in a suburban tapas restaurant.
In Bangkok, for example, the sight of Ronald MacDonald doing his forced clownish bowing outside the Thai outposts of his fast food chain never fails to illicit a cringe from me, though maybe it’s better than him not doing it? I don’t know.
Starwood are a western brand but with their much-vaunted W Bangkok hotel, they’ve thrown themselves into placing this property with so much gusto you can only really admire it. Just walking into the lobby is an assault in the senses as vivid Thai imagery comes at you from every corner.
Some 80,000 crystals have been employed in huge collages amid the black marble backdrop and foreground of young fashion bloggers looking at their phone screens. A tiger fights a phoenix for…reasons? A lobby nymph does explain it to me but my old ears lose the thread beneath the curated trip-hop.
The other motifs include Thai Boxing – lobby drinking booths are fashioned over traditional ringside fixtures – and pimped-up tuk-tuks with artistic light installations. It’s kind of spectaular, like if young people had a go at redesigning Vegas.
In London or New York, you’d expect a hefty dose of disdain from the staff if you didn’t show up wearing a Skrillex t-shirt but that famed Thai hospitality shines on through and the staff can’t help but be wonderfully helpful.
If you’ve stayed at Ws before, you know what you’re in for with the rooms – bold colours and tech-forward amenities with local touches that double as expensive souvenirs. The latter in this case is a delightful pair of oversized gold Thai boxing gloves (no, YOU danced around in your pants pretending to be Rocky).
Adjusting the lighting and temperature from a tablet still feels wonderfully futuristic to me, but I remember Friendster, so what do I know? In short, the rooms are great and if W prices are a bit too rich for you (as they for me) in Western cities, then the value on parade in Thailand provides a good opportunity to try it out.
Across the forecourt is a very different experience altogether. Still part of the hotel, the House on Sathorn (named after the road/neighbourhood we’re in) is a painstakingly-restored 19th century mansion that was formerly the Russian embassy in Thailand. It has beautiful, wood-framed colonial dining rooms and an expansive courtyard which had a DJ even at 10am when I looked around (possibly still there from the night before).
The to-be-expected modern freebies are all present and correct – fast, free WiFi so that stream of Instagram updates of you wearing your pants and huge boxing gloves needn’t suffer, and a breakfast buffet (if you book that rate) that is on a par with the city’s most sumptuous.
If you’re into that sort of thing, the spa is pretty space-age and the rooftop pool delivers what all rooftop pools are supposed to in terms of views and a feeling of quiet superiority.
The immediate neighbourhood, Sathorn, took a few years to catch up to the W but there should now be enough cafes, bars and restaurants to keep those fashion bloggers happy. I didn’t see a bowing Ronald MacDonald, but it’s probably just a matter of time.
Champagne Tastes: The Extreme Wow Suite has a steam room and movie projection screen among other things (you can even get this suite for £175/$210 per night).
Shandy Pockets: One of the most affordable cities to check into a W brand hotel (rooms from around £110/$135 per night)
Paul Oswell was a guest of W Hotels.
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