Banyan Tree Bangkok – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The Banyan Tree Bangkok has long maintained its stand as one of the city’s leading luxury hotels. With 327-keys and 61 floors, one might be forgiven for thinking this would be just another impersonal city hotel but instead, the Banyan Tree Bangkok brings to its patrons a decidedly resort-like ambience. The management has created a beautiful little garden setting within its environs, complete with waterfall and a pond with goldfish and turtles, while the lush foliage and branches of the trees form an effective green canopy overhead
The lobby is vast, with scattered seating. There are no queues at the Reception counter; guests are invited to take a seat and served with a welcome drink and cold towel as the staff discreetly perform the check-in formalities. Those booked into Club rooms are whisked off to the 19th floor to complete the check-in procedure.
This is pretty much an all-suite hotel, even though some rooms may not have the ubiquitous door or sliding partition. Accommodation is divided into the following categories: Horizon (48sqm); Oasis Retreat (44sqm); Serenity Club (48sqm); One Bedroom Suite (59sqm); Two Bedroom Suite (119sqm); Spa Sanctuary Suite (118sqm) and the Presidential Suite (204sqm.)
All the rooms, indeed, across the hotel, from the elevators to the accessories, the colour theme is that of black and white, with the French window drapes being in steel grey silk. The Presidential Suite is in duplex style. Four armchairs around a round table in the foyer serve as a classy waiting area. Leading indoors is a bigger living room with sofas and, beyond that, is an eight-seat dining table surrounded by plants under an atrium roof; a really elegant and welcoming space. There is a small pantry and powder room on this level. A spiral staircase with black handrail and grey granite steps leads to another small seating area that also has an exercise cycle and is flanked on one side by a small toilet and luggage store room and, to the left, by the bedroom. The bathroom here is quite spectacular, with twin washbasins mounted on conical stands of black marble. The shower cubicle has a rain shower as well, while the bathtub is kitted with a Jacuzzi. All in all, this suite has four large screen television sets.
The three Spa Suites are due for renovation later this month. One room is given over to twin-bedded in-suite spa treatments, while the living room here has a more relaxed and lounge-like setting, with settees and an oblong-shaped study table. Although the bedroom is oddly-shaped with a low ceiling (these suites are directly under the Presidential Suite and so follow the room outlines above) it actually looks quite cosy and inviting. The bathroom is spacious, with double wardrobes.
The one-bedroom suites have a similar colour theme as the Oasis rooms, (although the latter do not have separate living rooms.) There is a settee by the window and a long study desk in black granite. Two small armchairs face each other in the bedroom, across from the bed. A large, copper coloured silk board behind the bed headboard provides the foil for a single brass Thai artefact, strategically outlined. The bathroom has an oval bathtub and the same black conical washbasins and rain shower as the Presidential Suite.
The Horizon category is reasonably spacious and has a living room with an oblong-shaped study table, sofa, as well as armchair with footstool. There is a brightly coloured Thai country scene painted in delicate watercolours and gold behind the headrest, serving as the bed panel.
The Serenity Club rooms are equally roomy. While these rooms do have a separate living area with the study desk and minibar, there is no partition between this and the bedroom. Sensibly, there is a wall mounted television that can swivel to face the sofa or the bed. The colour theme in the living space has a sofa in fawn offset by cushions in fawn and teal. The bed is by the large French window that gives on to city views as well as the Chao Phraya river. A similar painting in watercolours of light and rich coral shades over the bed provides the splash of colour in this space. The bathroom is large enough; although the shower cubicle is a narrow triangle, it does not restrict movement. However, due to a design flow, most of the water ends up flowing past the door. There are no jet sprays in any of the rooms BUT – what there is, is this really fancy and futuristic WC that has a range of buttons for bidet, spray and dry. As I said, quite fancy and extremely effective too.
All rooms are equipped with tea/coffee maker, espresso machine, minibar, electronic safe, large screen television, weighing scale, magnifying mirror and three complimentary glass bottles of drinking water, with more provided on request. All bathrooms have double wardrobes, however, surprisingly there are no full length mirrors. Aromatic oil dispensers with tea light candles as well as incense sticks are placed in the rooms, to suit your mood. Moreover, the housekeeping staff can organise various bathroom set-ups on request (at a charge) such as mud bath, milk and roses bath and so on, which may or may not include champagne as well (as per guest preference.) Furthermore, the dressing robes as well as bedroom slippers are unusually elegant, in the same black and white motif followed across the hotel, with the darker shade meant for gentlemen.
F&B options include the 98-covers, all-day dining Romsai by the garden; the 67-covers signature Thai restaurant Saffron; the 30-covers Saffron Sky Garden beside it, which is another charming mini oasis of green on the rooftop; the 62-covers Japanese fine dining Taihei with a sushi bar as well as teppenyaki; the 140-covers Chinese speciality Bai Yun; the 210-covers Vertigo and Moon Bar on the 61st floor of the hotel, giving onto an absolutely sweeping panoramic view of the city and the 90-covers Vertigo Too, two levels down, dark and mysterious in black, that provides some intimate seating and a daily live band. The Banyan Tree also operates Apsara, a 50-covers dinner cruise boat. A word here in praise of Saffron which is quite deservedly the signature outlet of the hotel – serving contemporary Thai cuisine, the food as well as service is superior and a definite must-try.
Then of course there is the Club Lounge, meant for guests staying on the Club floors. Unlike other hotels, an extensive breakfast is served here, followed by a selection of canapes, mini cakes and fresh fruit for high tea from 12-4pm and then quite a good spread of snacks, bread, cheese and desserts during Happy Hour from 5.30-7.30pm.
Recreation options include a gym that also offers aerobics and Muay Thai boxing classes, a children’s play area in the Club Lounge as well as a smaller toddlers’ play area by Romsai and a jewellery and artefacts boutique on the lobby level. The swimming pool area is surprisingly cramped, with a longish, narrow pool. The hotel makes up for the lack of space by a series of welcome touches, such as offering mini platters of fresh fruit, shot glasses of fresh juice every hour, or a 15-minute complimentary neck and shoulder massage. And then of course, there is the Banyan Tree spa, which also has a shop where guests can buy the spa products. The entire foyer area leading to these facilities is done up as a small, cheerful bistro and then one flight of stairs down, the actual spa space is hushed, all done up in black, with dim lighting. The centerpiece is a huge arrangement of lit fiberglass rods, meant to resemble bamboo rods. There are 16-treatment rooms, of which six are single. All the double rooms have Jacuzzis and individual steam rooms (there are separate sauna and steam rooms by the pool.) The staff at the spa are friendly and speak English. Having a spa treatment here is a gloriously pampered experience. One is offered a welcome drink, post which one heads downstairs to begin the treatment. A one hour massage commences with a green tea and honey foot scrub, followed by a Balinese massage with a mix of essential oils such as black pepper, lavender and geranium. What sets these spa experiences apart is not only the level of care the hotel has devoted to it – the rooms are done up in Thai silk hangings, with silk cushions and all the beds have electric blankets, while the music is not the usual spa instrumentals on a loop but rather, soft vocals accompanied by the unmistakable sound of the sitar – but also the expertise of the masseuse; Khun Bow, quite simply, has a high level of training and experience and is extremely skilled. That’s not all; once the treatment is over, one is led back upstairs to the lounge, to be served with fresh fruits, hot lemongrass tea and a small pot of yoghurt. The entire experience has been created around guest comfort and relaxation.
There is free wifi across the hotel as also four computers for complimentary guest use in the Club Lounge.
Convention facilities are myriad and include the Banyan Tree ballroom which can accommodate 300-pax cluster style or 400-pax theatre style and which can be split up into Banyan I and Banyan II. A smaller room – Linden – can take 12-pax boardroom style. These rooms have a foyer large enough for coffee breaks or registration and have a direct elevator access from the car park.
On an upper level there is Jamjuree, which can take 90-pax classroom style, with the Living Room I across from it that can be used for coffee breaks. Persimmon can also accommodate 90-pax classroom style – this room is popularly used for Thai weddings and engagement ceremonies, with all necessary equipment supplied by the hotel. Living Room II adjacent to it is used for coffee breaks and also has restrooms. Opposite Persimmon are the Cassia and Ficus halls, which can accommodate 40-pax each.
On the Club Lounge floor is Magnolia, which can either be partitioned into three small break-out rooms or, as a whole, accommodate 25-pax boardroom style. Oleander I, an eight-seat boardroom on this floor, can be used by Club floor guests for a maximum of three hours on a complimentary basis.
Pest control at the Banyan Tree Bangkok is good. Front Office and concierge staff are reasonably polite, while the staff at the Club Lounge are friendly, efficient and courteous. Housekeeping deserves a special shout-out; the service is efficient and unobtrusive. F&B service is attentive, although perhaps a tad too zealous with the attention sometimes and so they end up overdoing the effusiveness; while it is all very well for hotels to train their staff to interact with the guests, it must also be considered that one guest sometimes puts up with fifteen similar queries.
The Banyan Tree Bangkok can be accessed from either Sala Daeng or Chong Nonsi BTS stations and offers a one way free shuttle by tuktuk from the hotel to Sala Daeng, which is just two train stops away from Siam, the shopping and food centre of Bangkok. Sala Daeng also has the famous night market, Patpong, with some good bars and pubs as well. The Chao Phraya river is in relative proximity and excursions down the river could include a trip to China Town, Little India, Khaosarn road, as well as visiting famous temples such as Wat Po, Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kiew and the Grand Palace. Along the river is also the Asiatique mall and the upcoming Icon Siam.
All major airlines fly into Bangkok as also many low cost ones. From Suvarnabhumi airport to the Banyan Tree Bangkok a taxi should cost approximately 350 baht; do bear in mind there is a service surcharge of 50-baht from the airport. There is plenty to do in the City of Angels, from Siam Square with its luxury malls, restaurants as well as roadside shopping, to Thonglor, full of upbeat pubs and bars. Apart from this, you can visit a Floating Market, the Flower Market and countless Night Markets, or Chatuchak Market, open only on the weekends, 6am-6pm. You can also do day trips to Ayutthaya or Suko Thai (both erstwhile capital cities of Thailand) Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai; Khao Yai with some Thai vineyards; or nearby beach destinations such as Pattaya and Hua Hin.
BANYAN TREE BANGKOK
TEL: +66 2 679 1200
FAX: +66 2 679 1188
Punam Mohandas asserts her right to be identified as the author of this work. Any views or opinions expressed in this review is that of the author.