Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The Shangri-La is one of the more majestic and renowned properties in Bangkok, along the banks of the Chao Phraya river and spread over 18 rai (a little over seven acres) which is quite generous for a city hotel! Never mind all the competition from the swanky western chains; the Shangri-La believes in doing things in style keeping deeply ingrained Asian traditions at the forefront and this is something guests experience right from seeing the livery of the doormen, with the old-style Thai topi.
The entrance to the lobby is flanked by a pair of magnificent kneeling elephant statues. The lobby itself is a high-ceilinged, sprawling space, as befits a five star hotel, with crimson carpeting complementing the marble flooring. At this time of the year, of course, the Christmas decorations are up in earnest, with a gingerbread house wafting out a most tempting fragrance that propel one’s footsteps towards the Chocolate Boutique.
The Shangri-La has 802-keys in its inventory (including two rooms for the physically challenged), spread across two towers – the Shangri La and the Krungthep – that are connected internally by a long corridor as well as have their own separate entrances and lobbies. Accommodation in the Krungthep wing is classified as: Krungthep River View Room (44sqm); Krungthep Deluxe Balcony Room (44sqm); Deluxe Suite (84sqm); Specialty Suite (129sqm) and the Presidential Suite (215sqm.) This wing was built five years later and offers a more discreet, luxurious and classy ambience, with the corridor carpeting in mustard and bright blue. Each room is river-facing and has semi-circular balconies. The interiors are done up in taupe and midnight blue, with an overhead chandelier and a silk-panelled headboard. A beautifully hand painted mirror frame with Thai painted scenes is placed above the study desk. Although the shower area is slightly smaller, these bathrooms come with bidets as well and use L’Occitane toiletries only. All other room amenities are the same as the Shangri La Tower, where the accommodation is classified as: Deluxe Room (36sqm); Deluxe River View Room (36sqm); Deluxe Balcony Room (42sqm); Premier Room (56sqm); Horizon Club Room (36sqm); Executive Suite (72sqm); Executive River View Suite (72sqm); Premier Suite (100sqm); Specialty Suite (208sqm) and the Presidential Suite (235sqm.)
All the rooms have heavy, carved wooden doors. The Deluxe River View Room is done up in mustard and dull red furnishings, with a daybed overlooking the river. A delicately painted antique-style wooden panel of Thai country scenes behind the headboard occupies pride of place – similar painted headboards are present in all the rooms. The Horizon Club room is done up in warm shades of orange, red and golden yellow; everything is the same except that this category has access to the Club Lounge.
The Executive River View Suite has a sitting room with beautifully patterned maroon carpeting. Throw cushions in maroon and brown complement richly carved wooden cabinets and a study desk in deep brown. The bedroom is done up in orange and mustard hues and has an absolutely spectacular sculpture of a Thai musical instrument mounted in front of the painted headboard; everything is tastefully opulent. Gorgeous silk paneling in burnt orange lines the bathroom walls, while the bathtub has a small TV screen facing it. This room category also has a spacious luggage room with wardrobes and a ladies dressing table.
All rooms are equipped with a large screen TV, three (glass) bottles of complimentary drinking water (more available on request) tea/coffee maker, iron and ironing board, minibar and electronic safe. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the bed is exceedingly comfortable, with the linen bearing a faint and pleasing fragrance of fabric softener. I was also pleasantly taken aback to find that this hotel caters to its varied clientele with an extensive range of television channels, comprising four for its Indian patrons (including Doordarshan Hindi and Malyalam) apart from Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, French and Arabic.
All bathrooms have bathtubs as well as rain showers but, unfortunately, no jet sprays.
The restaurants are located in the Shangri La tower. At the lobby level is the Lobby Lounge with 112-covers, serving light dining and afternoon tea, the 56-covers Long Bar and the 22-covers Chocolate Boutique with a delectable array of chocolates and pastries. The 207-covers Italian restaurant Volti (dinner only) done up in fawn and crimson, is also on this level and offers an open kitchen concept, as well as a bar and a sunken lounge area overlooking the river. The all-day dining, 425-seater Next2 Café serving international fare and a most extensive breakfast buffet is one level below, by the river. The 286-covers Shang Palace, serving the choicest of Cantonese cuisine (lunch and dinner) has a giant smiling Buddha at the entrance welcoming patrons. The restaurant itself is done up in shades of black and muted crimson, with flowered wall paneling and huge circular domes of sparkling lights. It must be specially mentioned that both Volti as well as Shang Palace have really striking uniforms for the staff. Salathip, with 112-covers, serves traditional Thai cuisine as also provides scintillating performances by richly robed Thai dancers. This outlet is an achingly beautiful space overlooking the river, of three salas (pavilions) done up in elegant black, that have come up around centuries-old trees. Guests can choose whichever sala they would like to dine in, with the option of al fresco seating as well. The Executive Club Lounge, with restricted access, has seating in shades or brown and fawn, set against carpeting that has a crimson flowered motif on a fawn background. There are lots of intimate, private corners for small groups and an eight-seater boardroom available for a complimentary two hours per day. There are also three computer stations for guest use. The Riverside Lounge, with 120-covers, is the lone F&B outlet located in the Krungthep wing and serves light dining, afternoon tea and drinks only. Apart from the in-house restaurants, the Shangri-La also offers a 120-seater Horizon dinner cruise option down the Chao Phraya.
Recreational options include two swimming pools, one in either tower, however, guests at the Shangri-La wing are not allowed to use the pool at the Krungthep wing. Both the pools overlook the river; while the one at the former is planned resort-style, the one at the latter is flanked by a stunning Naga fountain and a small lawn area. There are lifeguards on duty and plenty of sunbeds so that guests don’t need to get into a scramble! There is also a separate sunbathing area on the lawn in the Shangri-La wing. It must be especially mentioned that pool service is very attentive. There is also a 24-hour gym overlooking dense foliage and the river. It is not a very large area, but the equipment is spaced out to give an impression of space. The gym offers complimentary yoga, aerobics and Zumba classes. There is also a relaxation lounge and separate sauna/steam facilities for men and women.
Apart from this, there is a hair salon managed by an outside operator, four boutiques along the way to the Grand Ballroom and then of course, the aptly named CHI Spa, as the overall ambience declares it to be a space of harmony and repose. The spa is located in the Krungthep wing and can be accessed internally via a long corridor. There are ten treatment rooms, of which six are couple rooms, overlooking either the river or the pool, but of course the curtains are drawn during treatments to ensure privacy. While all have the high, narrow beds suitable for body massages and facial therapies, some of the double rooms also have separate, low-bed area for Thai massages, along with a bathtub with Jacuzzi and overhead mood lighting for further relaxation, as well as an en suite steam room.
The CHI Spa uses the French brand Phytomer for facial treatments and the exclusive Thai brand Panpuri for massages and body therapies. The signature body scrub treatment is the ‘sugar and coconut scrub’ making use of fresh, local ingredients and the signature body wraps are the Tanakha detoxification with a mix of creams and clay, while the firming Tanakha uses green tea with other blends. The signature massage is called the ‘Siamese’ and is an oil massage combining Swedish strokes with the Thai stretching technique.
While a couple of other five star hotels have also begun using this kind of integrated massage approach, what sets the ‘Siamese’ at the CHI apart is not so much the treatment itself, as the therapist! Khun Honey is a slight young thing but boy, does she pack a punch! Which is not to say she is rough; quite on the contrary, she makes sure to ask the customer what sort of pressure will be preferred. The treatment starts with a salt foot scrub, after which begins the massage, for which I had asked for a combination of vanilla and ylang ylang oils and medium pressure. She was amazingly dexterous and did my massage with firm, sure strokes, later using her elbows and knees Thai-style to stretch out knots in my muscles. I had been having a pain in my hip for almost a month now and she paid particular attention to easing out the knots in the muscles here, so much so that after just one session with her, I can already walk without pain! The bed comes with some kind of heat pad system which she then activated, whilst giving me a hydrating facial using crystal particles.
The most essential factor about a massage is not the oil or the fragrance or the ambience or the what-have-you. The most essential bit to get right is a skilled masseuse! People can’t just go pinching and poking at your muscles at random – they’ve got to be well trained and, more importantly, know just when to stop coaxing at a sprained ligament. I would definitely recommend that, no matter what kind of treatment you opt for at the CHI, ask for K. Honey as your therapist – you certainly can’t go wrong with her!
There is free wifi cross the Shangri-La. Convention facilities at this hotel are quite mindboggling! The Shangri-La wing offers the Grand Ballroom that can be partitioned into three, with a total capacity of 1,600-pax; Corundum Room at 168-pax; The Chairman’s Room at 25-pax; The Study at 168-pax; The Valley Room at 96-pax; Valley Room I at 30-pax; Valley Room II at 60-pax; the Boardroom Suite at 12-pax; the Garden Gallery at 116-pax; Chao Phraya room at 150-pax and two private rooms t 30-pax each (capacities quoted in theatre-style seating.) The Krungthep wing offers halls named after the ASEAN countries, such as Singapore at 70-pax; Malaysia and Indonesia at 100-pax each; Vietnam at 20-pax; Philippines at 80-pax; Brunei at 90-pax; Myanmar at 200-pax; Myanmar I at 45-pax; Myanmar II at 90-pax and Myanmar III at 45-pax (capacities quoted in theatre-style seating.)
To my very pleasant surprise, all the front-of-the-house teams spoke good English and were smiling and courteous throughout. Housekeeping staff is very effective and efficient and take note of guest requirements without having to be reminded again. However, pest control could be improved upon, particularly in the public areas. The Shangri-La offers a complimentary tuktuk service between the two wings or to the BTS station, through the day.
If you are taking the local skytrain, then access to the hotel is via Saphan Taksin BTS station, exit 2. A taxi from the airport should cost approximately 350-400 baht, with the 50-baht surcharge. You can also ask the hotel to arrange an airport pick.
The Shangri-La Bangkok is on the Chao Phraya river, just 5-6 minutes away from the latest sensation in town – the Icon Siam mall. The mall has its own free shuttle boat so all you have to do is take the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service to the pier. Asiatique river mall is also close by and it too offers a complimentary shuttle boat service. Apart from these malls, guests can also take a ferry cruise down the Chao Phraya river, stopping at China Town, Little India, or Khaosarn along the way, or else doing a round of the Wats (temples) such as Wat Po, Wat Arun or Wat Phra Kaew at the Grand Palace.
All major airlines fly into Bangkok as also many low cost ones and 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; 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 a beach destination such as Pattaya.
SHANGRI-LA HOTEL BANGKOK
TEL: +66 236 7777
FAX: +66 236 8579
WEBSITE: www. shangri-La.com
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.