So Sofitel Bangkok – A Review By Punam Mohandas
Six years into its opening, the So Sofitel Bangkok can still be considered a relatively new property. The hotel prides itself on its bold approach to design and indeed, offers a funky, contemporary look effortlessly that is quite a delight to behold.
There are actually two lobbies; the Park Lobby is a bright, fashionable space designed like a modern living room, where the check-in is a personalized service accompanied by a welcome drink. Cream settees with maroon and blue cushions placed against black tables are flanked by wooden panels that bear a flowered design in minute perforations, while the chandeliers are made of bamboo rings covered with handmade paper. The idea here is to have no barriers between staff and guests and therefore, the Reception desk is just a wooden slab and guests can stand either side of it. Off to one side is a long, flowing white desk where one can find the duty manager.
The Street Lobby is completely different in design, done up all in black, with hanging animal-shaped mobiles and a Thai chandelier which is essentially an unusual bamboo framework in geometric shape that extends all across the space till the Chocolab. Club guests are directly whisked off to the Club Lounge on the 25th floor for the check-in procedure, which is quite a colourful space with suede-covered chairs in orange, rose pink, blue and maroon, offset by a long, flowing wooden bench and some superb artwork. There is also an outside smoking area overlooking the Bangkok skyline.
With 238-keys, the So Sofitel Bangkok is designed around the elements of earth, fire, metal, water and wood and the elevators for the floors too follow the individual design themes. Noted French designer, Christian Lacroix, has added plenty of his design inputs in terms of the delightful staff uniforms as also some of the art across the hotel, while the top five Thai designers have collaborated with him for the room elements. Indeed, each room has a small, square, signature Lacroix cushion bidding guests ‘good night’ in three languages – English, French and Thai.
Rooms are divided into the following categories: So Cozy (38sqm) So Comfy (45sqm) So Club (54sqm) So Studio (72sqm) So Suite (98sqm) So Suite (68-70sqm) So Lofty (120sqm) and the So VIP Deluxe (Presidential: 138sqm) Although the room category, size and price may be the same, depending on which ‘element’ it falls under, the design will be completely different.
And so (!) for instance, the So Lofty (Metal) is completely done up in white, with the exception of two chairs in startling purple. A large screen television on a narrow panel serves as the divider between the bed and a small seating space that has a chaise lounge overlooking the pond in Lumpini Garden. The flooring is white marble shot with grey streaks, offset by light grey drapes and a beautifully sculpted wall piece in metallic grey.
On the other hand, So Lofty (Wood) has a simple design, with a laminated wood floor, a couple of modern wooden artefacts and two large screen television sets. The sitting space here is bigger, with a grey settee and darker grey drapes. Sliding doors separate the bathroom area, which has a round bathtub in the centre, flanked by wardrobes to one end and twin washbasins to the other.
So Lofty (Water) offers a black-and-white minimalistic yet sophisticated décor, with silver grey gauze curtains and darker blinds behind it, while the floor is in grey with white-and-black streaks running through the tiles. A single white anthurium flower by the study desk makes its own style statement, as does the small round settee in white topped by dark cushions. There is a glass partition between the study desk and the bathtub area, which can either be covered by blinds or else, raised, so that one can watch the wall-mounted TV (on a swivel) whilst in the bathtub.
The So Suite (Earth) is nothing short of a sheer delight! The room – if one can term it that – has a floor-length oval mirror close to the entrance and is done up all in blue to cunningly resemble a cave and thus, it has a low roof and mini circular shapes that separate sections of the room; for example, the bar is hidden in one such alcove while another has a walk-in closet. There are ‘cave’ paintings on all the walls, beautifully offset by delicate, printed blue and grey drapes. Even the room numbers have animal motif decorations around them. The bathroom here also follows an unusual contour, with a floor in black-and-white squares and a circular bathtub.
The VIP Deluxe is a two-bedroom, duplex suite, with both bedrooms done up in similar décor involving a round settee in white by the TV, while the bed faces a quirkily-shaped writing desk, also in white. The stone flooring as also wall paneling is done up in a wavy pattern in dark grey and black. The suite also has a small powder room and a little kitchenette. A flight of steps leads to a small foyer on top in which reposes a single seat chair hammock done up in see-through plastic, beneath which is a white rug. The sitting room has a long, eight-seater dining table, above which is a chandelier in black metal. Most surprisingly, there is a Jacuzzi cordoned off by a glass wall that overlooks the sitting room! Apparently, this suite is also given out for private parties and can accommodate about 200-pax, with a DJ in attendance.
All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows; remote-button controlled drapes; 40-inch LCD TV’s; espresso machines; tea/coffee maker; electronic safe; torch; iron and ironing board; weighing scale and four complimentary bottles of drinking water, while the bathrooms have round or oblong bathtubs, magnifying mirrors, rain showers and jet sprays. The faucets are shaped such that the water gushes out like mini waterfalls. Minibar items in the Club rooms are complimentary and fruits are uniquely placed in a holder that looks like a mini liquor cask. Furthermore, the So Sofitel offers a pillow menu, as well as some bath treats.
F&B options comprise the 120-covers Park Society and Park So Terrace Bar. While the latter also provides live DJ accompaniment, the former is a mirrored space with sleek silver and grey covered chairs around white marble-topped tables. This outlet also has a wine cellar. Mixo Bar at the Park Lobby level allows guests to mix their own cocktails, or have molecular cocktails served by professional mixologists. Apart from these, there is the Water Club, which is the poolside bar; Chocolab at Street Lobby level; the recently opened KOF across it, serving premium coffees and the 120-covers Red Oven overlooking Lumpini Park, which is the multi-cuisine, all-day dining outlet. This restaurant has come up around a water body in front of which is placed a large, fiberglass, white antelope and is almost two separate dining areas, with a red-and-black colour theme and the unusual design concept of cutlery hanging from the overhead table lights.
Convention facilities include the Ballroom that can accommodate 320-pax cocktail style and can be partitioned into three smaller halls. This space, including the pre-function area, is reminiscent of a Parisian opera hall with dark pleated drapes and red carpet and houses a truly fantastic collection of wall clocks. Apart from this, there are the Social I, II, III and IV that can accommodate from 30-80 pax theatre style; The Box, with 30-pax theatre-style and the Solution Centre (Business Centre) that offers an eight-seater boardroom (Complimentary two hour usage for Club guests.)
There is free wifi across the hotel and two computer stations for complimentary guest use in the Solution Centre, while the Club Lounge offers a couple of iPads for use by its guests.
Recreation options include chocolate making classes at Chocolab or else, bicycling at Lumpini Park, since the hotel provides complimentary bicycles for guests. And of course, there is the So Spa, which is based on a forest theme and therefore, has actual tree trunks supporting the ceiling, while muted murals of birds and foliage adorn the walls; the experience is that of entering a series of caves. There are seven treatment rooms, of which three are couple rooms. There are separate steam and sauna facilities for ladies and gentlemen. There is also a hair salon on this floor. While the small gym, So Fit, overlooks the pool, the area to its rear has been given over to an exclusive sunbathing space.
The pool here really does merit a paragraph all to itself. Plenty of city hotels in Bangkok find accommodating a swimming pool on its premises a challenging, even, daunting task, but the So Sofitel has worked around the limited space rather cunningly to nonetheless provide a fun atmosphere. Broadly speaking, it can be called an ‘infinity’ pool, although it does have a protective glass shield around the edges so that one doesn’t float away into, well, infinity! It’s a narrow pool, but makes up in length what it lacks in width and has come up around a tree, whose overhanging branches not only provide some shade but give the illusion of some tropical resort. A few sun loungers have been placed at the shallow edge of the pool actually in the water, while there’s a Jacuzzi off to the side.
Internal security is quite controlled; guests can only access their rooms by touching the keycard to an electronic card reader placed in the lifts; this is not required for the public areas. A very thoughtful touch I found at this hotel were slips of paper that have been placed near the house phones, in case one needs to jot down a number. It would be a welcome touch if the So Sofitel were to similarly provide sunscreen at the poolside. Housekeeping is cheerful and efficient. F&B service at Red Oven during breakfast time is attentive and prompt, as is the chef team; overall, the plating as well as food taste is of a good standard. The attending staff at the poolside, however, need to pull up their socks. Front Office staff are largely courteous and helpful, although, at the time of check-out, it was notable that they do not bother with pleasantries such as helping with luggage. Pest control is effective.
All major airlines fly into Bangkok as also many low cost ones. From Suvarnabhumi airport to the So Sofitel Bangkok a taxi should take about 35-40 minutes and cost approximately 350 baht; do bear in mind there is a service surcharge of 50-baht from the airport. The So Sofitel Bangkok is situated in the Silom area, accessed by BTS Sala Daeng or MRT Lumpini station (both within the same physical space.) The hotel provides a one-way tuktuk drop from the hotel to the station. From the hotel, one can do easy tours of the city by longtail boat or public ferry down the Chao Phraya river 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. The famous Patpong night market is an easy 10-minute walk from Sala Daeng BTS.
There is plenty to do in the City of Angels, from Siam Square (two train stops away) 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, a Flower Market and Chatuchak Market (the latter 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.
SO SOFITEL BANGKOK
TEL: +66 6240000
FAX: +66 6240111
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.