INTERCONTINENTAL BANGKOK - TOP HOTEL FOR THE WALKING CRITIC
I had a sombre mood before I checked into my flight on route to the Intercontinental Bangkok. I had purposely planned my Bangkok trip to fall on the 30th day, after the much-loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej had died. I expected the city to be in mourning. I wanted to share my respects too. 30 days was the accepted time for restraint and reverence.
Thailand holds a dear spot close to my heart. We have a lot of history together. Even with the new king in waiting, Maha Vajiralongkor.
Maha Vajiralongkor was a client of mine from London days when he was the dapper Crown Prince. My family ran an upmarket interior design and gift business on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. His wife, the Crown Princess, loved visiting us. I would lock the doors and give them (and their massive entourage of dark-suited diplomats and security guards) exclusive access to all four floors of the building, whilst they went shopping for the palace. And trust me they did! The process was fascinating.
Returning to Thailand evokes many memories for me. It is more than just a pleasure. I genuinely love the country. I love the people and their culture.
I didn’t take the Skytrain this time. I had too many bags to jostle through the turnstiles of the Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS as “rot fai fa”). I opted for a hotel limo to drop me at the Intercontinental Bangkok where I was greeted by a hanging poster of the late King. It was draped and framed in black and white material, a reminder that the hotel was in tune with the mood of the country too. In fact most of Bangkok was in the same vein of mourning,.
An officious white-gloved guard whistled us to a stop outside the lobby, as if this was his only purpose on the planet or he’d shoot you. I jest. That is all part of the culture and ritual that I love here in Thailand. I always tip my hand and salute to uniformed personnel, out of custom and respect. They never forget you when you do.
The lobby of the Intercontinental Bangkok is not imposing, though giant columns lend themselves to a feeling of power. It feels busy. Too busy.
To the right, there are ascending stairs to the first floor with an overlooking balcony. To the left is an almost unnoticeable, small concierge rest area with few seats. It has no real defining area, except for a few shelves with boxes and a standard lamp providing a zone of demarcation.
Beside it, to the right, you find stairs, only this time leading down to the lower street level and the Theo Mio restaurant and Grossi Trattoria & Wine Bar. And there is the Balcony Lounge and not too far from that, the check-in desk with a plethora of bronze colours and shapes. Above is a giant circular ceiling light that radiates golden light. It seems more becoming of a cruise ship or a ball room, than a hotel lobby. On the floor directly below it is a padded circular seat on a large round carpet. People fill the voids like scurrying ants. Some resting. Others just passengers on route. It is active but not frenetic.
It is “very Thailand”.
I’m getting use to Intercontinental hotels. I like them. The check-in process is swift as we exchange details and my bags traffic themselves via a bellhop to my room. This time I’m not jet lagged. But I am in a hurry. I have a meeting within the hour. I need to do what I call a “Batman change”. Finding my room is imperative. I don’t need hassle or obstacles.
Predictably, the Intercontinental offers none.
I swiftly reach my room and swipe my electronic key card. Before I nudge open the door, I sigh. I have this familiar “welcome home” feeling. It’s good.
The Room – #2018
I prise open the door with my foot and head toward the window light. It’s like a magnet. As a consummate traveller, I always throw open the curtains first. I want to know where I am. I’ll be living out of a suitcase, devoid of my creature comforts from home. This centres and placates me.
At the Intercontinental Bangkok I’m in for a treat. When I prise open the sheer curtains a swath of skyscape unfurls before me, the Bangkok I know and love. It could be reminiscent of Dubai or Tel Aviv, miles of concrete towers popping up with no discernible break in the pattern. The evening sunlight glints warm off the sun-bleached concrete and sky rise cladding. It is soothing.
Inside my Grande Deluxe Suite there is a preponderance of earthy, brown colours from the mirrored cupboard doors to the patterned carpet. A long bank of built-in drawers run full length with its doors cut in a chevron pattern according to the wood grain direction. One of the cupboards hid the mini bar, which slid quite easily if you tried to open the door (a sign that it was not very heavy and therefore empty!).
On top of one these sets of drawers was a kind of recessed nook with metal runners on the furniture and wall to house and protect your suitcase. Very useful. I’m not a fan of the fold-out luggage racks.
I immediately used it.
A small glass desk jutted out from the wall, out of which emanated multiple plug and phone sockets (pre-configured for international travellers that don’t have adaptors). A love seat was positioned the opposite side, to the right of the window. In front was a small, round coffee table with a welcome fruit platter.
In keeping with the tones, even the king-size bed had a fawn coloured runner edged in a darker brown trim with a spiralling foliage pattern. At its foot lay a soft, padded stool. Two side tables stood either side of the mattress with thin dark legs; ample space for the glass ball lights, and the odd phone and message pad. The bed head was a giant feature in itself with long, beige rectangular leather padded tiles that ran to the ceiling. This was framed in a rather bold silver frame. A thin, colourful rectangular print ran the width the bed.
The hallway cupboard offered ample hanging space and of course, the trusty safe for securing personal belongings.
I loved the overall feel of the room. It was neither large or small. It was adequate for my short stay. My schedule was punishing and the bed became my best friend when I just wanted to crash and put my feet up.
The bedroom feels like a subdued and mellow room, but wait until you see the bathroom. This is “in-your-face” ornate with bold yellowy-white and terracotta veined marble that makes you nod your head and purr. It is not decadent, but it is warming and inviting.
There is a walk-in shower and separate bath tub. I used both. And there were towels and robes in abundance, along with the bathroom shower gel, shampoo and body lotion accessories. Big ticks all around.
The Club Intercontinental
This was the 4th Club Intercontinental I had visited in a week and without question the one with the most impressive view. You are literally parked up against a window on the 37th floor, staring down at a racetrack. I couldn’t help wonder if it was the most expensive real estate in town! With a 9-hole golf course in the middle!
There are two definitive eating areas beyond the business section: the main buffet dining room with larger tables. This had a city view and quite a few tables. Or you could choose the quieter, smaller, elliptical windowed area with tables for two.
I opted for the latter because it was more secluded. From my eagle’s eye perch, in the safety of the club dining area, I could stare down on Bangkok for hours. There was so much to digest. It was like a giant poster of “Where’s Waldo” except I couldn’t find Waldo.
The club buffet was perfectly ample, nothing over the top. More of a sampling of choices. I have groomed myself to eat lean: smoked salmon, cold cuts, salad, muesli with yoghurt. Some fresh fruit. A little bit of cheese. I could have ordered more substantial food, but I was overly content to hover over my coffee and keep the waistline under control. I never needed more than what was on offer and it was totally within the Club Intercontinental concept that I was warming to more and more.
Club Intercontinental Privileges
Guests have the opportunity to enjoy the following services and facilities:
- Private check-in and check-out services at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Daily fruits refreshment
- Complimentary pressing of two items per stay
- Complimentary one-hour usage per day of the meeting room at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Complimentary local landline telephone calls
- Complimentary high-speed internet connection
- iPad available for use at Club InterContinental Lounge
- Personalised Concierge and Business Services at Club InterContinental Lounge
A lot of the guest indulgence revolves around the elegantly appointed Club Lounge with its impeccable and noticeably high standard of Thai hospitality. It is also open from 6am to 11pm where guests enjoy:
- Refreshment bar
- Indoor seating in full air-conditioned comfort with a beautiful sunset view
- Local & international newspapers, business & lifestyle magazines
- Fully equipped meeting room
The Pool and Gym
If you whizz up to the top of the Intercontinental Bangkok you’ll find the small pool area with a bar cabana. Expect to find panoramic views of Bangkok, especially good at dusk when the sun sets.
There are sun lounges and towels for pool guests and though I only visited once, it was quite busy and mostly used for refreshing dips rather than exercise. If you wanted a work out, you headed to the lower gym below which was not your average health club, but certainly housed enough gear to work up a sweat and keep you toned on the road.
My Favourite Dining Areas
Here’s a little secret and a massive dichotomy: I’m not a big fan of eating in hotels. But I do like to stay in them (a lot). I just feel that eating in a hotel is somewhat lazy and unimaginative when there is so much more choice out there. If you’re going to visit a country, then do just that – visit it.
Don’t hibernate in your hotel!
I’m more of an explorer. I like to get out and “do as the Romans do in Rome”. To hunt down where the locals hang. But this trip has completely re-written my text book on travel dining logic, particularly in Bangkok and it begins squarely with Theo Mio.
Theo Mio has become my favourite restaurant in Bangkok which is like a slap in the face to my love of Thai food. I didn’t go to Bangkok to eat Italian, but I did. Twice. At the same joint.
Theo Mio is the brain child of award winning chef Theo Randall. It is a modern street-front Italian kitchen located on the ground floor of the Intercontinental Bangkok which straddles the Phloen Road and what would normally be a rather uninspiring view of concrete and people; there are lots of both. Yet Theo Mio breathes life into this corner with its bold glass frontage and external terrace edged with carefully planted shrubs and topiary trees. Turquoise umbrellas and blue padded chairs add colour to this little garden enclave which is mirrored inside by gigantic ficus trees in dark ceramic planters. The black and white mezzanine floor adds even more authenticity to the Italian kitchen concept, along with the baskets and bread racks, the dangling salami meat and the blackboard menus.
The feel is definitely bright and airy. Quite intimate with its open-kitchen plan and seating choices. I loved the studded bench seating that ran uninterrupted around the windows as well as the little touches of throw cushions. Even the limited number of bar stools lent themselves to the cucina experience as you gawped at the busy chefs whipping fresh produce into action.
The Carpaccio di Manzo was a game winner with its thinly sliced beef filet, toasted pine nuts, wild rocket and large parmesan shavings. It was supposed to come with aged balsamic vinegar and Puglian olive oil but after a quick rummage around the rocket leaves I was compelled to call for some (or extra).
On two occasions, I ordered the gorgeous traditional Ligurian Trofie al Pesto Genovese with fresh pesto, potato and green beans. And I stole mouthfuls of the Risotto con Gamberoni e Zucchini (prawn risotto) and the Pappardelle con Ragu di Guancia (ribbon pasta with slow cooked wagu beef cheeks) from my paying guests. Thumbs up all around.
When coffee time beckoned, a thin slab of chocolate accompanied it, served on a chopping board with a bronze hammer to smash it. Clever. Memorable.
The wine choice was excellent and the atmosphere lively and I have to say, the service was brilliant. I barely had to look parched before my glass was topped up.
From antipasti to pizza, the choice is spot on. Prices are as expected for a hotel but nothing outrageous either. Pretty much what’s you’d expect to pay for good Italian fare.
Seats: 62 seats (main dining); 32 seats (terrace)
Open: 11:30 to 23:30 (daily); 11:30 to 14:00 (weekend brunch)
Address: 973 Phloen Chit Road, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
Telephone: +66 (0) 2 656 0444
Website: Theo Mio website
Fireplace Grill & Bar
The Fireplace Grill & Bar is the Intercontinental Hotel’s legendary steakhouse that has fed carnivores with its superior grilled meats since 1966. The flair and style is very French with starters like escargots (French snails) to frog legs, roasted bone marrow, beef cheek, foie gras, beef tartar and even Osetra Caviar Prestige for the slightly more financially cash flushed. Not to be outdone, seafood is thrown in for good measure. Try the “From The Sea” sharing platter and get stuck into the oysters, Alaskan King Crab legs, Maine Lobster, prawns and green lip mussels from New Zealand.
The main courses are equally impressive: pan fried scallops, duck a l’orange, duet of wagyu lamb, and prime rib (served with Yorkshire pudding, just to make the poms feel at home). In fact Wagyu leads the menu on the grill, followed by the tried and tested Black Angus steak.
The wine menu boats an equally impressive range of French wines and champagnes, though the Italians and new world varietals do get a look-in too.
The restaurant is timelessly classic with distinct modern touches and an open-kitchen design. All the action happens around the centre-mounted charcoal grill for true culinary theatre.
Open: 12:00 to 14:30 hours (lunch daily); 18:30 to 22:30 hours (dinner daily)
Telephone: +66 (0) 2 656 0444 ext. 5505
Website: Fireplace Grill & Bar website
Location of the Intercontinental Bangkok
The Intercontinental Bangkok could not be more perfectly located, being in the Rathchaprasong district, one of most pre-eminent business and commercial areas in the city. You are a stone’s throw away from the Erawan Shrine and walking distance to all the major shopping centres like MBK, Siam Paragon and Centralworld. If you’re smart, use the covered walkway that follows the route of the Skytrain. It is right outside the hotel and helps you avoid the endless traffic lights and intersections.
- Adjacent to Chidlom BTS Skytrain Station
- 25 KMs from Suvarnabhumi Airport
- 40 minutes by car via Express Way from Suvarnabhumi International Airport
- 20 minutes via Airport City Line from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Phaya Thai BTS Skytrain
- 3 stops from Phraya Thai BTS Station to Chidllom Station
- 20 KMs from Don Muang International Airport
- 30 minutes via Express Way from Don Muang International Airport
Final Words from the Walking Critic
I have stayed in well over 20 hotels in Bangkok and it annoys me that I have not looked at the Intercontinental Bangkok before, because it ticked all the boxes.
The room was sizeable, modern and well furnished. The bed was amazingly comfortable. It had the right number of electrical outlets for charging my phone, lap top and cameras, all at the same time. The bathroom was wonderfully spacious and I pretty much wanted for nothing. Room service was done without me even noticing.
Location was a huge major plus….and I can’t underline this enough. A huge plus.
The Skywalk is right outside the hotel lobby with all major shopping centres in walking distance (do take comfy shoes). The night life and markets are equally close by, and I barely used a taxi (or tuk tuk) during my whole stay.
Price-wise, the Intercontinental Bangkok sits on the edge of the comfort zone for the budget-minded but totally on par with other “international brand” hotel chains. I would easily recommend this hotel for both for tourists, because of its proximity to shopping and tourist attractions. And as for the business traveller, it is a total winner, especially if you go for the Club Intercontinental experience. I was able to work and enjoy my time in Bangkok without flinching. It has completely whet my appetite for more Intercontinental hotel experiences.