Excellent Thai hospitality
NOTE: I stayed at this hotel at a cheaper rate through my connection with a very senior staff member of this hotel, but I have reviewed this hotel with unbias honesty.
Bangkok is one of the craziest, fast-paced cities I’ve ever seen (in respect to traffic that is). The streets are not so clean, the smell is not so pleasant, the food might not be so hygienic, so it’s quite important to stay in a quiet, clean, Thai hotel with genuine hospitality and politeness. With labour being quite cheap, most tourists (wherever the come from) can afford relatively nice hotels of 4 or 5 star range, so Bangkok has a large number of international hotels catering for westerners. Radisson Bangkok joins this list as a relatively cheaper hotel; not because of terrible rooms or service, but because of its somewhat out-of-the-way location. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the major shopping area’s (eg MBK and Siam Square), to the Skytrain stations, and even to the weekend markets but these vans only cater for maximum 10 people at a time, and are so infrequent its just a joke. A taxi will cost about 60-80 Baht one way (about $AUD3-4), so its dirt cheap. You’re thinking why pay to go to a more expensive hotel for location when there’s the Radisson? Well ever tried waiting in a taxi for an hour to go less than 5 miles? Ever tried doing this frequently? Welcome to Bangkok.
So location is pretty important, but if you can get over this, I assure you a stay at the Radisson is a smart choice. The lobby is has a medium sized atrium with 3 long chandeliers. You are greeted EVERYTIME at the door by a Thai girl with a bow (none of this ‘pretend to be distracted’ nonsense like doormen in US hotels) and pretty much every other staff member you see. If you’ve never been to Thailand before it may come as a shock, but it’s really quite welcoming with a genuine smile. Check-in was very comprehensive, and you must give all of your passport details. It might be a little weird, but I do believe they do this for your own safety. And they really do care about you at this hotel. If you leave the hotel for the day in a taxi, they will write down the taxi’s rego number down and give you a copy to make sure you get a copy, and when you come back they take it back so they know you’ve come back safely. On the back of the card it also has a map of Radisson, and its address in Thai in case of communication problems with taxi drivers on the way back. It’s really very good!
Upon check-in they give you a green fruit welcome drink. Request for an even numbered room, as they offer the best views of the city. Odd numbered views have pretty terrible views of nothing. Corner rooms also offer marginally more room (probably meant for the disabled). We booked 5 nights from 19 January 2007 in 2 interconnecting rooms, and got exactly that (finally a hotel that doesn’t stuff up a booking – but then again, it was booked by a senior member of staff). A welcome bowl of fruit awaited us on arrival with a traditional Thai Orchid flower. Rooms are tastefully coloured with large bathroom (separate tub and shower) with dresser table between the 2 cupboards. But apart from that, very much like your average 4 star hotel room. The beds, however, are some of the hardest I’ve ever slept on, but surprisingly I did actually get to sleep. Power to the room is the ‘insert room card’ style at the door, which means the air-conditioning is turned off when you leave to conserve energy which is good for Bangkok, but absolutely terrible when you return to a 30 degree room after a long day at a market. Electricity supply is a problem in Bangkok however, where I believe the government had even restricted trading hours of shops to conserve power.
They also give you 2 bottles of drinking water complimentary every day (they charge 20 Baht per extra bottle ordered per day), which is another sign that they care about your wellbeing.
You can tell from the genuine smiles that the staff here really do try their best to meet your needs, but unfortunately we did run into numerous communication problems (maybe because of my Australian accent?). You need to speak to them in English very slowly, and once you order or reserve something, get them to reconfirm themselves. Don’t just re-say what you said and saw yes or no; chances are it will be reserved wrong as we’ve learnt. We rang for wake up call, no-one rang. We rang for someone to show us how to use the kettle, no-one came. We rang housekeeping for a set of scales to weight luggage, no-one came. Hmmm. We booked the shuttle bus service twice, and BOTH times they booked the wrong days. We just gave up in the end and used taxi’s all the time at a departure time of our convenience.
Most rates include a free buffet breakfast on the lobby floor. If you stay in an executive room, there is also a lounge with a buffet breakfast of less range and choice. We used the buffet downstairs every morning as we were told it’s the better one. Selection here is very good, with the usual cereal, fresh fruit, danishes, English breakfast style with egg cooking station, but also Japanese foods, Thai foods and chinese noodles. Even more comprehensive than Luxor in Las Vegas, and that’s a Vegas buffet! Normal price here is 450 Baht + tax each person, but I think everyone has it included in the room rate anyway! The same restaurant also has lunch and dinner where every month there’s a theme. January 2007 is Australia theme, so they cover the place in Australian flags and koalas. So I come from Australia, lots of the guests do as well, why do we want to fly 9 hours to eat a Thai cook’s version of Australian food? Bit beyond me. If I was from UK or USA, still I want to come to Thailand for Thai food, not Australian. Don’t know that logic there.
The lobby area also offers a traditional afternoon tea of cakes, Danishes and tea but never tried it. Again, it’s more an upper-class English tradition and nothing to do with Thailand, so why would international guests want to do that? The hotel also features a Japanese restaurant and Chinese restaurant. Hello? We have come to Thailand. The only Thai food place is the panoramic view restaurant on the 24th floor and while I appreciate it’s trying to be nice, it’s also nice and expensive. Thailand and Bangkok is famous for cheap foods! So why is it so expensive here? It’s not within walking distance to hokker style stores, taxi rides are too slow, so if its 8pm and I want some Thai food for dinner, I’m stuck with this choice.
We did have that problem on the first day, where the flight arrived in the afternoon so we looked for dinner and ended up at the Japanese restaurant. The staff are really Japanese. About 450 Baht + tax each for dinner for a Sushi buffet, it was excellent value (about $AUD20 each). A raw fish station offered freshly cut Sashimi, sushi and all of the little condiments that come with Japanese food. Also had a tempura station and Odon noodles station. Desserts were very western (jelly, chocolate mousse) but also featured some Cantonese desserts (sweet tofu in syrup) and Green Tea Ice-cream. All up, well worth going if you want Japanese food in Thailand.
Making international phone calls cheaply from this hotel is hectic. To get international phone cards, you must buy the card (not sold at the hotel) and use them at a specific yellow phone booth (also not at the hotel). Closest booth is the hospital next door – if you dare to walk by yourself onto the dark streets at night. We bought the phone card at MBK shopping centre and used the phone booth there, but it is just so noisy!
I did like that fact that there was a live band playing in the lobby (piano and violin) in the early evening – unlike some hotels who have the musical equipment but no-one ever plays of listens.
As stated above, it is quite slow to get to places. For shopperhollics, I’d recommend Mah Boon Krong (MBK) which is the home of Fake things. You can get heaps of stuff there for very cheap prices, and you can bargain! It’s like a massive market, but air-conditioned. Virtually anything you can get at a market, you can get here. Fake sunnies, Diesel jeans, Louis Vuitton handbags and wallets (though hidden from view as its illegal to sell this brand), D&G, Polo Ralph Lauren, even tailored suits. All at low prices. The more you buy, the more you can bargain. For those wanting more upmarket and real products (more like a normal shopping centre), go to Siam City next door and the newly opened Siam Paragon (high end shopping centre). Find what you like at Paragon, and then try finding the fake at MBK!
Also try the Jatuchak weekend markets (you guessed it, only on the weekends), and the floating markets for a Venice-like experience. It’s just amazing to watch the traffic jams in the small canals! Worse than the road traffic jams in Bangkok. For more historical experiences, visit the Grand Palace and Temple of the Buddha, the Bridge over River Kwai, and the Sai Yok Elephant Camp where you can ride elephants; a truly unique experience!
One-way limousine transfers from Radisson to the new airport is about 800 Baht for sedan, or 1200 Baht for a van (for those with lots of luggage), the van can fit about 8 people in it and the roof has funky lighting everywhere! This is chargeable to your room account.