The staff at the St. Regis Bangkok are young and enthusiastic. From the bellman who struck up a conversation about local attractions in the elevator and proffered a card with the name and phone number of the hotel (many cab drivers who are unfamiliar with the city call for directions) a map, to the front desk clerks whose interactions with each other were as warm and familiar as they are with the guests, there’s an aura of warm welcome that seems to permeate the entire property, which just recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.
A hallmark of the St. Regis brand is that its hotels are at the “best address” in the cities to which they welcome their guests. While many visitors to Bangkok might prefer to be on the river or nearer to some of the most popular attractions, the hotel’s location on Rajadamri Road, next to the U.S. Embassy, several shopping centers, and the enjoyable Lumphini Park, is a good address for business travelers, and carefully away from the circus atmosphere of some of the more touristy areas of the city, where cab drivers often refuse to turn on the meter and well-dressed, smooth spoken men advise that attractions are closed for cleaning or holidays as an entrée to fake gem scams.
Hidden away from the roadway by a private drive and discreet signage, entry into the gracious two-story lobby is transcendental: the heat of the city melts away in good air conditioning and a cacophony of wai and welcome. Here one finds a cocktail lounge and the hotel’s Italian restaurant Jojo, which has an enthusiastic new chef and over-the-top service. Pricing is closer to Italy itself than Thailand, but the food is sublime perfection: Porcini mushroom cream soup ($16) comes under a generously portioned, gossamer-thin blanket of shaved black truffle, with creamy richness that melts any lingering hint of travel wear or jetlag. If the soup was a decadent starter, the home made foie gras pasta, which comes with pan-fried foie gras, chestnuts, and another thin layer of summer truffle ($18) envelopes like a warm, comfortable blanket and all but demands a post-prandial nap.
But there’s no time for napping, with plenty of other diversions to be had in the hotel. Guests can stop into the sky lobby to check-in or enjoy afternoon tea ($25 for two, about third the price for same at another luxury property on the river). Fans of St. Regis hotels know that each property around the world has developed a Bloody Mary inspired by the flavor of the destination, and the Siam Mary is one steeped in the converging flavors of Thailand – spicy, sweet, sour, and a little salty, all at once, coaxed on by Thai chili, wasabi, lime, coriander, Thai basil, and lemongrass.
The St. Regis Butler Service at this property is lavish, even by St. Regis standards. For SPG Gold members the complimentary pressing of two items per day is upgraded to three items, and includes laundry or pressing (although laundered items are also returned expertly pressed). Complimentary tea and coffee is proffered as a welcome, and again at any time during the stay (and it comes with cookies and Thai jelly candies). Sweets appear in rooms or suites at some point during the afternoon, including at least one presentation of St. Regis macarons (with the St. Regis Bangkok logo airbrushed on), and another of some downright habit-forming sweets made from sweet yellow bean paste, which arrived with a note from the butler explaining their origin and ingredients.
The rooftop pool has an indoor and outdoor bar, and attendants welcome guests with complimentary shots of coconut milk. There are towels, sunscreen, and bottled water (a good idea for any amount of time spent outdoors in Bangkok), a comprehensive menu of fruity (and unfortunately rather weak, which is probably wise if spending time in the sun) cocktails, and a perfect-temperature lap pool with a semi-hidden bubbling thalassotherapy bed.
Morning breakfasts in Viu (which has a lovely, bright view over the Royal Bangkok Horse Racecourse) are a sumptuous, international affair complete with fresh baked goods, a variety of breakfast meats, baked beans, tarts, eggs cooked to order, dim sum, sushi, noodles, congee, and virtually anything else one could imagine eating for breakfast.
Oftentimes a marker of hotel success isn’t solely happy guests and high room occupancy. There’s also a measure of success in being accepted as a destination by the local community, and that’s one thing that’s notable about St. Regis Bangkok. It’s one thing to have interactions limited to tourist-type transactions, but it’s something special to visit a new destination and share the hotel with plenty of local residents enjoying afternoon tea for a special occasion, having bachelorette gatherings and weddings and family reunions. That’s almost a benefit unto itself—hotels with strong local appeal feel less like isolated tourist islands and more like one has taken up a few stitches of a vibrant local tapestry which weaves the visitor experience with the everyday lives of the people of the host country, leaving a lasting impression much deeper than one can find in many overdeveloped tourist areas.
A vital thread in that tapestry is the manner of hospitality provided by the staff. St. Regis is a historic luxury brand which prides itself on providing what it terms “modern luxury”. Butlers and other staff have a refreshing, somewhat more relaxed, personal approach to luxury service that is somewhat less formal and stuffy. Interactions feel like conversations instead of requests, and the staff seem to have mastered management of the fine line between thoughtfulness and intrusion when making suggestions or proactively offering assistance.
Departing the hotel could only be done with great sadness, and although the usual formalities from the front desk,bell, and valet staff were pleasant and genuine, the most lasting impression was left by a housekeeping attendant who noticed a guest walking toward the elevator with luggage in hand. She stopped what she was doing to greet and wai, asked if the guest was leaving, and upon confirmation that they were, she guided the guest to the elevator, pressed the button, said she hoped they had a nice stay and would love to welcome them back again soon, smiled and wai again as the elevator door closed.
That’s a lasting image to take away from The St. Regis Bangkok – that top to bottom dedication to ensuring each guest’s experience is perfect. It utterly requires repeat visits again and again.
More photos of The St. Regis Bangkok are available on the author’s Instagram.