Stop overs can be a bit half arsed. They are half way between where you want to go and where you have been. Then there is Bangkok. With my mum living in the UK and myself in Sydney it’s the ultimate meeting place, which when you have somewhere glam to stay makes it a destination. There are a billion hotels in Bangkok. OK not quite that many, but a lot. However when you narrow it down wanting a five star hotel, on the water, nano seconds from BTS Skytrain (if we are being super-picky, via air conditioned walkways) and close to a ferry station – then there is really only one choice. Shangri-la Hotel Bangkok. I have fond memories of my stay at Shangri-La Hong Kong Island. Their Horizon Club Lounge is one of the best executive lounges in the world. So good in fact, that I didn’t manage to leave the hotel that evening which isn’t an easy conversation with your editor, but I did thoroughly review their food and champagne selection!
So perhaps you won’t be that surprised to hear that the Horizon Club Lounge is where this stopover story starts. My mum’s has gone missing! Her flight from the UK was delayed but no sign of her. The lovely lounge staff are trying to work out what has happened. Fortunately our personal chauffeur, Dawin from Transfer BKK is waiting for her at gate 2, and is giving me regular updates. Between them both, miracles happen and mum arrives, minus her suitcases which have been lost. Another service tick for the lounge staff who over the next 24hrs follow up with airline and airport to ensure that mum doesn’t need to walk around the city in my inappropriately worded T Shirt or hot pants (not that I own hotpants mind you…)
Our rooms are grown up and gorgeous. We are both too old to share, so we opt for a one bedroom ‘Executive Suite’ 1135 which is at the end of a soft carpeted hallway. The door opens into a seperate living area with a large sofa along one wall, bucket chairs, walnut side tables, work desk and 2 floor to ceiling windows. It provides a sanctuary for chats, Netflix catchups and the “what shall I wear” dilemmas. Welcome notes, chocolates and a bowl of fruit greet us. Mum very confused with “the pink spikey one” which could be used as a muscle mate (dragon fruit btw). It’s all techy buttons for this n’ that controlling blinds, curtains and lights. Even the bathroom with its box of tricks has a TV over the bath! Next door ‘Deluxe River View’ room 1134 is more intimate, but what we lose in lounge, we make up for in chaise lounge with views onto the river. We booked this room via Hotels.com. A few days later, we find a better deal on another site (what? Noooooo) so we test out Hotels.com price promise and within 24hours, we are credited with value towards our next booking (yay!). Plus, if we collect 10 nights we are rewarded with one free. As if we need another reason to stay?
Day 1 Shopping in BKK
The day before mum arrives I check out the Sunday Chatuchak Market. Prepare for heat and humidity that hits you harder than a Trump tweet. It spans 35,000 acres and 8000 stalls. Why buy an ordinary garden gnome – when you take home a lifesize pink flamingo, half a car as a sideboard or be ‘inked’ up whilst having your feet nibbled by Clive, the callus eating fish. I am sprung! Stall holders have clocked my poor acting skills, I not interested in buying an air diffuser- they are the only stall with air conditioning which doesn’t smell like a swamp.
So today – We go luxe, we hit the malls. We jump on the BTR and zoom over to MBK. It has 2 floors of electronics, Thai goods are cheap and if you ever need a size 18 stilettos or a police uniform this is your place. Walkways connect us to Siam Paragon which is upscale in many ways, all the big luxury brands are here and you can Louis Vuitton or Gucci your way to credit card heaven. The Siam centre is a good option, but if you want to go ‘big’ Central World is the 6th largest shopping centre in the world. From ice rinks, 3D Cinemas to gourmet produce on the 7th floor it’s a whopper. This is hard work! However, it’s glitzy crown has been taken by ICON Siam which launched at the end of 2018 with Ariana Grande punching out top notes. We catch a complimentary ferry across from the hotel. It’s so big it should have its own postcode sprawling over 500 thousand square meters and seven levels with 180 Japanese brands including the insanely popular beauty retailer Cosme. We start off at its indoor floating market and work our way skywards till we finish the day in an oversized love chair on the outdoor rooftop terrace and watch the river activity down below.
It’s been a big day, our feet can’t take any more so we are staying put and decide to dine at one of the hotel’s nine restaurants, Salathip. It’s the perfect spot after cocktail hour at the lounge. Cosmo? Singapore Sling? Yes please. We clink glasses and share a few nibbles.
Moments later we are in a magical riverside world surrounded by coconut palms rustling in the warm night air, the hotels on the other side of the river act as architectural candles as we dine under the moonlit shadows of Salathip’s Thai style teak pavilions to the movements of skilled Thai dancers. We order a crispy Red Tilapia. The whole fish is deboned and we dip chunks of deep fried white flesh into thai condiments and wrap in kale leaves. Tom Kha soup with a swirl coconut of chili oil is followed by egg net pad thai and a ‘Spring 2018’ unwooded Chenin Blanc Thai wine, which is surprisingly good.
Day 2 River Life – Health & Wellbeing, Chi, The Spa & Grand Palace
I kick start the morning with work out in the gym overlooking the swimming pool and the ‘bigger one’ the Chao Phraya river, followed by an indecisive breakfast which is easily solved by going a la carte and buffet. Why choose? Have both.
Then head to Chi, The Spa over in the Krungthep Wing. We sip on welcome herbal tea, choose aroma oils and sashay down the golden glowing hallway. Candles are lit and we commence with a sea salt foot massage then an hour of blissful massage strokes followed by an “Intensely Hydrating Facial” designed to get rid of pollutants, which on my face would be significantly more following the sunday market experience.
Seeking a more relaxed transportation method today we take a ferry north along the river as it makes stops to Wat Arun with an ornately tiled spire, named after the God of Dawn. Apparently there are 31,200 Buddhist temples (what poor soul counted them?) in Thailand but this one represents the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology. We also stop at the Flower markets and head on to The Grand Palace, built in 1782. It does feel like every Chinese tour bus has descended here. It’s madness, is there anyone left in Beijing? Arms, knees and all appropriate bits covered, we enter. The scale is immense, shimmering golds and all shades of mandarin swirl and contrast with whites no amount of ‘OMO’ could ever get that sparkling. We walk amongst throne halls, government offices and of course the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
After a cruisy ferry back, we recharge, change and go waterside again for our last night in Bangkok. If you can’t face the intense night markets and want a more civilised experience Asia Antique can be found by looking down river for the illuminated Ferris wheel rotating at night. Our complimentary ferry awaits and we spend an evening dining under the stars, wandering the street walkways and giggle and squeal like children as we get on our first big wheel since I was about 6 years old.
Stopovers can be more meaningful than simply passing time till your next flight. When family, friends and loved ones live all over the world, finding a slice of luxury can be the difference between a flopover and creating new memories which will last till you meet again.
Address: 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, New Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500 Thailand