If you ever wondered where to stay in Bangkok, this video will give you a feel for what best in class luxury accommodation in the Thai capital looks like. Awarded as one of only two 5-star properties in Thailand by Forbes, The Peninsula Bangkok knows how to carry the brand’s name with cache and legendary Far East hospitality.
Watch this video for a quick tour of one of Bangkok’s best luxury hotels.
Having read much about the hotel’s sister property in Hong Kong, the first to open under the patronage of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Corporation, and considered by many as one of the best hotels in Asia, I was expecting no less than the legendary hospitality the brand stand for when visiting The Peninsula Bangkok. Without wanting to spoil the surprise, I will say that, on top of universal luxury service, I was also given a side of Thai hospitality. Continue to read my Peninsula Bangkok review to find out more.
What makes The Peninsula Bangkok a great luxury hotel
The hotel’s wave-shaped building and floor to ceiling windows give all of The Peninsula Bangkok 370 rooms wonderful river-facing views only improved by the sunrise rays of light piercing through the city’s skyline. Some of the rooms have their own balconies and outdoor jacuzzis too.
The hotel is on the quieter side of the Chaopraya River, the River of Kings, but with easy access to the BTS trains, just five minutes away on one of the signature green-roofed boats. Although the architecture and outside view of the hotel looks unassuming, inside, one steps into a world of understated luxury and attention to detail that exceeds expectations.
Arrival and check in
I arrived at The Peninsula from a memorable few days up the river, at The Siam. After an artsy and peaceful stay surrounded by Royalty, Muai Thai and stunning infinity pools, I boarded The Siam’s private boat downstream towards The Peninsula Bangkok.
When I disembarked from the boat at the hotel’s pier, a lovely security guard assured me that I could leave my luggage with her and she would take care of it. No luggage tags, no details about my name, just the warm smile of the kind lady. I took her word, partially intrigued by her offering and partially curious to see if the hotel’s legendary service would withstand the test.
I walked along the golden, orchid-decorated and fluffy-carpeted corridors following the Lobby signs until I reached the reception. As soon as I arrived at the counter and gave my passport, the PR Executive, Natt, appeared silently and gave me the warmest of welcomes. I indicated my luggage was “by the river, with the security lady”, without any more details. The receptionist nodded and after requesting a change from a double bed to a twin bed for me and my friend, Natt escorted me to my room. The cherry on the cake was the jasmine flower arrangement that I was given. How did they know that I love the smell of jasmine? I bet the Chief Florist at the hotel, who arranges 800 orchids daily, knows how to win the guest’s hearts.
The rooms at The Peninsula Bangkok
Being one of Bangkok’s best hotels I was expecting the room to surprise and, a priori, it didn’t. It was spacious and it had stunning views of the city, but it was what you would find in any five star urban property. Its genius details only became obvious after I spent a few minutes inside. The word “understated” started to take shape. The curtains were pulled through a set of electric controls by the bedside table, and they were simple and obvious to use, not like some of these hi-tech hotel rooms where one needs a degree in engineering to operate the lights. The Peninsula proprietary technology was certainly well-thought out.
There were USB charging stations under the table and by the TV set and plugs on the desk. Another simple and basic requirement for those needing to get some work done or charge the many electronics we all carry nowadays, yet one that is often overlooked by greedy designers more preoccupied with aesthetics than with functionality. There was a kettle, and also a Chinese inspired teapot and small clay cups, much more personal and warm than the usual metallic kettles and impersonal cups. The marble bathroom was spacious and had both a bathtub and a shower. To my delight, there was a TV by the bathtub.
After a few minutes in the room, when I was still taking photos of the view, my luggage arrived and was placed in the foyer, where the walk-in closet was. By that point I was already in awe. Not because the place had left me speechless but because, after only half an hour, I had already been surprised a few times with the attention to detail that defines understated luxury.
My luggage had made it effortlessly and my “amenities” had been brought from my original room, the one with the double bed. These were not the impersonal fruit bowls or chocolates that you get at most luxury hotels, but a few different types of mango-based sweets layered in an afternoon tea fountain. Mango tartlets, mango candy, fresh mango, mango skewers and, the king of all mango desserts and a favourite of mine, mango sticky rice. How did they know I love mango? The sweets were not alone. They came together with a personalised welcome card, hand-written and printed on a replica of my blog with an article on The Peninsula on the cover. Impressive. The fruit bowl (yes, there was also one!) came with a small brochure with colourful pictures of the tropical and exotic fruits on offer to provide a glimpse of the flavours and textures to the unexperienced Western traveler.
By that point I was sold, yet the best was still to come. Wondering how brunch was at the best brunch spot in Bangkok? Or how the Wat Pho trained massage therapists faired against my unruly back? Read on to find out how my stay at Bangkok’s most decadent hotel was.
The food at The Peninsula Bangkok
I have to say that when I visit cities like Bangkok I avoid eating at the hotel. There are just so many great restaurants to try that I tend to skip the international fare in favour of local experiences. But The Peninsula Bangkok’s dining options are well worth a special mention. The Thiptara Thai restaurant is located by the river in a beautiful garden. The lounge on the first floor of a heritage Thai house is only another example of care for the small details. As a Chinese brand, the Cantonese restaurant, Mei Jiang, is a regular fix at Bangkok’s best Chinese restaurants list and well worth the trip.
For me, the breakfast venue was divine and the perfect way to start the day. Breakfast was served by the river where the daily buzz took place. One could sit under the shadow of a bougainvillaea or an umbrella and see the world go by. The spread was large and there were several hot stations serving up Chinese and Thai specialties. There were just not enough days to try it all. The freshly cut mango made me happy every morning, as did the pastries and breads available.
The best part was the upscale Sunday Brunch at Pen. Served at the lobby level lounge, with views over the gardens and the river and with a relaxed live band, this was not an all you can eat extravaganza but a delicate and sublime feast to the senses. I would not usually consider a buffet spread worthy of photos; the food trays are usually half empty, food is messy and presentation is usually not as important as variety or quantity. The brunch at Pen was as photogenic and beautiful as it was tasty and sophisticated.
There were several stations all manned by a server. Pasta was available with truffle or foie gras no less. Peking duck pancakes, a specialty from Mei Jiang, were perfectly presented. The most impressive was the seafood station offering oysters so fresh they still clenched to the lemon squeeze, lobster and several types of caviar with their condiments plus a choice of three types of vodka from three different countries shaken on the rocks by the barista. A brunch would not be so without a proper selection of cheese and cold cuts and there was just enough choice to have something for everyone.
The stations were great but they were not the only option. The menu also offered a choice between several main dishes cooked to order from cod fish to British Sunday roast complete with Yorkshire pudding. The table was also served a pretty circular shelf with a selection of mousses, panacottas, pastries, pretty salads and a fruit selection. We could choose between the brunch with free flow of juices or a bottle of Louise Roederer or Louise Roederer Crystal for two.
The meal could not have ended better than with a few slices of the many “caged” cakes presented in a macaron garden, so beautiful it was had to eat.
The facilities and activities at The Peninsula Bangkok
The hotel’s grounds were spacious and green, an exquisitely luxurious feeling in a city as crowded and noisy as Bangkok. One of the most impressive features was the 88m-long swimming pool, tiered into three levels and facing the river, it always enjoyed some sun and some shade. The pool was flanked by Thai salas or cabanas where guests could relax surrounded by plants, palm trees and colourful bougainvillea. A true oasis in the middle of the city and the right place to retire when the sun is just to hot to explore Bangkok.
The Peninsula Hotels are known for their Academy where a series of experiences are offered to guests to learn new skills and discover the destination. At The Peninsula Bangkok, The Academy offered Muai Thai lessons, cooking classes with tuk tuk market trips and Thai Painting classes. The hotel grows its own herbs at the onsite garden and a great way to discover their importance in Thai culture is with a tour of the garden followed by a massage at the legendary spa where herbs are used for healing and a meal at Thiptara where herbs are used for cooking. Cooking lessons were also available for children to make sweets or other fun dishes.
For excursions out, the hotel could arrange tours of Bangkok’s landmarks along the river or of old neighbourhoods, visits to local puppet shows or to an urban mangrove at Bang Pu where conservation efforts would grant guests the opportunity to plant their own young mangrove sapling after getting a better understanding of this rich and essential natural eco-system.
For the ultimate over the top dining experience, the hotel could arrange a helicopter trip to Hua Hin, otherwise reachable via a 4h drive, to visit Hua Hin Winery. The helicopter is received by one of the famous BMW 7 Series cars to whisk guests to the vineyards for a tour and a wine pairing meal over the vines. A fantastic way to beat the traffic and learn about New Latitude wines. Having been to Hua Hin I will add that it is a beautiful setting and a fascinating business which has managed to amplify knowledge of New Latitude wines and learned the art of making wine in a tropical country.
For other lavish and exclusive activities or shopping ideas in the city that never sleeps, The Peninsula Hotels offers their own local guides through the online PenCities blog, full of inspiration to have a vacation away from the crowds and the tourists. Worth checking out even if you are not staying at the hotel, the one for Bangkok is chockfull of local designers, art and creative spaces to visit.
For those looking to keep in shape, the hotel has a modern gym, a tennis court and offers complimentary yoga lessons on the helipad. Twice weekly, once at sunrise and once at sunset, head upstairs to the top of the world and enjoy a dramatically peaceful yoga class as the sun goes down. I participated in the Saturday sunset session and I could not have thought of a better sun downer, truly magical.
The ultimate wellness retreat
At The Peninsula Bangkok, the spa was not an afterthought but an essential part of the experience. A specially created version of the Thai massage was designed jointly with the absolute authority on the matter, the Wat Pho Traditional Thai Medical and Massage School, home to the original Royal Thai massage, for The Peninsula Spa.
Aside from the traditional Thai massage, the Center also offered a range of Oriental , European and Ayurvedic therapies. Jet lag could be no doubt defeated thanks to the 2-hour ESPA Peninsula Sleep Ceremony, a luxurious sleep bath, guided meditation and breathing techniques to rebalance electromagnetic energies, a hot stone body massage to release toxins and a face massage to relieve tight jaw and forehead muscles.
For some serious pampering, the hotel is the first spa in the world to receive Biologique Recherche’s prestigious “Ambassade de la Beauté” accolade, and one of the few places offering their natural facial and skincare treatments, which use rich endowments of botanical, marine and biological extracts.
The Peninsula Spa & Wellness Center also offers Asian Ayurvedic techniques through Subtle Energies, an award-winning Australian spa brand who has exclusively formulated the “Sattva by Simply Peninsula” products and treatments using essential oils, Himalayan crystal salts, clays and herbs.
All these impressive list of treatments, therapist trainings and ingredients would be pointless if the experience did not live up to expectations. But it did, and it exceeded them.
I was walked through the reception into the Wellness Center along a wooden passageway that symbolises the journey into relaxation. I was supposed to leave my worries behind and it was not difficult.
I had opted for the famous Thai Massage, intrigued by the power and spirituality of the Wat Pho trained therapists, and I will admit that, although it was similar to other Thai massages I have had elsewhere, I did feel as relaxed as ever.
The treatment was followed by a rest at the relaxation area where I was provided with noise-cancelling headsets playing soft music, a hyper comfortable cocoon-like bed, a few magazines and some dried fruits and warm tea. I could have stayed there forever.
The spa also offers couples treatment rooms with a whirlpool bathtub to enjoy some romantic time.
The service at The Peninsula Bangkok
Perhaps the most undisputed element was the service. Every part of the experience was simply worthy of a best in class hotel. A luxurious hotel cannot stand up if it does not come with a professional and caring team. At The Peninsula Bangkok I experienced great hospitality.
Initially skeptical that a luxury hotel in an urban center like Bangkok could delight and surprise, I left The Peninsula knowing how a hotel can be great even in one of the most competitive markets in Asia, without pulling any trick. The Peninsula does not try to differentiate with some obvious element like a stunning rooftop or a Michelin awarded chef; It does not try to impress with stunning one-of-a-king architecture or design; It does not provide incredibly modern or state of the art technology. It simply delivers on the promise of legendary hospitality, consistently exceeding expectations and providing the best there is in everything it does. Old school luxury has its own address in Bangkok.
Once in a Lifetime Journey was a guest of The Peninsula Bangkok. As always, all opinions are our own.