Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hotel Review: Sukhothai Bangkok

Location: Sathorn, Bangkok
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

The Sukhothai opened in 1991 and was at the time the most sought-after international hotel in Bangkok. Named after an ancient capital city in Thai history, the hotel boasts all the amenities of an upscale resort hotel: world class restaurants, a palatial health spa and an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by cabanas.

The serene courtyard at the Sukhothai

The Sukhothai is located on the ritzy embassy stretch on South Sathorn Road, a 15-minute walk from the Chong Nonsi BTS station. Travelers who only hang out in the Silom shopping area will find the location a bit out of the way. In 2011, Suan Lum Night Market, one of the city's most popular tourist sights inside the nearby Lumpini Park, was closed for redevelopment. As far as tourists are concerned, the closure further isolates Sukhothai and neighboring hotels like the Banyan Tree and the Metropolitan from the rest of the city. Nevertheless, we find solace in knowing that Health Land, a popular massage parlor for locals and foreigners alike, has no current plans to leave the Sathorn area.

I remember my first Sukhothai experience over 10 years ago. I stayed at one of the executive suites and was completely wowed by the sheer space. The bathroom/walk-in closet alone was bigger than most apartments in Hong Kong. Then there were the small details that worked: the iPod dock on the nightstand, the complimentary stuffed toys on the pillows and the truffle chocolates atop the living room credenza. Since then, the Sukhothai has been my residence of choice in Bangkok and a place I always recommend to friends and family.

A spacious executive suite at the Sukhothai

21 years after it first opened, the Sukhothai is showing its age. The wallpaper begins to peel and the furniture looks distressed. With new luxury hotels like the St. Regis and the Kempinski popping up everywhere in Bangkok, the veteran hotel is facing tough competition and, sadly, slowly losing its fan base. Though the hotel premises may be due for an overhaul, its service remains the very best in the market.

Interestingly enough, the Sukhothai is known for two things among Hong Kong travelers: haunted rooms and breakfast buffet. The first is an urban myth, the same myth that has been associated with nearly every hotel in Asia: that the hotel was built on top of an old military burial ground. Cantonese people have a tendency to get worked up over silly things, in this case over unsubstantiated rumors that were most likely invented by the hotel's competitors. The second is a bit of an urban myth as well, for I don’t find the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the Sukhothai any more impressive than what other Bangkok hotels offer. If you are interested in giving Sukhothai a try, let that be for the right reason: its spacious suites and understated grace.

The peaceful driveway leading to the hotel

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