Rating: ** (2 of out 5)
St. Regis is one of the Starwood Group's luxury hotel brands, named after the venerable St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Opened exactly a year ago, the St. Regis Bangkok is the latest addition to the cluster of international luxury hotels in the buzzing Erawan/Siam area. It is, however, one of the most disappointing hotel experiences I’ve had in a country that takes great pride in its hospitality.
|The St. Regis, Bangkok|
Let’s start with the room. For a new hotel, the room feels small and generic. It has neither the Thai-chic quality of the Sukhothai nor the lush luxury found in other St. Regis hotels in the world. From the wobbly sliding doors that separate the bathroom from the living area to the no-name toiletries and the ball pen that smudges on the notepad, there is strong evidence of corner-cutting and sloppy management. An insider in the Thai hotel business told me that while the St. Regis Bangkok is marketed under the Starwood banner, it is developed and owned by wealthy American businessman William Heinecke. Mr. Heinecke, who lives in Bangkok and owns the Four Seasons and the Sheraton in the city and dozens other hotel resorts elsewhere in Asia, has a reputation for being rather cheap. Perhaps that’s why there is no coffee machine in the room and, with the hotel being just a year old, the bathroom tiles are already starting to fall out. The room key works 2 out of 10 times on the magnetic sensor in the elevator and all day I could see irate hotel guests going to the front desk demanding a replacement card (myself included).
|My executive deluxe room looks much better in pictures|
Then there is the service. Another industry insider told me that when the hotel first opened last April, the service was so appalling that new management had to be brought in for damage control. “Things have improved significantly,” my friend said. “Not significantly enough,” I answered. On the third day of my stay, I was out all day and didn't return to my room until 4:00pm. That’s when I found the maid still making up my room. What kind of hotel cleans a room at 4 in the afternoon? I needed to shower and so I asked the maid to come back in 30 minutes. She didn’t. Before I left for dinner that evening, I phoned house-keeping to make sure they finish the clean job. Surely enough, I returned to my room at 11:30pm and the room was exactly the way it was when I left it: dirty towels and missing bed sheets. I ended up spending an hour at the hotel bar in the middle of the night waiting for my room to be cleaned. The duty manager, horrified at what happened, apologized profusely and offered to buy me and my friends a round of drinks. Too little too late.
Finally, the most fatally, there is the hotel pool. I may be able to live with the miniscule swimming pool – the size of a kiddie pool at other hotels – and the horrendous poolside drinks served in cheap IKEA plastic tumblers. And yes, they really did put a slice of Del Monte canned peach in my peach iced tea! But I cannot and will not forgive the hotel’s decision to put the outdoor pool on the west side of a mid-level floor, with the consequence that the sun is blocked by the building itself for the entire morning. This major miscalculation upends my plan to get sunbathing out of the way in the morning and to use the precious afternoon to explore the city when stores are actually open. It is for that reason alone that I will never stay at the St. Regis again.
|Not a soul by the tiny pool all morning because there is no sun|
Those who are familiar with the Starwood Group will agree with me that the St. Regis Bangkok is not a St. Regis hotel. I would have given it a one-star rating had the duty manager who handled my complaint not been so apologetic and sympathetic. Considering that tourists are spoiled for choice in Bangkok, there is no reason why anyone would choose to stay there, other than the fact that it is relatively new and the novelty factor is still there.