Hotel Review: Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Disclaimer: In exchange for a two-night stay, I am writing this review.

Anantara, a Thai luxury hospitality company with properties throughout Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, has three popular spots in Dubai alone. And if you’re solely going by their website, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort is quite the place:

anantara palm dubai activities

A Sampling of Activities at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Lagoons where you can jump right in from your room and swim 24 hours a day? Food options ranging from Aussie steaks to satay and buffets? Thai longboats available for tours in the gulf? A spa, water and beach sports?

Anantara Drone Shot Palm Dubai

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort – Exterior Shots (Source: Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort)

water sports anantara dubai palm

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Water Sports

All of this in Dubai, yet completely detached from the hubbub of the city?

Sounds too good to be true. So let’s take a look and see what the real deal is.

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort entrance

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Main Entrance

Checking In

I walked up the driveway through the porte-cochère, eager to get to breakfast. After a series of delayed flights — and a lost checked bag — I had basically missed a night of my two-night stay at the hotel. On the other hand, this also meant that the room was readier than ready for me to check-in.

A bit of background about the property. There are really three different reception desks. Of course there’s the main entrance, which was the most obvious place to check-in. Then, flanking it on two sides are low-rise apartment buildings (North and South), with their own reception desks, food, and markets, and a gym in the South building. There are full-time residents, and some of the apartments are used by the hotel. In any event, anyone staying in any part of the Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort can avail of all hotel facilities.

And now back to the show.

main lobby anantara palm dubai

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Main Lobby

Although no one greeted me upon entering the main lobby, a nice woman by the name of Lolli helped with the check-in process. She also presented to me a gift of a candle (which I sadly forgot to take) and a universal power adapter. Sweet!

Following the succinct check-in, she brought me to a tuk tuk, further enhancing the impression that guests were in a small Thai enclave in the Middle East:

Anantara Palm Dubai tuk tuk

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Thai Tuk Tuk

By the way, if you’re looking for more unique dining options, I found out by random lobby signage that you can take a speedboat to their sister property, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort.

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Speedboat to Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort

Crescendo

After dropping off my bags post-haste in my room — we’ll get to those photos later — I darted to the buffet breakfast at Crescendo, located below the main lobby.

It’s a big restaurant, with lots of seating indoors and outdoors. Outdoor seating is ostensibly divided into non-smoking and smoking sections; however, I had to tell off a couple of guests smoking by my non-smoking seat, as some aloof hotel employee placed an ashtray half a meter away from my table. Seriously? That’s some major cognitive dissonance.

Nice view of the pool, though:

main pool

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Main Pool

crescendo poolside breakfast

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort Poolside Breakfast at Crescendo

How was the food, you might ask?

As usual, it varies. For one, irrespective of the current pandemic climate, sneeze-guards would have been welcome. That said, the comportment of the average guest evoked more of a holiday-goer on spring break than anything else. Scrums to get omelets and baked goods, bare feet, and just general rudeness on the guest side of things.

More importantly however, waitstaff was nice. Two particular waitresses, Dian and Peninah, were helpful, and clearly listened to my ridiculously customized meal orders. Props to them.

Sorry, the food, the food!

Crescendo chefs seem to have gotten the Middle Eastern and Indian options down pat. As for bites from other parts of the world — including the croissants — it was something of a let down. Still, I was gobbling up the ful medames — a regional breakfast of broad beans with olive oil, tahini, and garlic — like no tomorrow.

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I’m stuffed just by looking at that slideshow. OK, on with the room.

Premier Lagoon View Room

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The room, a Premier Lagoon View room, was spacious, comfortable, and offered tempting views of one of the lagoons. The king bed made falling to sleep all too easy, and the workspace was adequate, even if the lighting wasn’t.

Now, the bathroom was huge … it was even larger than my dorm room in Hong Kong, and apartment in Tokyo, combined. (Hmm, can’t wax nostalgic about those spaces) The water pressure in the shower was surprisingly good, and although I didn’t run a bath, it looked awfully inviting. You could even watch tv from the bath, although given that it’s a Samsung, it was of inferior quality. (the remote was slow, volume barely changed, and the interface was ugly)

And the water is potable throughout the property!

I didn’t see a mini-fridge anywhere, so that was a let-down. However, the room did have a few (greatly overpriced, as expected) snacks to try, including ones with Thai influences. But on the merit of the bed, balcony, and bathroom alone, the room was very good.


Meanwhile, I was hounding the Concierge to check with the airport baggage services to see if they had located my checked luggage … and on top of that, my only backup shirt fell into the lagoon, so I asked Angeline at housekeeping to keep tabs. Adebayo and Kevin on the Concierge side were a big help, and followed up with me on everything.

Mekong

There are a number of places to eat at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. You’ve got a carnivore delight at Bushman’s, waterside relaxation at the Beach House, cocktails at The Lotus Lounge, Mai Bar for swimmers and sunbathers, and of course, room service. In fact, there are even more options than those, but let’s dive right into the f&b star of the hotel, Mekong.

mekong southeast asian restaurant

Mekong Restaurant at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Anantara_The_Palm_Dubai_Resort_Restaurant_Mekong_Interior_1

Interior of Mekong at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort - Mekong - Rickshaw Terrace - 01

Mekong’s Rickshaw Terrace at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Quite a mix of designs at Mekong, borrowing from a range of Southeast Asian and Chinese motifs. The menu broadly emphasizes Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese food, in other words, three cuisines of the six countries through which the Mekong River passes.

Having foregone lunch, I really steamed in on the menu, eagerly anticipating a spicy blend of seafood and skewered meat. And peanut sauce.

Lin Lin was a particularly nice waitress, with whom I chatted about Myanmar (from where she hailed), and her extensive knowledge of the menu.

To start off, I went with the chicken and beef satay (aka sate), and received a bonus appetizer called miang kham (in Thai, เมี่ยงคำ). Miang kham, often translated as “a one bite wrap,” wherein you take a wild betel leaf (no, not that betel), and stuff it with some fun peanuts, coconut shavings, and peppers.

miang kham appetizer mekong

Miang Kham at Mekong, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

beef chicken satay mekong

Beef and Chicken Satay at Mekong Restaurant, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

After savoring those two blends of grilled and sweet flavors, I went first with a tom yam soup, basically shrimp, lemongrass, galangal (blue ginger), and herbs in a sour broth. I asked for it “phet phet,” so it was quite hot (on the Scoville chart, not temperature-wise). It definitely earned a place in the plus column.

tom yam soup mekong anantara

Tom Yam Soup at Mekong

With my mouth on fire, and no milk, lettuce, or bananas in sight, I gave up and ordered a mocktail:

crouching dragon hidden tiger mocktail mekong

Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger Mocktail at Mekong

The Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger had a base of lychee juice, and contained maracuja (passion fruit), lime, grenadine syrup, guava, pineapple, and chilies. Too refreshing, and good enough as a dessert.

Unexpectedly, my last dish was a special for the month of November, Chinese salt and pepper squid.

salt pepper squid mekong restaurant

Chinese Salt and Pepper Squid at Mekong

Keep in mind that I did plan to have a dessert, but I was enjoying the umami of all of the mains so much that I went with another. Indeed, their Chinese salt and pepper squid didn’t disappoint, especially with chilies added (per my request) to the condiments tray.

I’d go back to the hotel just to eat at Mekong.

Sustainability

If sustainability is on your mind, you might appreciate a few things about the Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort. Even though I generally look askance when sustainability and tourism are placed in the same sentence, this hotel tries where it can to be kinder to the environment. Hotel room keycards, for example, are all made of bamboo:

bamboo keycard anantara palm dubai

Bamboo Hotel Room Keycard, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Plus, they’re in the process of eliminating single-use plastics. Paper and coffee pods are recycled, and soap is upcycled. Some food is composted, and they’ve even got a small garden to help supply their restaurants:

culinary garden anantara palm dubai

Culinary Garden, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Summary

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort succeeds in a number of areas, namely its friendly staff, clean campus, tasty dishes at Mekong, number of activities available on a daily basis, and tranquility in spite of being in the always buzzing Dubai.

However, guest behavior — in some ways beyond the control of hotel staff — wasn’t pleasant, and I got the impression that some employees didn’t want to risk admonishing guests. Furthermore, although it may be a selling point to some, the distance from everything else in town, and lack of walkable off-site food/shopping options wasn’t appealing. The closest shopping area is The Avenues mall, part of the Atlantic complex, but everything is grossly overpriced there, too.

Still, I enjoyed my room and hotel staff for the most part; consequently Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort gets good marks from me.

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Clothing Review: Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket Proof® Shirt and Pants

Have you had issues with petty theft while out for the day?

When I lived in China the first time, I was part of a large group of recent college graduates, teaching throughout Shenzhen’s schools. Unusually, it seemed as if a number of them had some belongings stolen, whether in their apartments, or while out on the town. Now, if I had to conjecture, a fair amount happened due to drunken behavior. But there was one story that stood out.

One person was passed out on a public bus, and apparently had his pockets cut open by some small-time crooks. Given his penchant for the low-quality clothing stores throughout the country, I’m sure the material was made from talc or paper.

Nevertheless, pickpockets can be anywhere at anytime — public transit, markets, tithing dishes, convenience stores — but in my case, it’s probably during a long wander down backstreets and alleys, or on an urban planner’s pathetic attempt at a sidewalk, like this one in Bali:

grate Bali Indonesia

Not so fun at night, is it?

Although I have had a laptop stolen from a hotel room, I’ve been pretty good about where to keep possessions when taking a walk. Namely, NOT IN THE BACK POCKET.

Still, things can happen. Might as well invest in some clothes that can do their part to help fend off thieves.

Perhaps start with the Pick-Pocket Proof® brand from Clothing Arts?

Formed in 2007 during a bus ride in Cambodia, Clothing Arts was created for city dwellers and backpackers alike. Pickpockets might have their usual sitting ducks, but you can rain on their parade with a nice shirt and pants.

The shirt

hidden breast pocket

Hidden Breast Pocket

Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket Proof® Shirt

Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket Proof® Shirt

The shirt fit great, with buttons that felt like they were well-sewn into the nylon. And get this– there’s a hidden zipper pocket tucked into the left breast pocket. Sweet!

There are both business and “adventure” shirt designs, so I went with the one above that could double as a business casual shirt. When you’ve got a meeting, you don’t want to lose those index cards, so place them in the hidden pocket.

The Pants

adventure travel pants front

front of adventure travel pants

back of adventure travel pants

back of adventure travel pants

The pants fit way too big in the waist, and they were quite heavy to be hauling around in one’s backpack. However, once I added a belt into the equation, they were quite comfortable, if still a bit heavy. After loading those pockets, you might be giving other pedestrians — or would-be criminals — a closer look at your undergarments, so take heed.

In spite of that, I like the style and design, particularly as someone who collects little food souvenirs to eat once I’m back in the hotel room. Even without having trepidations about pickpockets, I still like the pants for their bounties of pockets, both hidden and obvious.

Speaking of which ….

Lurking behind the many buttons of a pocket lies another hidden pocket. Firstly, they’ve made it so that if the pickpocket wants to reap a reward, he/she will have to really expend a lot of time doing so. Then, you’ve got the smaller storage areas to further ward off anyone thinking you’re an easy target.

Clothing Arts has a nice line of travel products here that would benefit anyone who would want to lessen the risk of pickpockets during a trip. And they’re not merely limited to shirts and pants.

Clothing Arts Pick-Pocket Proof® collection also offers shorts, convertible (pants to shorts), and chinos. I will jokingly ask, what can you do for me in terms of shoes?

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Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower (with October 2022 Update)

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 1

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 1

Kurokawa Kishou’s 中銀カプセルタワー, the Nakagin Capsule Tower, was completed in 1972, close to both the swish Ginza district and the Tsukiji wholesale market (aka the place where you, as a native non-Japanese speaker are most certainly not welcome, particularly at 3am; besides, can fish tell time?).  Kurokawa was an adherent of the architectural style known as Japanese Metabolism, the brainchild of a small group of post-war architects aiming to construct monoliths based on the typical Japanese diet at the time- a single grain of koshihikari rice.  No, that’s a load of malarkey, Japanese Metabolism in fact was a relatively short-lived and (in reality) rarely implemented response to urbanization and the increasing presence of the salaryman that was rapidly occurring in the late 1950s-mid 1970s.  The notion of flexibility, avant-garde technological advancements  and the shifting of family roles in the movement led to the realization that you might as well have residents live like the same cogs in a machine that they are stereotypically employed as.  A little more curious about the pomp surrounding new-age urban architecture from that corner of the globe?  Look at me.

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 2Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 2

The Nakagin Capsule Tower is composed of two towers, one 11-stories and its near-twin 13-stories.  The rectangular, shipping container-like pods that jut out from its central core are prefabricated, hoisted into place once they were completed off-site (photo courtesy of the entertaining and informative architecture blog http://architecturalmoleskine.blogspot.com/2011/10/kurokawa-nakagin-capsule-tower.html).  Theoretically, greater demand for capsules would take advantage of one of the tenets of Japanese Metabolism, flexibility, and see more pods being added to the core.  Originally designed to accommodate one oft-inebriated white collar worker, digs included an airplane lavatory-sized bathroom (in other words, a common size for Tokyo), desk, radio (similar to those that you can find in many older Japanese hotels these days), and CD of Louis Armstrong (maybe not that last thing, but I have heard that many Japanese can’t get enough of New Orleans and its consummate jazz musicians)…why else would you be able to find a Café du Monde and its beignets in Japan too?

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 3

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 3

Sadly, as it enters its fortieth anniversary, the buildings have fallen into serious disrepair, with asbestos, mildew and inadequate plumbing leading the horde of structural plagues, in addition to the eye-wateringly expensive cost of real estate in the neighborhood.   Even given all of those negatives, I’d move in.  One place I stayed in London wouldn’t give me a key, so instead a Somali “bouncer” just let guests in whenever he felt like it.  Another guesthouse in Bangkok was US$7 per night, and had nearly translucent walls, not to mention a bucket of water in place of a door.  Nakagin is a serious upgrade.  Plus, it’s Tokyo, so whenever I’m jiving for pancake juice it would be within easy reach.

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 4

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 4

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 5

Tokyo, Nakagin Capsule 5

Have you ever/would you live/stay in such a confined space such as Nakagin or a capsule hotel?  Have you seen other examples of Japanese Metabolism/capsule hotels?

UPDATE (October 2022):

My knee-jerk reaction was akin to “the bastards have gotten rid of an landmark,” but apparently it wasn’t architecturally sound. Maybe the owners didn’t want to pay for its upkeep, so they relented. Either way, it’s a sad loss for Tokyo, and more specifically for the extremely short-lived Metabolist movement:

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Review: One Fulton Square, Flushing, NY (USA)

 

ILast week, I was invited by the affable Rob McKay of the Queens Economic Development Corporation to attend an eating and press tour of Flushing, New York’s One Fulton Square mixed-use development.  The aim was to promote dining in a COVID and post-COVID world, as well as to showcase the variety of cuisines available at One Fulton Square.

Wesley Sin, of the F&T Group, a joint American-Taiwanese property developer, helped showcase One Fulton Square, their newest property, which combines a Hyatt Place hotel, condominiums, and numerous eateries focusing on food from throughout East Asia.

Long story short, in spite of periodic spells of rain, the temperature was pleasant, the atmosphere convivial, and the food plentiful and tasty!

First, let’s take a look at the One Fulton Square property, located just a few minutes walk from New York City’s third busiest intersection of Roosevelt and Main:

One Fulton Square, Entrance Sign

One Fulton Square, Flushing, New York

Indeed, it might look more crowded in the photos, but that’s due to indoor dining temporarily being prohibited in New York.  Otherwise, there would be enough space to walk around and enjoy the aromas of Sichuanese cuisine, bakeries, and Korean fried chicken.

So, what about the food?

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I’ve decided to add in photos of my three favorite dishes from the spread, plus sushi for good measure.

Living in Shenzhen, China opened my eyes up to the breadth of regional cuisines – it’s basically China’s version of New York, but with internal migrants contributing to its diverse culinary tapestry.  Normally, I entirely ignore Chinese food in the US…but these restaurants cater in larger part to folks from China and other parts of East Asia, so I’m down with them.


All in all, it was an enjoyable night with the QEDC and the F&T Group at One Fulton Square, and I look forward to future food tastings in Flushing!

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Restaurant Review: Eat Me, Bangkok, Thailand

Disclaimer: In exchange for a review, I was invited by the lovely Ann at The Marcom Pro to enjoy dinner and cocktails at this restaurant.

Eat Me Entrance

Located at 16 Convent Road, slightly detached from the major expat and nightlife scene in Silom, Eat Me stands out for its design and its cuisine.

2nd Floor Dining Room

1st Floor Courtyard

Since its founding in May 1998 by Darren and Cherie Hausler, the 120-seat (including 28 outdoors) Eat Me has established itself as one of the go-to trendy choices on the burgeoning Bangkok restaurant scene.  Its post-modern and stylish decor, international blended with pan-East Asia menu, pleasant waitstaff, and unique cocktails have earned Eat Me numerous accolades and awards, including a repeat presence on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list between 2013 and 2018.

Indeed, Eat Me’s chef/owner Tim Butler, who joined as Executive Chef in 2010, has clearly played a major role in the restaurant’s success, having already proven himself at highly-rated restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles.

Right, let’s have a look at the food:

As a special amuse-bouche from the chef, Ann and I started off the delectable journey with Chico Bay (Washington state, US) oysters and caviar.  Nice combination of salty and sweet, and served at just the right temperature.

Clams with nam (Northern Thai) sausage in a lime coriander broth.  This tasty plate packed quite the diverse flavor profiles, bringing in a saline sweetness from the clams, a smoky umami in the sausage, and a citrus sweet and sour floral bite from the broth.  I could have asked for more, but there was so much broth left over that I was really craving…

…bread to lop it all up. For a region that doesn’t excel in baked goods, this bread was quite alright, and served with olive oil, and a nutty, smoky (I tasted a lot of cumin) blend.  Ann kept advising me that we still had much food to tackle, so I eventually abandoned this photo in favor of mains.

Charred whitlof (chicory) with burrata, preserved lemon, and cecina, or salted dried beef.  Although this wasn’t among my favorites, I quite liked the seldom seen bitter chicory – a member of the endive family – meshed with Mediterranean flavors.  More importantly, everything tasted fresh, in spite of being four rarely used ingredients in Thailand, and the burrata was homemade.  Mmm.

This spicy wagyu tartare with onion, chili, sesame seeds, coriander, and egg might have been my most enjoyable non-dessert of the evening.  Though I was slightly nervous to try uncooked meat, due to potential health consequences, clearly I wasn’t nervous enough.  The flavors were all so simple and delicate, but paired excellently with the quality cut of Japanese beef.  In fact, it was that rare moment I didn’t even want to eat bread, as the tartare was damned good by its lonesome.

Lobster bucatini (Roman pasta with a hole running lengthwise through the noodle).  The lobster was sumptuous, and the bucatini cooked just right.  I suppose my only issue with this dish was that it didn’t have more wagyu tartare hidden somewhere.

Straight outta Spain, here we have grilled Iberico ham with hazelnuts, leeks, and Argentinian chimichurri.  Quite rich, and a treat for those who can’t get enough pork. Though, as someone who can’t eat much garlic, I was oddly disappointed that the chimichurri wasn’t heavy on the healthy bulb.  Spicy tip: if you want some heat, ask for the chili garlic sauce, which might have been called nam jim jaew.  Fiery, but worth every tear.

Red wine poached pear with goat cheese ice cream.  The ice cream had a very strong flavor, and wasn’t particularly sweet.  Whereas I liked the pear because it reminded me of autumn, I felt that the goat cheese lingered a bit too long, and overpowered the rest of the plate.

Sticky date toffee pudding with butterscotch and vanilla ice cream.  Now we’re cooking with gas!  This is Eat Me’s signature dessert, and really should be offered on the menu no matter where I’m eating.  Although it’s a filling and very flavorful dessert, have a coffee or an aperitif between the mains and this.  Many of you will be glad you did.

But wait…we haven’t even discussed the cocktails yet.  Eat Me’s Buntanes “Pop” Direkrittikul is one of the more widely recognized bartenders/mixologists in Bangkok.  What kind of crazy and avant-garde drink ideas has he come up with?

For starters, the Laab Moo.  Pop uses his native Thailand’s gastronomic influences to create otherworldly cocktails, such as this one made of ingredients from the spicy northern Thai staple, laab.  This one has mint, shallot, cilantro, serrano bacon, lime, roasted rice, and Ketel One vodka.  With laab being one of my choice Thai dishes, I can say that this drink was on point.

My mouth is still on fire from this one.  Kaeng tai pla, Though tai pla refers to the southern Thai condiment of fish entrails, Pop simplified this one by removing that, and instead employing shallot, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, curry, and Buen Bicho Mezcal.  Asking for it “peht peht” (very spicy) might have been a mistake.  Considering the quality of the drink, I only half regret it.

Khow Nhew Ma Maung…or a “mango sticky rice” cocktail.  Mango, nut milk, coconut oil, and Phraya Rum?  That’ll do!  Next, I should pair this with the actual mango sticky rice for a superlative effect.

Another haute meal in Bangkok, another very satisfied stomach.  Eat Me would certainly merit a repeat visit, both for its gastronomy and its nuanced drinks.  Though it did get a bit loud at times, I quickly refocused my attention on the next dish.

If you’re looking to stop by, Eat Me is open daily from 15:00-25:00.  The menus can be found here.


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Hotel Review: Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15

Disclaimer: In exchange for two nights, I am writing this review.  Additionally, I would like to specifically thank Ann at The Marcom Pro for helping to arrange this review, and Jern, a marketing manager at this hotel, for meeting with me.

The Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15 (though completely Marriott-owned now)is located in the Asok neighborhood of the Thai capital, very close to the BTS Asok (skytrain) station, Sukhumvit MRT (metro) station, and a short taxi ride/metro ride from the Makkasan Airport Express station. Among the nearby attractions are the Terminal 21 shopping center and significant nightlife, and the hotel is a short BTS ride away from other popular shopping malls such as Emporium, Siam Paragon, and the MBK Center.  As a bonus, the hotel offers a free tuk-tuk service to both the MRT Sukhumvit station and Terminal 21.

Furthermore, it is close to many businesses and embassies, and as such, sees significant numbers of business travelers availing themselves of the brand’s more affordable comfort.

Hotel Lobby (Stock Photo)

The Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok has two wings – the Pool Wing and the Garden Wing – totaling 249 rooms and 19 suites.  Also, there are four meeting rooms with 3, 810 square feet (roughly 354 square meters); guests of the suites have complimentary access to the meeting spaces for a period.  The whole of the hotel prohibits smoking, and there is wi-fi available throughout the property.

Check-In

After exiting the Asok BTS station (closest to station exits 5 and 1), I easily found the Four Points Bangkok, thanks in part to the descriptive hotel name.  At the front desk, Mariaa and Best were nice, and briefly explained to me some of the features of the hotel, as well as the hours of the breakfast buffet.

6th Floor Corridor

I made my way up to my 6th floor corner room, though as luck would have, neither room key worked.  Leaving my bags at the foot of the door, I asked housekeeping to contact reception to bring new keys, but she at first told me to do it myself.  Sigh.  Eventually she caved in, and Best brought over the new (functioning) keys.

Room

My first impression of my Deluxe Room was one of simple comfort.  The interior was mostly wood paneling, with a sizable work desk and two large nightstands.  All rooms at the Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok have floor-to-ceiling windows, although you wouldn’t stay at this hotel for the city views.

Part of the work desk had jacks into which both USB and HDMI cables could connect to the tv, clearly a nod to business travelers aiming to finesse their presentations and/or other documents.  The minibar was well-stocked with your usual drinks and snacks, and the luggage storage shelf was conveniently placed.

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The HVAC system had an easy-to-use wall panel, and one light switch at the bedside controlled almost every light in the room, in addition to offering many places to charge standard electrical and USB devices.

The bed was easily one of the most comfortable I have slept on in recent memory.  I can’t begin to describe how much of a treat it was.  I don’t take naps, but this bed makes them rather difficult to pass up.

Lastly, the bathroom had that bizarrely East Asian-quality to it, in which it opens up for a view of the bedroom…yet the shower is somewhat frosted.

My two biggest complaints were the finicky internet connection, which logged me out every now and then, and the single-use plastic containers in the shower.  However, I’m going to be thinking about that bed for a long time, especially when in China where I’m subjected to “concrete” mattresses.

The Eatery

The Eatery is the primary restaurant at the Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, offering both buffet and à la carte options.

I made my way down to The Eatery at around 06:00, but it was a bit busy even at that point.  One waiter served me both Earl Grey and peppermint tea, so the drinks were set.

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My hotel contact, Jern, mentioned that the chef was particularly proud of their Thai dishes, and you know what, that food was pretty good.  Other choices included a few Japanese, Western, and Indian selections, a salad bar, omelette bar, noodle bar, fruit, breads, and yogurt.  Having no expectations coming into the buffet, I was pleasantly surprised.  Also, Meya, the only waitress who stopped by after I had sat down, provided good service throughout the restaurant.

My only complaint was that there was no “sneeze guard” to cover most of the foods.

Operating hours of The Eatery are 06:30-10:30 (weekdays)/06:30-11:00 (weekends), and 11:00-23:00 for lunch and dinner.

Amenities

Hotel Pool and amBar (Stock Photo)

In addition to a 24-hour gym, the hotel pool on the 8th floor (of the pool wing) is open daily from 07:00-22:30.  Interestingly, the pool also has the distinction of being the first location for a pool party in all of Bangkok.  It is held on the first Saturday of every month.

On the pool level, there is also amBar, a cocktail bar open for dinner nightly.  If you’re craving pub food and nightly live entertainment, check out The Irish Pub Bangkok, open everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Overall, I  would stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15 again for its quiet rooms, comfortable beds, and decent buffet.  Although the immediate neighborhood is not for me, it’s convenient public transit-wise, and it’s close to many restaurants of diverse cuisines.

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Hotel Review: Pullman King Power Bangkok, Thailand

Disclaimer: In exchange for a two-night stay at this #BangkokCityHotel, I am writing this review.

The Pullman King Power Bangkok is located in the Phaya Thai neighborhood of the sprawling Thai capital.  It is near to the transportation nexus of Victory Monument, from which one can take buses to both Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnhabumi Airport.  Furthermore, the #PullmanKingpower is very close to the Phaya Thai BTS station, and the Phaya Thai (Suvarnhabumi) Airport Express train line.

#PullmanKingpower Main Entrance

Although the #PullmanKingpower is operated by the France-based Accor Hotels group, this particular hotel is directly associated with Thailand’s largest duty free company King Power.  In fact, in the same complex as the hotel is the headquarters for King Power, as well as its largest duty free store in the country.  In addition to chits for select hotel services, in-house guests receive discount coupons for the duty free shopping experience:

The #PullmanKingpower has 354 rooms and suites – ranging between Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Deluxe Rooms with Balconies, Executive-Level Rooms, and Suites – twenty meeting rooms, and two ballrooms with capacities of up to 600 people.

Check-In

Alighting the Airport Express from Suvarnhabumi, I saw that the #PullmanKingpower was within walking distance of the terminus.  However, I ended up walking the long way around (my advice for those taking public transit, look for Exit #4, then there will be a shortcut by way of pedestrian bridge).  With luggage in this constant heat, it was no fun, especially as the closest intersection has a nearly interminable traffic light.

At the front desk, Milk, a jolly and helpful trainee, and Pai both helped with check-in, informing me about the King Power duty free store across the way, and about the Accor Hotels membership program.  Thereafter, Milk walked me to my room, and shared with me that I had access to the Executive Lounge.

Indeed, for those guests expecting a higher level of service, the Executive Lounge, which can be found on the 20th floor,  is accessed by a simple swipe of one’s keycard in the elevator.

20th Floor Executive Lounge

The Executive Lounge is open daily from 06:00-23:00, and offers both breakfast and a happy hour with canapes from 17:00-19:00.  It also offers one meeting room, ample seating, and floor-to-ceiling windows.  Kan, the executive lounge manager, Music and North, two floor attendants, were pleasant to chat with, and helpful in suggesting lesser-known (to non-locals) places to visit in Bangkok.

Room

I had a Deluxe Room on the 11th floor, fortunately (for me) located in the corner.  The hallway had a muted aesthetic, and like every other public area at the #PullmanKingpower, it was quite clean.

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The Deluxe Room was in good shape, and nothing looked worn.  My biggest issue was maintaining a stable connection to the internet – though there was no problem with connectivity anywhere else in the hotel.  Another negative was the presence of small, single-use plastic containers; even at Accor’s Ibis properties, showers have large, easily refillable containers.  Nevertheless, the bed was comfortable, the corner location of the room made it quieter, and the water pressure in the bathroom was good.  Two water bottles were offered daily, since water isn’t potable in Thailand.

And what Southeast Asian hotel would be complete without a pool and gym?  Many, but not this one.

Hmm, merely thinking of physical activity is making me hungry…

Food & Beverage

Before getting  into detail about the restaurants available at the #PullmanKingpower, I’d like to emphasize that the hotel has received an official HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certificate, offered by the Swiss-firm SGS, a group that recognize companies excelling in food safety and quality, as well as in the reduction of food loss and waste.

At  this #BangkokCityHotel, there are three primary restaurants, two bars that serve cocktails and snacks, and a co-working space that combines a café with a new-age bar.

Cuisine Unplugged

The first restaurant that I tried is called Cuisine Unplugged.  Although it also offers an à la carte option, it is most popular for its buffet.  However, in a crowded field of hotel buffets in Bangkok, does this one stack up well with the rest of the lot?

For the most part, I wouldn’t say so.

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As usual for buffet days, I woke up to be at the restaurant as soon as it opened, so as to take photos with less human traffic.  Although the presentation of the food and seating areas was clean and welcoming, there didn’t seem to be much staff until about an hour later, ostensibly because more diners had showed up.

Although the Thai breakfast section – two different types of porridge with various toppings – was one of the more positive notes, and the fruit and sugar-free “detox” juices also stood out, the main prepared dishes were just satisfactory.

Moreover, when I stopped by the night before to reserve a specific table, the woman at the Cuisine Unplugged reception gave me a hard time, not to mention the duty manager warned me to “be on time,” as if 06:00 was the usual peak period. Nice try.

Cuisine Unplugged open weekdays for breakfast from 06:00-10:30, and weekends from 06:00-11:00.  Their lunch buffet lasts from 11:30-14:30, Grand Ocean Seafood and Barbecue Dinner Buffet runs between 18:00-22:30, and the Grand Sunday Brunch with Free-Flow Beverages goes from 12:00-15:00.

Tenshino

On the second night, I had dinner at the Japanese-French “fusion” restaurant Tenshino.  Although most dishes use ingredients shipped straight from Japan, some cooking styles and finishing touches, as well as much of the ambience of the restaurant, reflect French inspiration.

Private Dining Room

Although Tenshino was busy that night, Nancy, the manager, and two of her waitresses,  Baitoey and Cake, showed that they were well-trained, and enjoyed chatting about the seasonal menu and sake selection at their restaurant.

Speaking of the seasonal menu, I was quite eager to try the autumnal flavors of Japan, in spite of being in a city whose coldest temperatures are found either in a fridge, or a shopping mall.

Let’s have a look!

First, choose your chopsticks and hashi oki (chopsticks rest).

Kanpachi (greater amberjack) otoshi (Japanese amuse-bouche) with ponzu sauce at the top, and maguro (tuna), madai (sea bream), and kanpachi sashimi with salmon roe.  All very fresh and clean tasting, even though it all made it to Bangkok – direct from Toyosu Market in Tokyo – by plane.

The only miss of the evening, the pumpkin croquettes were uninspired, and I feel would have paired better with tempura sauce than the more savory tonkatsu sauce.

The highlight of the night was also the main dish.  Grilled kanpachi with houjicha (black tea) sauce served with chestnut steamed koshihikari rice.   The sea bream was very well cooked, lightly salted, and paired expertly with the slightly bitter and sweet houjicha sauce.

Chestnut parfait with a coconut cream base.  Another delectable course in one of the  4-course fall menus.  The earthiness of the chestnuts balanced well with the tropical sweetness of the coconut cream.  This dish obviously borrowed a bit from Japan, France, and Thailand; I wish there had been more of this mix scattered throughout the menu!

Paired with carefully selected sake, each bite of the seasonal menu transported me to a rural part of Japan, as if I were peacefully gazing at fall foliage while enjoying the delicious kanpachi.  Save for the croquettes, I would gladly return to Tenshino for another meal, and for the good service common to restaurants in Japan.

Other eating options include Tenko, a Japanese restaurant known for its omakase (let the chef decide), The Junction at Pullman, a co-working space, the Glen Bar with its private mezzanine and modern Thai eats, and the Pool Bar on the 4th floor.


At the end of the day, the most important factors in a hotel for me are peace and quiet in the room, ease of access, and a stable internet connection.  The #PullmanKingpower hits the first two marks, but my room had very spotty internet throughout my stay, requiring me to re log-in numerous times.  Of course, that may vary depending on which room you’re in, and not everyone stays at a hotel to use the internet, but it’s a necessary evil these days.

Except for Cuisine Unplugged, service was friendly throughout, and facilities looked clean and taken care of.  The hotel works for shoppers, business people, and people on short trips transiting between the two airports.  Although the PR people didn’t introduce themselves to me – the first time  that has happened – I  would stay here again, but would feast at another Bangkok buffet instead.

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Hotel Review: Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho, Tokyo

Disclaimer: In exchange for two nights in a Hollywood Double room, I am writing this review.  Photos are my own, and from the Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho.

Tokyo-based Fujita Kanko’s newest brand, Hotel Tavinos, was opened to the public on August 1st, 2019, in the Hamamatsucho neighborhood of the Japanese capital.

Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho is located close to the Asakusa and Oedo subway lines at Daimon station, the Tokyo monorail at Hamamatsucho station, and the Odaiba monorail at Takeshiba station.  Further benefiting those flying from/to Tokyo Narita and Tokyo Haneda, the Asakusa subway line at Daimon can take you nonstop to both airports. Additionally, nearby tourist spots include Shiba Park, Tokyo Tower, the Hama Rikyu Garden, and ferry piers.

It’s not particularly central to the usual tourist attractions, but given the excellent (though not 24-hours) public transit in Tokyo, guests are not more than a 25-minute train ride to the hotspots.  That said, staying somewhere as perpetually busy as Shinjuku or Shibuya might not be for everyone, so the quieter location can also be considered a positive.

In theory, the 188-room hotel was designed with millennials in mind, as it incorporates touchscreen maps in the lobby, borrows from manga in its room designs, and has a sleek, minimalist aesthetic.

But, how does this traveler feel about the property?

Ground Floor

My first impression was not good, for three main reasons.

One, I disdain hotels that lack lobbies on the ground floor.  At least, in this hotel, the same elevator can take you between the 2nd floor lobby, as opposed to transferring between elevator banks.  Think about it, if it’s a hotel created for a younger audience, why couldn’t we just check-in/check-out through an app, and completely avoid the lobby?

Two, there are no stairs that can be readily used.  Save for older Japanese business hotels, I’ve found this to be a common problem at other national (e.g. Toyoko Inn, APA) chains, too.

Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho Lobby 1

Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho Lobby 2

Three, I didn’t understand check-in.  Nobody greeted me, and once someone did, everything was (slowly) processed at the computer terminal next to the front desk.  What’s modern about that?  If someone still needs to be present, time will inevitably be wasted.

Free Luggage Storage

Since I was too early to check-in, I stored bags in the free luggage storage locker room.  However, it was mentioned to me that an add-value train card (such as Suica or Pasmo) was required to use the lockers, so fortunately I had a couple of them.  Again, I wish that both check-in/out and the lockers could take place on the ground floor.

Interactive Touchscreen Map

For those less familiar with Tokyo, there’s a giant interactive map on one of the lobby walls, available in Japanese, English, and Chinese.


After returning from another entertaining day in Tokyo, I went to the lobby to get my room key.  This time, a more cheerful woman helped me out, and explained that every morning, there are free snacks, mostly bread, water, and coffee, to enjoy.

Typical Hotel Rooms Corridor

Hollywood Double Room

The artist Roy Liechtenstein immediately came to mind after checking out the design of the Hollywood Double room.  It was very clean and compact- as Japanese hotel rooms tend to be – though with the large window in the center, it didn’t feel so limiting.  I wish that there had been a small refrigerator, and that the air conditioner didn’t aim directly for the bed, but overall, the room was comfortable.

Regarding the bathroom, I felt that it was slightly larger than the average Japanese chain, though didn’t have enough hooks.  Regardless, there was ample body soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and the water pressure was great.


In all, although I found some issues with my stay at the Hotel Tavinos Hamamatsucho, the room was clean, luggage storage was easy, and for those transiting to either Tokyo airport or a boat, the location is good.

In other news, the Tavinos brand plans to open a second hotel in Asakusa in May 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

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Restaurant Review: The Chocolate Buffet at The Sukhothai, Bangkok

Disclaimer: In exchange for two chocolate buffets, I am writing this review.

Although a few Thai desserts come to mind, when I’m traveling to Bangkok, my mind is set on the spicy mains, the soups, and exotic juices.

However, if you’re in town for a while, sometimes you want to take a break from all of that delicious street food, and delve into the Western world of cakes, pastries, and…chocolate.

The Chocolate Buffet at The Sukhothai has been delighting patrons for more than 20 years.  It was the brainchild of Swiss-born Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Ganguillet, who jovially will prepare you whatever he can with his array of chocolate buttons from around the world…including Mexico, the native home of cacao.

Already booked a table?  Then let’s see what’s in store for you–

What have we here?  Cakes with passion fruit, chocolate-covered bananas, vanilla marshmallows, truffles, chocolate tarts, and much, much more!  Grab yourself a glass of milk, pace yourself, and grab another glass of milk.

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But we haven’t even seen the chef in action.

Wait for It.

Now we’re talking!  Chef, let’s start off a hot chocolate with cinnamon and almond shavings.

Beautiful!  But I’m also feeling a bit peckish.  What do you have in the food department?

Churros with chocolate fondue (no doubt paying homage to the chef’s Swiss roots)  and housemade whipped cream?  You shouldn’t have!

But, did you know that in Spain, churros are served with hot chocolate?

And just like that, I had another hot chocolate to my right…As well as a Thai Iced Tea, for when I needed a short break from the chocolate.

That said, in spite of its tempting name, The Chocolate Buffet isn’t just for the sweet tooth in you.

Preparing the blinis for my caviar plate

On the other side of the hall from the desserts were fruit, caviar, savory snacks, and canapés intended to be eaten alongside tea.  Overall, I’d stick with the sweets, but I did quite enjoy some tropical fruit, caviar, and a sampling of sushi.


Intrigued readers can visit the chocolate buffet every Friday – Sunday, between 14:00 and 17:00.  Now if you will excuse me, I have some hot chocolate demanding my attention.

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Restaurant Review: The House of Smooth Curry at The Athenee Hotel, Bangkok

Disclaimer: In exchange for a review, I was invited to lunch at The House of Smooth Curry.  Photos are both my own, and of the restaurant.

In Bangkok, one is never bereft of choices.  Hotels pop up left and right, street food is seldom more than a block or two away, and no matter which taxi you take, the driver will…often choose not to use the meter.

So many choices.

But, if you’re only in town for a few days, you don’t want to err in where you stay or eat, especially if trying different foods is one of your motivating factors.

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

The House of Smooth Curry, located at The Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, could easily be added to your list.
The House of Smooth Curry reopened within the past two months after undergoing significant renovations.  Curiously, The Athenee Hotel was built on the site the former Kandhavas Palace; indeed, the main dining room was designed to evoke the 1920s-1930s residence of Princess Valaya Alongkorn.

The Athenee Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Bangkok

One of my favorite PR people, Ann at The Marcom Pro, as well as the affable and environmentally-conscious GM of The Athenee Hotel, Ms. Choo Leng Goh, joined for lunch.  The Executive Chef, Mr. Montri Jiratitankit, also stopped by to chat about how important his family was in inspiring him to cook.

As much as possible, The House of Smooth Curry tries to use sustainable, local, and regional ingredients.  Nearly 80% of the menu is organic, and many dishes were previously only spotted on royal menus, adding further uniqueness to the dining experience.

Hungry yet?

Let’s start things off right by ordering a Thai Iced Tea, which quite simply is black tea, milk, and sugar.

Thai pomegranate juice, non-oily prawn crackers, and roasted chili paste.

Poh Taek Talay, or soup with organic seabass, black tiger prawns and Hokkaido scallops, with galangal (has an earthy citrus flavor, and looks very similar to ginger) , tomatoes and basil.  It was a quality opening dish, as soups tend to be.  Light and welcoming, and generous with the amount of seafood.  Although it’s typically made spicy, I generally want it even spicier.  And this is Thailand, so prepare yourself for both types of heat!

Gang Run Juan Neua, or spicy Pon Yang Kham beef curry with shrimp paste, onions and basil leaves.  Gang Run Juan Neua is one of the aforementioned meals not widely known outside of a culinary historian’s textbook.  In spite of having beef, it was also not overpowering, and the Thai basil leaves were a fragrant and pleasant addition to the meat-focused plate.

Saeng Wa Goong, spicy organic prawn salad with ginger, lemongrass, and mint, crispy catfish, and cashews.  So good!  Everything tasted so fresh, Thai flavors stole the spotlight, and did I mention I love seafood?  Now to find out the names of those edible flowers…

Gai Phad Takrai, or stir-fried organic chicken with lemongrass and chili, tied for my favorite non-dessert of the meal.  I would snack on this – with more chilies thrown in – everyday.  The chicken was tender, and its umami taste meshed well with the herbal citrus qualities of the lemongrass and the heat of the chilies.  Well done!

Also photographed is the beef curry listed above, and my other favorite dish, red chicken curry.  It was eaten too quickly that I couldn’t get a better photo.

Moving on to dessert–

Som Choon, mixed seasonal fruit (including litchi and longan) shaved ices with keffir lime peel.  After all of those bold flavor profiles, having a snack of some of what Thailand does best – tropical fruit – was timely and refreshing.  I will have to make a repeat visit to get the mango and mangosteen duo.

Kha Nom Kho Kathi Sod, or glutinous rice balls filled with shaved coconut and served in warm coconut milk.  This is another meal I would eat everyday, if I didn’t ever have to worry about the consequences. In spite of it being coconut-heavy, the flavors don’t overwhelm your palette.

Before learning about this dish, I would make a beeline to mango sticky rice, and the grilled bananas with caramel sauce.  Now that I know about this, I will have to diversify the ever-crowded dessert field.


Check out The House of Smooth Curry any day or everyday of the week.  They are from 12:00-14:30 and 18:00-22:30, and the dress code is smart casual.

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