Disclaimer: In exchange for this hotel review, I received a stay in Bangkok, Thailand in one of the Shangri-La’s deluxe river view rooms.
Although my usual visits to Bangkok involve staying near Sukhumvit Soi 3 (the Arab/pan-African part of town), a drastic change in neighborhoods was welcome this time.
The Shangri-La Bangkok is located in the Bang Rak district, one of the older parts of downtown, bordered by the Chao Phraya River and Si Lom, one of the primary business/nightlife neighborhoods in the sprawling Thai capital. The hotel is conveniently located across from Saphan Taksin (meaning “Taksin Bridge”) BTS (sky train) station, Sathon pier for local commuter transport, is only a 20-25 minute walk to Si Lom, and even offers a free boat service for guests to the Asiatique shopping and dining complex.
The immediate area around the hotel is known for its Thai and Teochew food, specifically congee (rice porridge) and pig knuckle, but I’m more of a spicy seafood (think calamari salad, and mashed catfish and chilies) eater. If you’re feeling too homesick for something else, the Shangri-La is located right by the Robinson shopping complex, which houses a Tops supermarket in the basement.
Before entering the hotel, I noticed that they had one of those not-quite security checks just outside of the main doors. Well, they didn’t bark at me like the TSA does, but they also never cared about what I threw into the X-Ray machine, as long as something was thrown in.
I should note that the Shangri-La Bangkok has two wings. My room was located in the older, Shangri-La Wing, containing 673 rooms, and originally built in 1986. The lobby bustles with business-people, couples, families, and lots of hotel staff whirring about. My review will only be covering this part of the hotel.
The Krungthep Wing, finished in 1991, has only 129 rooms, and has a quieter, more private feel. Whereas the Shangri-La Wing also has a lobby cafe and an outdoor pool, the pool and cafe in the Krungthep Wing are free only for guests in that section. That said, guests in either wing can easily walk between the two, and might be glad that the hotel air conditioning can accompany you from the Shangri-La Wing almost all the way to the Saphan Taksin BTS station.
My contact generously provided me with early check-in/out, and access to the Horizon Club Lounge on the 24th floor. All my interactions with front desk staff were hit-or-miss, I did appreciate the one time that one agent assisted me before helping another guest who obviously cut in line.
Now, onto the deluxe river view room…
My room was on the 20th floor; rooms could only be accessed by swiping the room key on the elevator panel. Additionally, the Horizon Club Lounge floor required special swiping access, although I noticed that if you could make it to the 23rd floor (presumably a club room floor anyway), there’s a spiral staircase connecting to the 24th.
First impressions were that the room was very clean-looking, bright, and had an excellent view of the Chao Phraya River/Shangri-La Wing swimming pool. There were enough pillows present to stretch the length of one Boeing 777 wing – maybe – though I would say that the electrical sockets were not plentiful enough, and that Samsung technology (in the room’s case, the tv) is third-rate. Most importantly, however, the bed was exceedingly comfortable, and I also managed to awkwardly pass out on the couch, courtesy of jet lag. Staying on that topic, unless someone was yelling right outside of the door – and if it’s anyone, it’s a mainland Chinese guest – the room was very quiet. That’s a big plus.
The bathroom was equipped with a shower with excellent water pressure, a bathtub, useful amenities including a toothbrush and a comb, and a rather tight space for the toilet. The volume button on the side of the basin – I’m guessing to control the tv volume – did not function properly, though that’s a minor quibble.
Aren’t you getting hungry? Let’s have a look the food and drink options now—
I only tried a couple of the Shangri-La Bangkok choices (I’m in Thailand…Thai food beckons!), so we’ll have a closer look at three of them. In all, there’s the riverside Salathip restaurant focusing on Thai food, Volti for Italian, Shang Palace for Cantonese, a Chocolate Boutique, the 14.2 meter (46.5 feet) Long Bar, the Lobby Lounge, Next2 Cafë for buffets, and even a nightly dinner cruise on-board the hotel’s own Horizon II. The Horizon Club Lounge also serves breakfast, afternoon tea and liquors, and has its own meeting spaces. The restaurants could all be rented out, and theme parties are a common occurrence in the Shangri-La Bangkok. On one of the nights I was at the hotel, Volti had a Latin dance party.
The Lobby Lounge was generally busy but not overcrowded. It’s airy and full of light, but at night, there’s often an underwhelming singer serenading the furniture. While sipping my lemongrass tea and munching on taro chips and tom yam peanuts, I overheard a few business meetings taking place; in other words, I don’t think I noticed anyone younger than 18 at anytime in the Lobby Lounge.
The Horizon Club Lounge and its staff were a high point of my time at the Shangri-La Bangkok, even though some of the guests let their kids run amok. Anyway, the views were good, the snacks changed every day, and the staff were particularly pleasant, and very willing to help.
I’m rather fond of this photo, taken from the computer terminal section of the Horizon Club Lounge. The Baiyoke Sky Tower is in the left background, and in the left foreground, Assumption Cathedral.
Ah, now we’re talking, right? In reality…no. The breakfast buffet at Next2 Café was the low point of my stay. Waiters and cooks were sluggish, bored and unresponsive, other diners – again, Chinese – treated the meal as if it were their last, and the overall taste of the food, save for the salad bar and Indian section, was dull or insipid. Not to mention, the chef at the omelette bar was coughing all over my omelette, so that was cool.
The one positive aspect is that Next2 Café also had outdoor seating…on the flip side, people could smoke there.
In spite of the disappointing breakfast, somewhat out of the way location, and presence of obnoxious guests (which is not hotel’s fault), the riverside atmosphere, Horizon Club Lounge, and overall tranquility in the deluxe river view room helped outweigh the negatives. If I returned to the Shangri-La Bangkok, I’d likely opt for the Krung Thep Wing, as it appeared more serene and subdued, almost as if it were a separate hotel.
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