Matthew and I have covered quite a bit about the launch of the new Park Hyatt Bangkok including his exhaustive and photo-filled review, my suite review, and an analysis of current and speculation on future pricing. In what will be my last post on the topic, I wanted to compare and contrast the two Bangkok Hyatts and line up the Grand Hyatt Erawan vs. Park Hyatt Bangkok.
Both Hyatt hotels are well-located in central Bangkok and they are close to each other, however the Grand Hyatt Erawan is more of a leisure location while the Park is better for business.
Grand Hyatt Erawan
The Grand Hyatt Erawan is opposite of Central World Mall which includes a mix of mid-market brands and thusly, gets traffic from mid-market tourists and upper middle class Thais. For example, Central World features restaurants on the top floor that feature ornate cupcakes, blended iced coffees, waffles, and foreign foods like Burgers and Sushi. Dinner for five adults when Matthew and I stayed at the restaurant Nara ran about $40 for the entire bill, cheap for everywhere else in the world, but relatively expensive for Bangkok. Nara is across from Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung which (while not the very cheapest in the world – that goes to Tim Ho Wan) is priced about the same.
The Grand Hyatt Erawan is also connected by elevated walkway to the BTS (Bangkok’s Skytrain) which allows for affordable, quick transportation throughout the city. It’s much cleaner than public transportation in other cities, and enhances the location of the property.
The property has myriad views. Some of the rooms look over a park and offer a beautiful picture of the city, others look over the weaving lines of the BTS and the hotel’s pool, while still others have unattractive views of other buildings.
Park Hyatt Bangkok
The Park is just a few blocks away from the Grand Hyatt but is located on Embassy Row and the über luxury, ex-pat community of Wireless Road. The hotel sits on top of a luxury mall with its own private entrance and driveway but is not a standalone building like the Grand.
From both the rooms and the pool, guests can look down on embassies from Holland, the UK and half a dozen other countries which also bring surrounding area restaurants and stores from overseas markets and high-end products.
The mall that rests underneath the property, newly opened and aptly named Central Embassy, is as upscale as they come. Louis Vuitton and Hermés are among anchor stores hoping to cash in on wealthy travelers and dignitaries in the city on business. For some, this is close to paradise, for others, the mall and surrounding high-end stores are as common as any other large city in the world and a true departure from the street-level feel that makes Bangkok so lovable.
Winner: Grand Hyatt Erawan for connections to the BTS, some views of the park and walking distance to other attractions.
Grand Hyatt Erawan
With your nose pressed against the window in an 18th floor corner suite – the pool is a perfect oasis below. Sun bathers roll thoughtful magazines and lean their heads to one side as they read a blurb about a new trend in Stockholm. They sip from tall, technicolored glasses – tropical, frosty – and scoop humus with a triangle of pita bread. Available lounge chairs are sparse on the deck, but you could have the pool to yourself, free to swim laps or just cool your sunburned shoulders, reflecting the hot Bangkok sun off of your Ray Bans.
Slipping downstairs in a robe from your room, you find meander to the fifth floor and find an open lounger. An attendant is close behind you with one towel to cover the wood and another in case you’d fancy a dip. “Can I bring you anything?” he says handing over a menu and resting his pen on a notepad waiting for your answer. “Something in a coconut” you say as you shed the bathrobe from upstairs and float along the edge of the pool like an 1980s dream sequence. The sun beats down on the back of your neck, burning, sweat beads begin to form – you can’t take it any more – and you hop into the pool.
That’s the last thing you can remember before the paramedics begin to revive you from hypothermia. People are standing around you, now wrapped in a foil blanket, as loved ones look on with alligator tears welling in their eyes. That’s how cold the pool is. It’s beautiful to look at but unfortunately it’s utterly un-swimmable. Nothing can prepare you for the level of shock of the frigid, arctic temperatures of this pool. And sure, I know what you’re thinking…
“Kyle, it’s 95 degrees in the shade and the humidity makes it feel like 110, you’re sweating, you’re skin is burning – surely it had to feel great to jump in the pool”
No. Just no. It’s not refreshing, it’s abusive – traumatic even. Put another way, in a city where the sun is nearly always shining and temperatures are so hot that you could possibly cook food on the pavement, the pool is empty. Men, women, children – no one is in there for more than the brief few minutes to cool off and the minute or two following where they are trying to play it cool while their extremities turn blue but don’t move quickly enough back to the edge of the pool from whence they came.
Don’t get me wrong, I still go down there to sun tan when I am in the hotel, but you couldn’t drag me into that pool.
It’s a shame that the pool is so bad on temperature when the rest of it could make it the winner of this category as well. The property has five villas hidden from site on the pool deck which offer a true resort experience in the heart of the city. A full living room, bedroom, private patio, bathroom with steam shower clawfoot tub and a massage table, all of which was separate from the massage room equipped with a private table. You didn’t even have to bother walking to the spa (on the same floor just 50 meters from your villa door). These “Spa Cottage Suites” have a side entrance to the pool, hidden from site that could make this one of the greatest places to stay in the city, and yet, the pool is ruined.
How does it get so cold? Shadows and lack of foresight. The pool, like some in others in the city, is not heated, however, this pool in particular is on the fifth floor as opposed to the roof. The towering buildings all around the hotel block the sun from naturally heating the water and without a water heater, it doesn’t stand a chance.
Food at the pool is reasonably priced by US standards. Thai meals run $8-10/plate , $12-18 for western options like cheeseburgers with fries, the standard hotel Club sandwich or the aforementioned mezze plate complete with baba ganoush. Drinks are steep as should be expected, with local beers going in around $6-8, imports slightly more and fruity cocktails climbing close to $15 before gratuity and service charges.
Plenty of deck chairs with an overflow indoor/outdoor restaurant give the Grand Hyatt Erawan advantages over the Park.
Park Hyatt Bangkok
Located on the 9th floor (the first floor of the hotel) the pool is stunning. It’s surround by lush greenery that hide some of the loungers in the back, closer to the building and farther from the edge of the pool. Built-to-purpose, with an updated and modern design, the pool uses salt water and does have a heater, though in a vengeful twist of irony, it probably wouldn’t need it. Unlike the Erawan, buildings do not tower over or conceal the sunlight and what’s more, the building is covered in sheets of silver metal like the scales of a snake. So even if the pool were not heated, nor absorbed direct, unimpeded sunlight all-day, the death ray reflection beams from the building would heat it up.
If someone were to make a Goldilocks reference here, I couldn’t fault them.
This pool is also an infinity pool which makes for amazing views and dramatic photos. From end-to-end the entire deck is stunning, lush and tropical towards the back chairs, and wide open and appearing endless from the right angles.
Service was a step up at the Park, as one would expect. It’s not that the Park had more staff – they didn’t. It also wasn’t that there were less people at the pool per server, I would argue there were not/ It was simply a higher standard. As soon as we walked on to the deck the attendant secured seats for myself, my wife and our three-year old daughter bringing us cold soaked refresher towels, and then laying one down for us as the Erawan had done as well. Our attendant then brought out a buzzer and three iced fruit teas. They were delicious and made us want to try other food at this pool too.
Menu prices and selections were nearly identical to the Grand Hyatt. in a hotel that is otherwise much more expensive and plays to a higher-end crowd, this was a smart move. Nearly everyone at the pool had ordered something compared to about half at the Grand Hyatt. And just as at the Grand Hyatt, the food was excellent. The buzzer (it alerts a smart watch on the attendant’s hand that you have requested them) was really smart as waiting for a check at the Grand Hyatt takes forever and busy servers often disappear.
One concern I raised to an executive from Condé Nast Traveler at breakfast was the size of the pool and space at the Park Hyatt Bangkok. Yes it was lovely, warm, perfect for getting a tan and the service was excellent – but it was full. Almost every lounger was taken and the pool was fairly full. Towards either end of the pool families with kids played while a Korean pair intensely swam laps in between Instagrammers and floaties. That’s not good when just 18% of the rooms in the hotel were occupied. We know this because just 40 rooms were open during our stay and the Park was sold out.
When completed, the property will have 220 available rooms and suites but with just a fraction of them open now and the pool already without an empty chair, it seems like this will lead to unhappy guests. While the Erawan could get creative and expand the pool or deck if they wanted, there is simply nowhere else for the Park Hyatt to go. If I were paying the obscene (for Bangkok) prices that the Park Hyatt had originally charged and couldn’t even get a seat at the pool, I probably wouldn’t return.
Winner: Park Hyatt Bangkok because it’s swimmable, stunning, and at least for now, you can still get a chair.