After many visits to Bangkok, we have stayed in a variety of properties at a number of price points. We had never stayed at the ultra-cool W Hotel Bangkok, it just never made sense for our visits. However, it was time to try it out, and unfortunately it just made me shout for kids to get off my lawn.
I Am Way Too Old For This…
Among premium international hotel chains, a new trend for hotels is to tailor to the younger, cooler generation. Brands like W Hotels from SPG (Aloft is their junior brand), Andaz from Hyatt, or Autograph from Marriott speak in a vernacular that is casual with their guests and tend to welcome a little bit of partying, rather than shun it. That’s cool with me, in fact it works out better because our daughter is a night owl (so she won’t be keeping any revelers awake) and her occasional crying (she is a baby after all) won’t bother any up tight guests who can hear a pin drop in the adjacent room.
Then again maybe not…
We rolled up in a taxi from Suvanarbumi Airport (BKK) and it was a reasonable 400 Thai Baht ($13), a fraction of the “deal” my brother got from the airport going to the not-so-far away Grand Hyatt Erawan. He is a travel pro, but fell prey to a typical trap where some unscrupulous drivers will insist that there is a flat rate from the airport (true in many larger cities – false in Bangkok).
There was a DJ spinning on the ones and twos to our left as we approached the desk and already felt out of place. Checkin was easy and we were sent upstairs to our “[insert cool name here] room”. The hall was dark and black and felt more Vegas than Bangkok, but there was a certain luxury to it.
The [cool name] Room
Entering the room, to the right was a typically stunning bathroom. I say typically not because it was a W, but rather because it was a 4-5 star hotel in Bangkok. Western brands in Thailand (and Asia generally) are amazing, but in Bangkok, they are uncharacteristically inexpensive.
There was a decked out bathtub, separate from the shower (my favorite) and toilet was separated from the rest of the restroom as well. There was a large vanity and the bathroom was probably the highlight of the room.
Going forward into the rest of the room there was a king sized bed with some large and very annoying pillows – I will come back to that. Opposite was a fully stocked mini-bar with cute phrases like “drink up” but not cute prices. They were a little high for five star mini bar prices in New York so in Bangkok they were almost ridiculously expensive. If you want to charge me $8 for a Heiniken in Bangkok, I really don’t take umbrage with that. If you want to charge me $8 for a Chang beer, you’re taking the piss.
The bed offered good rest, the desk by the window was great and the TV was sufficient for our stay.
“Get off my lawn!”
At the risk of sounding crotchety here, the giant (unusable of course) sequin adorned Muay Thai boxing gloves were fine, but just seemed so tacky. I get it, we are in Thailand, this is a Thai boxing theme. They say, “Lights Out” – how clever. But not really. Is anything with sequins really worth having?
I looked out the bedroom window to a beautiful cityscape of Bangkok, but then down on the pool area where the outside of the pool was serpent-shaped, scales and all. That’s just a little weird.
In addition to the normal rolling SPG stock footage was an entire channel dedicated to a famous yoga blogger showing how to do casual yoga poses while getting ready for a night out that would involve stretching. This was done while she sipped a glass of champagne and brought her ankle to the sink in front of her and I wondered, am I doing it wrong? I never stretched before I drank for a big night out.
I will admit that it is possible that I am just too old for W, but I shouldn’t be. I am in all the right demographics (age, income, hobbies). We were traveling with our young daughter, but she was about 11 months at the time of our trip and we really haven’t changed anything else about our travel habits. Other four and five star hotels we have stayed in we have felt right at home. Even in “younger brands” like Aloft and Andaz we had no such experience.
I posit that at least in the case of this hotel, it was a little more tacky than clever. And it was really quite expensive by Bangkok standards. This property typically prices $140/night which can be a Holiday Inn for some travelers in the US and may make it seem like a great value. However, when compared with the kinds of properties that can be obtained for far less, this is nearly insulting for a hotel that has a comparable room and no particular advantage for location.
Let me provide some comparables:
- Le Meridien Hotel $99-130 for an entry level room, great location, stunning rooms, opposite Patpong night markets
- St. Regis Hotel $160-200 for an entry level room, again with an excellent location and it’s THE ST. REGIS!
Looking outside of Starwood for a moment:
- Park Plaza Sukhumvit $60 is the nicest room you might ever book for practically nothing (Club Carlson), excellent location across from Terminal 21 Shopping Mall on Sukhumvit 21
- Lebua at State Tower $100 and while the room isn’t the greatest, this iconic hotel has a ridiculous hotel open air restaurant towering over the city
- Grand Hyatt Erawan is a little steep for the basic room at $140-160 but their top level rooms are amazing – I will be covering the most amazing upgrade in Bangkok at this property soon.
The property was clean, and for Americans who might not be able to try the brand in South Beach or London due to cost, this is a great entry for the product. The hotel was of course very clean and very well put together. It was designed with a certain customer in mind and they nailed it, you certainly feel that you are in a premium hotel where a celebrity could walk buy at any moment. They also had a small boutique in the front that seemed to catch my wife’s eye, though the best part of the stay was the W Bangkok beach bag we bought for about $11.
For someone who has not been to Bangkok before, looking for something a little bit cooler even at the risk of being tacky — if you are the sequin and stretching type before a night of drinking, this might be the perfect place for you.
The Sherpita also could have played with this light wall for an entire year. Her dad could have watched her do it for two.
Do W Hotels (or similarly marketed properties) make you feel old when you shouldn’t? Is there a need for a DJ in the lobby?