If you are coming to Bangkok on business, chances are you will choose your hotel based on where your office is located, in large part due to the Thai capital’s legendary traffic. However, if you are going to be entertaining guests or coming on leisure, then the choices that make sense are varied in a way that’s quite different than many other cities.
First timers and leisure guests typically want to stay on the Chao Phraya River, which offers four of the top luxury choices as well as a pleasurable viewing experience with its local boat traffic, since it serves as a water highway for locals. The newest entrant, The Siam, is a small luxury experience under 50 rooms, while at the opposite end the Shangri-la represents luxury in a large scale hotel, The Peninsula just on the other side of the river is somewhere in between. The Mandarin Oriental (we looked at its new Grand Royal Suite last week) is the city’s grand dame.
Two blocks behind the Shangri-la and looking down on the river from its all-suite accommodations on the 51st through 59th floors of State Tower is Tower Club at lebua.
If you aren’t familiar with lebua, it could be because the group has just six hotels in the world, two in State Tower, a lodge in New Zealand and three in India, but I can pretty much assure you have seen pictures of and from its Bangkok version. The Sky Bar is iconic and combined with Sirocco, it’s rooftop al fresco restaurant on the 64th floor, it launched the trend or perhaps craze to turn skyscraper rooftops into bars and eateries after it opened in 2003. The New York Times called Sky Bar, “the most stunning rooftop bar you will ever see.”
I’ve stayed at all of the properties mentioned so far as well as others, and there’s no wrong choice. The Thai culture seems to provide a platform for good service, and I’ve enjoyed my stays at each.
Of the two all-suite hotels in State Tower it operates, Tower Club is the more upscale offering, with elevated furnishings and amenities, and access to a private lounge that serves a buffet and a la carte breakfast, light lunch and supper with complimentary alcoholic drinks until 6 pm. Room sizes are the same, and the smallest suites are 750 sq. ft., a reflection that the building was originally supposed to be condominiums, which is a key factor in whether you will like it and come back again and again.
The best rooms in my opinion however are the 2-and-3 bedroom suites, all of which offer both river and city views. Checking rates for a mid-week stay in June, the 2-bedroom Signature Suites, which are 1,900 sq. ft. are $414 per night, the slightly larger 2-bedroom Luxury Suites at 2,040 sq. ft. are $467, the 2,920 sq. ft. 3-bedroom suites are $584, and the Hangover Suite, named for version two of the movie shot at the hotel, is $1,027 per night.
As you can see, Bangkok is a luxury hotel bargain. While you may not need all the space, the hotel will readily convert one of the bedrooms to a spa suite, so you can take massages in-room. If you are coming long-haul, having the extra bedrooms makes a lot of sense if you are traveling with somebody, so you don’t have to worry if your sleeping patterns have not synced.
One pet peeve I have is luxury hotels that offer very limited 24 hours menus. Here lebua deserves particular praise as you can order anything you want at 3 am, from lobster to curry or a club sandwich, actually the entire menu. Again, this is something if you are arriving from the Americas or Europe, I think you will appreciate.
The Tower Club offers a residential design approach. Flooring is a combination of woods, carpet and marble, and bathrooms are oversize, each with walk-in showers and separate tubs. There are kitchens with large refrigerators, espresso makers, microwaves and bars, so if you prefer the idea of being in your own apartment to a hotel suite, you will feel at home, even though there are all the services you expect from a full-service luxury hotel. Even the living room areas have plenty of space, so one person can be watching TV while you are working at the dining table, desk or other seating area.
You also won’t find high-tech boxes and iPads next to your bed. You turn the lights on and off with switches, you pull the drapes back yourself and if you want to change the air-conditioning setting, you turn a dial. There are TV controllers of course, but my point is that management is not trying to compete with Ian Flemming to see who can design the best gadgets. As somebody with a cranky back, I find the beds among the most comfortable I have slept on.
The three biggest selling points is room size value for money, having the extra bedrooms, amazing skyscraper views and its signature food and beverage offerings that span the 52nd and 64th through 67th floors. Sirocco and Breeze provide al stunning al fresco dining experiences while Mezzaluna, its top restaurant, is indoor seating on the 67th floor and frequently hosts visiting Michelin-star chefs. All three are places that are perfect for entertaining or romantic dining.
The main drawbacks of choosing the hotel is because it is in a skyscraper, you might have to wait two minutes for a lift, but of course that seems longer than it is, and you are at a hotel that is a major attraction for tourists who want to go the rooftop bars. That said, as a guest in the hotel you get preferential reservations and there is a separate bank of elevators for Tower Club. Lebua is one of those hotels if you are a frequent visitor to Bangkok, I would recommend you give it a try, and if you are a first-timer, it’s definitely worthy of consideration.
If you want to retrace the footsteps of the guys from the Hangover movie, you can choose this suite, however, it is identical to the Three Bedroom Tower Club lebua Suite in layout encompassing 2,863 sq. ft, with four balconies, two king bedrooms, one twin bedroom, two full baths and a guest bath, plus large living room and dining area. The differences are the furnishings, artwork as a tribute to the movie, and free daily re-stocking of the minibar plus as many Hangovertinis as you can you can imbibe.
Three Bedroom Tower Club lebua Suite
There are 7 three-bedroom Tower Club lebua suites, each 2,863 sq. ft, with four balconies, two king bedrooms, one twin bedroom, two full baths and a guest bath, plus large living room and dining area. Views are predominantly of the city.
Two Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suite (Spa Suites)
There are 11 Two-Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suites, each a spacious 1,894 sq. ft with four private balconies, including one from each bedroom. Each suite has two full baths, although the second only has a walk-in shower, no tub. They are spacious with two separate living room areas, a kitchen, bar and dining area with a table for four. Fresh fruit comes daily, and if you are a repeat guest you will find your favorite beverages stocked into the fridge. Furniture is comfortable. If you are not going to use both bedrooms, I suggest asking to have the second bedroom converted to a spa suite for in-room treatments.
Two Bedroom Tower Club Signature Suite
There are 8 Two-Bedroom Tower Club Luxury Suites, each just under 2,100 sq. ft, with four private balconies, including one from each bedroom. Like the Luxury version, each suite has two full baths, although the second only has a walk-in shower, no tub. There is a similar spacious flow with two separate living room areas, a kitchen, bar and dining area with a table for four. Fresh fruit comes daily.
You can argue successfully that the restaurants and bars that span the 52nd, and 64th through 67th floors drive the hotel business. While the suites are nice, good value and service is excellent and attentive, the main show is the dining and drinking, particularly Sirocco, Sky Bar and Breeze, which are each al fresco and offer dramatic entries and stunning views.
After taking the elevator to the 64th floor you are greeted by a bevy of hosts and hostesses with the Thai greeting, “Sawasdee,” essentially a friendly hello. After a short walk around a curved wall you step outside onto a large balcony, where to the left is a Champagne Perrier-Jouet bar. From there you can look down onto the restaurant forward left and Sky Bar at the end, nearly 900 feet above the sidewalk below. You then descend down a wide staircase in what has become an Instagram moment akin to standing in front of Big Ben or the leaning tower at Pisa.
Sirocco offers Mediterranean fare by Chef de Cuisine Chef Gabriele Castellanza. You dine with the glittering lights of Bangkok below you and a hip and sexy bar scene at Sky Bar nearby. There is a constant flow of flashing lights as fellow diners and bar goers take pictures to remember the evening, although while that behavior might detract from the dining experience, here it is part of the fun.
Part of the restaurants success was being able to offer fine dining with a view. Previous to its 2003 opening, skyscraper dining was mainly inside with bad food. The restaurant has received numerous awards from Thailand Tatler, where it received a perfect 10 score in 2014 to Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It also made Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in Asia as well as gaining notoriety from The Telegraph for “world’s most expensive deserts.” Which brings me to the point that you do pay for the experience. Expect to spend $200 per person, including drinks.
Perched on the 51st and 52nd floors of Tower Club at lebua, Breeze offers indoor and outdoor seating, but the experience begins when you walk from the bar across the outdoor dining area on a multi-color lit bridge and then descend one floor via one of two palatial staircases.
Executive Chef Sam Pang focuses on Asian flavors such as Charcoal Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Chinese Chives, Wok-fried Maine Lobster with Curry Leaves in Spicy Yellow Bean Sauce, Wok-fried Andaman Tiger Prawns with Okra and Coconut in Tamarind Sauce, and his Signature Jasmine Tea Smoked Wagyu Beef Ribs.
There is a 3,000 bottle wine cellar, and like Sirocco, Breeze has shelves of awards and notations, including Hospitality Asia’s Restaurant of the Year, Hot Tables from Conde Nast Traveler, and USA Today, which in 2014 listed it as one of the top 10 “most cutting-edge restaurants.”
Mezzaluna is the top of the food chain at State Tower in terms of fine dining, often hosting visiting chefs and culinary events that attract Thai dignitaries, including members of the Royal Family. All indoor seating, it is one floor up from when you get off the elevators to access the Dome, and it provides spectacular views, but from all indoor seating. Cuisine is Continental and French with Asian influence, and sourcing is from international growers as well as local artisanal producers, often royally initiated projects with an emphasis on organic farming methods. Expect homemade herbal oils, vinegars, bouillons, with fruits and vegetables extracts are used for the smoking, pickling, drying, curing and grilling that are done on-site.
Dishes include soy glazed snapper served with foie gras in smoke consommé, tangerine marinated Scottish langoustine with lemongrass and sultana raisins, and Nagasaki Wagyu beef rib eye grilled over white binchō charcoal with Perigord truffle. Seasonally inspired tasting menus are changed each day, and served with optional wine pairings. It is listed annually by Thailand Tateler as one of the country’s best restaurants, top 100 in the world by UK website The Foodie, seal of excellence by Seven Star Global Luxury Awards, plus it has made the ‘go to’ lists for most of the top travel publications.
Cafe Mozu is located on the same level as the pool, spa and fitness club, and is open from breakfast, lunch and dinner, however, it’s breakfast buffet is worth the visit. Featuring Lebanese, Thai and Indian chefs, you have a United Nations of wakeup options. It is also a good place to grab lunch, but is quiet in the evenings when most of the action is on the rooftop.
When it opened in 2003, Sky Bar’s spectacular views (pictured at the top of the report) and its grand entrance helped launch the trend to rooftop skyscraper dining and drinking, and help drive the decade long expansion of fine dining as an experience. With awards from everywhere you can think of and even mentions in The New York Times, it’s not unusual to hear that Sky Bar was one reason they wanted to visit Bangkok.
The Flute A Perrier Jouet Bar
The newest addition, The Flute A Perrier Jouet champagne bar, is perfectly placed on the terrace where you step outside into the night atop this Bangkok skyscraper, so you can enjoy a glass of bubbles, or perhaps a bottle before you descend for an aperitif at Sky Bar and then dinner at Sirocco, or perhaps the reverse. Either way, with the nice views it will be hard to resist. You will be in good company in this case. The hotel sells more Blanc des Blancs at $2,000 per bottle than the entire city-state of Singapore.
Distil is on the 64th Floor and offers indoor and outdoor seating, with daybeds outside overlooking the city and comfortable furniture sets inside. There is a DJ, a bar menu including raw bar, an extensive list of signature drinks, and cigars in a lounge atmosphere where you can enjoy the views without the crowds.
Ocean 52 is the bar when you enter Breeze and from 6 am to 6 pm functions as the private lounge for guests in the Club levels of the hotel. In the evening the indoor seating offers spectacular views and is someplace to come if you want to avoid the crowds that flock to the rooftop.
Spa and Fitness
The gym is excellent for a hotel, with plentiful machines, treadmills and free weights, as well as stretching areas. The spa has four treatment rooms and the focus is Thai treatments. My recommendation is to have the hotel set-up an extra bedroom for in-suite treatments.
Meetings and Events
The State Room on the 67th floor features floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views of the river and city with over 7,000 sq. ft. of space, and can be set-up for events up to 250 people or sit-down dinners up to 150.
On the lower floors, the hotel hosts conferences up to 800. The Grand Ballroom can be split into four separate ballrooms ranging from 2,600 sq. ft. to 11,000 sq. ft.
Amenities include daily newspaper, Shanghai Tang bath products, hair dryers, free Internet throughout the hotel, personal safe, pillow selection, iron and ironing board and even washing machines and dryers in 2-and 3-bedroom suites. Of course, there is full laundry and dry cleaning service as well. Bedrooms and living room each have interactive TV with DVD player. As mentioned, there is an extensive 24-hour dining menu, and you can arrange to have in-suite dining from the signature restaurants as well. There is also shoe-shine service and doctor on call 24 hours.
Don Mueang International Airport (DMG) is open 24 hours, is an international port and can handle all sizes of aircraft up to Airbus A380s. It was previously the main airport, but now is the site of MJets, the Thai capital’s only FBO. If you are not flying privately, Suvarnabhumi is where you will arrive if traveling from overseas. Make sure to have the hotel arrange jet bridge meet and greet. As soon as you get off the plane, you will be met and put in a cart, taken to a VIP lane for immigrations, have your bags collected and out to your car. From the time I got off my flight to entering my suite, I clocked 44 minutes, although it was at 5 am so there was no traffic. You can arrive at either airport by private jet and there a number of handlers that operate without FBO facilities.